Game Preview: VCU v Dayton

<a href="" rel="attachment wp-att-9541"><img class="alignright size-medium wp-image-9541" alt="8275329665_acd5a5d9c4_c" src="" width="300" height="200" /></a>The Rams tip it up for the start of their Atlantic 10 careers tonight, hosting the Flyers of Dayton (10-4) at 7PM.

VCU comes in winners of their last nine games, including a four-point battle against Lehigh this past Saturday. Dayton comes in with an impressive 10-win record, but having lost two of their last four contests.

The Flyers will be tested by an unfamiliar VCU defense and are hitting the road for just their third true road game of the season in what will be a sold-out and "striped out" Siegel Center. Dayton lost their last road matchup in a two-point OT heartbreaker at USC, but won their only other road game, a five-point upset at Alabama.

Here's the preview

VCU (12-3)
Dayton (10-4)

A quick look at Dayton: The Flyers are lead by point guard Kevin Dillard, an experienced 6' senior who ranks top 10 in both points (15) and assists (4.9) in the conference. Dillard plays a ton of minutes and will be leaned on heavily against VCU's havoc defense alongside junior Vee Sanford. The Flyers have been solid on both sides of the ball this season, averaging 72+ points per game while giving up just four more points than the Rams at 63.9 on the season. They're one of the more accurate teams in the A-10, hitting just under 46% of field goals as a team with three of their top six scorers hitting over 50% of their attempts so far. The Flyers have an experienced top four but fall off a bit after that, having three freshmen play the fifth, sixth and seventh most minutes on their team, with a sophomore following that group. The three freshmen will face perhaps the most hostile environment of their young careers, and Ram fans will certainly do their part to ensure they aren't up to the challenge.

A quick look at VCU: The Rams were blasting opponents before Saturday's scare against Lehigh. A hot-handed Troy Daniels was significantly cooled down, hitting just three of his nine attempts from long range after averaging nine makes in his previous three contests. VCU hit just 18.5% of their makes as a team but bailed themselves out by forcing 21 Lehigh turnovers. On the season VCU has been very effective on offense, ranking 30th in the country in points scored while hitting 45.2% of their shots and 36.9% from deep. VCU will need to get back on that track if they want to start the Atlantic 10 era off on the right foot.

Tale of the Tape…
Scoring Offense: VCU 78.5, Dayton 72.3
Scoring Defense: VCU 59.3 points allowed, Dayton 63.9
Field Goal%: Dayton 45.8%, VCU 45.2%
Field Goal% Defense: Dayton 41.2%, VCU 42.1%
3-Point Field Goal%: VCU 36.9%, Dayton 35.7%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: VCU 28.9%, Dayton 34.3%
Rebounding Margin: VCU +3.7, Dayton +3.5
Turnover Margin: VCU +8.8, Dayton +2.36

VCU wins if: They channel their inner swagger against another worthy opponent. VCU managed just 58 points per game in their three losses this year, their 59 points against Lehigh just good enough to avoid a fourth. The Rams have struggled to hit shots against teams that aren't covered with frosting and rainbow sprinkles, and that's to be expected, but so are more losses if VCU can't elevate their offense when the going gets tough. That said, VCU is one of a small number of teams who can beat you when the shooting percentages fall off the cliff. Dayton's Kevin Dillard is good, but he also turns the ball over 22.2% of his possessions and is used 1/4 of Dayton's overall possessions. Dillard has also struggled from the field this season, hitting just 38.4% of his shots this season, 33.8% from deep. While he was in all of 15 minutes before breaking his foot Saturday, Lehigh's NBA-bound CJ McCollum was held to just 0-5 from the field. The Mountain Hawks got some help from other experienced options. Will Dayton if Dillard is shutdown as well?

Dayton wins if: The formula will be about the same for every team: limit turnovers, defend the three. VCU has forced just 11.3 turnovers per game in our three losses as compared with our 21.4 season average and are shooting 36.9% as a team from deep this season, but just 29.3% in the three losses. Two of those losses came in the Bahamas on a neutral court. Think you can hold on to the ball when 7,622 fans are screaming at you and you have no idea where on the court Briante Weber is? That's the challenge for Dayton tonight.

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Mat Shelton-Eide
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