VCU advances to MSG with win over Deacs

VCU
90
VCU
00:00
2nd
Wake Forest
69
Wake Forest

Wake Forest was able to keep the game close through halftime, but when the Rams started pressing, all hopes of going to New York next week went out the window. Jamie Skeen was successful in his return to Winston-Salem, as VCU pulled away and won 90-69.

While the final result was certainly disappointing, and there are many concerns going forward, I am enthusiastic about what I saw during the game. After getting down by double digits early, the Deacs fought back and made it a three point game at the half. The momentum carried over the intermission, and Wake even took the lead for a brief period. Once the Rams turned up the intensity on the full court press, Wake Forest had absolutely no answer, and turnovers once again proved to be an insurmountable problem to overcome.

Click through for statistical analysis, along with my analysis of where we are after the first three games.

First of all, let's take a look at the Team Stats courtesy of SCACCHoops.com

Team Stats
  VCU Wake Forest
Tempo 70.8 72.8
Off Eff 127.1 94.8
eFG% 53.3 55.0
TO % 9.9 31.6
O Reb % 41.5 26.5
D Reb % 73.5 58.5
FT Rate 15.8 44.0
% Safe 100.0 0.0
FG % 46.1 46.0
FT % 75.0 63.6
3P % 36.7 56.3
3FGA/FGA 39.5 32.0
Block % 5.6 9.6
Steal % 15.5 4.1
A/FGM 54.3 47.8
A/TO 2.7 0.5

The tempo is right at what I would have expected, and slightly above the tempo we played at our first two games VCU was extremely efficient on the offensive end, and as I mentioned in my preview yesterday, is one of the more efficient teams in the country. It is very rare that you see a team shoot 56% from 3's and lose a game. Despite all of the turnovers against the press, Wake still managed a 94.8 offensive efficiency rating (.948 ppp), which is pretty mindboggling considering we turned the ball over on an astonishing 32% of our possessions.

WFU Box Score

Wake Forest
Player PTS AST OR REB STL BLK TO PF FG FGA FT FTA 3P 3PA MINS +/- **
Ari Stewart * 18 0 2 7 0 0 3 3 7 12 0 0 4 6 31 -22
JT Terrell * 14 3 1 2 1 0 4 0 5 12 2 2 2 5 34 -21
CJ Harris * 10 4 0 9 1 0 10 1 3 6 3 5 1 1 31 -18
Travis McKie * 10 0 1 5 0 1 3 2 3 8 4 8 0 2 29 -15
Gary Clark 5 3 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 5 2 2 1 1 22 -15
Carson Desrosiers 5 1 1 3 0 5 2 2 2 2 0 0 1 1 22 -4
Melvin Tabb 5 0 1 3 0 0 0 2 1 3 3 5 0 0 14 -9
Ty Walker * 2 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 1 2 0 0 0 0 13 -14
Aaron Ingle 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 -1
Ryan Keenan 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 -1
TEAM     3 3                        
Totals 69 11 9 33 3 7 23 11 23 50 14 22 9 16 200 -120
Percentages   46.00% 63.64% 56.25%    

Ari Stewart had a very good game last night for the Deacs, and had a fantastic day shooting the basketball. The obvious stat that sticks out is the 10 turnovers that CJ Harris had. They are not all his fault, and a lot of blame can go to the players on the court that were stranding him in the corner, as well as not showing themselves to help. Still, 10 turnovers for one player is completely unacceptable, and I would imagine that Coach Bzdelik has already made that perfectly clear. Ty Walker managed only 13 minutes, as Carson Desrosiers took 22 minutes and played pretty well, managing 5 blocks in his time. The balanced scoring from Ari, JTT, Travis, and CJ is exactly what we need, and I would love to see more of it this year.

VCU Box Score

VCU
Player PTS AST OR REB STL BLK TO PF FG FGA FT FTA 3P 3PA MINS +/- **
BURGESS,BRADFORD * 25 2 3 8 0 0 0 2 10 17 1 2 4 6 34 28
RODRIGUEZ,JOEY * 18 6 2 4 2 0 1 4 7 15 0 0 4 8 30 18
ROZZELL,BRANDON 17 4 2 3 1 0 1 1 7 11 0 0 3 7 28 18
SKEEN,JAMIE * 15 0 1 5 0 1 2 3 5 8 5 6 0 0 23 12
VEAL,TOBY * 6 0 2 4 0 0 1 3 3 4 0 0 0 0 13 6
THEUS,DARIUS 5 4 0 3 3 0 0 2 1 3 3 4 0 1 16 17
REDDIC,JUVONTE 2 0 1 2 0 0 0 1 1 3 0 0 0 0 8 -5
HINTON,DAVID 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 2 1
DANIELS,TROY 0 0 0 2 3 0 1 0 0 3 0 0 0 3 9 17
BRANDENBERG,ROB 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 4 0 0 0 2 6 -6
HALEY,DJ 0 0 0 2 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 8 11
NIXON,ED * 0 2 2 5 1 1 1 1 0 7 0 0 0 3 23 3
TEAM     3 3                        
Totals 90 19 17 42 11 4 7 18 35 76 9 12 11 30 200 120
Percentages   46.05% 75.00% 36.67%    

