VCU will host first place Dayton tonight in a primetime ESPN2 matchup featuring the conferences two most consistent programs. This will be the first of two games in a home-and-home series between the Rams and Flyers this season with VCU looking to pick up their first regular season win against the Flyers since Jan 22, 2014. VCU last beat Dayton 71-65 in the 2015 Atlantic 10 tournament championship game.
A QUICK LOOK AT DAYTON
Winners of three straight games, Dayton sits alone in first in the A-10 at the moment with a 6-1 conference record. What’s perhaps most impressive about that record is it has been against perhaps the toughest starting schedule to conference play for any team. Four of Dayton’s A-10 wins are against teams currently within the top-6 of the conference standings, teams with a combined A-10 record of 20-9. Only one of those wins however came on the road, a 90-74 throttling of St. Bonaventure. Dayton followed that up with a tight home win over Rhode Island before dropping somewhat of a stunner at UMass, scoring a season-low 55 points in the loss. And that has been Dayton’s achilles heel so far this season. The Flyers have been elite defensively, ranking seventh in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency while posting the best Atlantic 10 efficiency rate (85.6) since kenpom has kept the stat. On the season their D has been comparable to the great VCU and Saint Louis defenses that fought for A-10 championships over the years, but they’ve needed it with an offense that so far has ranked in the bottom half of the league (8th) in conference play. A good bit of their inconsistency on offense has to do with the Flyers inability to score consistently in the paint, usually relying on threes and free throws to outscore teams while checking in at 283rd nationally at percentage of points scored inside the arc. 39% of Dayton’s attempts come from behind the arc to just 32% coming at the rim. When the threes are falling the Flyers are deadly (UD hit 14 in the win at Bona). But they certainly can be a bit “live by the three, die by the three”, which may ultimately limit this team’s March potential. Dayton is a well-coached, experienced group led by seniors Charles Cooke, Scoochie Smith, Kyle Davis and Kendall Pollard. Cooke (a JMU transfer) is the most explosive of the group and leads Dayton with 17.8 points per game. He’s a versatile scorer and one of the hardest playing guards in the conference. Smith runs the point for UD and tends to always come up with clutch plays late (minus his turnover to Doug Brooks that sealed VCU’s only A-10 tourney championship in 2015). Sophomores Ryan Mikesell and Xeyrius Williams are two promising young pieces that have taken a step forward for Archie Miller’s squad. Both stand above 6’7 and both can score from anywhere on the floor. Dayton is 5-3 against kenpom top-100 teams so far this season with two of those losses coming away from UD arena. Their two top-100 road wins came in the form of a five-point win at Alabama and the 16-point W at St. Bonaventure. Of Dayton’s four losses, only one, the letdown at UMass, was by more than four points. This team is tough.
A QUICK LOOK AT VCU
The past two games have been a perfect snap shot of this year’s VCU team, a team that as Will Wade said earlier this season “can beat the best opponent on their schedule or lose to the worst”. After dropping a bad road loss at Fordham, VCU rebounded by hammering a La Salle team that sits toward the top of the conference with one of the league’s best offenses. VCU managed just 67 points in the overtime loss at Fordham then responded with 90 points in regulation against La Salle. That’s one more point than defending national champ Villanova scored on the Explorers and a good bit of that was with VCU’s second team playing big minutes. The Rams turned the ball over 22 times at Fordham then just 10 times against La Salle. Long story short, VCU’s offensive inconsistencies go a long way to determining how long of a night it will be for their opponent. Either way, as of this blog post the Rams are the only A-10 team to rank in the top-3 in conference play in both offensive and defensive efficiency, ranking No.1 in offense and No.2 on defense. VCU has an experienced group capable of not only making the NCAA tournament, but making a run there as well, but after dropping two early ones in A-10 play need to string together a 4-0 run here to keep pace with the conferences top teams to help keep tournament hopes alive. I am of the opinion VCU (and any team) is at their best when playing team ball. When VCU comes out with a roster full of little league heroes making kamikaze drives to the basket, they lose. When the Rams make smart, patient team plays, they win. At just 3-4 against the kenpom top-100, we need to see that the Rams are doing more of the later against the good teams remaining on their schedule.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Scoring Offense: VCU 75.6, UD 75
Scoring Defense: UD 63.5, VCU 65.3
Effective Field Goal% Offense: VCU 53.4%, UD 53%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: UD 46.1%, VCU 47.1%
3-Point Field Goal%: UD 37%, VCU 35.9%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: UD 30.8%, VCU 33.3%
2-Point Field Goal%: VCU 53.1%, UD 51.4%
2-Point Field Goal% Defense: VCU 45.7%, UD 46.1%
Rebounds per game: VCU 35.8, UD 34.7
Turnover% Offense: UD 17.1%, VCU 19.6%
Turnover% Defense: VCU 22.9%, UD 22.2%
VCU WINS IF
With teams this evenly matched, a lot of things have to go right for either to win. If the Rams force things, thus resulting in the high-turnover black and gold squad we’ve seen on several occasions this season, forget about…Dayton wins. You simply can not beat yourself and somehow expect to still beat a good team like Dayton. VCU will have to somehow keep a low turnover count against one of the best turnover-forcing teams they will have played all season. If they can do that and find a way to consistently score in the paint, I like the Rams chances in front of what will be an electric Friday night crowd at the Stu. I do however worry that a game of this magnitude has the ability to crank up the nerves and “hero factor” to a level that could get VCU out of playing the team ball they are capable of.
DAYTON WINS IF
Dayton’s defense is as consistent of a D as you will find in college basketball. Their ability to frustrate VCU and force turnovers will go a long way toward deciding tonight’s game. If the Flyers can control the pace and hit some threes, they are very capable of picking up a huge resume-boosting road win tonight.
Kenpom: 69-67 VCU win with a 58% chance of a Rams victory.
Game tips at 9PM at the Stuart C. Siegel Center in Richmond, VA
Watch: ESPN2, Official game day headquarters are Baja Bean Co. in the Fan and Buffalo Wild Wings locations at Virginia Center and downtown on Cary Street in Shockoe Bottom.
Listen: Fox Sports 910 AM & 98.5 FM
Live Tweets: @VCURamNation