VCU vs. UCF NCAA Bracket Predictions & Picks

Getty Sean Mobley #5 of the VCU Rams shoots in the first half during a game against the Virginia Cavaliers.

The Virginia Commonwealth Rams were the cream of the crop of the Atlantic 10 Conference this season. Under the guidance of second-year head coach Mike Rhoades, they improved from 18-15 to 25-6 from last year to this one, including a 12-game winning streak from late January to March 8.

Sandwiching that streak is a pair of losses to defending champion Rhode Island, including one in VCU’s opening round game of the conference tournament this past weekend. While the Rams weren’t breathing hard about making it to the NCAA Tournament, the loss saw them drop a few seed lines in Joe Lunardi’s bracketology on ESPN.

They landed with a No. 8 seed in the East Regional, setting up a first-round matchup with No. 9 seed Central Florida. VCU is now tasked with replicating its magical 2011 run to the Final Four.

Before diving into predictions and picks, let’s take a look at the Rams season to this point.

VCU NCAA Tournament Resume

The unquestioned highlight of the non-conference was a 54-53 victory over former VCU coach Shaka Smart and the Texas Longhorns. That was during the point of the season when Texas was topping elite programs such as North Carolina, so VCU notched a big win on the road over a decent power conference squad.

A single-digit loss to No. 1 seed Virginia can be seen as a positive, while an overtime loss to a fellow tournament team in St. John’s could’ve boosted the Rams’ overall profile.

The Atlantic 10 is not particularly strong this season, as Ken Pomeroy pegs it as his No. 12 conference overall. With that said, VCU beat a top-75 NET team in Dayton twice, which isn’t nothing.

VCU NCAA Tournament Predictions and Picks

The Rams became a national darling with their Final Four run in 2011, but have not even sniffed similar success since then. In 6 NCAA Tournament appearances since, they have just 3 wins in 9 games, with all of the victories coming in the Round of 64. The losses include double-digit blowouts at the hands of Michigan in 2013 and an upset to No. 12 seed Stephen F. Austin in 2014.

Rhoades has helped build one of the best defenses in America. Pomeroy ranks it as the No. 7 efficiency unit in the country, which includes the third-stingiest effective field goal defense. The Rams wreak havoc on ball-handlers, forcing turnovers on over 23 percent of opponent possessions.

On the other side of the ball, four players carry the bulk of the scoring load. Junior guard Marcus Evans leads the way with 13.8 points per game, while De’Riante Jenkins (11.4 ppg), Issac Vann (10.9) and Marcus Santos-Silva (10.1) are the only others who average in double figures.

Central Florida presents a literally formidable presence in Senegal center Tacko Fall. He stands a ludicrous 7-foot-6, 310 pounds while shooting over 75 percent from inside the arc (No. 4 nationally).

The Knights can stretch a defense with the 3-point touch of Aubrey Dawkins (39.2 percent) and BJ Taylor (36.8 percent).

The Knights earned a top-25 ranking at one point late in the season, but faded late with a 2-game losing streak. VCU should be able to harass a decently-sized, but not a tremendously skilled ball-handling opponent.

With a win, VCU would have to upset No. 1 overall seed Duke (probably) in the Round of 32 to advance. Zion Williamson will be too much for either VCU or UCF.

OddsShark gives the Rams +10000 odds to win the national title.