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Stephen F. Austin
This is a good matchup to look at because not a lot of people know about either of these teams. Even as a 5-seed, VCU is slightly off the radar playing in the Atlantic 10. Most people have the Rams advancing based on previous results in the tourney. Stephen F. Austin is not a team to take lightly, however, as they're on a 28-game winning streak. Obviously, playing in the Southland conference isn't all that difficult, but it's still an impressive number. The Rams are -6.5 point favorites.
VCU was not the greatest team in non-conference play this year, losing to Florida State, Georgetown and Northern Iowa. All of those games came either on a neutral court or on the road. Of course, they also beat Virginia and Belmont on the road. Also, all four of their conference losses came on the road. Their full-court pressure defense seems to be fueled by their home crowd a bit and playing in San Diego, how many fans will they have?
The Lumberjacks dismantled their conference including in the tournament as they won their championship game by 21 points. It wasn't like they were lucky to win, this is a team that dominated the Southland all season. In their toughest game of the season, they lost at Texas 72-62. They were beat up on the boards in that game and that could happen again as SFA is 231st in rebounds per game in the country. That's an odd-looking number for a team with only two losses.
The first thing to look at in this game is if Stephen F. Austin will have trouble with the VCU press. It's likely they will early on, but can they handle it as the game gets going? You can only practice against it so much and you can't really simulate going against a guy like lengthy Briante Weber, who gets 3.4 steals per game. SFA doesn't turn it over that much, but this is a new level.
The Lumberjacks have decent depth with eight or nine guys usually seeing double-digit minutes, but only five of them can score regularly, all of them averaging at least 9.6 points per game. All five of them can shoot, but the guy to watch out for is Deshaunt Walker off the bench, who's made at least three 3-pointers in five straight games.
SFA isn't big at all either, hence their rebound problems. Often, their tallest player on the court comes in at 6-6. Jacob Parker (14.2 PPG, 7.1 RPG) may be the biggest piece in this game as he needs to get rebounds and also keep guys like Treveon Graham and Juvonte Reddic from dominating. Their offense is patient for the most part, but that may have to change if they break the press early.
While everyone knows about the Rams defense, their offense isn't the greatest and the Lumberjacks also play great half-court defense so that will be something to watch. VCU will be without its third-best scorer and best 3-point shooter in Melvin Johnson and they just lost to St. Joseph's without him. It's going to come down to Graham and Reddic, who both can be major problems.
Briante Weber has picked his offense up in the last couple games which is a positive sign for this team. Without Johnson, guys like Rob Brandenburg will need to knock down shots. And considering they don't shoot it all that well as a team, that's not a good sign.
Due to the 'Havoc' defense of the Rams, most will be leaning toward and hoping for a dominant performance by the Rams. Still, you never know how a team will play against that defense, but with their patience, SFA can be a problem.
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