- David Jablonski Staff Writer
Dayton and Virginia Commonwealth entered the 2017-18 season as two of the flagship programs of the Atlantic 10.
The Flyers had compiled a school-record four straight NCAA tournament appearances. VCU’s streak stood at seven. The teams played in the A-10 championship game in 2015, tied for the regular-season title with St. Bonaventure in 2016 and finished one-two in the standings last season.
Of course, nothing lasts forever, and that certainly applies to the dominance of VCU (14-10, 6-5) and UD (11-12, 5-6), who rank fifth and eighth in the standings with seven games to play. The only NCAA bid either team has a chance to get is an automatic one. The A-10 tournament will represent their last chance to return to March Madness.
The Flyers looked to turn a corner with a 106-79 victory Jan. 12 against VCU in Dayton but have since lost four of six games. They’ll find out if that first game was a fluke at 6 p.m. Saturday when they play VCU at the Siegel Center in Richmond, Va.
“It’s a different game; it’s not a continuation of the last one,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said Wednesday. “This will be a completely different game. We’ve had our challenges on the road. We’ve just got to make sure we go in prepared and understand the opportunity we have and what it’s going to take to get a road win.”
Dayton broke a school record with 66 points in the first half of the first game against VCU. Dayton had no trouble breaking VCU’s full-court press. That led to easy baskets and wide-open shots.
“Hopefully, they learn from that,” Dayton guard Darrell Davis said. “If they don’t, they’ll get the same results.”
This will be Grant’s first game at VCU as Dayton’s head coach. He was VCU’s head coach from 2006-09 and was 37-5 at the Siegel Center. He did return to his old arena in 2012 as the head coach at Alabama. The Crimson Tide lost 73-54 to VCU.
VCU was 30-3 the last two seasons at home under Will Wade. Under first-year coach Mike Rhoades, VCU is 10-4 at home with A-10 losses to Richmond and Rhode Island.
While Dayton enters the game with a bit of momentum thanks to an 88-73 victory Wednesday at home against Duquesne, VCU has lost back-to-back games against Rhode Island and Richmond. It’s the fourth time this season the Rams have lost two games in a row. Like Dayton, it has not lost three in a row.
VCU led 65-53 at Richmond on Wednesday with 8:56 to play but lost 77-76. Richmond’s Khwan Fore hit a free throw in the final seconds to beat VCU, which was playing without starting point guard Jonathan Williams. He missed the game with a sprained ankle.
“There’s a lot of times we’re really close, but we’re still not there,” Rhoades said after the game.“After 24 games, why are you not there? We’re not there, period. That’s real talk. And maybe we will be in a week. Maybe we will Saturday. Maybe we will in two weeks. Maybe we will in March up in D.C. But we’re not there yet. You saw some good things today without our starting point guard, but it’s not good enough to win in the A-10 consistently.”