Last Updated: 2017-03-07
Friday nights are generally pretty quiet for college basketball in anticipation of the big Saturday slate, but we’ve got a good one on tap in the Atlantic-10 Conference tonight. The Dayton Flyers are on the road against the Rhode Island Rams. An ESPN2 broadcast crew will be on hand at the Ryan Center in Kingston in a battle of two teams near the top of the A-10 standings. Rhode Island is favored by about 2.5 points, which would imply that Dayton is slightly stronger from a power ratings standpoint. Other books are showing a full -3, with one book at -3.5 at time of writing. The total is barely below 140. Bettors can use the promo code ‘BTB’ over at Galaxy Sports and score a 100 percent deposit bonus up to $300 on their initial deposit.
Dayton and Rhode Island are part of a four-team race atop the A-10 regular season standings. Dayton is currently tied at the top with VCU with a 9-2 conference mark. The Flyers are 18-5 overall and 13-7 against the number. The Flyers had a little bit of travel trouble getting into town with the weather and arrived late on Thursday night. Rhode Island is 16-7 straight up and 12-10 against the number. The Rams are 8-3 in conference play, so this game would push them into a tie for second place and leave them a half-game behind the VCU Rams. The Fordham Rams are more like the Los Angeles Rams at 4-7 in conference.
This is a really big game for both teams. Unlike other mid-majors, the Atlantic-10 has a chance at getting a handful of teams into the Big Dance, though the league is not nearly as strong as it was last season. Both of these teams are in the top 50 of the RPI, so this is a game that could have serious implications in about a month when the Selection Committee meets. Dayton beat Rhode Island 67-64 at home on January 6 and that stands as the team’s best win of the season. Head coach Archie Miller is one of the best in the business and constantly gets requests for interviews from bigger programs. He hasn’t left yet, but that possibility is there every offseason. This isn’t a must-win game for Dayton, but the Flyers lack a big win away from home, whether on a neutral court or a true road court. This is the last shot at one of those.
The nice thing about this game is that both teams are at full strength, so injuries shouldn’t decide it. Charles Cooke has been the most consistent scorer for the Flyers with 16.7 points per game on 46 percent shooting and he’s been one of a few Dayton players to have success from deep. He’s shooting 39 percent from distance. Kendall Pollard has been a reliable scorer when he’s been in the lineup. He’s missed six games due to injury, but has scored nearly 14 points on 56 percent shooting each night. Scoochie Smith is the heart and soul of this UD roster with 13.2 points per game on about 46 percent shooting. Ken Pomeroy puts Dayton as his 34th-best team with an adjusted offensive efficiency that ranks 75th and a top-25 adjusted defensive efficiency.
Rhode Island ranks 45th in the KenPom metrics. The Rams have been battling injuries throughout the season and there have been some ups and downs. EC Matthews has managed to stay healthy, which is great because he was an enormous loss last season. Jarvis Garrett and Hassan Martin, who would generally comprise the “Big Three” for URI, have both missed time. They are both expected to go in tonight’s showdown. Head coach Dan Hurley has a very strong team and the Rams are certainly battle-tested. Though they have avoided VCU and have lost to Dayton and Richmond in conference play, the Rams played Duke, Cincinnati, Valparaiso, and Houston in the non-conference portion of the season.
The nice thing about having Rhode Island’s talent level is that an off night from one or two guys isn’t a kiss of death. Too many teams in college basketball are too reliant on one or two players. Rhode Island has a lot of guys that can carry the load. The primary guy is EC Matthews, who has 15 points per contest. Hassan Martin has 14 points and 6.5 rebounds per effort. Jared Terrell has scored 13 points per game. Jarvis Garrett has been in and out of the lineup, but he’s only shooting 39.5 percent to keep his numbers down. True freshman Jeff Dowtin is seeing more playing time. The Rams and Flyers can really go toe-to-toe with each other and this should be a spectacular game.
College Basketball Free Pick: Rhode Island Rams -2.5
Dayton is still looking for that signature win away from campus and it would be great to get this one. The truth is that this game is probably way too close to definitively call and you should look for other games on the slate to get action on. The lean to URI here has to do with Dayton’s inability to get that road win and also a little bit of travel trouble with the massive winter storm bearing down on the northeast. One tip we can give here is to look to fade Dayton with the long trip to Saint Louis for Tuesday night’s game.