Where: UD Arena
When: 6 p.m. central on Friday 1/6
Spread: Dayton -4
Tale of the Tape
Both teams are coming in riding 4 game winning streaks. Dayton’s has been a little strange, though. They alternated rock fight wins against Vandy and La Salle with blowouts over VMI (whatever) and at St. Bonaventure (impressive). The main difference in those two blowouts was offense as the defense has been pretty consistent.
Rhode Island, however, just bludgeoned its first two A10 opponents. Beating SLU by 34, even on the road, just isn’t that impressive. SLU has joined a small cadre of consistently horrific teams in otherwise strong conferences that are making a loud argument for implementing a relegation system in college. The A10 is blessed with a few of these teams, unfortunately. Wouldn’t that be entertaining? But I digress. Rhody’s 30-point beatdown of St. Joe’s, however, is an eyebrow raiser.
Obviously, this is a big early A10 matchup. Amusingly, after Rhode Island had been decimated by injuries last year they came into UD Arena and handed the Flyers their most frustrating home loss of the season. This season, UD is the decimated team, especially if Charles Cooke doesn’t play again. As of writing, it was unclear whether he would play, but even if he does there’s no guarantee he will be any good.
Even with Cooke, though, URI will be a handful. E.C. Matthews hasn’t been quite as good as everyone hoped he would be coming off of an ACL tear, but he and Hassan Martin (back last game) are combining for over 30 points per game. Guarding both will be a challenge. It also looks like the Rams have found their stride after a mini slump where they lost 3 of 4.
Both of these teams have had uneven early seasons and need strong showings in conference play to warrant consideration in March. This is one of very few opportunities they will get to have anything resembling a signature win between now and Selection Sunday, which is an unfortunate fact of life in a down A10. Nice of ESPN2 to host this one. I’ll make a contingent pick here. If Cooke plays, I’ll take Dayton -4. If not…Rhody +4. We should know a lot more about how the A10 will go after this one.