Here we are. The Dayton Flyers are your 2016-17 A-10 regular season champions, and they’ll hold the #1 seed in Pittsburgh. Yes, it is March. While there is still a lot to be worked out in terms of general conference seeding, this we know for sure. The Flyers displayed yet another gutsy performance, winning their 9th in a row and improving to 15-2 in conference play and 24-5 overall. If it wasn’t clear before, it’s now clear that Dayton’s an NCAA Tournament team; the Flyers could land as high as a 6 or 7 seed depending on their performance in the A-10 Tournament. VCU and Dayton could very well meet again, and Wednesday night’s game was another indicator as to why these teams are becoming rivals. Every time they meet, it’s an instant classic.
Dayton got off to a hot start at home, leading 26-15 with less than 7 minutes to play in the first half. While Charles Cooke and Scoochie Smith got the ball rolling early, VCU was stagnant and couldn’t get much to fall. The Rams would go on a little bit of a run in the final minutes of the half and bring their deficit within 7, but the first 20 minutes belonged to the Flyers.
VCU relied on Mo Alie-Cox extensively in the second half, and as the Rams kept their deficit within 10, they slowly began to creep back into the game. VCU got within 2 with less than a minute to play, but they wouldn’t score any points from there on out. The Flyers made their free throws down the stretch and secured the game on the line. It was an emotional roller coaster for these Dayton seniors, and they showed up to play in their final home game.
Charles Cooke and Scoochie Smith went for 20 points apiece. They also combined for 8 rebounds and 11 assists. Other seniors Kyle Davis and Kendall Pollard also finished in double figures with 12 and 11 points respectively. It felt like a picture-perfect ending to the careers of these 4 special players in UD Arena. They left it all out on the floor and had to fight down the stretch to fend off VCU.
With a road game against George Washington to finish the regular season and an always challenging A-10 Tournament ahead, it’s time for Dayton to get back to work. Wednesday night was a night to celebrate. This program has made enormous strides under Archie Miller in the last 4 seasons, and this particular team knows it’s special. The Atlantic 10 Tournament will be an enormous test as always, especially considering the Flyers have not won since 2003, but if there’s any year to get it done, it’s right now.
As for VCU, the Rams have a shot to break this tiebreaker with the Flyers in the A-10 championship game. If both teams manage to win next Friday and Saturday and advance to the tournament finals, then we’re going to have one hell of a rematch on a neutral floor in Pittsburgh. The Rams were led by Mo Alie-Cox with 23 points and Justin Tillman with 18 of his own. Despite a poor shooting night, the Rams executed their game plan to perfection by controlling the boards. VCU had 16 offensive rebounds and played through its bigs all night long. The Rams are now 3/30 from three point range in their last 2 games, which is a little bit concerning in March.
VCU and Dayton have both proven to be dangerous Atlantic 10 teams with experience and passion. Let by two high-level coaches, these teams are going to try and recreate their Cinderella story pasts in this year’s tourney. It’s been done before, and these two rosters are as talented as they’ve ever been. Bring it on.