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VCU Roster Breakdown

Yesterday we took a cursory look at the VCU program and its coach Shaka Smart, focusing on what the media is consistently getting wrong. Today’s feature looks at the VCU roster, and how well they match up with FSU. Later in the week I’ll look at some film to add a visual perspective to our other information on the Rams.

VCU is another veteran squad – ranking 49th in experience. For comparison Notre Dame was 15th, while FSU is right in the middle of D1 schools at 188th. If you’re not familiar with how experience is calculated, it’s basically the experience level of your players that are actually generating minutes. For example, it’s Pierre Jordan’s 3rd year in the program, but due to his limited minutes he has very little effect on our experience ranking. These calculations – where metrics are dependent on minutes played – are a key function of advanced statistics, and you should always keep that in mind. Plus, it will come back later in this article.

The VCU Rams have two players who rarely leave the game in Bradford Burgess and Joey Rodriguez. Burgess, a junior, is a 6’6 wing who’s averaged over 30 minutes a game for his career. This year he leads VCU at 34.3.  He’s the team’s best 3-pt shooter at 40.3% and its second leading scorer at 14.1 PPG. Six times this season he’s scored over 20.  He went to high school with Ed Davis where they won back-to-back Virginia State Titles. Senior Joey Rodriguez should be more familiar to FSU fans as he went to Lake Howell HS where he was 1st team All State. At 5’10 he has elite speed and can penetrate as well as any guard FSU has faced all season outside of Malcolm Delaney and Nolan Smith. He takes great care of the ball (2.3:1 Assist to Turnover), and is clutch from the line (84%). So far in the Tourney he’s racked up 23 assists to only 3 turnovers. His primary weakness is 3-point shooting where he only hits 33.9% despite attempting more than anyone else on the team.

Another name everyone should be familiar with is senior Jamie Skeen, as he was the cornerstone of Wake Forest’s recruiting class in 2006 with a consensus prospect ranking of 50th in the country. After a solid freshman season he stumbled in his sophomore year following Skip Prosser’s untimely death and ended up leaving the program due to academic reasons. Now the 6’9 big man is leading the Rams in points (15.1), rebounds (7.3) and blocks (1.1). Only 5 times all season has he been held to single digit scoring. He’s also a serious matchup problem if Chris Singleton isn’t playing, as he can step out and knock down the three at 39%.

Senior guards Ed Nixon and Brandon Rozzell both average about 25 minutes a game, and have been nicknamed "the Energy Brothers" by Coach Smart. Nixon, another 1st Team All State of Florida player, is 6’4 and might be the best defensive player the team has. The 6’2 Rozell is another huge 3-point threat and shoots them at a 40% clip. He also never turns the ball over, and has a turnover rate lower than any player in the ACC.

VCU also has four players off the bench that average at least 10 minutes.

If you were paying attention to heights you see 6’9, 6’6, 6’4, 6’2 and 5’10 as the players getting the bulk of their minutes. This is about normal for a D1 team (they’re 149th in effective height), though they’re quite a bit smaller than FSU (25th in effective height). In fact, they’ve yet to play a big team in this tournament, having gone through USC (112), Georgetown  (80) and Purdue (142). Seeing if this might affect them I looked at the 21 games they’ve played this season against top-150 teams, in which they’ve gone 11-10 and then threw in some other metrics based on what FSU does. I looked at what FSU does well (defensive efficiency, 3-pt% defense, effective height) and what FSU doesn’t do well (turnover %, offensive efficiency). This table shows how they performed against each category:


Surprisingly, for a team that thrives on creating turnovers, VCU has played teams that take care of the ball to an 8-4 record, versus 3-6 against teams ranked over 100. There didn’t seem to be much interesting about offensive efficiency, 3-pt % defense, or defensive efficiency, but looking at height they were 2-4 against teams that were significantly bigger than them, and 9-6 against equally sized or smaller teams. I don't think there's enough data here to jump to any conclusions, but it's a nice trend to see that they've performed poorly against big teams, and against teams that turn the ball over.