It’s the third-place game of the Battle 4 Atlantis when the Atlantic 10 takes on the Big East in an island paradise. The VCU Rams are the “road” team as they travel to face the #22 UConn Huskies Friday afternoon. VCU battled but fell 69-61 to #6 Baylor in their semifinal matchup in their most recent game Thursday afternoon. UConn was defeated 64-60 by Michigan State Thursday afternoon in their most recent contest in the other semifinal matchup. These schools have met just once previously with UConn taking a 72-61 victory in that contest back on March 25, 1988.
VCU Rams Still Looking for Offensive ProductionVCU hung tough with #6 Baylor in their semifinal matchup Thursday afternoon but their offensive struggles doomed them against the defending champions. The Rams fell to 3-3 on the season and look to avoid dropping under the .500 mark here. Against Baylor, VCU took a 3-0 lead in the opening minute before giving up 12 unanswered points to trail 12-3. The Rams got back to within two at the half but gave up another 12-3 run to start the second half, leaving them down 11. VCU couldn’t get closer than three the rest of the way. VCU shot 42.1% from the field, including six of 20 from three-point range, and turned the ball over 19 times in the loss. Vince Williams Jr. led the Rams with 17 points and five assists in the loss.
For the year, VCU is putting up an average of only 55.2 points per game so far this season, putting them 356th in the nation in scoring offense. The Rams are collecting an average of 30.2 rebounds per contest while dishing out 10.3 assists a night this year. VCU has given up an average of 54.8 points a game this season, putting them 11th in the nation in scoring defense. Vince Williams Jr. is the lone player averaging in double figures for the Rams as he averages 11.7 points per game this season. Hason Ward, KeShawn Curry, Levi Stockard III, Jayden Nunn, Marcus Tsohoris, Jalen DeLoach, Josh Banks, Jimmy Nichols Jr., Nick Kern and Mikeal Brown-Jones are all key contributors being looked to for solid minutes for Mike Rhoades. As a team, VCU is shooting 41.1% from the floor on the year. The Rams are connecting on an average of 4.2 three-pointers per game while shooting a frigid 29.5% from beyond the arc. VCU is sinking a mediocre 62.1% of their attempts from the charity stripe on the season.
UConn Huskies Try to Bounce Back From First LossUConn survived a double-overtime win over Auburn in the opening round and perhaps that caught up with them down the stretch against Michigan State. The Huskies now look to bounce back from their first loss of the season as they fell to 5-1 on the year. UConn found themselves in a 6-0 hole early and they trailed 32-18 late in the first half before trimming the deficit to eight at intermission. The Huskies maintained their momentum in the second half, taking a 55-48 lead with 4:44 to play. UConn was still up 60-55 with 1:41 to go in the game but they were scoreless the rest of the way, giving up the final nine points of the game to take the loss. The Huskies shot 35.9% from the field, including just two of 16 from three-point range, and went 12 of 17 at the charity stripe. Adama Sanogo led the way with 18 points and 10 rebounds plus six blocks in the loss.
The Huskies are stellar on the offensive end of the floor as they put up an average of 90.5 points per game, putting them 5th in the nation in scoring offense. Connecticut is grabbing 40.8 boards a night while they are dishing out 18 assists a night. The Huskies are sparkling on the defensive end, ranking 89th by allowing 63 points a night. Adama Sanogo leads the team with 18.5 points plus 6.8 rebounds per contest this season. Tyrese Martin (13.8 points, 7.7 rebounds), R.J. Cole (13 points, 4.5 assists), Tyler Polley (10.7 points) and Jalen Gaffney (8.2 points) are good secondary scoring options. Andre Jackson, Jordan Hawkins, Akok Akok, Isaiah Whaley, Samson Johnson, Richie Springs and Rahsool Diggins are critical pieces of the rotation for Dan Hurley and the Huskies. Connecticut is shooting 47.8% from the field as a team this season. The Huskies average 8.3 three-pointers a game while shooting 39.7% from three-point range. Connecticut has knocked down 76% of their attempts at the charity stripe this season.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
We’ve got two teams with a distinct contrast of styles in this contest. UConn is fifth in the nation in scoring offense while VCU is third-worst in all of Division I in that category. The Rams are just outside the top 10 in the country in scoring defense but UConn is no slouch there. Had the Huskies not been in that double-overtime offensive extravaganza, they’d be higher ranked than where they stand. As it is, Sanogo is a massive presence in the low block and can erase possessions for opposing teams at will. Given the way that VCU struggles offensively, you have to think that UConn can take care of business here to get the win.
Full-Game Total Pick
UConn has split their six games in regards to the total as they followed up their 224-point extravaganza with Auburn by combining to put up just 124 points in the loss to Michigan State. The Huskies are 21st in offensive efficiency and 24th in defensive efficiency on the season. UConn is an above-average team in tempo as they are 100th in the country by averaging 70.3 possessions a night. VCU had their first over of the season in their loss to Baylor and even in that game, there still was only a combined 130 points on the board. Given the fact that the Rams are so abysmal offensively and that they are 264th in tempo with 67.5 possessions a night, look for this one to wind up short of the number.