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ON THE ROAD WITH THE RAMS: VCU vs. Indiana
PORTLAND, Ore. (WTVR) – The 12th seeded Rams have another opportunity to prove themselves against a bigger program when they take on 4th seeded Indiana tonight here in Portland.
The Hooiser program may be part of NCAA royalty, but the current Indiana roster is filled with players making just their second career start in the tournament. Most of VCU’s players will be playing in their 8th game in the last two seasons.
“We’re used to these quick turnarounds,” said sophomore guard Rob Brandenberg. “We’re going to take that experience and use it the best way we can.”
Something else the Rams plan to use is their pressure defense which limited Wichita State to a season low 59 points on Thursday night.
VCU head coach Shaka Smart believes this year’s team brings more focus and intensity to the defensive side than last year’s Final Four team did, and it’s something Indiana has not faced in a while.
"They haven't been pressed at all, certainly not full court pressure," Smart said of the Hoosiers. "We had to go back three seasons ago to see what they did against pressure and of course their personnel is so much better now."
Indiana head coach Tom Crean has tried to duplicate the Rams defensive style in their practices by using 7 players against 5. But he admits there's no substitute for how VCU plays.
"I think this team (VCU) is deep," Crean said. "I think they're used to the way that they play. It's really about how strong we are with the ball and what our vision is like."
VCU has their own concerns with the 16th ranked Hooisers, not the least of which is 7-foot freshman forward Cody Zeller, who is the younger brother of North Carolina forward Tyler Zeller and who averages 15.5 points per game and leads the Hoosiers in nearly every other statistical category.
Indiana also runs a motion offense that VCU could not fully prepare for in just a day's time.
"We have to be solid on defense," said VCU guard Darius Theus. "They like to do a lot of cuts off the ball. They have so many sets (offensively) we couldn't go over all of them."
"They have so many sets and plays it would be ridiculous to try and cram all that into our guys' heads," Smart said.
These two programs have met only once before, an Indiana win back in 1988. The Hooisers average over 77 points per game compared to 68 for the Rams.
A win would set a new school record and be the first time in history a VCU team has won 30 games in a season. Forward Bradford Burgess from Benedictine High, will start his NCAA record 146th consecutive game. [Click here for more VCU Rams coverage]