The Atlantic 10 may not have had the non-conference wins they have had in previous years, but the race for the title should be every bit as fierce as it’s been of late. Two teams that should be right there squared off on Friday night, and the home team held serve – barely.
Dayton took the lead for good with an 11-0 run in the second half, and held on for a 67-64 win to go to 3-0 in early Atlantic 10 play and dropping the Rams to 2-1. The most you can truly draw from this game, though, is that these two teams are very close, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if they met in Pittsburgh (the site of the Atlantic 10 Tournament) in March as well.
Rhode Island turned the ball over a season-high 18 times, and that was a bit too much to overcome in the end, but the Rams actually led for the first 32 minutes of the game. They were 10-21 from long range, which helped keep them ahead and right there, but the aforementioned Dayton run turned the game around for good.
In recent years, the Atlantic 10 has placed several teams in the NCAA Tournament and had quite a race for the title. This year, that will be put to the test a bit. As of right now, conference teams have just one top 25 win and six top 50 wins; two of those top 50 wins were by Richmond and Duquesne, teams who seem unlikely to be in the hunt for an at-large bid. That means the opportunities for quality wins in conference play will be a little more limited than in past years.
Dayton has five top 100 wins, but only two are against teams in the top 50 – a Dec. 21 win over Vanderbilt and last night’s win over URI. They have no bad losses, so right now they’re not in bad shape, but they haven’t knocked off a team that is a lock for the tournament as of yet. Of course, URI and Vanderbilt could both work their way into that status, as could Alabama or St. Bonaventure, two others they have wins over.
Rhode Island, on the other hand, has played a strong schedule but needs to win against some of the better teams. They have just two top 100 wins, one against Cincinnati in Connecticut and another over Saint Joseph’s. They have no bad losses, haven’t lost at home and lost just once – against Duke in Connecticut – by double digits, and that was a 75-65 decision. In other words, there’s nothing on the resume that hurts them badly as of yet.
You never got a sense that Rhode Island was going to run away with this game, even when they led 19-9 about nine minutes into the game. It was a close game throughout, and Dayton outlasted the Rams.
Exactly five weeks after this meeting, these two teams will meet in South Kingston. They have had some epic battles over the years, even when they haven’t both been contenders, so given that and what happened Friday, one can expect that meeting to be very similar.
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski underwent back surgery on Friday, and the school announced that all went as planned. With that, they expect, as stated before, the coach to miss about four weeks during recovery. Assistant coach Jeff Capel, previously the head coach at VCU and Oklahoma, will lead the team in his absence.
North Carolina will get a boost on Saturday as Theo Pinson will make his season debut against NC State. The junior guard has been out since breaking the fifth metatarsal in his right foot in October, which required surgery.
Winter Storm Helena made her mark on college basketball, as four games slated for Saturday have been postponed due to the storm, three in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. Drexel at William & Mary, South Carolina State at Hampton, Savannah State at Norfolk State, and Wofford at Samford are all postponed.
It’s a full day of action, as every Saturday will be from this point on.
- The first ACC game of the day is an old Big East battle as Syracuse hosts Pittsburgh (noon), then one of the best matchups of the day is Florida State hosting Virginia Tech at 2 p.m. Notre Dame hosts Clemson (3 p.m.), then NC State heads over to Chapel Hill to play North Carolina (8 p.m.)
- In the Big 12, Baylor gets its latest test from visiting Oklahoma State (7 p.m.), then a few minutes later, Kansas hosts Texas Tech (7:15 p.m.), and later, Iowa State hosts Texas (9:15 p.m.)
- Big East play starts with Butler visiting 0-3 Georgetown and Seton Hall hosting DePaul at noon, then Creighton heads to Providence (2 p.m.) as the Friars look to get a quality win. St. John’s travels to Xavier (2:30 p.m.) in a game that seems a bit more interesting than a couple of weeks ago. Later, Villanova hosts Marquette (7:30 p.m.)
- In Big Ten play, Penn State hosts Michigan State (1 p.m.), Maryland heads to Michigan (3:15 p.m.) and Illinois visits Indiana (5 p.m.)
- The best late night games are in the Mountain West, where San Diego State heads to Boise State (11 p.m.) in a matchup of teams with surprising conference starts, and New Mexico hosts Nevada (11:15 p.m.)
- In the Pac-12, an unexpected battle of early undefeateds has Oregon visiting Washington State (7 p.m.), while Arizona hosts Colorado (9:30 p.m.)
- SEC games of note start with South Carolina hosting Texas A&M (1:30 p.m.), then there’s Tennessee at Florida (5:15 p.m.) and Arkansas at Kentucky (8:30 p.m.)
- Other matchups of note include Cincinnati at Houston (9 p.m.), a battle between two 3-0 teams in the CAA as James Madison visits Northeastern (7 p.m.), and the first Ivy League games are on tap with Harvard at Dartmouth and Penn at Princeton (both at 7 p.m.)