Before we get into the hot semifinal action today in Pittsburgh, let’s talk about yesterday. Specifically, let’s talk about Dayton’s yesterday. I don’t want to belabor this point, but this Dayton team has consistently hamstrung itself with poor starts this season. It has happened enough that it has become a pattern and one that should have been corrected months ago. It is utterly inexcusable that the problem that cost them games against Northwestern, Nebraska, and St. Mary’s is still happening this late in the season. When they fell behind against GW, everyone rolled their eyes (or should have) because the Flyers had literally nothing at stake in that game. When it happened yesterday, it was further evidence of a problem – a strange problem – for a senior-laden team. They are going to get one more chance this season to fix this. They had better do it.
Davidson played very well, taking advantage of the Flyers’ inexplicable decision to guard its only two players (Aldridge and Gibbs) without help. Gibbs, in particular, was spectacular. The rest of the games all went as you would expect with 3 of the top 4 seeds playing this afternoon. GW put up a good fight against Richmond, but it’ll be fun to watch VCU play Richmond for the third time this year. That’s a fun rivalry. Let’s get to it.
#9 Davidson vs. #4 Rhode Island
Dayton not only caused its fans some consternation, but it inadvertently boned Rhode Island as well. The Rams would have benefited more from a game against Dayton than this afternoon’s tilt against Davidson. They’re still in the danger zone for at-large consideration, so making the final tomorrow seems essential. Maybe they’ll learn from Dayton’s mistakes and, you know, guard the only two dangerous players Davidson has. Seems like a radical strategic decision.
The good news for Rhode Island is that they can still lock up an automatic bid which would make their Sunday much less stressful. They’re very capable of winning this tournament, particularly if Davidson and Richmond make their path far easier than it initially looked. I’ll take the Rams here.
#3 Richmond vs. #2 VCU
There’s an outside chance that some bubble team is going to get left out if tomorrow’s championship game is between Richmond and Davidson. That’s a very real chance since two of the most offensively gifted players in the conference play for those two teams. Discussions about Richmond basically begin and end with T.J. Cline, which is fine because he’s worth watching by himself. VCU might not be a great team to watch, but they’re going to make life difficult for whoever they draw in the first round next week. This should be a fun game. I’ll take VCU in this one since they handled Richmond twice this year. What happens in Richmond should happen in Pittsburgh, too, I suppose. This would be a Ram-on-Ram final game, which seems appropriate.