RAMS FACE SOONERS IN SECOND ROUND
After defeating Oregon State in the first round of the NCAA tournament, VCU has earned themselves a date with the second-seeded Sooners from Oklahoma. VCU is preparing for the game as if it’s road game, as Chesapeake Arena in Oklahoma City is sure to draw a large crowd of Sooner fans.
The Sooners are led by National Player of the Year candidate Buddy Hield. The 6’4 senior guard averages 25 points per game, 5.6 rebounds per game, and 2.1 assists per game. He is capable of scoring in a multitude of ways, from driving to the basket to shooting from beyond the arc. He is a 46% shooter from downtown, almost 10 percentage points higher than last season. It will require a team effort from the Rams to defend him, but look for a heavy dose of double teams and traps to try to get the ball out of his hands. When he does have the ball, the most likely matchup for him will be Korey Billbury, who is also 6’4 and has the quickness to stay in front of Hield. Stopping him will be priority #1 for VCU defensively.
“He makes a lot of tough shots. For the most part, just being there in every shot, contesting and having a body between him and the basket at all times,” said senior Melvin Johnson when asked about the key to handling Hield.
“We need to match their intensity and aggressiveness and make strong plays and just make shots and get after them,” said Hield about their gameplan against VCU.
Other players the Rams must watch for include senior guard Isaiah Cousins and junior guard Jordan Woodard, who average 13.1 and 12.6 points per game, respectively. Both also shoot extremely well from deep. The Rams’ stable of guards will be forced to defend out to the 3-point line in order to avoid a barrage of 3’s from the Sooners.
“Well, they’ve got other good players. It’s not like it’s a one-man band,” said VCU coach Will Wade. “The other two guards are really good. The big kid, 12, he blocks a ton of shots which lead to transition opportunities for some of those other guys.”
“I think its hard to take away the three-point shot from us. We’re going to shoot regardless if their hands are in our face or not,” said Hield.
Offensively, the Rams must attack the rim and use their athleticism and depth to their advantage. Sophomore forward Khadeem Lattin isn’t much of a factor on the offensive end, but he averages 2.2 blocks per game as their primary rim protector. Getting him into early foul trouble would be extremely beneficial to VCU.
Senior forward Ryan Spangler is a much bigger all-around threat, as he averages 10.6 points per game and 9.3 rebounds per game. The battle between Spangler and Mo Alie- Cox will be one to monitor, but Alie-Cox’s athleticism and strength should favor the Rams.
“I think one thing that’s underrated is their defense doesn’t get talked about a lot. They do a good job defensively. They’re top 25 in the country in adjusted defensive stuff, advanced metrics with their defense,” said Wade.
Wade noted that one of the strengths of his team is the versatility and how the team can play a variety of lineups.
“I do think the versatility of our roster and the interchangeable parts we have on our roster helps us feel our way through things,” he said.
Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger was also impressed with VCU’s depth, and noted their defensive intensity as something his team has to prepare for. “They dictate defensively. They randomly will trap. They’ll play a little three-quarter, mix in a little zone,” he said. “They’ve got guys that are tough and challenge the ball and get into you. Our guys will have to be strong with the ball and move the ball and set good screens and do all the little things you have to to execute things well,” Kruger added.
Tune in to CBS tomorrow at 5:15 EST to watch the Sooners go to war with the Rams. The winner will secure a spot in the Sweet Sixteen.
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