The A-10 is a mess.
A fun, “every game matters” mess, but a mess nonetheless.
Nearly a month into league play, Dayton (still) looks like the favorite, with VCU and URI (still) the only seemingly viable challengers. But there are questions about the front-running trio.
VCU had another bad two-game stretch, punctuated by a loss at Fordham, before throttling La Salle. URI has had a soft schedule to begin its A-10 season, and the injuries continue to mount for Dayton (though they haven’t bit the Flyers yet).
The middle of the A-10 is even more muddled. Richmond raised its hand high with a 5-0 start, but has since been slapped down with consecutive losses. La Salle set the nets on fire during a five-game winning streak but was then took part in that VCU beat down.
The only certainty seemed to be the off-night that is St. Louis, but even the Billikens bit a George Mason team that was playing well, in its home gym no less.
The point? Nothing is set in stone. Here’s how the league stacks up with so much to be determined:
|Team||Record||Previous||Best win (to date)|
|Team||Record||Previous||Best win (to date)|
|1. Dayton||15-4 (6-1)||1||URI (home) on Jan. 6 without Charles Cooke.|
|2. VCU||15-5 (5-2)||2||MTSU (home) on Dec. 17.|
|3. URI||12-6 (4-2)||3||Cincinnati (neutral) on Nov. 19.|
|4. La Salle||11-6 (5-2)||8||URI (road) on Jan 12.|
|5. Richmond||12-6 (4-2)||4||Davidson (road) on Dec. 31.|
|6. St. Bonaventure||12-6 (4-2)||5||UMass (road) on Dec. 30.|
|7. George Mason||13-6 (3-3)||6||Penn State (road) on Dec. 7.|
|8. Davidson||9-8 (2-4)||7||VCU (home) on Jan. 14.|
|9. UMass||12-8 (2-5)||10||Dayton (home) on Jan. 11.|
|10. Fordham||9-11 (3-4)||13||VCU (home) on Jan. 18.|
|11. GW||10-9 (2-4)||9||UCF (home) on Dec. 15.|
|12. St. Joe's||9-9 (2-4)||11||Princeton (road) on Dec. 14 with Shavar Newkirk.|
|13. Duquesne||9-11 (2-5)||12||Pitt (neutral) on Dec. 2.|
|14. St. Louis||5-14 (1-6)||14||George Mason (road) on Jan. 14.|
Dayton’s resilience, yet again
The stream of injuries has tumbled on for Dayton.
Kyle Davis was the latest Flyer to be sidelined, joining Kendall Pollard, Charles and Cooke and still-injured Josh Cunningham on the season-long list. The senior guard missed Dayton’s past two games, but as has been the case, the Flyers continued to win.
Without one of its best perimeter defenders, Dayton held Richmond’s ShawnDre’ Jones to just a single point (0-9 FG), well below his season average (16.1 PPG). He was thwarted in large part because of junior wing Darrell Davis.
“Oh, Archie Miller for sure,” the Dayton Flyers junior guard [told the Dayton Daily News after the game]. “My freshman and sophomore years he got the message to me … He told me … He yelled at me … Said if I wanted to keep playing I’ve got to defend.”
Davis was the latest Flyer to step up when needed. With [Kyle] Davis expected to return Friday, and Cunningham ahead of schedule in his ankle injury rehabilitation, Dayton could suddenly find itself with something it’s been without all year: depth.
Lost and found
VCU had lost something.
“We just wanted to get our identity back and keep it there,” Lewis said.
That was JeQuan Lewis after the Rams dismantled La Salle on Sunday afternoon. And it certainly looked like VCU at its finest.
Coming off consecutive losses, including a stunner at Fordham, the Rams ground a hot Explorer offense to halt in the first half. They forced 9 turnovers, and gave up just four field goals and 16 points. A 36-point second half by La Salle made the final numbers look better, but the Explorers were still held to just 0.79 per possession.
It was a dominant, complete effort for VCU, which got arguably the best game of Ahmed Hamdy’s (13 points, 11 rebounds) career.
It couldn’t have come at a better time after a disappointing two-game losing streak marred by turnovers (Fordham) and poor three-point shooting (Davidson). VCU hosts Dayton on Friday with first place on the line, with difficult games against Richmond and at St. Bonaventure looming.
The Rams have shown league title potential, especially when Samir Doughty is a factor. But they’ve also shown they’re capable of uneven stretches. The next three games could be telling.
Wait, this isn’t supposed to happen
Fordham seemed destined to be nothing more than a schedule soft spot the rest of the season. How could it look otherwise after the Rams dropped nine out of 10 games, en route to an 0-3 A-10 start?
That was wrong, apparently.
"This win is a credit to our team, not one individual," said Fordham head coach Jeff Neubauer in a release following a 71-68 win at UMass. "The fact that we are still competing and playing so hard is a credit to our team. For us to fight after going through such a hard time, I'm really impressed with our guys."
The suddenly 3-4 Rams sit above Davidson, GW and UMass in the standings, something that didn’t seem possible just a few weeks ago. One reason for the jump has been better play on the glass, an area Fordham got bludgeoned in during the non-con.
Athletic freshman wing Chuba Ohams made his presence felt in the big VCU win with 10 rebounds, and sophomore Prokop Slanina has averaged 4.7 rebounds per game in league play.
- Jarvis Garrett has missed the past two games with an undisclosed illness, and Danny Hurley said that he was in “bad physical shape” prior to being sidelined.
- After a strange eight day layoff, George Mason bounced back from its loss to SLU with a good win at Richmond. Marquise Moore had another double double, and the 6’2’’ guard is currently first in the A-10 in both rebounds per game (10.9) and total rebounds (208).
- St. Joe’s had - what must have been - a satisfying win at the Palestra over Penn. It was just the Hawks second victory since Shavar Newkirk went down. Freshman Charlie Brown scored 19 points, and has scored in double figures in all but one of those six games.
- URI has cranked up its offense since league play began. The Rams are first in three-point percetnage (42.5%), effective field goal percentage (55.7%) and turnover rate (14.7%). The down-side? They’re last in free throw percentage (58.3%) something that could become a factor late in close games.