After an 18-point loss to Florida State University and a mere 10-turnover performance against Long Beach State, it would appear that VCU and its havoc style of play hit a road block this weekend. But just how is it that havoc can be beaten?
A quick analysis of the losses during head coach Shaka Smart’s time at VCU would show several key areas that teams have been able to outperform VCU.
It is evident that the Rams have often lacked a power presence in the paint both offensively and defensively. In losses, VCU has been out-blocked by their opponents by an average of 1.6 blocks per game and an average of 2.4 since moving to the Atlantic 10 and seeing an increase in the talent level in their average competition.
Along with being out-blocked, VCU’s presence at the rim has also suffered from its inability to fight for rebounds. In losses, the Rams have been out-rebounded by an average margin of almost five, and 3.8 in offensive rebounds.
This inability to compete in the paint is usually indicative of the smaller physical size of the VCU team and of the aggression of their opponents.
This mismatch forces the Rams to struggle to defend against the other teams and leads to them giving up an average of four penalties more a game, which leads to giving up an advantage of almost five free throws attempted per game.
Assuming that blocks occur up close and therefore 50 percent of those shots would have gone in along with offensive rebounds and free throws, the Rams’ inability up close to leads to giving an average of 8.5 points extra per game. With the average margin of victory for opponents being 7.86 and 21 of Shaka Smart’s 38 losses being six points or less it is clear that this diminished presence upfront costs them games.
While the havoc system is designed to overcompensate for this defensive hindrance, by forcing turnovers and capitalizing on fast breaks in order to minimize the number of defenders faced and increasingly the completion percentage of their shots, an increased presence up close is the best answer to havoc.
While VCU still forces turnovers (VCU won the turnover battle in 20 of their 38 losses) the success of other teams once they have made it to the rim prevents the Rams from securing victory in some cases.
This inability to compete up front also manifests in VCU’s preference to attempt three point shots. With statistics showing lower three-point percentages in Rams’ losses, VCU’s offensive efforts can be limited by preventing the Rams from getting to the rim and forcing them to stay back and attempt threes.
While at times, VCU’s three point shooting has allowed them to elevate their offensive performance and overcompensate for weaker post play, on average they remain unable to close out seemingly winnable games.