Seven things to know about Dayton vs. VCU
Days before Dayton played Davidson and Virginia Commonwealth played Rhode Island last week, UD-VCU week began — at least for some fans of both teams.
The trolls came out in force on Twitter with fans of the Rams and Flyers flinging insults back and forth. Meanwhile, the players who will actually determine the outcome at 8 p.m. Wednesday at UD Arena did their best to ignore the noise.
“It’s just a normal game,” Dayton senior Kyle Davis said Monday. “Today is a work day for us. Tomorrow is going to be a work day. It’s no different than any other game.”
Dayton coach Archie Miller is all about tuning out the noise. He hopes his players can do the same.
“They’re not dumb,” Miller said. “Social media in this day and age, they know everything that’s at stake even before I get to them because somebody’s going to get to them. What we need to do is what we’ve been doing, which is go to work, practice very hard (Monday) and work again (Tuesday) to prepare for a fantastic VCU team that has played unbelievable basketball. Their setback against Rhode Island on Saturday could just as easily been us a couple weeks ago. That’s a hard place to play against a good team.”
Here are seven things to know about Wednesday’s game:
1. First place on the line: Dayton (23-5, 14-2) leads VCU (23-6, 13-3) by one game with two games to play. VCU lost 69-59 in Kingston, R.I., to give UD a chance to clinch the outright title in this game. If the Flyers don’t beat VCU, they can at least clinch a share of the title by winning at 8 p.m. Saturday at George Washington.
2. Famous Flyers in attendance: The 1967 national-runner up team will be honored at the under 12-minute TV timeout in the first half. Coach Don Donoher, leading scorer Don May and others will be on the court to hear the cheers 50 years after the greatest tournament run in UD history.
3. Senior Night festivities: Five Dayton seniors will be honored at 7:45 p.m. Charles Cooke and Jeremiah Bonsu said they will take the court with their parents. Kendall Pollard’s mom, brother and probably his step-dad will accompany him. Kyle Davis said his parents, sister and uncle will be with him. Scoochie Smith will have an aunt and uncle and a cousin with him.
4. Rebounds are key: The Flyers fell 73-68 in the first game against VCU on Jan. 27 in Richmond. The Rams dominated the boards 41-24 and outscored Dayton 26-8 in second-chance points. VCU broke open a close game in the last six minutes, pushing its lead to 11 points before UD made a late run.
“Looking back on game one, clearly we were in a great environment that night against a very charged-up team as well,” Miller said. “I thought they played extremely hard and physical, and I just thought they were very, very forceful in the way they played. The way they rebounded the ball, not just from the big guys but from the guards, the way they attacked us in the second half downhill in the paint constantly, we’re going to have to match that in game two. We’re going to have to be a lot more forceful.”
5. Outside shooting favors UD: The Flyers rank second in the A-10 in 3-point field-goal percentage (39.1). They have shot 40 percent or better in five straight games.
VCU ranks 12th out of 14 teams in the conference with 33 percent shooting from long range. It made 2 of 15 3-pointers in the first game against Dayton and has made 4 of 32 in its last two games.
“That’s not our bread and butter,” VCU coach Will Wade said. “Our bread and butter is throwing it inside and pounding that thing and bashing people at the rim. That’s what we’ve got to get back to trying to do. If the 3-pointer goes in, that’s a bonus.”
6. VCU has dominated series: The Rams lead the all-time series 7-3. Since joining the A-10, VCU leads 4-2.
Dayton has been the best A-10 team in the NCAA tournament in the last three seasons with five wins during that span, but VCU is a force in March. It has played in six straight NCAA tournaments and has appeared in the A-10 tournament championship game each of its four seasons in the league, beating Dayton in 2015 for its only tournament title.
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“I think VCU’s program speaks for itself,” Miller said. “Will’s done a great job of inheriting a very talented tradition from Shaka (Smart) and going to the tournament and winning games in the tournament. They’ve made the A-10 better since they joined the league.”
7. Close to NCAA bids: Dayton and VCU, No. 21 and No. 23 respectively in the RPI, might be the only A-10 teams to play in the big dance this season. Rhode Island has a chance to earn an at-large berth, but it might have to win the A-10 tournament. Any other team that hopes to hear its name called March 12 on Selection Sunday will have to follow that path.