AKRON ZIPS (26-6)
vs. VCU RAMS (26-8)
NCAA Tournament – Second Round
Auburn Hills, MI
Tip-off: Thursday, 9:45 p.m. ET
Line: VCU -7.5, Total: 134.5
VCU looks to go on another long NCAA Tournament run when it takes on Akron in Round of 64 on Thursday night in Auburn Hills, MI.
The Zips have had a phenomenal season at 26-6 SU, but will once again be missing starting PG Alex Abreu due to a suspension. Although they started off March with four straight ATS defeats before their 19-point blowout in the MAC Championship, the Zips have gone 3-1-1 ATS on a neutral court this season and are 11-5 SU in non-home games. The Rams are 26-8 SU overall, but have been a terrible wager at 10-17 ATS (37%). They were 0-8 ATS in true road games, but were an average 4-3 SU (3-4 ATS) in seven neutral-site contests. While most of the early-round opponents haven't played each other in a while (if ever), these two schools are meeting for the fifth time since 2008. VCU has won all four of those previous meetings, but Akron covered in two of those games, including losing by a single point (76-75) in their last meeting on Dec. 29, 2011 when VCU's Darius Theus made a layup with one second left in overtime.
Can VCU cover the big spread in this game on Thursday night? For the answer, connect to 2013 NCAA Tourney Picks for all the Expert picks throughout the entire tournament. The four StatFox experts begin the NCAA Tournament on quite a roll, going a collective 75% ATS (35-12-1) in the season's final four days and 67% ATS (67-33-2) since March 9, with StatFox Gary going 75% ATS (12-4), StatFox Brian posting a 68% ATS mark (19-9-1), StatFox Dave also at 68% ATS (17-8) and StatFox Scott winning 61% ATS (19-12-1) in those final nine days. Gary has a 68% ATS record (23-11) since Feb. 27 to improve to 56.1% ATS (110-86-4) for the entire college basketball season.
The Zips don't have a glaring weakness, as they average 72.7 PPG on 45.7% FG, while allowing just 62.0 PPG on 39.0% FG (25th in nation) this season. However, poor free-throw shooting (64.5% FT) and turnovers (13.6 per game) are certainly areas that need improvement. Akron is an extremely deep team with 11 players logging at least 10 MPG, and four players scoring 9.7 PPG or more. However, one of those players is suspended junior PG Alex Abreu (10.3 PPG), who in addition to being the floor leader, is the club's most accurate three-point shooter (39.4%). Freshman PG Carmelo Betancourt (1.8 PPG, 1.4 APG) has been getting most of the point-guard minutes, but he hasn't done a whole lot with 11 points, nine assists and six turnovers in the past three games combined. But Akron still has plenty of firepower, especially down low with 7-foot senior C Zeke Marshall (13.0 PPG, 7.1 RPG) and junior PF Demetrius Treadwell (11.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG). Marshall, who ranks fourth in the country with 3.7 BPG, has averaged 14.4 PPG during a nine-game streak of double-figure scoring. Marshall sure made his presence felt against VCU last season when he scored 10 points and had six blocks. Treadwell has a current double-figure scoring streak of seven games, averaging 13.7 PPG over this stretch He's also grabbed 10+ rebounds resulting in three straight double-doubles. SF Nick Harney (9.7 PPG, 4.0 RPG) has also been a valuable offensive player in the past nine games with 10.4 PPG.
VCU is tough on both sides of the ball, scoring 77.3 PPG (13th in nation) while allowing just 64.8 PPG for a +12.5 PPG margin (12th in D-I). The Rams make 7.9 threes per game, and are very active defensively, leading the country in both steals (11.8 SPG) and turnover margin (+8.0 TOPG). VCU has four double-digit scorers with sophomore SG Treveon Graham (15.5 PPG, 6.0 RPG) leading the way. He was a beast in his team's loss in the A-10 finals to Saint Louis with 20 points and 12 rebounds against a great Billikens defense. Junior PF Juvonte Reddic (14.4 PPG, 8.3 RPG) had 15 points and eight rebounds in that game, and has averaged 15.2 PPG and 9.2 RPG in his past five contests. Reddic fouled out of the December 2011 meeting at Akron, scoring just seven points on 3-of-8 shooting. Despite beating the Zips at the buzzer, senior PG Darius Theus (7.1 PPG, 4.9 APG) didn't play very well that night, making just 5-of-14 shots and committing five turnovers. He also struggled on Sunday with five turnovers and 1-of-6 shooting. Sophomore SG Briante Weber averages just 5.4 PPG, but he had a huge game in Akron last season with 11 points, five rebounds, five steals and four assists off the bench.