Previewing No. 8 VCU vs. No. 9 UCF: Date, Time, Players to Watch

The Rams were somewhat on the fence after falling in the A-10 conference tournament, but ended up in the field as an at-large team. UCF ended a 14-year tournament drought by breaking in as an at-large team behind guards B.J. Taylor and Aubrey Dawkins.

As we typically see with the No. 8 vs. No. 9 matchup, this should be a tight contest.

Overview

Date/Time: Friday, March 22, 9:40 p.m. ET

kenpom.com projection: VCU def. UCF 63-62

Betting Line: UCF -1.5 (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook)

No. 8 seed VCU

Coach: Mike Rhoades

Record: 25-7 (16-2)

Conference tournament finish: Lost in quarterfinals

Player to Watch: Marcus Santos-Silva

The Rams still create “Havoc” defensively, coming into the game with the seventh best defensive efficiency in the nation according to kenpom.com. VCU can create transition opportunities with its defense, forcing opponents into turnovers at the ninth best rate in the country. If VCU can maintain its defensive chops, the Rams should advance.

Santos-Silva is not in the spotlight for his production, but for his potential defensive assignment. He’ll likely have to pick up Tacko Fall, UCF’s 7-foot-6 big man. Santos-Silva is averaging 10.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, but his defensive performance will be more telling than his offensive stat line.

VCU has a balanced scoring group, mainly because there’s no true offensive star on the team. Four players average double figures and will be tasked with most of the production in what should be a low-scoring game.

[RELATED: Print Your 2019 NCAA Tournament Bracket]

No. 9 seed UCF

Coach: Johnny Dawkins

Record: 23-8 (13-5)

Conference tournament finish: Lost in quarterfinals

Player to Watch: Tacko Fall

Taylor and Dawkins do most of the scoring for the Knights, but Fall is the guy to watch. He’s massive and a force defensively. No team truly has an answer for him in terms of physical matchups. If Fall dominates defensively and picks up easy opportunities off the offensive glass, it could be a long day for VCU.

The Knights have similar defensive chops to the Rams, despite their overall defensive efficiency ranking being 29 spots lower. UCF defends the entire court well and plays at a slow pace. In what is projected as an even game, Fall making two or three impact plays defensively could change the outcome.

UCF is in the tournament after a ridiculous drought and that will play a factor in its motivation. The Knights are 0-4 in their previous trips to the dance, but will they be able to eliminate that blemish against VCU?

´╗┐MORE: 2019 NCAA Tournament Schedule, Dates, Times, Locations