If ever there was a game chock full of feel good storylines, this was it.
VCU wasn't supposed to be in the NCAA Tournament and most didn't expect Florida State to make it beyond their first game, let along the opening weekend. Yet here they are, a pair of double digit seeds playing for the chance to go to the Regional Final, one step away from the Final Four.
The Rams have continuously silenced their critics and beaten bigger teams from bigger conferences. The Seminoles have managed to stifle opponents despite star player Chris Singleton not being at 100% health while working his way back from a broken foot suffered in February. Yet all that matters is they've beaten the odds and now stand on the precipice of something truly remarkable.
Follow along after the jump for an advanced breakdown of both programs and to share your thoughts in our thread.
(Charts courtesy of StatSheet.com)
The above charts show visually what is readily apparent when watching VCU play on a consistent basis - they rely heavily on the big three of Brad Burgess, Joey Rodriguez and Jamie Skeen. The trio has produced about 55% of the team's scoring total this season and remarkably that has essentially held true in the NCAA Tournament, as the three have combined for 122 of the Rams 227 points in three wins (53.7%). Skeen and Rodriguez both have usage rates of greater than 20% on the court, with Brandon Rozzell also seeing that level of possession rate when coming off the bench. Burgess receives slightly fewer touches relatively speaking, but is remarkably efficient with the basketball in his hands.
VCU's play type distribution resembles that of a team that likes to run and gun (spot-up and transition possessions account for the bulk of the plays here), but the irony is the Rams play at a slower pace, ranking 200th nationally in tempo according to Ken Pomeroy. It's well known at this point that this is a dangerous team in spot-up sets, able to convert from the outside consistently and to attack off the dribble. This is readily apparent when looking at usage rates here as five different players account for greater than 10% of spot-up touches, showing a nice mix between frontcourt and backcourt players. The Rams do a fair amount of damage as well in the post, their third most prevalent option for scoring the basketball, relying almost exclusively on Jamie Skeen to produce here. The senior shoots 53% when single covered on the block a strong mark (88th percentile nationally), but when incorporating pass outs his adjusted field goal percentage produced jumps to nearly 60% which speaks to the forwards ability to find open shooters when doubled.
Florida State on the other hand is a somewhat enigmatic offense at least when attempting to pinpoint where the points are going to be coming from. Six players average between 6 and 13 points with Chris Singleton leading the way, while every player in the regular rotation for the Seminoles has a usage rate of between 16% and 24% when on the floor. Overall this is not a particularly strong offensive team, one that struggles a great deal with turnovers, but FSU does spread the basketball across different mediums, very similar in fact to the manner that the Rams do. Spot-up sets, transition and the low-post game account for 50% of the team's possessions with basket cuts accounting for about 10% of the offense as well.
The Seminoles differentiate well between the perimeter and interior game as well. According to data from Synergy Sports Technology 50% of the teams possessions in the half court offense end with jump shots, while one third are shots around the rim off the dribble. The remaining attempts are split between true post moves on the block and shots that can be classified as runners or floaters in the lane.
Offensive Strengths vs. Defensive Weaknesses
If VCU can continue to score a high rate against the Florida State defense, that may be their most impressive accomplishment to date. The Seminoles lead the nation in defensive efficiency, opponent effective field goal percentage, two-point field goal percentage against and are 10th in three-point field goal against. They also have arguably the country's best individual defender in Chris Singleton. With all of that said, FSU has not defended the post quite as well as other play types this season and have been only average at keeping opposing players from getting to the line. We've already touched on the effectiveness of the VCU post game, so needless to say getting Jamie Skeen touches inside early will be vital, not only for the potential to getting the Seminole frontcourt in foul trouble but also for opening up a perimeter game that has been red hot in the NCAA Tournament (over 41% shooting).
The Rams need to be concerned with Florida State's attack out of spot-up sets. VCU gives up nearly .98 points per possession here which puts them in the bottom one-third in Division 1, while the Seminoles have been better here than any other facet of their offensive attack. Keep in mind, spot-up sets don't necessarily have to result in perimeter shots, but can also include penetrating off the dribble. Michael Snaer, Deividas Dulkys, Derwin Kitchen and Chris Singleton all perform well above average here, with Dulkys ranking in the 92nd percentile in scoring efficiency while accounting for the second highest usage rate on the team in spot-up sets. Then there's Snaer, a great athlete who has been mired in inconsistency this season but it coming off a strong 13-point effort in a win over Notre Dame.
Given the manner that Florida State contests shots, it's a safe bet VCU may struggle to convert initial looks from the floor. With that in mind, offensive rebound will take on an added importance for the Rams, something they haven't been great at overall this season, producing an offensive rebound rate of just 31.5%. The Seminoles however haven't exactly been world beaters when it comes to preventing second chance points however, ranking 116th in offensive rebound rate against. Both teams will need to the glass hard tonight.