VCU (2-1, 14-4) at Dayton (1-2, 13-5)…
One of U2s older and more beautiful songs is titled simply, 40. It was written and put to music in about 40 minutes and was inspired by Psalm 40.
Bono alone, followed by some of the group's best-ever harmonizing, slow dances you into focus. You can't help but to keep singing long after the music stops.
He set my feet upon a rock. And made my footsteps firm.
Many will see. Many will see and hear.
I will sing, sing a new song. I wil sing, sing a new song.
How long, to sing this song?
We will stop Bono there to declare that this is your new song for the VCU basketball team: 40 minutes of havoc-kicking basketball. On the road in an environment such as Dayton, 20 mediocre minutes followed by 20 great minutes may get you beat. The venue gets acrimonious and the talent is greater. You don't want to dig a hole you can't climb out of.
Dayton begins the road less traveled. The A10 has eight teams in the top 68 of the RPI–that is no joke, both figuratively and literally–and VCU gets the other seven teams on the road. Dayton is the first exit on this road.
The Bad Guys
It's a very balanced attack and all five starters can shoot the three. In fact, the Flyers feature the #2 and #3 three-point percentage leaders in the conference. In the words of Shaka Smart, Dayton can go deep with talent–perhaps more so than anyone in the conference.
Jordan Sibert (12.1ppg) is the silver medalist, an athletic scorer, their bucketmaker. He's hit 38-83 (46%) from three but can score from anywhere. SIbert is an Ohio State transfer, and like Mo Creek from GW he is making a difference in his team's offense.
Dyshawn Pierre (11.8ppg, 6.3rpg) is a good looking 6-6 wing who loves to post smaller players. Pierre has four double-doubles on the year and is a 52% marksman from the floor.
Devin Oliver (11.3ppg, 7.1rpg) is the key matchup in my mind. Oliver is a 6-7 power forward that prefers the perimeter but is an active player everywhere. That makes him a challenge on the offensive glass. Pierre has knocked down 15-40 from three. Check to see if Shaka Smart goes with the length of Juvonte Reddic, or the bulk of Terrance Shannon and Mo Alie-Cox, on Oliver.
Khari Price (8.3ppg, 1.8apg) is a tough point guard and a big time shooter with deep range (44.7% from three). Price is the general. He is backed up capably by Scoochie Smith. He does not play like a freshman but we can turn him over and into a freshman.
You know the name Vee Sanford (9.6ppg), as he was the second priority last season and he committed six turnovers. He is an aggressive and attacking guard who will take bad shots. VCU can take advantage of him.
On the blocks, Jalen Robinson (5.1ppg, 3.1rpg) mans the post. He's a big body at 6-9, 245 pounds and he plays hard. Robinson is averaging 7.2ppg the past seven games after only 1.2ppg in the team's first six games. You will also see Devon Scott down there who is more of a blue collar guy. He is 11-17 from the field in the past five games.
Sum It Up
It's worth noting two stats: Dayton has all that shooting, and A10 teams are 7-39 (18%) from three against the Rams. What's more, Dayton wins when it rebounds well. The Flyers are +7.2 in wins, and -0.2 in losses.
That's on the VCU defense: guard the line, and find someone to throw your backside into. I like our chances there because that comes with effort, and this team never lacks effort. The guards are doing a better job staying in front of their man, and that matters Wednesday night. Deflections to keep Dayton out of rhythm are also important.
I've got the fix for the offense, and it's embedded in an acronym we haven't really used since the Final Four run: ACL. We've been pressing a little on offense, so a dose of aggressive, confident, and loose play is the antidote.
VCU needs to make the easy plays and not try to force things. And when you have that spark that allows for energy plays, you end up with ACL. That's how you win games like these on the road.
Then we will know how long to sing that song: 40 minutes.