Is the cream beginning to rise? Dayton and VCU stand alone at 5-0 in conference play after an exciting week of action that included a few near-upsets and one major Spider attack that might give the conference a little arachnophobia.
RAMS and FLYERS GAIN SOME SEPARATION
VCU and Dayton have officially gone two games up on the pack after two very different weeks. The Rams were tested but proved up to the challenge with a gutsy road win at Rhode Island then a short-handed victory at Duquesne. VCU trailed Rhode Island but got 26 points from an injured Treveon Graham including a go-ahead three with just under three minutes to play. Graham suffered a sprained ankle early in the second half but returned to lead VCU in the win over Rhody. That injury however kept him off the court as VCU headed to Pittsburgh to take on the Dukes of Duquesne. The Rams started cold before taking a 14-point lead into the half. The Dukes fought back in the second however, cutting VCU’s lead to as few as two points before the Rams got a big three from junior guard, Melvin Johnson, then were able to ice the game at the line to extend their win streak to 10. Dayton on the other hand had little trouble in their two wins to extend their winning streak to eight. Correction: The Flyers did struggle early, trailing La Salle then leading SLU by just five at the half, both games on the Flyers home courts. But the speed and talent of the Flyers proved too much as Dayton outscored both by a combined 72-48 in the second halves (+12 avg second-half margins) of those games in performances that should move Dayton into this week’s AP top-25. The Flyers got big games from a number of starters on the week. Kendall Pollard (20 points) and Jordan Sibert (18) led the Flyers in their win over SLU while Dyshawn Pierre and Scoochie Smith led UD with 16 each in the Flyers’ win over La Salle. Pierre grabbed double-digit rebounds in both, averaging a 13-point, 13-rebound double-double on the week.
THE SPIDERS ATTACK
I SWEAR I’ve been saying it all damn year but this Richmond team is far more talented than their record suggests. That is obviously both promising but ultimately very disappointing. Richmond’s NCAA tournament resume wouldn’t get past HR’s desk, instead finding it’s way into the shredder. They are however talented enough to make a run in Brooklyn and will now doubt dish out some Ls throughout the conference season. The Spiders proved that this week by taking GW to double-overtime before falling 73-70 in DC (was Savage fouled?) then blasting a very good Davidson team they lost to earlier this season. The difference in both games? Three-point shooting (not to mention a home court advantage that we’ll get to shortly). Richmond went a combined 23-53 from deep on the week, shooting over 40% in both games. Kendall Anthony passed Jonathan Baker for the Spider’s career three-point record Saturday, needing three 3-pointers to do so and finishing 7-11 from deep as Richmond destroyed Davidson, 89-63. With that win, UofR is a solid 9-2 at home but a putrid 0-6 in true road games. In their defense, just one of those road losses came to a team ranked outside of kenpom’s top-100 (at JMU), but if you want to dance, you gotta win some tough ones on the road. Richmond travels to Dayton next Saturday with another one of those opportunities.
Don’t look now, but your St. Bonaventure Bonnies are right in the A-10 mix, tied with the likes of UMass, Davidson, Rhode Island and Richmond at 3-2 in conference action. The Bonnies boast a 14-point road win at UMass and have a top-100 win over Bobby Hurley’s Buffalo Bulls. They lost at Pitt by just four points but just two games later fell at home to Maryland Eastern Shore then immediately delivered Delaware their first win of the season following that letdown. They are the A-10’s box of chocolates. In A-10 play however they have seen some very solid performances out of 7′ center, Youssou Ndoye. Ndoye has posted 100+ offensive ratings in four of Bona’s five conference games, including season-highs these past two. Ndoye hit a 139 rating the Bonnies’ 20-point demolition of George Mason, scoring 28 points to go with 13 rebounds, three blocks, two steals and an assist. He followed up that performance with 15 points, six rebounds, five assists, three blocks in a win over last year’s A-10 tourney champs. Youssou connected on 13 of his 15 attempts and went 17-21 from the free throw line in those games. When Ndoye is dominant like that the Bonnies are very tough to beat as they proved going 2-0 this past week.
A10Talk.com PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
TJ Cline (Richmond) – 19.5 pts, 6 rebs, 2.5 ast, 61% fg%
Anthony will get the love but I love the consistency of Cline this week. TJ shot well both games and gave the Spiders a nice presence on the glass. I gotta admit, I also give Cline this award as my UofR rep because Anthony missed 13 of his 19 attempts against GW.
Dyshawn Pierre (Dayton) – 13 pts, 13 rebs, 4 ast
This dude does is all for Dayton. Folks abandoned ship when Dayton dismissed what was left of their size but Pierre has be brilliant in holding down the paint for the Flyers, averaging 13 rebounds this week.
Youssou Ndoye (St. Bonaventure) – 21.5 pts, 9.5 rebs, 3 blks, 3 ast 86.6% fg%
Just look at that line. Every team in America wants that type of production from their starting center.
HONORABLE MENTION: Treveon Graham (VCU)
Graham isn’t a player of the week because he played in just one of two games, but what a performance he put on in the game he played. Graham played on a sprained ankle and scored 26 points to go with eight rebounds in a hard-fought comeback road victory at Rhode Island. Needless to say, it was an A-10 Player of the Year type of performance.
There are a number of great games coming up this week but non as juicy as the one we get this Tuesday when Dayton (15-2, 5-0) travels to Davidson (12-4, 3-2). The Flyers are 3-1 in true road games but dropped their only road game against a kenpom top-100 opponent, 69-55 at Arkansas. This was of course before the Flyers dismissed Scott and Robinson, but they’ll get their toughest road test of the season with this new smaller lineup against a Wildcats club that ranks No.45 by Pomeroy’s computers. Davidson is a perfect 8-0 at home by an average margin of victory of 25 points.