VCU Basketball: Keys for Rams Round of 64 game versus UCF

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NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MARCH 15: De’Riante Jenkins #0 of the Virginia Commonwealth Rams celebrates a basket against the Rhode Island Rams
during their Atlantic 10 basketball tournament quarterfinal game at Barclays Center on March 15, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

VCU Basketball were the lone at-large team from the Atlantic 10, and they’ll face UCF in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. What will it take to win?

The 2019 NCAA Tournament bracket has officially been released, which means college hoops junkies are settle din for three weeks of March Madness. And for fans of the VCU Rams — and the Atlantic 10 in general — there’s a fun first round match-up on tap. Eight seed VCU will square off against the nine seed UCF Knights in compelling Friday night showdown as part of the East Regional. Here’s a quick snapshot.

#8 VCU, 25-7 (16-2 in the Atlantic 10) vs #9 UCF, 23-8 (13-5 in the American)
Friday, 9:40 p.m. (approx.), CBS
Colonial Life Arena, Columbia, South Carolina
Betting line: VCU -1

The winner of this contest will face Duke the winner of Duke and North Dakota State. But if VCU is looking ahead to the Blue Devils, they’ve already lost. Here are three more keys to a victory, which would be the first in the NCAA Tournament for Mike Rhoades.

1. The Health of Marcus Evans

This would have been a key regardless of the opponent. Marcus Evans has been the heart and soul of the Rams this season, and the stats certainly back that up. The junior guard led VCU in points (13.8 per game), assists (3.2) and steals (1.9) this season while shooting it at 43.2 percent from the field. But the transfer from Rice has battled injuries for much of his collegiate career.

His most recent ailment, however, briefly put his NCAA Tournament status in question. Evans landed awkwardly while attempting a driving layup in VCU’s A-10 Tournament quarterfinal game against Rhode Island. The star guard writhed around in pain before being carried off to the locker room, and most expected the worst. Instead, the official word was just a hyperextended knee and a bone bruise. Evans underwent an MRI when he got back to Richmond and it revealed no structural damage, and he’s expected to play versus UCF.

Needless to say, this is huge, huge news. The Rams are absolutely going to need Evans if they expect to knock off the Knights in the first round. The only question now is… is he 100 percent? Even if he’s not, VCU will take anything they can get from their best player.

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