Rhode Island at Dayton (Atlantic 10)
U. of Dayton Arena - Dayton, OH
7:00 PM EST
If we've learned anything from college basketball, it's that November and December results can be intoxicating, bewildering, and occasionally ultimately maddening. There's no rollercoaster that quite matches the high of a hot start with double-digit wins, made all the higher with a little bit of unexpected coaches' poll love, and the crash of a broken conference season and Selection Sunday heartbreak. Every season, we seem to have one or six of those stories.
This is why I've been purposely cool on Dayton (12-1) and Rhode Island (14-1) coming into the beginning of Atlantic 14 play, and why I think both squads have a lot to prove as the rough grind of league season begins. The signature, high-profile, Weekly Watch-worthy wins over traditional powers have been great (UD over Pitt and Louisville; URI over Providence and Syracuse), and nobody can say "but they haven't played anybody," but these are not laurels to rest on for either team. Even with those two wins, UD's nonconf strength of schedule is hardly NCAA-worthy (78th
, according to Pom), and it took everything they had not to lose at home against Akron last week. URI's is even worse: 132, and they do give up the points (70 PA).
We've said this before in the ESPN chats (by the way, there's one today at 4PM ET!), but we would be as happy as anybody if Will Daniels
earns the league's player of the year award. He's been the most consistent big man in the league over his three-plus years in URI light blue, and has amassed an impressive 18.3 ppg and 7.3 rpg so far. Dayton is paced by senior guard Brian Roberts
, whose 19.1 ppg is fourth among league players.
How to win this one, and make an early A-14 statement? Dictate tempo, first and foremost... Dayton likes it slow n' nasty, and the Rams like to run. And Hoops Gods help us all if this comes down to free throws: UD hits just 65 percent, but URI is indeed steadily moving up the charts at 68.9 after a horrible start. See? Drills do work!UD 92, URI 83