Game Preview: Rams looking for sweep against rival Flyers

VCU has earned sole possession of first place in the Atlantic 10 standings and is looking to extend their lead with just seven games to go, but tonight takes on a Dayton Flyer team looking for revenge and a chance to pull the Rams closer to the pack. VCU needed a dramatic comeback to survive the Flyers in their first meeting at UD Arena. Can the Rams strengthen their hold on first place or will the Flyers pull off a much-needed road win?

VCU RAMS (18-6, 9-2)

We've all seen how good these guys can be, the Anthony Grant-coached squad getting up big early on the black and gold before VCU pulled off the exciting come back win, what ended up being the Flyers only home loss of the season. But the road has been a different story for the Flyers. UD has last their last two away from Ohio, falling to St. Bonaventure, Rhode Island and George Washington and now heading to the Siegel Center in what will be their first top-100 road game of the year. The Flyers are young, but talented. They play a pretty short bench and that could be a challenge with starting point guard Malachi Smith and guard/forward RJ Blakney questionable heading into tonight with injury concerns.

Still, Dayton, like VCU, is one of the most balanced teams in the conference, no matter who is playing. The Flyers and Rams are the only two A-10 teams to rank top-3 in-conference in both offensive and defensive efficiency. The Flyers actually faired quite well without Smith previously, going 4-1 in A-10 play during a Smithless stretch due to his last injury, almost finishing 5-0 if not for the massive VCU comeback. Playing without Blakney appears to be a bit more of a challenge however, with the Flyers losing at St. Bonaventure by nine and dropping that surprising road game at Rhody by five.

So far the biggest issues for Dayton on the season have been on the offensive side of the ball, those two concerns coming from beyond the three-point arch, although a concern that seems to have been erased in conference play with the Flyers checking in at No.1 in A-10 action there at 39% per contest and with turnovers. Dayton ranks seventh in the A-10 in in-conference turnover offense at 17.9% per game, but on the season check in at 271st nationally at 19.8% per contest. Dayton turned the ball over 18 times in their last meeting with the Rams, 27.3% of their possessions.

The black and gold have simply been finding a way and more often than not, that way has been a tough defense. VCU ranks tops in the conference in defensive efficiency in-conference and on the year in general. Where they have struggled as of late has been three-point shooting. While VCU Ranks third currently at 37.7% in conference games, they've shot 23.5%, 0% and 12.5% from deep in their last three games. Do they turn it around tonight or do the shooting issues help hand the Rams a tough home loss?

Worth noting: Did you hear Ace Baldwin scored 37 points in the win at Saint Louis? It's true. Baldwin has basically put the Rams on his back as of late, leading VCU in scoring over his last three games. As fun as I'm sure that is for the junior point guard, some help tonight would not only be celebrated by Baldwin, but by Ram fans as well.

Scoring Offense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 70.5, UD 69.3</span>
Scoring Defense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">UD 61.5, VCU 63.3</span>
<span style="color: #000000;">Effective Field Goal% Offense: </span><span style="color: #ff0000;">UD 53%, VCU 51.5%</span>
Effective Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">UD 44.9%, VCU 47.7%</span>
3-Point Field Goal%: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 33.9%, UD 33.5%</span>
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">UD 28.6%, VCU 33.4%</span>
2-Point Field Goal%: <span style="color: #ff0000;">UD 54.7%, VCU 51.8%</span>

2-Point Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">UD 46.2%, VCU 46.4%</span>
Rebounds per game: <span style="color: #ff0000;">UD 36.5, VCU 32.7</span>
Turnover% Offense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">UD 19.8%, VCU 21%</span>
Turnover% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 24.8%, UD 16.6%</span>

Dayton would love nothing more after recent struggles than to upset VCU at the Siegel Center to reinsert themselves back into the A-10 regular season championship race. I'm of the opinion the Rams can't survive another bad three-point shooting night in this one, so that will be my key to tonight's contest, other than just locking down on D once again. The Rams shot 40% from deep and turned Dayton over 27% of their possessions last game and BARELY won, so that's how thin the line is tonight.

Defend, hit threes and watch that open things up inside as well. A lot to ask for, but this isn't an opponent the Rams can win again against in a C+ effort.

Kenpom: 66-63 VCU win with a 61% chance of a Rams victory.

Game tips at 7PM at the Stuart C. Siegel Center in Richmond, VA

Watch: CBS Sports Network

Listen: <a href=";pname=1248&amp;campid=header&amp;cid=index.html">Fox Sports 910 AM &amp; 98.5 FM</a>
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Mat Shelton-Eide
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