DavidsonDaytonGeorge MasonGeorge WashingtonRhode IslandRichmondSt. BonaventureTourney CentralVCU

Atlantic 10 Friday Preview: Dayton, VCU take center stage in Pittsburgh

All games are broadcast on NBC Sports Network.

#1 Dayton Flyers vs. #9 Davidson Wildcats – Noon ET

In the last matchup between these two programs, Davidson took Dayton to overtime at Belk Arena. The Flyers’ Scoochie Smith then proceeded to drop 11 points in the extra period, propelling them to an 89-82 home win. Davidson’s Jack Gibbs and Peyton Aldridge had 27 points apiece.

In today’s quarterfinal, Davidson is going to need to step up on the defensive end and keep Dayton away from the free throw line. The Flyers are 6th in the nation in Free Throws Attempted to Field Goals Attempted (44.8) which means they excel at drawing fouls in and around the rim. Without a dominant rim protector, the Wildcats are going to need to fortify their front court on Dayton’s end of the floor with strong play from Aldridge and Will Magarity. Archie Miller’s team also does a fantastic job at taking care of the ball and is 6th in the nation in offensive steal percentage. Dayton’s guards are strong with the ball and this poses a challenge for opponents like Davidson who work well off points in transition.

Ultimately, both teams have effective offenses and it’ll come down to who gets hot at the right moments. Kendall Pollard, Xeyrius Williams, Charles Cooke, and Smith all scored in double-figures in the last matchup which poses a major problem for Bob McKillop’s man-to-man dominant defense. The Wildcats will need to fire up their own guns to go point-for-point with the Flyers if they want to steal this one. Freshman guard Jon Axel Gudmundsson is coming off a career-best 16 points against La Salle in the opening round on 4-5 shooting from three. Look for him build on this performance and get more looks from beyond the arc. If Davidson comes to play, we should have an intense matchup that pushes Dayton to prove they belong atop the A-10.

#5 St. Bonaventure Bonnies vs. #4 Rhode Island – 2:30 ET

If there’s one thing that’s dependable about St. Bonaventure it’s their ever raucous fan section, and they’re sure to turn up for this exciting quarterfinal matchup against Rhode Island. The Bonnies are coming off a dominant win over Massachusetts yesterday, riding strong performances from Matt Mobley and Jaylen Adams. URI, meanwhile, enters in a must-win situation as they currently sit right on the bubble to make the NCAA tournament.

In their lone matchup this season, Rhody handled Bona with ease behind double-figures from four different starters. The Rams simply outshot the Bonnies, 45.5% to a weak 29.5%. Jaylen Adams was the lone bright spot for SBU with 25 points on 4-8 from three. This time around, Mark Schmidt’s team promises to bring a more balanced attack.

With the added pressure of a potential NCAA tournament bid for Rhode Island, expect them to come out the gate with a high level of intensity. The Rams have one five games in a row, due in part of their ability to diversify scoring across their lineup. E.C. Matthews, Hassan Martin, Jared Terrell, and  Kuran Iverson all can put up big numbers and the former three are averaging at least 12.5 PPG. Look for Rhody to attack the Bona defense on the interior as they lack a serious rim protector.

This matchup should be one of the better one’s today with the #4 and #5 seeds going at it. Look for Adams and Mobley to try to carry Bona through. We’ll see if it’ll be enough against a red-hot and hungry Dan Hurley-led squad.

#2 VCU Rams vs. #7 George Mason- 6 ET

In his second season as head coach, Will Wade is seeking to lead his Rams back to the conference title game. VCU (24-7, 14-4 A-10) takes on George Mason tonight, just five days after the Rams beat the Patriots in Richmond 72-60. In that contest, Justin Tillman went off for 24 points and 11 rebounds on 12-15 shooting from the field. Needless to say, Dave Paulsen and co. are concerned about how to keep him in check.

Mason is coming off a stellar come from behind win against Fordham yesterday in which Marquise Moore was an absolute monster (25 points, 19 rebounds in 43 minutes). However, the Patriots did go into overtime which isn’t a great sign for their endurance going forward. The reality is, VCU is clearly the better team. They have more scorers, more experience, and a much more effective defense. What George Mason can do is try to keep the Rams off the boards and limit their turnovers. VCU thrives in transition and if Mason is strong with the ball they can limit the transition buckets. Plus, with Moore and Orit Livingston II the Patriots have two reliable scoring options that could keep their team in the game. GMU can put up a fight here, but in all likelihood they’re simply going to be the first step in VCU’s march into the weekend.

#3 Richmond Spiders vs. #6 George Washington – 8 ET

In his first game since being named A-10 Player of the Year, Richmond’s T.J. Cline looks to show the conference why he’s worthy of the award. Cline leads the Spiders in points, rebounds, assists, and field goal percentage, which poses both an advantage and a challenge for George Washington. If they decide to double Cline, which they likely will, it’ll force other guys to step up, likely the sharpshooting ShawnDre’ Jones (17.0 PPG) and sophomore guard Khwan Fore (10.0 PPG).

Richmond won both matchups against GW this season in fairly decisive fashion, by seven and nine points. Cline was dominant in both contests. The outcome of this game hinges first on the Colonials’ ability to stop cline and second on the effectiveness GW’s interior attack. This team will go as far as Tyler Cavanaugh leads them; even when he was not clicking offensively against SLU he grabbed a game-altering 16 rebounds. Richmond is the favorite but GW, feeding off their NIT experience from last season, could give Chris Mooney’s team a tough time later tonight.