Virginia Commonwealth coach Will Wade remembers riding on the team bus from the Marriott across the river to UD Arena and seeing droves of Dayton students walking to the game March 5.
“I was like, ‘Oh god, it’s going to be something,’” Wade said Tuesday at Atlantic 10 Media Day at PPG Paints Arena.
More than seven months later, Wade can look back at that game in a positive way, but his team suffered a heartbreaking defeat that night, 68-67 in overtime. The Flyers won on Senior Night to clinch a share of the Atlantic 10 championship with VCU and St. Bonaventure.
“The game at Dayton was a tremendous game, a back-and-forth game between two really good teams,” Wade said. “I felt good about our team after that game even though we lost. It was a phenomenal environment. We probably played one of our best games. We just couldn’t make free throws down the stretch, and Dayton made some shots and made some plays. We learned a lot about team that night, and we’ll go back there at the end of this year and see what happens.”
The Rams and Flyers play in Richmond on Jan. 27 and in Dayton in the second-to-last game of the regular season March 1. It will again be Dayton’s Senior Night.
Dayton was picked to win the A-10 in the preseason poll released Tuesday. VCU was picked to finish third. Rhode Island fell in between them.
Pollard update: Dayton coach Archie Miller feels better about senior forward Kendall Pollard’s health at this point in the season than he has at any point this year, but doesn’t know yet if he’ll be able to play in the Red and Blue Game at UD Arena on Saturday.
“About four weeks ago, we really turned up the crank on him and started to test him physically to see what he’s been able to handle,” Miller said. “Each week that went by, he’s progressed to more and more. He’s had two light practices at full go the last two days. I don’t have any text messages or voicemails that said he walked in there today and was hurting. So he’s progressing without having a setback. That’s the best we can ask. In terms of him starting to play and have no limits and all that, we’re still in a gray area, but my hope would be he’s ready to start our season.”
Dayton freshman Trey Landers has missed three or four practices with a sprained foot, Miller said, but the coach was hopeful he’ll be able to play in the Red and Blue Game.
Rhode Island injuries: Rhode Island lost its top player, guard E.C. Matthews, to an ACL tear in the first game last season and then lost forward Hassan Martin to a knee injury late in the season.
Both look great, coach Dan Hurley said, going into the new season, and they were named to the A-10 preseason second team.
“It’s a blessing how they both have recovered,” Hurley said. “They look strong. They’re in the prime of their college careers.”