5. VCU Rams (26-7, 12-4 Atlantic 10)- VCU is back in the NCAAs after an under-the-radar year spent mowing down Atlantic 10 foes. The Rams once again led the nation in turnovers forced at 17.8 per game. They also finished a full steal ahead of every other team in the country, finishing with 11.2 per. Their breakneck style is tough to adjust to in a short time, which works in their favor in the tournament.
VCU won at Virginia early in the season and beat Saint Louis in early March. 6-6 guard Treveon Graham leads this group at 15.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. 6-3 sophomore guard Melvin Johnson wreaks havoc defensively, and put up 10.4 points per game this season. Junior Briante Weber (9.5 ppg, 3.8 apg) is another player to keep an eye on.
VCU won six of seven to end the regular season, and though this group probably isn’t quite as talented as some of their predecessors, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Rams make a run at the Sweet 16.
1st Turnovers Forced (17.8)
1st Steals per Game (11.2)
4th Points Allowed per Possession (0.89)
12. Stephen F. Austin (31-2, 18-0 Southland)-No team with a 31-2 record ever should be ignored, especially not the Lumberjacks. Stephen F. Austin passes the eye test when you talk about teams that can make a run in the NCAA Tournament. The Lumberjacks have won 27 in a row, and most of those games weren’t even close. Stephen F. Austin’s schedule hasn’t been all that daunting, but 27 in a row is 27 in a row. The ‘Jacks lost to Texas by 10 in their only major conference test this season.
Four players average in double figures in scoring for Stephen F. Austin, led by senior guard Desmond Haymon at 14.3 per. 6-6 forward Jacob Parker (14.2 ppg, 7.1 rpg) is another scoring threat, as is sophomore guard Thomas Walkup, who has played well of late, scoring 24 and 28 in two of the Jacks’ last six games.
Statistically, this is a good basketball team. But it’s hard to know how the Lumberjacks will handle a giant step up in competition. They’ve got the guardplay to hang with VCU, and the winning habits. But if SFA falls behind early, it may not know how to get back in the game.
45th Points per Game (76.5)
8th Assists per Game (16.6)
26th Points Allowed per Game (62.6)