Matchup breakdown: Virginia Commonwealth

This game will be more about head-to-head matchups, and with a press that rivals any in college basketball in this past decade, VCU will focus more on team defense than one-on-one. But I’ll break it down anyway, with special consideration for breaking that now-famous press:

POINT GUARD

Jordan Hulls, Indiana: 11.5 ppg, .506 FG%, 2.4 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.0 apg, 2.1 tpg
Darius Theus, VCU: 8.6 ppg, .447 FG%, 2.3 rpg, 4.7 apg, 1.9 spg, 2.3 tpg

Theus is the team’s outright floor general, and he’s also very good at pressuring the ball. So this matchup could be at the core of VCU’s attack. Jordan Hulls isn’t the best and most dynamic with the ball, and he’s had a propensity for getting trapped in corners. He’ll have to avoid the sidelines as much as possible in this game, as the Rams are the best team in the country at trapping and causing turnovers. But if Hulls and the rest of the team can get through those presses, Hulls may be in for a field day shooting the ball. VCU is pretty good at getting back after the press, but Hulls could find himself with some open opportunities to continue his hot shooting streak as of late. Theus, on the other hand, is more of a floor general, but still shoots the best from the field of any guard VCU will start with on Saturday. His defense is his greatest weapon in this game, as he averages almost two steals per game.

SHOOTING GUARD

Victor Oladipo, Indiana: 10.9 ppg, .457 FG%, 5.5 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.4 spg, 2.1 tpg
Troy Daniels, VCU: 10.0 ppg, .378 FG%, 3.3 rpg, 1.2 spg, 1.0 tpg

Daniels was the least used of the returners from last year’s Final Four team, but he’s shown a capability to score and hit the glass if he needs to. Oladipo will be one of the more interesting offensive pieces in this game for Indiana, as he’s been caught with erratic ballhandling at times throughout the last month or two of the season. He can’t do that against VCU, who will ensure him a miserable fate if he doesn’t hold onto the ball. His speed and aggressiveness will be useful in the half-court though, as he can really hit the boards and should have much more of an effect on the glass than he did against a New Mexico State frontline that was much bigger than him.

SMALL FORWARD

Will Sheehey, Indiana: 8.4 ppg, .486 FG%, 3.4 rpg, 1.0 apg, 1.3 tpg
Bradford Burgess, VCU: 13.4, .364%, 4.9 rpg, 1.6 apg, 1.1 apg, 1.2 tpg

Burgess is by far the Rams best weapon on offense, and I fully expect Oladipo and Sheehey to be instructed to give him fits on that end and force him into taking bad shots. His shooting percentage has drop pretty significantly since becoming VCU’s top option to score, and although he has the talent to score in bunches, Indiana has the personnel to stop him. Sheehey blew up against New Mexico State, and it could be an added bonus if he continues his hot streak on offense. Burgess is a pretty solid defender though, so if they are matched up, Sheehey’s normally aggressive style could be taken out of the game.

POWER FORWARD

Christian Watford, Indiana: 12.0 ppg, .406 FG%, 5.9 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.8 tpg
Juvonte Reddic, VCU: 10.4 ppg, .514 FG%, 6.8 rpg, 1.3 spg, 1.2 bpg, 1.7 tpg

The big men in this game will likely make the difference, and Christian Watford’s versatility could make him a star in this matchup. The problem is Watford isn’t really the quickest big guy, and a press could really throw him off. However, he should find some open shots, and if he can get into a rhythm and get to the foul line, he could be an effective force on offense. Reddic is one of the more interesting and efficient players on VCU’s normaly inefficient offense, and he could score in bunches down low, especially if Cody Zeller were to get into early foul trouble. Reddic will also be the most important player on the back end of VCU’s press, and if his defense lags at all, Indiana’s big men could dominate by putting away quick and easy buckets.

CENTER

Cody Zeller, Indiana: 15.5 ppg, .626 FG%, 6.4 rpg, 1.2 apg, 1.3 spg, 1.2 bpg, 1.5 tpg
D.J. Haley, VCU: 3.2 ppg, .500 FG%, 4.0 rpg,

Oh, the mismatch. VCU coach Shaka Smart openly admitted that the Rams don’t have anyone who can even imitate Zeller in this game, and I think we’ll fully see that mismatch unfold on Saturday. Zeller is one of the quickest centers in the NCAA, and he’ll be able to get open, easy buckets if Indiana’s guards can be smart in breaking the zone. He’s the key to this game if the Hoosiers expect to earn a Sweet 16 bid. Haley is the least used of VCU’s starting five and likely won’t have much of an effect on offense other than drawing defenses in and kicking it back out. Like Reddic though, he’ll be important when it comes to getting back while VCU’s backcourt employs its press. But head-to-head, Haley has little shot of stopping Zeller.