After opening up the season with an invigorating Sock Hop victory over Ball State, the Flyers return to the gymnasium, ready to take on the VCU Rams on Friday night. Whereas this would’ve been one of the premier league games any other season, this year’s matchup is more pillow fight than bunker buster. That’s alright, that’s the kind of season it has been.
11-6 overall, 3-1 in the league (the one conference loss was in overtime to Saint Joseph’s), the Rams are right where they were expected to be. As Sully covered masterfully in this week’s podcast, there are some similarities between the two programs this season: new coaches, big men who aren’t getting the rock enough, a lack of consistent point-guard play and continual defensive letdowns. Picked to finish fourth in the A10, VCU has two starters back from last year’s NCAA tournament team — which was the school’s seventh straight trip to the Dance. Very impressive indeed. As this is the least experienced Ram roster I can remember, it will be a major accomplishment if they can get back to the tournament this season.
Mike Rhoades was an interesting choice to lead the Rams after the departure of Will Wade. While it is true Rhoades was an assistant at VCU for five years, he short tenure at Rice was nothing if not unspectacular. After compiling a 47-52 record in Houston, Virginia Commonwealth came calling and Rhodes was more than ready to pack his bags. The Rhoades hire, which took place a mere 24 hours after Wade’s exit, while uninspiring, makes a lot of sense. He has recruited the state of Virginia extensively since breaking into coaching and he certainly knows which areas of Richmond to avoid at night (all of them).
Whereas the Anthony Grant hire was both yawn-inducing and safe, the Rhoades coronation almost made too much sense not to do. Although he looks like he is nearing retirement age, Rhoades is inexplicably just 45 years old and claims VCU is his dream job. On paper, that’s much better than hiring a retread no one wanted that will cash seven-figure paychecks until the school has to painfully force him out. Point, VCU.
Justin Tillman, the man who as a child enjoyed going to the hair salon with his mother too much, has been a major issue for your Dayton Flyers over the years. A double-double machine as soon as his head rises off the pillow, Tillman (17.7 ppg/9.5 rpg) has tortured this fanbase as much as any player I can recall in recent history (remember when he pulled down like 30 boards against UD in 2016?). Tillman is the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, shooting a stellar 42% from behind the arc. The senior has improved each season and looks to put his foot in our ass at least two more times before hanging it up. Godspeed.
Sophomore wings De’Riante Jenkins and Issac Vann join Tillman in the VCU starting lineup. Vann was a standout during his freshman season at Maine and decided to take his talents to Richmond where he will bask in the loving glow of the Ram Nation. Jenkins was a major recruiting coup for VCU and continues to impress during his second collegiate season.
The VCU backcourt is triggered by senior Jonathan Williams (10.6 ppg/6.1 apg) and sophomore Malik Crowfield. Williams has one of those weird, stocky-ass bodies where the thighs appear to be as thick as his calves and ankles. Maybe it’s due to the fact that his head is way to big for his body? I can’t figure it out. Anyway, he’s built like a Puerto-Rican woman and is one of the league’s better playmakers and distributors of the ball. Rhoades has a good one running the show. Crowfield (8.2 ppg/40% 3fg)
Rhodes’ bench goes about six deep, which is way too many to break down here. Khris Lane, Mike’l Simms and Sean Mobley are the main cogs off the pine. Lane (7.9 ppg/3.8 rpg) is a grad-transfer from Longwood, a solid perimeter shooter. Simms’ family went in a weird direction to urbanize the name Michael and Mobley (3.5 ppg/3.2 rpg) is a freshman with oodles of potential, oodles.
- Here’s an interesting tidbit: Jimmy Martelli, son of Phil, is the Rams’ current Director of Operations. Martelli, as you might know, was last seen on some now infamous videos while an assistant at Rutgers under Mike Rice. Martelli was shown grabbing and shoving players, throwing balls at motherfuckers’ heads and calling one kid a “fucking faggot.” Martelli, like Rice, quickly resigned after the video surfaced. Glad to see he landed on his feet.
- A note from the VCU administration:
On first reference, it is acceptable to use VCU or Virginia Commonwealth University. Please do not use “Virginia Commonwealth” or “Va. Commonwealth” when referring to VCU.
- Here’s VCU Tori baring a little midriff, pretty good!
- Not much of anything was made of Jordan Pierce being held out for disciplinary reasons for the Richmond game. What a great year for the freshman from New Jersey.
The Flyers haven’t won back-to-back games all year so why would tomorrow be any different? That being said, I think it will be a close one. Here’s my take: if Josh Cunningham can rack up 30+ minutes, Dayton wins. If the big man gets in foul trouble at any point of the game, I can’t see UD winning this one. So, this isn’t so much a prediction as it is a proposition. For whatever that’s worth. Tillman will get his double-double, the home team will turn the ball over at least ten times, neither squad will shoot very well from three, yada yada yada. Go Flyers, Stay LOWD (and NORMAL).