VCU attempted 76 shots yesterday, and made 35 of them. It is very difficult to beat a team that shoots 46% on 76 shots. Once again, rebounding was a huge problem for Wake Forest, as the Rams got 42 rebounds, and 17 of those were offensive (well all of them were offensive to me...hardy har). 17 offensive rebounds+23 turnovers=a chance at 40 more shot opportunities. The Deacs shot 46% as well, but took 26 less shots. When it boils down to it, this is what changed the game. There is a reason that the Four Factors for KenPom are viewed as extremely indicative of a game. It is because those are the only things that really matter. 

Look at the Four Factors for Wake Forest this year (courtesy of KenPom)

Four Factors
Effective FG%: 48.4 152 45.4 112 48.2
Turnover %: 25.9 269 12.7 316 21.4
Off. Reb. %: 22.9 287 35.5 217 32.4
FTA/FGA: 46.0 106 27.2 58

39.5

The Deacs are right at the national average for eFG%, and that needs to continue to get a little better due to our other shortcomings in rebounding and protecting the ball. The defense has actually been doing a good job of limiting the eFG% of opponents. This is mainly due to our opponents inability to shoot the 3 ball well.

Turnovers are the biggest problem for us right now, but it is not necessarily just what you would expect. Yes, we had a tremendously difficult time of protecting the ball against the full court press, but we are also not forcing any turnovers. 87.3% of our opponents possessions do not end in a turnover. That means they are getting a lot of shots against us, and they are getting even more because of our inability to hit the glass. The turnovers+rebounding problems for us cancel out our ability to force opponents well below the NCAA average for eFG%. 

The fourth factor is how often we get to the line, or how often we send opponents to the line. We get to the line very frequently (formula is FTA/FGA*100). We also do not send opponents to the line that often, which is very good with a limited bench. Now we just need to make our free throws, and get the extra 6-10 points we are leaving out there per game.

My Analysis

While this year may be a long one in terms of wins and losses, I remain upbeat about our future with these players, as well as Coach Bzdelik. Many are jumping to conclusions about judging Coach, particularly after that spell last night where we could not advance the ball over midcourt. I, however, saw something different. I saw Coach actively coaching the guys in the timeouts, as well as communicating with them during that spell to tell them where they needed to be. I hardly ever saw that the past 3 years. I also love how Coach will always talk to a the player he has subbed out. Even if it is simply a comment on a job well done, it shows a lot to me that he is working with them constantly.

We can use youth as an excuse, and it is a very feasible one, but I think the biggest problem is the lack of time the players have had to play with each other. With all of the injuries, uncertainties in the lineup, and of course the fact that almost all of our players are freshmen and sophomores, the chemistry just isn't there yet.

I am not excusing the way that we played during the press last night, because it was frankly quite embarrassing that an ACC team cannot advance the ball over midcourt against a CAA team (albeit a good one), but it is certainly understandable. C.J. Harris has never been the primary ballhandler against a press like that in college. J.T Terrell was not showing when he needed to be, and Coach was making sure he knew that as well. Ari Stewart was frequently confused about where he needed to be (not only against the press, but on inbounds plays too). These type of things happen when there is a new coach, as well as when they are trying to adjust to game speed against D1 opponents.

My final word

Honestly, as long as we keep improving, and we did improve from Hampton to last night, I will be happy. I will continue to be enthusiastic as long as we are fixing things we are doing wrong, and actively working to get better. Nobody expected us to be world-beaters this year, and we certainly are not. People wanted a coach that improved the team come March, and I think we should give Coach Bzdelik a chance to show what he can do with these guys come the 2nd half of ACC play, rather than jumping all over him right now. We should not have lost to Stetson, we should not have struggled that much with Hampton, but we did, and now we can use them as growing pains while we continue to get better.

I would really appreciate comments on this because I want to know where the fans are standing. I know that I may be one of the few that are optimistic, and I understand why. I would just rather enjoy watching the team grow and get better instead of being upset at our win and loss record. As always, Go Deacs!!!

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