Game Preview: VCU v Dayton, A-10 Tournament Quarterfinals [INSIDER]

Will the third time be the charm for Dayton or can the black and gold complete a three-game sweep of the UD Flyers to advance in this season's A-10 tournament on VCU's home floor? The Rams will welcome back former head coach, Anthony Grant, and his alma mater Flyers to the Stu. It's the first time these two have met up in the postseason since the Rams downed Dayton 77-72 in Mike Rhoades' first season as head coach on Broad St. on March 8, 2018, coincidentally VCU's last postseason win.
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<h4>No.2 VCU (17-6, 10-4)
No.7 Dayton (14-8, 9-7)</h4>
Dayton has been perhaps the ultimate in "hot or cold" this season in Atlantic 10 action, defeating top-4 seeds St. Bonaventure, Saint Louis (twice) and Davidson, but losing to bottom four seeds Fordham, La Salle and St. Joseph's, most of that having to do with the Flyers' dependency on the three ball combined with their inability to consistently win the ugly stats: rebounds and turnovers.

When they are on they can shoot you out of the gym, yesterday's win serving as a solid example of such. The  Flyers got the 12-point win thanks largely to a 52.2% night from distance (on 23 attempts). It was the second consecutive game the Flyers shot a blistering 50% or better from three-point land and their third at 40% or better. Coach Grant's squad shot 52.6% from deep in their last game against VCU, but still took a 9-point home loss thanks to VCU keeping pace at 52.2% (Dayton's defense being quite hot or cold as well) and winning the turnover margin by eight.

They'll be bringing a player into this one though that  VCU has yet to take on this year, returning starting point guard, Rodney Chatman, to the lineup. Chatman missed 11 games in the middle of the season, but was also in the lineup for the Flyers' losses to both La Salle and St. Joe's. He's one of four Dayton seniors and one of three of Grant's most-played players at 30 minutes-plus per contest. The fourth senior in the group, 6'11 278 big man, Jordy Tshimanga, has occasionally be limited by foul trouble, but is also seeing his role limited occasionally as Dayton has experimented more with smaller lineups that include versatile freshman, Zimi Nwokeji, playing a bit more at the 5 spot.

Nwokeji is hitting 34.3% of his threes on the season and  at least offensively gives the Flyers a lineup that more resembles the one they rode to an undefeated 2020 Atlantic 10 season with the services of eventual NBA lottery pick, Obi Toppin. They challenge however, for coach Grant, is in which center is the right guy for the right opponent. Tshimanga, on paper, is the team's best defensive, but their worst on offense, while freshman Nwokeji has been a more efficient offensive option, but alongside the team's current two (statistically) worst defenders, Crutcher and Watkins, is Dayton's worst defensive big.

Do the Flyers go all in on offense and try to run teams out the gym or roll with Tshimanga to hopefully find a little more  balance? That has been a puzzle the Flyers must figure out minute by minute this week to keep their season alive.

After a bit of a surprise home win over Saint Louis without the services of star guard, Bones Hyland, VCU came back down to Earth with a road loss at Davidson where the Rams just couldn't muster any offense whatsoever. The Rams were limited to just 57 points by the Cats, VCU's  second fewest points of the season and against a less-than-elite defense that gave up 51 points just games before against Division III, Southern Virginia University.

The Rams connected on just 21.1% of their threes, Vince Williams hitting three of the Rams' four makes that night on the team's 19 attempts. The Rams lost the turnover battle that day by four and were carved up inside the arc defensively, allowing Davidson to finish 66.7% of their shots inside the three-point line.

Needless to say, the Rams are quite literally limping into today's matchup after not only losing two of their last three contests, but losing Hyland during that stretch to an ankle injury as well.

VCU's freshman star might have been able to play in the contest at Davidson, but was held out. He is reportedly a game-time decision today.

A Hyland-led (or anyone-led) win would go a long way toward VCU locking up a NCAA at-large bid, advancing them into a rematch with the winner of tonight's final game of the day, Davidson and George Mason. A loss would make the Rams sweat, potentially relegating the black and gold to NIT duties after a surprising season where the black  and gold were picked to finish ninth in the preseason A-10 poll.

Scoring Offense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 72.3, UD 70.3</span>
Scoring Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 65.2, UD 67.4</span>
Effective Field Goal% Offense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">UD 55.7%, VCU 50.8%</span>
Effective Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 46%, UD 47.9%</span>
3-Point Field Goal%: <span style="color: #ff0000;">UD 37.3%, VCU 33.1%</span>
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 29.4%, UD 31.7%</span>
2-Point Field Goal%: <span style="color: #ff0000;">UD 55.5%, VCU 51.4%</span>

2-Point Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 47%, UD 48.2%</span>
Rebounds per game: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 34.5, UD 33.2</span>
Turnover% Offense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 20.9%, UD 21%</span>
Turnover% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 24%, UD 17.4%</span>

Clearly a major point of emphasis against this Flyer team is running this UD squad off the three-point line. While VCU has been on the winning side of a contest that saw the Flyers red-hot from distance, it's not a way you want to have to beat these guys twice in a row. VCU's ability to  win all the ugly stats (turnover margin, rebound margin) while finding enough offense is the path to the A-10 semifinals today against a senior-led backcourt facing an in-experienced group of VCU guards playing in their first bit of March Madness...ever.

That or Bones Hyland is activated, channels his inner-Steph Curry and just goes nuclear. We'll take either method of victory.

Kenpom: 70-64 VCU win with a 68% chance of a Rams victory.

Game tips at 3:30PM at the Stuart C. Siegel Center in Richmond, VA

Watch: NBC Sports Network

Listen: <a href=";pname=1248&amp;campid=header&amp;cid=index.html">Fox Sports 910 AM &amp; 98.5 FM</a>
Live Tweets: <a href="">@VCURamNation</a>

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Mat Shelton-Eide
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