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NCAA Tournament First Round Betting Pick: VCU Rams vs. UCF Knights

The Virginia Commonwealth Rams will take on the Central Florida Knights in what should be a terrific first-round matchup. There usually isn’t much separation between the eight and nine seeds, and on paper that appears to be the case in this game as well. VCU earned the eight seed in the East region, and UCF is right behind them at number nine. These two teams have very different styles of play, and whichever team can establish their identity will be the winner.

VCU hails from the Atlantic-10 Conference, and they were regular season champions with a conference record of 16-2. The Rams were stunned in the A-10 Quarterfinals by the Rhode Island Rams. VCU has put together a terrific season to this point, with impressive wins over Temple and Texas this season. UCF finished in third place in the American Athletic Conference this season with a 13-5 record. The Knights are trying to turn things around after losing their previous two games. UCF is a slim -1.0 point favorite over VCU in this game.

UCF Has Massive Size Advantage

Central Florida has a size advantage in every game that they play, and that couldn’t be truer than against VCU. 7’6” Tacko Fall patrols the paint for the Knights, and the big man continues to improve on both ends of the floor. Fall is averaging 10.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game this season. He averages just over 24 minutes per game this season, but look for him to stay on the court longer in the NCAA Tournament. VCU loves to attack the rim on offense, but you can bet that Fall will be waiting for them in this game.

The Knights are allowing just 64.3 points per game this season, and they have terrific defense from their guards as well. UCF doesn’t provide as much pressure as VCU will, but their defense has helped them score 72.1 points per game. Point guard B.J. Taylor is the main man on offense for UCF, pouring in 16.0 points per game on 36 percent shooting from the three-point line. If the Knights are able to handle the full-court pressure from VCU, they should find some easy offense on their end of the floor.

VCU Must Force Turnovers

VCU only knows how to play one way, and that recipe has been successful for the better part of the last decade. The Rams force a ton of turnovers, and they will put up relentless pressure from start to finish in this game. VCU allows just 61.6 points per game this season, and rack up eight steals per game. The Rams don’t have the size or depth to try to deal with Fall inside, but they will put up intense pressure on the UCF guards.

VCU needs to get into the paint to score on offense, but that is easier said than done against the Knights. The Rams shoot just 31 percent from the three-point line as a team, but they will need to shoot better than that in this game. Guard Marcus Evans leads the team with 13.8 points per game but really struggles shooting the ball. There will be plenty of pressure on forward Isaac Vann on both sides of the floor in this game.

UCF Knocks Off VCU

VCU was able to turn over teams in the Atlantic-10 Conference, but things won’t come as easy against the Knights. The Rams just don’t shoot the ball well enough from deep to keep up with UCF on offense. This game will be close throughout, but UCF is going to move on to the next round. Bet the UCF Knights -1.0 over the VCU Rams in this game.