This feels like a precarious spot for your Flyers. Another league loss would place UD at 1-3 in the Atlantic Ten and give Archie back-to-back home losses in conference play. The last time Dayton lost its first two home league games was during the 2005-06 season.
Historically, there have been two consistent factors to a Dayton NCAA Tournament berth since the Flyers joined the Atlantic Ten, and they likely won’t come as a surprise.
(1) Protect the home floor. UD’s past four tournament berths were clinched with dominating performances in the Sweater Centre™.
(2) At least break even on the road. Again, the years in which UD held serve on the road were coincidentally the years they went dancin’.
The good news is that UD has a handful of winnable road games left on the docket — at Rhode Island, George Mason, Saint Bonaventure, Duquesne and St. Joseph’s — and like last season, the NCAA tournament committee will likely be dragging the bottom of the barrel to find a few suitable 11 and 12 seeds to fill out their bracket.
On the negative side, Dayton still has tough matchups at home on their horizon — George Washington, La Salle and Richmond will make trips to the Arena over the next few weeks.
It’s hard to prognosticate this far out from the first week of March, and it’s arguably fruitless, but if precedence and patterns mean anything, UD needs to essentially win out at home to keep their fleeting postseason hopes afloat.
VCU comes to the Arena with a 14-4 (2-1) record in hand. The Rams took down George Mason and Duquesne at home and suffered a ten-point loss at George Washington. Shaka Smart’s team didn’t make too much noise in their non-conference catalog — although they did beat Illinois State quite handily, a team UD…had some issues with. VCU is 2-2 on the road, 2-4 against teams in the RPI Top 100 (the Rams defeated Virginia and Belmont).
VCU is still getting out in transition and forcing turnovers, that’s what they do. The Rams lead the nation in defensive takeaways, averaging 19.4 turnovers forced per game and top the A10 with 73 possessions per game. The game plan to beat Smart’s team remains the same: get the ball up the floor quickly and turn as many possessions as possible into 4-on-3 or 3-on-2 opportunities. As has been pointed out countless times, VCU’s pressure is merely an instrument meant to shroud a team that plays subpar half-court defense — opponents are currently shooting 50.2% against Rams on two-point attempts (43.7% overall).
[pull_quote_center]“Obviously, they’re unique,” Dayton coach Archie Miller said. “Their full-court pressure is something that’s constant. You’re going to have to deal with it. Don’t underestimate the things they do in the half court. That’s one thing I learned playing in their building last year. As much as you get caught up in the pressure — and they can press you and make some runs — their ability in the half court to really disrupt is something that’s amazing.”[/pull_quote_center]
The Rams aren’t an offensively impressive team, shooting 42.0/34.8/65.8 on the season, those numbers place VCU firmly in the bottom-half of the conference. Smart’s team doesn’t rebound the ball very well and goes about nine deep. Many observers were interested in how the new emphasis on hand-checking would affect a team that plays with the type of “intensity” that VCU employs defensively. A quick look at the numbers tell us that the Rams are getting whistled more this season — 22.7 fouls per game, up from 19.7 from last season. This ranks VCU among the nation’s top hacking squads and the most slap-happy in the league. Although Richmond, Fordham, Saint Bonnie and Dayton are not far behind.
Surprisingly, given their frenetic pace, VCU does not get to the line as much as you would expect. In fact, the Rams currently rank dead last in free-throw rate — a measure of both how often a team gets to the line and how often they convert them — in the conference:
Meet and Greet
Treveon Graham (15.2 ppg/6.7 rpg) and Juvonte Reddic (11.2 ppg/7.8 rpg) are probably the two players a novice fan like yourself recognizes right away. Graham’s game has expanded since his freshman season, and the 6’6″ wing is one of the more versatile players in the A10. If I had to describe Graham’s game with one word, and I couldn’t choose “delicious,” I’d say “consistent.” His performances this season have been remarkably consonant. Reddic, a senior, has seen his production slide a bit this year, but is still a matchup problem due to his size and athleticism. If the game is close, Archie should hack the shit out of Reddic — he’s shooting just 46.7% from the charity stripe.
Briante Weber (8.9 ppg/4.2 apg/3.8 rpg) will steal the ball, your soul, your woman, whatever he can get his hands on. The junior guard is the face of HAVOC, averaging 3.8 steals per game, best in the nation. Briante, or “Brian” in the white community, is VCU’s glue-guy. He can grab some boards, dish a few dimes and cause turnovers. Weber won’t necessarily wow you with his basketballin’ but he will fill up a statsheet. Melvin Johnson (10.6 pgg/2.1 rpg) and Rod Brandenerg (9.9 ppg/2.1 rpg) join Weber in the Ram backcourt. Johnson is the squad’s most accurate long-range shooter and Brandenberg is an energy guy, one of VCU’s best defenders.
Mo Alie-Cox (2.7 ppg/3.4 rpg) and Terrance Shannon (3.9 ppg/2.8 rpg) are warm bodies at Shaka Smart’s disposal. JeQuan Lewis (6.0 ppg/2.1 apg) and Jordan Burgess (5.9 ppg/2.4 rpg) add depth to VCU’s backcourt.
I don’t know how much I trust Price and Scooch against VCU’s pressure, but I guess we are about to find out. Gem City wins a squeaker, 81-78.