VCU: 2017 March Madness

Conference: Atlantic-10 (At Large)

Record: 25-7

NCAA Tournament Seed: 10 (East)

How they got to the Big Dance

The Rams finished 2nd in the A-10 in the regular season, and are through to the semifinals of the A-10 Tournament. As for their resume, VCU split their regular season series against Dayton and swept their series against Richmond. The highlights of the season for the Rams were their wins against Dayton, Richmond, St. John’s, and LSU. VCU went to two long winning streaks during the season of eight and nine games respectively. They played a tough schedule and have reaped the rewards of that.

Why they’re a legitimate contender

For starters, the Rams currently have an RPI of 23 and a strength of schedule of 58, which is better than ranked West Virginia and projected 7-seed Creighton, both of which play in power conferences. They only let up 66.2 points per game in the regular season while averaging 74.8 point per game themselves. VCU shot 46.6% from the field and had three of their starters average more than ten points per game in the regular season. Also, the A-10 is a respectable mid-major conference, so VCU has an advantage, especially if they win the conference.

Why they’re not a legitimate contender

Mid-major conference teams are always subject to getting knocked down in the brackets, simply because of the fact that they don’t play good enough opposition. They had several bad losses this season, most notably to Fordham and Davidson, both of whom finished with below .500 conference records in the regular season. The weakness of VCU is their three-point shooting. They shot at a 33.1% clip in the regular season, which isn’t good, especially if they win and then have to play the 1-seed, assuming they stay at a 9 or an 8 seed. They also shoot 71.1% from the free throw line, so that isn’t promising especially in close-game situations.

Player to watch: Guard JeQuan Lewis

The senior guard was the team leader for the Rams in the regular season, leading the team with 14.7 points per game, 4.6 assists per game, and a 82.1% free throw percentage. He is also VCU’s second-best three-point shooter, shooting at a 37.9% clip, which is vital for the Rams’ success. If the Rams hope to win their first-round matchup in the NCAA Tournament, Lewis has to step up and score, but he’s proved this during the regular season, with six 20+ point games, including a 34 point performance against Saint Joseph’s. He’s going to produce, both on the offensive and defensive ends.