Dayton at Rhode Island (Atlantic 10)
Ryan Center - Kingston, RI
7:00 PM EST
While the titans of college basketball sportswriting are off drooling over Kansas, or boo-hooing over Pittsburgh, or whatever they do up there, they're missing out on the big fun of the high-stakes race at the top of the Atlantic 14. Last season, it was Xavier as a clear No. 1 and a huge liquid-mudslide orgy of death between two through eleven. Hey, it's better this time around! X (10-3) hasn't escape-podded its way to a quick regular-season title clincher, and Dayton and Temple are currently tied in the loss column. And if that wasn't enough intrigue for what could easily be a three-bid league once again, there's a fourth power that's climbed into the league's championship conversation in the past two weeks.
Rhode Island (20-8, 9-4) looked to be defined by its agonizing near-misses. The Rams lost at Duke by three
, on a neutral court to Oklahoma State by four
, and came within two
of leaguemate Xavier. Any of those would be the signature win that would put URI squarely on the "bubble," but as it stands now the best rÃ©sumÃ© line the team has is a split with Temple. But that's alright, there's always to old-fashioned way in. The Rams have won eight of nine A-14 games to shake free of a 1-3 start, and will strike a major blow tonight if they can knock off Dayton at home in their only regular-season meeting. There are no squads in this league that can do everything well in equal measure, but Rhode Island can force turnovers (16.4 per game) and hit 3's (Jimmy Baron
has hit 89 of them, at a 45 percent clip). With two more games after this -- at Duquesne and Baron's senior day vs. UMass -- URI could break into the top three going into Atlantic City.
Dayton looked terrible in its first game with Saint Louis but escaped with a 47-46 win
, but looked even worse in Saturday's eight-point loss
. SLU is the only A-14 team to keep the Flyers below 40 percent shooting, and Brian Gregory hopes that isn't contagious. Defense is supposed to be UD's domain, as the ninth-best squad in the nation efficiency-wise (.883 points allowed per opponent possession). And in the new economic nationalism, no team is as suited for the age than one that wins with socialism
-- no real standout stars, just a bunch of solid role players who gladly put ego aside for wins. While the NCAA selection sheet
looks good at the moment, with a 7-1 record against the RPI top 100, the Flyers need a strong showing against a tough stretch. After tonight's tilt in Kingston, the Flyers will face the other two current three-loss teams, Temple at home and Xavier away.Basketball State Preview/Box