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NCAA Basketball Tournament 2011 First Four Preview: USC Trojans vs. VCU Rams

The 2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament kicks off tonight with the beginning of the First Four. The big matchup Wednesday night is between the USC Trojans and the Va. Commonwealth Rams. As you see from our First Four Schedule, the game is on TruTV at 9 PM ET/6 PM PT. Let's take a look at some of the individual matchups, thanks to Ken Pomeroy. Click here for stats on the USC team, click here for stats on the VCU team. National rank is in parenthesis.

Point guard
VCU: Joey Rodriguez (5'10", 175 lb); 82.5% of minutes (190th), 28.5 assist rate (125th), 2.7 steal % (329th), 44.9 eFG% (only shoots 37% from the two point line and 33% from the three point line), 103.1 offensive rating.

USC: Maurice Jones (5'7", 155 lb); 86% of minutes (92nd), 19.1 assist rate (493rd), 3.7 steal % (61st), 43.8 eFG% (only shoots from 39% from the two point line and 34% from the three point line), 94.2 offensive rating.

Jio Fontan (6'0", 185 lb) has a 26.0 assist rate (195th).

Analysis: Pretty much a wash offensively. Two pretty inefficient points who are better off leaving other players to shoot the ball. Both of them enjoy stealing the ball though. Advantage to Rodriguez for being a better distributor, but Jones does have some speed. Expect Fontan to play a lot if the freshman Jones struggles, even though he's not much better offensively and can't get to the bucket as easily.

Big men

VCU: Jamie Skeen (6'9", 240 lb)--119.1 offensive rating (93rd), 56.9 eFG% (143rd), 61.7 TS% (77th), 9.1 Offensive Rebounding % (425th), 19.6 Defensive Rebounding % (202nd), 14.0 TORate (251st), 3.8 Block % (309th), 2.4 Fouls called/40 minutes (299th), Fouls drawn/40 minutes (118th), FT Rate (73rd)

USC: Nikola Vucevic (6'10", 240 lb)--86.6% of minutes (80th), 115.5 offensive rating (164th), 25.4% of possessions (302nd), 27.1% of shots (242nd), 53.8 eFG% (314th), 57.6% TS% (300th), 9.8 offensive rebounding % (350th), 25.8 defensive rebounding % (23rd), 11.8 turnover rate (90th), 4.3 block % (260th), 4.6 fouls drawn/40 minutes (495th)

Alex Stepheson (6'9", 235 lb)--81.7% of minutes (216th), 56.0 eFG% (188th), 55.8 true TS% (452nd), 11.7 offensive rebounding % (146th), 22.2 defensive rebounding % (95th), 3.5 block % (341st)

Analysis: BIG edge to USC. Vucevic and Skeen probably cancel each other out unless Skeen can get Vucevic into foul trouble--something he's prone to--but to start the game, USC has no one to match BOTH Vucevic and Stepheson. Juvonte Reddic, Toby Veal and D.J. Haley are the other bigs, but all of them are horrid offensively and aren't great rebounders to boot. USC should be able to get a lot of extra possessions and have no trouble holding VCU to one-and-done possessions.


VCU: Bradford Burgess (6'5", 225 lb)--84.1% of minutes (143rd), 118.3 offensive rating (106th), 57% eFG, 60.5 true shooting %, 13.5 turnover rate, 2.4 fouls called per 40 minutes.

Ed Nixon (6'4", 210 lb)--3.0 steal %.

Brandon Rozzell (6'2", 190 lb)--112.3 offensive rating (315th), 52.7 eFG%, 26.6% of shots (284th), 9.9 turnover rate (23rd), 3.4 steal rate (107th).

USC: Donte Smith (5'11", 180 lb)--36.1% three point shooter, 51.1 eFG%, 14.0 turnover rate (246th).

Marcus Simmons (6'6", 200 lb)--42.4 FT rate (466th).

Analysis: Advantage VCU, but only slightly because Simmons (Pac-10 defensive player of the year) should shut down Burgess or Rozzell. USC might have some of the best bigs in the Pac-10, but they give it all away because only Smith is a real good shooter--Garrett Jackson is actually pretty efficient, but Simmons eats up his minutes because of his defensive lockdown ability. Thankfully for the Trojans, VCU does not have the size to neutralize that advantage.

Team analysis.

USC Adjusted Offensive Efficiency (76th) vs. VCU Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (143rd)
USC Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (30th) vs. VCU Adjusted Offensive Efficiency (59th)
USC Effective FG% Offense (113th) vs. VCU Effective FG% Defense (235th)
USC Effective FG% Defense (53rd) vs. VCU Effective FG% Offense (87th)
USC Turnover % Offense (52nd) vs. VCU Turnover % Defense (33rd)
USC Turnover % Defense (268th) vs. VCU Turnover % Offense (48th)
USC Offensive Rebound % (234th) vs. VCU Defensive Rebound % (319th)
USC Defensive Rebound % (19th) vs. VCU Offensive Rebound % (216th)
USC FTA/FGA Offense (257th) vs. VCU FTA/FGA Defense (95th)
USC FTA/FGA Defense (141st) vs. VCU FTA/FGA Offense (198th)
USC Adjusted Tempo (313th) vs. VCU Adjusted Tempo (177th)

Analysis: USC has a clear cut advantage on offense and both defense and they should own the boards. VCU is a gambling team in terms of playing for steals, but USC could come right back at them.

What could play in VCU's favor is tempo; because USC plays at such a slow pace, they really have trouble blowing out good teams because of the small number of possessions. Also depth is an issue, as the Trojans are basically playing a seven man rotation.

If Southern California does blow this one, Kevin O'Neill will have a lot of explaining to do, and it won't all have to do with AA meetings.

Prediction: USC