Middle Tennessee vs. VCU Preview, Thoughts, and Prediction

VCU comes into a home matchup against Middle Tennessee having lost 2 of its last 3, and the Rams barely escaped Old Dominion a week ago. The Rams have a nice non-conference win over Princeton but have struggled against tough competition. On paper, VCU will definitely be the favorite to take down the Blue Raiders in the Siegel Center, but this MTU team is far from a pushover and will more than likely put up a very good fight.

Middle Tennessee comes into this contest having won its last 8. The Blue Raiders are 10-1 on the season and boast wins over Vanderbilt, Mississippi, and UNC Wilmington. Middle Tennessee is led by big men JaCorey Williams and Reggie Upshaw who average 18.9 and 14.6 points per game respectively. They both also pull in more than 6.5 boards per contest. Giddy Potts is the Blue Raiders’ primary three point threat, but he’s also a dangerous rebounder and does a superb job taking care of the basketball.

VCU’s may have a tough time working its bread and butter against Middle Tennessee. The Rams are 37th in the nation according to Kenpom in forcing turnovers, but the Blue Raiders are the best team in the nation at limiting turnovers. This team does a very good job taking care of the basketball, which means it’s going to be tough for the Rams to live in transition and get points off turnovers. Middle Tennessee is also 40th in the nation defensively in forcing turnovers while the Rams’ offense is 281st at limiting turnovers. If VCU does not focus on protecting the basketball and limiting unforced errors, the Blue Raiders will look to take advantage.

An area where VCU can really get ahead is free throw shooting. The Blue Raiders have been atrocious from the free throw line, shooting at just 62.9% as a team. If the refs call this one close and both teams are making frequent visits to the charity stripe, expect the Rams who shoot 70.1% to have the clear advantage. Both of these teams shoot the ball, from two and from three, at an efficient rate, so it’s going to come down to who’s making shots. Middle Tennessee has a talented frontcourt that’s going to give Justin Tillman and Mo Alie-Cox a run for their money. Tillman played great against Georgia Tech, but these two have otherwise struggled over the Rams’ last three games. VCU has to get its frontcourt going on both ends of the floor to take down this pesky MTU team.

Prediction: Though I believe this will be a very close contest for the Rams, they should be able to pull this one out. JeQuan Lewis and Jonathan Williams will have to get going in the backcourt, but I believe the Rams are talented enough to win this game at home. Look for VCU to try and break out of its slump today and get some momentum before heading into conference play in a few weeks. VCU 74, Middle Tennessee 68

Grant Labedz is a college basketball superfan who loves the entire sport but definitely has favorites in the A-10 and the Big Ten. He has written for ...