I spent some time thinking while I was writing up my preview for Robert Morris vs. St. Francis (PA). No, I wasn’t questioning my life choices for following Northeast Conference basketball. That wasn’t it at all. It was more about thinking how I should give the readers a preview for a bigger game. After all, we have several key matchups around the country tonight.
That and, well, I like a side in this game and hopefully it gives me a chance to look smart. The Dayton Flyers are a road favorite of 3.5 with a total of 143 at Bookmaker Sportsbook with a line showing signs of moving up to -4. VCU is hoping for revenge for the loss at Dayton earlier this season and is also hoping to erase the bad memories of getting trucked by rival Richmond over the weekend.
Dayton is looking to strengthen its position as the best mid-major team in the country and quite possibly one of the top 10 teams overall in the nation with less than a month until the First Four games in Dayton. The Flyers are taking the early money here and this line probably did open too low.
After all, VCU has spent all season falling short of expectations. The Rams are just 9-16 ATS on the year. Dayton, with a big, giant magnifying glass placed on each one of their games, has gone 15-10 ATS with that 23-2 straight up record. Dayton has not lost a game in regulation this season and has won all 12 Atlantic-10 matchups.
The trend line for VCU is going in the wrong direction. An impressive win over Davidson on February 7 gave way to a hideous loss at home to George Mason on February 12. Things got worse when Richmond exacted revenge for a 19-point loss with an 18-point win in the inner-city rivalry. VCU was only 24-of-70 from the floor in that game. It was as bad as it sounded.
Nobody has done a good job of slowing down Dayton’s offense. Even in their two losses, the Flyers managed 1.075 and 1.053 points per possession and that was against consensus top-25 types of teams like Kansas and Colorado. The worst offensive performance of the season actually came in Dayton’s last game with 1.031 PPP against UMass in a horrible spot. The Flyers went through the motions in that one and still won by eight, but came nowhere close to covering.
They will not be going through the motions tonight. Dayton even had its highest TO% of the season in the January 14 matchup and still won the game by 14. A lot of things need to change for VCU to have better fortunes this time around. For starters, they’ll have to try to keep pace with Dayton on offense, which is easier said than done. In that loss to Richmond over the weekend, VCU had .814 PPP. In a loss at home to Rhode Island earlier this season, the Rams had .791 PPP. They only had .909 against Dayton in the first game.
VCU was kind of a reliable team for a while in that they would beat the bad teams in this league pretty soundly, but that narrative dried up with last week’s feeble effort against George Mason. They have definitely had a hard time stepping up in class and they are stepping up in class in this matchup.
Marcus Evans only played 18 minutes in the loss to George Mason and did not play against Richmond. Even if VCU’s senior leader can go in tonight’s game, he hasn’t really been himself lately. In fact, he has only exceeded 15 points once since conference play began. He had 19 in the win over Davidson on February 7. Otherwise, Evans hasn’t shot the ball well at all.
Dayton is a predator and VCU is a wounded animal. I don’t think much more needs to be said about this game. The Flyers are legit and the only way they get beaten in A-10 play is if they beat themselves. They won’t do that with the laser focus of a VCU game. It just won’t happen.
This line was too low. The market is correcting it. VCU isn’t the team that we thought they were. I’m even going to give Dayton at -4 because that is where this line is headed, but if you can find a 3.5, be sure to pounce.
Pick: Dayton -4