#22 VCU is coming off of a bizarre double-overtime loss, and Dayton is riding a bizarre roster-depleting season. Both teams will meet in the Stuart C. Siegel Center on Saturday. One will emerge in first place in the Atlantic 10 while the other will be left in threat of losing a Brooklyn double-bye.
- What: #VCU (21-7, 11-4) vs. Dayton (21-6, 11-4)
- Where: Stuart C. Siegel Center
- When: Saturday, February 28th at 2:00 PM
- Watch: ESPN2
- Listen: Rams Radio
On Wednesday, VCU dropped a bizarre double-overtime game 67-63 to Richmond while blowing an opportunity to take sole possession of first place in the Atlantic 10 on the heels of losses by Dayton and Rhode Island.
The loss sets up a four-way tie for first place between Davidson, Dayton, Rhode Island, and VCU. Plenty of meetings between the four teams remain, including VCU vs. Dayton on Saturday and VCU at Davidson on Thursday, so the race is far from complete.
But chasing Coach Smart’s first-ever regular season title seems less important at the moment than VCU finding a way to turn potential into reality. The Rams have talent, the Rams have a system, and at times they have unmatched heart, but VCU needs to return to playing 40 minutes of ACL (Aggressive, Confident, Loose) basketball regardless of circumstances. Fortunately, Coach Smart and HAVOC! have a strong tradition of ACL basketball against Dayton since joining the Atlantic 10 Conference.
Dayton stormed to the Elite Eight last season with wins against Ohio State, Syracuse, and Stanford before losing to Florida. This is not that team. Firstly, Vee Sanford, Devin Oliver, and Matt Kavanaugh all graduated. In the summer, starting point guard Khari Price elected to transfer to Southern Mississippi. Still, Dayton’s rising-star head coach, 36 year-old Archie Miller, returned enough talent to remain competitive in the experience-depleted Atlantic 10.
But the story doesn’t stop there. Despite 6-foot-11 Steve McElvene being ruled a partial-qualifier by the NCAA and junior college transfer Detwon Rogers never making it to the court because of a lingering knee injury, the Flyers flew to an impressive 7-2 record to start the season. After nine games, news broke that starting center Devon Scott (9.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG) and reserve center Jalen Robinson had been dismissed from the team for allegedly trespassing in a university dorm and stealing money.
The dismissals left Dayton with six scholarship players and no man taller than 6-foot-6. The Flyers were doomed, but fate forgot to tell Dayton. Taking on the name #TrueTeam, they reeled off nine straight victories. Overall, Dayton 2.0 is 15-4, tied for first place in the Atlantic 10, and they lead the conference in 2-point shooting (.562) and 3-point shooting (.384).
The Flyers are thriving because of chemistry and because what they’ve sacrificed on defense they’ve compensated for by creating mismatches and scoring like crazy. VCU has struggled to stop teams with crisp execution. Saturday could be another struggle.
Dayton has faced plenty of adversity this season and their roster looks entirely different than when VCU topped the Flyers 80-66 in Dayton last season, but the Flyers are even more capable of upsetting HAVOC! this season. Oh, and a few weeks after Scott and Robinson were dismissed, guard Ryan Bass would be shut down for the season because of concussion-related symptoms. Basketball only requires five players on the court, and sometimes rotations larger than 6.5 men are overrated. Without an alternative, Dayton is thriving.
THE STAR: #21 Dyshawn Pierre
13.1 PPG (101-190 2PFG, 26-72 3PFG), 8.0 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.9 TOPG
Despite being undersized, Pierre has been piling up rebounds and scoring with ease since becoming the core of Dayton’s unorthodox front-court. Last week, he went off for 27 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, two blocks, and no turnovers against Duquesne. A similar performance against VCU could spell doom for HAVOC!. His matchup with Treveon Graham should be a fascinating blur of speed, muscle, and craftiness.
#11 Scoochie Smith (PG, Sophomore) • Smith has done a good job replacing Khari Price, who transferred after Dayton’s run to the Elite Eight. He’s a serviceable distributor and great 3-point shooter.
#3 Kyle Davis (SG, Sophomore) • He played only two minutes in last season’s matchup. He’s not much of a 3-point shooter for a 6-foot shooting guard, but he’s 46-of-67 (.687) from 2-point range this season.
#24 Jordan Sibert (SF, Senior) • The Ohio State transfer is capable of scoring anywhere on the court. He’s shooting .770 from the charity stripe, .603 from 2-point range, and .344 from 3-point range. He leads the team with 16.4 PPG, so slowing him down is a great place to start when trying to slow down Dayton.
#25 Kendall Pollard (F, Sophomore) • At 6-foot-6, 210 pounds, Pollard is the biggest player on Dayton’s roster. If Mo Alie-Cox can keep up with him on defense, VCU’s 250 pound center could have an opportunity to capitalize on offense and the boards.
KenPom picks VCU win 70-64 with a 74% chance of victory.
- Location: Dayton, Ohio
- Enrollment: 11,100
- Conference: A-10
- All-time Series: VCU leads 5-1.
- Last Meeting: 1/22/2014. VCU won 80-66.