VCU fought valiantly in a tough double-overtime contest at Richmond but ultimately came up just short. The loss dropped the Rams into a four-way tie for first place in the conference, a tie they can gradually erase starting with Saturday’s contest against one of those teams, the Dayton Flyers. Dayton is coming off a home win over George Mason that followed their worst loss of the season, a 83-73 head-scratching loss at Duquesne. The Flyers have yet to beat the Rams as Atlantic 10 rivals and have lost four of their last five road contests, their lone win coming against current A-10 cellar dweller, Saint Louis. The Rams however have been in a bit of a funk themselves, dropping four of their last eight contests. Those slumps will be quickly forgotten with a big win for either team on Saturday.
No.22 VCU (21-7, 11-4)
DAYTON (21-6, 11-4)
A QUICK LOOK AT DAYTON
The Flyers have done one of the best jobs of dealing with adversity this season in all of college hoops. Dayton dismissed both their starting and backups bigs, leaving them with a front court of two players at 6’6 210 and a roster of just seven players (literally), only six of which started the season with scholarships (walk-on Bobby Wehrli was given a scholarship this past January). Despite the losses Dayton is very much a contender to win the conference and are fighting tooth and nail to get themselves back into their second consecutive NCAA tournament after reaching the Elite 8 last season. While Dayton may be limited in numbers, their starting group is as good as you’ll find in the A-10. UD’s trio of Dyshawn Pierre, Jordan Sibert and Kendall Pollard is arguably the best trio in the league while sophomore Scoochie Smith has been deadly accurate from deep (39.1%), almost as accurate as freshman Darrell Davis (48.6%) who can’t seem to miss from range. Despite the Flyers limited size and numbers Dayton has been one of the best defensive squads in the conference, ranking fourth in the league in defensive efficiency. But it’s their offense that has the Flyers in prime position, ranking first in both 2-point and 3-point percentages to rank No.1 in the league in effective field goal percentage. The Flyers play one of the best team games on both sides of the ball you will see all season and are very much a threat to hand VCU their fourth home loss of the season.
A QUICK LOOK AT VCU
VCU has had to battle through a number of challenges lately that have limited their depth yet still remain atop the A-10 leaderboard with three games remaining. The Rams and Wildcats of Davidson are the only two teams who fully control their own destiny, and for VCU that starts Saturday in a tough matchup with the Dayton Flyers. Briante Weber is obviously out for the season but the black and gold were also without freshman bigs Justin Tillman and Mike Gilmore Wednesday night, Tillman forced to miss due to injury, Gilmore traveled home after the recent passing of his father (our thoughts and prayers are with Mike and his family). No timetable has been set for the return of either in what has been a mentally brutal second half to the season for the Rams. Despite playing shorthanded the Rams have been a tough out in their four losses however. VCU was on the losing end of two double-overtime games and saw another loss in a road contest at St. Bonaventure that was decided at the buzzer, two of those games were without Weber and leading scorer, Treveon Graham.. Statistically VCU had rebounded from some poor shooting with a solid three-game winning streak that saw an improved effort, particularly from deep, but were once again cold in a loss to the Richmond Spiders where the Rams managed just three makes of their 19 attempts from beyond the arc. That’s really been one of the bigger stories of this season for VCU outside of the injuries. The Rams rank ninth in the Atlantic 10 in three-point shooting but shoot just under 40% of their field goal attempts from distance. VCU simply can’t afford to shoot so poorly in their next two contests against the league’s two best offensive teams.
Scoring Offense: VCU 73.5, Dayton 69.2
Scoring Defense: Dayton 61, VCU 65.4
Effective Field Goal% Offense: Dayton 53.7%, VCU 49.4%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: Dayton 46.7%, VCU 48.5%
3-Point Field Goal%: Dayton 36.1%, VCU 34.2%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: Dayton 30.4%, VCU 34%
Rebounds per game: VCU 35.4, Dayton 32.1
Turnover Percentage Defense: VCU 24.7%, Dayton 20.7%
Turnover Percentage Offense: VCU 15.2%, Dayton 18.2%
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: VCU 108.4, Dayton 106
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: VCU 93.3, Dayton 94.7
VCU WINS IF
The Rams need a good game offensively from a third player to beat a team like Dayton who plays such good team ball on both offense and defense. Treveon Graham and JeQuan Lewis scored 40 of VCU’s 63 points in the loss to Richmond. No other player hit double digits despite the two extra periods. I think that third player for VCU from here until the end of the season has to be Melvin Johnson. He’s VCU’s third most used player so needs to be effective in his usage. For the most part he has been with a 110.1 offensive rating and 52.6% true shooting percentage on the season, just unfortunately has had a couple of cold nights in VCU’s recent struggles. To add to that, 33.5% of VCU’s points this season have come from beyond the arc (56th nationally in three-ball dependency). The Rams shoot a ton of threes but aren’t the best at knocking those shots down — Lewis and Larrier have shot the third and fourth most threes on the team but are a combined 30.2% from the field. If VCU is going to make their living on offense as a three-point shooting team they gotta start hitting more of them, otherwise it’s time to re-evaluate the shot selection and might be worth trying larger lineups, especially against a Flyers squad that is so undersized across the board.
DAYTON WINS IF
See above. If Dayton can make VCU beat them from deep they have a great shot at winning in Richmond. Dayton is a much more consistent shooting team so it’s up to the Flyers to force the Rams into a shootout from distance. UD does a tremendous job of protecting the paint despite their smaller lineup while VCU ranks just seventh in the conference in 2-point percentage. 47.5% of VCU’s points come from 2-point shots, the 12th lowest percentage in the league despite VCU’s ninth ranked conference deep ball, so it appears as though VCU has been content to live and die by the three. Dayton should look to keep VCU out of the paint in hopes of a Rams death from distance on Saturday.
Kenpom: 70-63 VCU win with a 74% chance of a VCU victory.
Game tips at 2PM at the Stuart C. Siegel Center in Richmond, VA
Watch: ESPN2, Official watch parties at Baja Bean Co. in the Fan as well as Buffalo Wild Wings locations at Virginia Center and downtown on Cary Street in Shockoe Bottom.
Live Tweets: @VCURamNation