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Davidson-VCU, Part 3 on tap in A-10 quarterfinals

Regular-season championships are great accomplishments – one VCU has only earned outright twice since joining the Atlantic 10.

But when your goals are making the NCAA Tournament, they mean something between diddly and squat in locking you into the field of 64.

The No. 1 VCU Rams (24-7, 15-3 A-10) will look to lock in its place in the NCAA Tournament beginning with a quarterfinal matchup against No. 8 Davidson (16-15, 8-10 A-10).

The Rams and Wildcats will tip-off in the breakfast game, an 11:30 a.m. standalone game from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. VCU is favored by five points on KenPom and by seven points on Caesars Sportsbook. The game will be nationally televised on USA Network.

Trilogy completed

Thursday morning’s game will be the third meeting between VCU and Davidson this season, with the Rams completing a sweep of the Wildcats during the regular season.

In the first meeting at the Siegel Center on Jan. 7, VCU won 89-72 on the strength of 15 made 3-pointers – the most in a single game for VCU in more than five years. The onslaught was led by graduate transfer David Shriver, who went 6-of-8 from deep and scored 18 points, while A-10 Player of the Year Ace Baldwin added 19 points with three made 3-pointers of his own.

The Jan. 31 return trip to Belk Arena proved to be more of a challenge, with VCU scraping by with a 61-59 road victory. The script was completely flipped on this night, as the Rams were held without a made 3-pointer for the first time since a 2006 win against William & Mary.

The road win was sealed by Baldwin, who scored a game-high 14 points, including a go-ahead jump shot with 15.8 seconds to play. Sophomore forward and All-A-10 Third Team selection Jalen DeLoach fell one rebound short of a double-double, adding 12 points of his own, while fellow All-A-10 Third Team selection Brandon Johns Jr. tacked on 12 points and seven rebounds.

Thursday’s game against Davidson marks the second consecutive year where VCU faces a team it swept in the regular season in the A-10 quarterfinals. In 2022, the No. 3 Rams faced the No. 6 Richmond Spiders, who pulled off the upset win on the way to an improbable A-10 Tournament title.

The Loyer is in

The last time VCU and Davidson met, the Wildcats were without leading scorer Foster Loyer.

The senior guard and All-A-10 Second Team selection is back in a major way for the Wildcats, helping lead the team to a double-digit win on Wednesday over the No. 9 St. Bonaventure Bonnies.

Loyer stuffed the stat sheet, scoring 14 points to go along with eight rebounds and six assists (completing what our friends at @3BidLeaguePod would call a ‘triple-nickel’).

On the season, Loyer leads the Wildcats with 16.5 points per game and 4.5 assists per game. The Michigan native has played all but one game this season – the Jan. 31 meeting with VCU.

The offense runs through Loyer in Davidson, North Carolina – and the matchup with Baldwin will create one of the most intriguing point guard matchups of the entire A-10 Tournament.

Tournament history

Dueling trends are at play in a VCU-Davidson matchup.

On the VCU end, the Rams have been eliminated twice in the last three years in their first game as a double-bye team – including in 2019 as the top seed.

Meanwhile, Davidson has never been eliminated before the semifinals in the A-10 Tournament since joining the conference.

The Rams and Wildcats have faced off three times in the A-10 Tournament – with the Rams holding a 3-0 advantage. The last time the teams faced in the A-10 Tournament was in 2021, with VCU eliminating Davidson in the semifinals, 64-52.

Other notes

  • Davidson redshirt junior Sam Mennenga joined Johns and DeLoach on the All-A-10 Third Team, after ranking in the top 15 in the conference in scoring, rebounding, field-goal percentage and 3-point percentage. Mennenga is Davidson’s second-leading scorer, averaging 15.5 points per game, and scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the win over St. Bonaventure.
  • Apart from VCU’s three all-conference selections, sophomore guard Jayden Nunn and redshirt sophomore Jamir Watkins will be ones to watch for the Rams. Nunn is capable of offensive explosions, notably his 31-point outing against St. Joseph’s, while Watkins helps lead the second team as VCU’s sixth man and averages 10 points per game.
  • VCU enters Thursday on a six-game win streak, the second-longest streak in the conference. Only George Mason has a longer streak, with a seven-game win streak. Both teams ended the regular season with six-game streaks, with George Mason adding to its win streak with a Wednesday win over Richmond in its A-10 Tournament opener.
  • New Davidson head coach Matt McKillop has never beat VCU. McKillop is in his first year as head coach of the Wildcats, replacing his father Bob after more than 30 years at the helm of the program. VCU has won four of the last five meetings against Davidson.
  • VCU appears to be on the outside looking in for an at-large bid, should the Rams not win it all in Brooklyn. Entering Thursday, VCU sits at 67th in the NET, with an 0-1 record in Quadrant 1 games (a 62-47 road loss to Memphis on Nov. 20). VCU is 76th in KenPom, three spots behind Dayton for the A-10 lead.