There weren’t any major surprises in A-10 games on the opening night of conference play. Rhode Island, however, played its final non-conference game at Brown and lost, dealing the league a major blow. 4 conference games tipped off, and all the favorites won. VCU took care of business against Fordham. Richmond blew out Saint Joseph’s. Duquesne, the slight favorite over Saint Louis at home, won by 14. Finally, Dayton went on the road and dismantled La Salle to kick off its Philadelphia road trip.
In my mind, Dayton was the biggest winner of the night, as it begins to show non-conference play wasn’t a fluke. The Flyers haven’t taken down La Salle on the road since 2011; they always seem to struggle with the Explorers in Gola Arena, but last night was different. Dayton pulled away in the 1st half, and there wasn’t much point in watching the final 20 minutes. Obi Toppin scored 20 points, pulled down 7 rebounds, and dealt out 4 assists. The only complaint there was him being in the game too long after Dayton went up 30. Trey Landers’ production continues to go unnoticed, but he’s such an important piece for the Dayton Flyers. On triple double watch, Landers scored 10 points, grabbed 8 rebounds, and dealt out 6 assists. His play on both ends of the floor dictates how successful Dayton’s going to be.
I think Ryan Mikesell and Trey Landers are having a quiet fight for the title of Dayton's unofficial "glue guy" this season.
— A10 Talk (@A10Talk) January 3, 2020
The Flyers finish their road trip on Sunday against Saint Joseph’s. There was a quote in the broadcast about what this team planned to do during its two-day break, and Anthony Grant was pretty adamant there wouldn’t be any sight-seeing or hanging around — just practice and watching film. I think we have to start talking about Dayton winning 16, 17, or even 18 games this year. Chances are they’ll slip up once, but it feels like David and Goliath where Goliath is the other 13 teams. VCU is the one squad that can reasonably compete, as pointed out on Twitter, but even the Rams don’t look the part of Dayton.
There’s only one team that has any shot of keeping Dayton from winning the A-10 regular season and that’s VCU. I don’t see the Rams keeping pace with Dayton on an 18-game schedule though, but VCU on one night could beat them in Brooklyn. Flyers the fav to win both chips though.
— AntlanticTeen (@AntlanticTeen) January 3, 2020
Marcus Weathers & Michael Hughes
To the surprise of many, Duquesne’s forwards were so much better than Saint Louis’, and en route to a 73-59 victory, Duquesne got 26 points from Marcus Weathers. The junior has been the Dukes’ “Kenpom MVP” for the last 5 games, and rightfully so. He’s scored 19, 21, 18, 25, and 26 in his last 5 outings. Had the rest of the team kept up in the UAB & Marshall games, the Dukes could still be undefeated. On the other end of the floor, Michael Hughes had a literal block party. With 7 blocks and 6 rebounds, Hughes helped stifle the Saint Louis effort, and the Billikens had a really tough time finishing at the rim, shooting just 17/43 on the night. With a win at home over Davidson on Sunday, Duquesne could be off to a 2-0 conference start with a lot of winnable games ahead. 5-0 to start league play is a real possibility.
— Duquesne Basketball (@DuqMBB) January 3, 2020
Jake Wojcik & Bones Hyland
It feels criminal putting a Spider and a Ram in the same headline (don’t hate me), but both shooters have had nice 2 game stretches where they’re starting to emerge as dangerous three point threats. Wojcik is now 7/8 from three after hitting just 2 from deep all season. Bones Hyland is 8/11 in his last 2 games and is proving to be a pivotal piece to VCU’s puzzle and an impressive player for years to come.
Ugh. Just when it looked like URI would ride into conference play with some momentum, the Rams lose on the road to a Brown team that needed that win to get back to .500. There looked to be as many keaney blue shirts as brown in the Ivy League arena, but that didn’t cool down the Bears who had the shooters’ touch from the outside. They shot 13/28 from three, including a dagger that put Rhode Island away in the final minutes after the Rams managed to get within 5. What does this mean for the league? 2 things: Rhode Island has a lot of work to do to get into at-large conversation (probably 14 conference wins), and the “top tier” of the league is not that well-defined. It feels like it’s Dayton, VCU, and then god knows.
After a 3 game win streak, the Billikens had one of their worst games of the season on the road against Duquesne. Some pegged this as SLU’s chance to make a push for the bubble, but the Dukes had another thing in mind. Defensively, SLU had no answer for Marcus Weathers, and on the other end of the floor, it felt like the Billikens missed every bunny they got. Even though the Bills forced 21 Duquesne turnovers, they still couldn’t capitalize and ended up getting beat in the 2nd half.
Saint Joseph’s & Fordham
Not too many surprises here… these 2 are in for a long season in the A-10 conference.