While the Arch-Baron Cup is clearly the most celebrated rivalry in college basketball, Dayton’s matchups with VCU have become the most vital conference games the Flyers play each season. Whilst (sips tea) the programs have much in common — supportive fan base, guys who coached at VCU, Shaka Smart, idiots on Twitter — the two schools could not be more different.
Dayton has TMan, VCU has Tori (for the record, I still think Tori is hot). Dayton is a private institution with costs currently hovering around $55K a year to attend. VCU is a commuter school which still accepts Camel Cash as payment. VCU’s student body seems committed to social justice whereas the only person at Dayton that seems focused on manufactured causes, unfortunately, is the school’s President. VCU used Anthony Grant as a stepping stone to relevance, Anthony Grant is using UD as a stepping stone to a very comfortable retirement.
You get the idea. In theory the two programs should be at the top of the A10 every single year. Both schools can attract the ever-important POWER FIVE TRANSFER, have unmatched facilities compared to the rest of the conference and feature supporters who care waaaaaay too much about mid-major basketball. The truth of the matter is deep down in places Bernadette McGlade doesn’t talk about at parties, the A10 wants VCU/UD to be the league’s premier rivalry — the A10 needs it to be the league’s premier rivalry.
Let’s move past the pomp and grandeur and quickly discuss the previous VCU/UD showdown. Bottom line, Dayton probably should have won that one. However, that analysis comes with plenty of caveats. First and foremost, I think Josh Cunningham got whistled for traveling around fifty times that game. That won’t happen Saturday, I don’t think. Virginia Commonwealth, a subpar perimeter shooting team, knocked down almost half of its three-point attempts in the first matchup, I don’t think history will repeat itself this time around — certainly not with 650 people wearing white shirts in the stands. (Surely the confusion as to why only 5% of the crowd are sporting white tshirts will confuse the Ram players early on. My guess this is good for at least five points for the Flyers.)
The overarching theme when reconsidering the first VCU/UD game is simple: the Rams played an abnormally good game and the Flyers played their typical roller coaster style. UD was outrebounded and gave up too many points in the paint. The game plan for tomorrow’s game seems simple: pound the ball inside offensively and let the Rams fire away with impunity from the outside. There, I’ve done the work for you, AG.
If you’ll remember, or allow me to jog your memory, UD had possession of the ball in a tied game with a minute remaining. Ryan Mikesell missed a three as the shot clock ran down, Marcus Evans then hit his only three-pointer of the game right in Trey Landers’ eye and the game was pretty much done at that point. Of course, there was the Jordan Davis layup that stuck to the back of the rim to add some “we ain’t winning this one” vibes to the close of the contest.
We know the cast of VCU characters and what they bring to the table at this point. Marcus Evans will either shoot VCU into a game or completely bomb them out of it. Santos-Silva is an underrated presence inside, capable of giving Cunningham and Toppin the business down low. He’s skilled enough to put up a double-double on any given night and shouldn’t be treated as an afterthought. De’Riante Jenkins can get hot, like he did against UD, but it should be noted he’s a 32% shooter from three (he can’t go 3-for-4 again, can he? CAN HE??). He’s as streaky as Bucky Bockhorn’s underpants. Sean Mobley is a slightly better Sam Miller, that’s all I want to say about him. VCU rounds out its starting lineup with Isaac Vann, the Marauder of Maine! Although Vann’s game has never caught up with the hype, he remains a solid contributor for the Richmond Rams. He’s an active slasher and was responsible for chasing down multiple second-chance boards in the first matchup. Don’t poke the Bear.
Dayton handled VCU’s hack-and-smack defense better than expected the first time around, a positive sign to say the least. The Flyers only turned the ball over twelve times back in January and essentially held the Rams’ transition game in check. There’s no reason to think history won’t repeat itself in game two. It’s a rare thing to say a team shouldn’t do anything different after a loss, but this is exactly what I am promoting on this here website. Dayton simply needs to pound it inside like they’re a bunch of Jussie Smollet’s. The game essentially comes down to how VCU shoots the ball from the outside. If they replicate their perimeter shooting from the first matchup all the white shirts in the world won’t be enough to save Dayton. However, I think, hope, the Rams’ are incapable of shooting 47% from three this time around. They’re away from the humble confines of the Cafenasium and Dayton will come out with plenty of intensity. Flyers 79, Rams 74.
In closing, we have to give this particular VCU team a lot of credit. They were picked to finish in seventh place coming into the season and yet they stand at the top of the league standings coming into tomorrow’s game. This is what good programs, with a solid foundation, do. They outperform and stay consistent. Since joining the A10 VCU has put up a 71% winning percentage in conference play, the best in the league over that timeframe. While we do tend to give Virginia Commonwealth plenty of guff and a bit of the ol’ codswallop on the Twitters, you have to put respect on their name. They’ve undergone a tremendous amount of coaching instability over their time in the A10 and haven’t missed a beat. That’s very difficult to do (as UD fans are surely aware). In short, the Atlantic Ten, and Dayton, need VCU to continue their precipitous climb in the college basketball world. It’s hard to type, and swallow, but it’s the truth.
White Red, Be #LOWD.
On a lighter note, the #LOWDBOYS will be attending tomorrow afternoon’s game. Please stop by and say hello if you see them. They’ll be the guys in cargo shorts texting their wives, you can’t miss them.
Tom Blackburn is a proud U. o' D. alum. He loses faith in humanity one day at a time, but not in you, you seem like you are all kinds of alright. Charter member of the T-Man fanclub.