After silencing their critics with an first-round victory, the 11th-seeded VCU Rams will take on the sixth-seeded Georgetown Hoyas in a Southwest Regional second-round matchup of the NCAA Tournament from the United Center.
VCU is playing in its 10th NCAA Tournament and first under head coach Shaka Smart. Including Wednesday's 59-46 victory over USC in "First Four" action, the Rams have now compiled a 6-9 all-time NCAA tourney record. They received an at-large bid this season on the strength of a 23-11 overall mark and a run to the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament title game, which saw them fall 70-65 to Old Dominion.
Georgetown will be making its 27th appearance in the NCAA Tournament tonight and fifth in seven years under head coach Jon Thompson III. The Hoyas have an all-time tourney record of 45-24, which includes a national championship in 1984. This season, Georgetown compiled a 21-10 overall record before being bounced by eventual champion Connecticut in the second round of the Big East Tournament.
VCU and Georgetown have met just once previously, with the Rams earning a victory in 1978.
Overcoming a sluggish start, VCU utilized a bevy of second chance points and a second half assault from three-point range to earn a tourney-prolonging victory over USC. With the score tied 22-22 at the break, the Rams' Jamie Skeen buried a shot from deep to begin the second half, giving VCU a lead it would never relinquish. In all, the Rams posted a 40-31 rebounding advantage and outscored the Trojans 27-3 from downtown. The VCU defense was the true catalyst, though, as it forced 15 turnovers and held USC to just 39.5 percent shooting. Skeen led the team with 16 points and nine boards. The senior forward, who was named to the All-CAA second team, has been a steadying force for the Rams on the year. He currently leads the squad in scoring (15.4 ppg) and rebounding (7.5 rpg) and has proven himself a clutch scorer. Junior guard Bradford Burgess is a solid contributor, ranking second on the team in scoring (13.9 ppg) and rebounding (6.3 rpg). Senior point guard Joey Rodriguez, an All-CAA Third Team selection, has handed out a team-high 167 assists. He also has 52 steals, as the Rams play a trapping, pressure-oriented defense, which has translated to a CAA-leading 8.4 steals per game and 66.8 ppg allowed.
Georgetown is led by senior guard Austin Freeman, who ranks first on the team and fifth in the Big East in scoring at 17.9 ppg. He ranks 15th in the conference in field goal percentage (48.4), 11th in three-point field goal percentage (37.3), and third in free throw percentage (86.5). The Hoyas should receive a boost with the expected return of second-leading scorer Chris Wright, who broke a bone in his left (non-shooting) hand on Feb. 23rd and missed the last three games. He scores 13.1 ppg and ranks third in the league at 5.3 assists per game. Jason Wright, a junior guard, ranks second on the team in three-pointers made (51), leading to a 12.1 ppg scoring clip. Adding bulk to the middle is senior forward Julian Vaughn, who paces the Hoyas in rebounding (6 rpg) and blocked shots (2 bpg). In all, Georgetown posts a plus 2.5 rebounding margin, while allowing 66.1 ppg. On the other end of the floor, the Hoyas manage 71 ppg and lead the Big East in field goal percentage (47.8).
VCU has proven itself a dangerous team, but should be outmanned by a stronger, battle-hardened Georgetown squad. The Hoyas have an all-time record of 24-9 against teams from the CAA.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Georgetown 72, VCU 68