There are 16 “Round of 32” games on Saturday and Sunday as the most exciting weekend of the sports calendar continues. As we always do every March here at MSF, we try to cover you with previews, informed and reasoned predictions, and pertinent viewing info as soon as we can get it posted.
In this post, we preview the South Region’s second round matchup between #4 seed Indiana and last year’s Cinderella that is still dancing this year, the #12th-seeded Rams from VCU.
Indiana-VCU Game Info
- Seeds & Region: #4 Indiana v #12 VCU in South Region
- Indiana-VCU Date: Saturday, 3/17
- Indiana-VCU Tip Time: 7:15 ET
- Indiana-VCU Location: Portland
- Indiana-VCU TV: TBS
- Indiana-VCU Announcers: Brian Anderson and Dan Bonner
- Indiana-VCU Point Spread: Indiana -6
- Tickets: Indiana-VCU Tickets
- Tickets: South Regional Tickets in Atlanta
Indiana-VCU Analysis and Prediction
Last season’s Cinderella team, VCU, was at it again on Thursday, as its upset of Wichita State was one of just two games where the lower-seeded team won. Bradford Burgess led the way 16 points, as three Rams scored in double figures in the three-point victory. On Saturday, they will face Indiana, who will be coming off of a 13-point win over New Mexico State that saw four Hoosiers tally at least 14 points, led by Jordan Hulls with 22.
For VCU, defense is the key. Their pressing “havoc” defense has propelled them to the top-rated turnover rate in the country, and they also hold opponents under 32 percent from beyond the arc. Limiting turnovers will be critical for the Hoosiers, who rank just inside the Top 100 in turnover rate and have struggled with decision-making at times this season. They are also among the nation’s top three-point shooting teams, so something has to give there.
The Rams rank outside the Top 200 in both defensive rebounding percentage and free throw rate, while Indiana has posted strong offensive rebounding numbers and is sixth in free throw rate with an impressive 46.6 mark in the regular season. The Hoosiers will need to crash the glass and stay aggressive once they break the press, and getting to the stripe would allow IU to capitalize on its high free throw shooting percentage.
On the other end of the floor, the Hoosiers need to make VCU score in the half court as opposed to in transition off of turnovers. The Rams rank 196th in three-point shooting and 257th in two-point shooting, so Indiana can’t allow them to get easy baskets and raise their confidence early.
VCU does have a low turnover rate, and the Hoosiers don’t have a high defensive turnover rate either, so don’t look for much there. The two teams are relatively even from a statistical standpoint in terms of rebounding and free throw rates as well.
In terms of individuals, keep an eye on Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo for IU. Zeller played the role of closer late against New Mexico State, as the Hoosiers repeatedly looked to him on the block late in the closing minutes. He responded with a few key baskets and drew a couple fouls, and his ability to run the floor should help in an up-tempo game. Oladipo struggled early on against the Aggies, but that can’t be the case here, as the Hoosiers need his help in beating the press and converting in transition. His poise and decision-making will be critical, as well as his ability to keep Darius Theus out of the lane.
This game will be decided based on how well Indiana handles the VCU press. If the Hoosiers start throwing the ball away and allowing easy buckets, it will be a long evening. If they can effectively break the press on one end and force the Rams to score in the half court on the other end, I like their chances.
Predicted Winner: Indiana
Indiana Hoosiers Team Capsule
- Conference: Big Ten
- Record: 25-8 (11-7 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 8-2
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 8-5
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Kentucky, Michigan, Michigan State, North Carolina State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Purdue (2)
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin (2)
- Player to Watch: Cody Zeller (6’11” F, Fr.) – 15.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.3 spg, 1.2 bpg, 62.6 FG%
Indiana Bottoms Line:
Apparently the rebuilding process for the Hoosiers is a year ahead of schedule, as this year’s squad went undefeated in the non-conference and picked up a number of high quality wins. One big reason for their substantial improvement is the play of freshman phenom Cody Zeller, who leads the Hoosiers in scoring and rebounding. His ability to run the floor puts pressure on opposing defenses, and he has been even more impressive than IU fans had hoped.
Three other Hoosiers score in double figures, including juniors Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls. Watford has been inconsistent over the course of his career, but he has posted double-doubles in three of the last four games. Hulls is shooting over 49 percent from long range and makes nearly 90 percent from the line. The turning point for IU came when sophomore Victor Oladipo slid over the point. His aggressiveness on both ends of the floor has provided a spark for the Hoosiers. A number of bench players have contributed as well, but IU will be without senior Verdell Jones III, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Big Ten Tournament.
The Hoosiers are in the Top Five in offensive efficiency, led by Top 10 rankings in three-point shooting, effective field goal percentage, and free throw rate, which is critical since they shoot over 76 percent from the line. Indiana has struggled on defense though and ranks outside of the Top 100 in all four factors. They will need to rely on outscoring teams to win in the tournament, but they have to put up more resistance on defense to make a deep run.
Virginia Commonwealth Rams Team Capsule
- Conference: Colonial
- Record: 28-6 (15-3 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 9-1
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 3-1
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: South Florida, Western Kentucky (2)
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Alabama
- Player to Watch: Bradford Burgess (6’6″ G/F, Sr.) – 13.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.5 apg
VCU Bottoms Line:
The Rams got off to a slow start with a disappointing performance in the Charleston Classic, but they won 17 of their last 18 games, including a three-point win in the CAA Championship Game. VCU isn’t a particularly good shooting team, as evidenced by their 47.5 effective field goal percentage, which ranks outside of the Top 200. However, they take good care of the basketball and have solid depth with eight players logging at least 15 minutes per game.
Bradford Burgess leads the team in scoring and has attempted over 200 three-pointers this season, while 6-foot-9 soph Juvonte Reddic gives the team a solid presence inside. Throw in the play of Darius Theus at the point and the timely shooting of Troy Daniels and you have a team capable of pulling an upset or two. VCU’s calling card is its defense, which ranks first in the nation in turnover rate and steal percentage. Their in-your-face press and “havoc” defense can really exploit teams without strong ballhandlers and decision-makers. On defense, keep an eye on freshman Briante Weber, who leads the nation with a ridiculous 7.1 steal percentage. While offensive struggles will prevent a repeat of last year’s Cinderella run, the Rams definitely have the pieces to win a game or two.
Related: Jump to our South Region Bracket Breakdown