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Iowa State Men’s Basketball Preview: We’re Talkin’ VCU

Iowa State opens the ESPN Events Invitational with the Rams on Thanksgiving Day

Syndication: The Ames Tribune Nirmalendu Majumdar / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Cyclones will kick off the ESPN Events Invitational, which is held in Kissimmee, Florida, by playing the Rams of Virginia Commonwealth. All games will be played at the State Farm Field House

About VCU

Coming out of the A10, VCU was a tournament team a year ago, winning the A10 tournament to cap a 27-7 regular season before losing to St. Mary’s in round 1 of the big dance. The Rams come into the game sitting at 3-1, with the lone loss coming to McNesse State at home. They are currently ranked 98th in KenPom, sitting at 176 in adjO and 60 in adjD.

VCU is averaging 68.3 points per game and is allowing around 62 points per game, doing it with 14.8 TOPG, 13.5 APG, 7.5 SPG, and 5.3 BPG. Shooting wise, their 3 point percentage sits around 28.1%, and they are shooting 44.4% from the field.

Player wise, VCU is led by guards Zeb Jackson and Max Shulga along with forward Christian Fermin. Fermin averages 7 points and 7 rebounds per game and provides size down low at 6’10”, 225. Shulga, a Utah State transfer, is the outside weapon, averaging 13.5 points per game with 43.5% shooting from deep.

Opposing Player to Watch

Zeb Jackson gets the nod here. The 6’5” 185 pound guard was seldom used at Michigan before transferring in, and he has thrived at VCU. This season, he is scoring 16 PPG but is an all-around player, averaging 5 boards and assists as well. His shooting numbers aren’t terrific, but he is an explosive player who looks to attach the rim.

Pick 3

  1. VCU turns it over 20+ times
  2. Iowa State makes 10 three point baskets
  3. Milan Momcilovic scores 20 points

Final Analysis

This is a fun matchup and should be the first real test for the Cyclones on the 23-24 season. VCU is a very good basketball program in an underrated league. VCU is replacing all 5 starters from a season ago, and is likely going to need some time to figure things out. The Rams don’t have elite size, and they have an issue with turnovers. While their defense has been good, they let McNesse State fill it up in their lone loss, allowing over 40% shooting.

Iowa State should match up well at most positions, with Gilbert guarding Jackson with his identical size. Momcilovic will be hard for the Rams to guard, an I expect to see lots of open threes from kick-outs on drives from Lipsey and Gilbert. Look for Curtis Jones to have a big game from deep.

Score Prediction

Iowa State 68, VCU 55