Atlantic 10 announces schedule pairings for 2020-21 season

Dayton against Richmond on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020, at the Robins Center in Richmond, Va.
Dayton against Richmond on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020, at the Robins Center in Richmond, Va.

Credit: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

Credit: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

Dayton, Richmond, Saint Louis expected to be among favorites

The Atlantic 10 Conference released its men’s basketball schedule pairings Thursday, five weeks later than it did in 2019 and six weeks later than 2018.

The pairings don’t guarantee a season in 2021 for the conference. No one knows at this point what the state of the coronavirus pandemic will be in November when the college basketball season begins or in January when conference play starts — or when it usually starts. However, planning continues for the season everyone hopes takes place.

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Here are 10 things to know about the release of the schedule pairings and what they mean for the Dayton Flyers:

1. Repeat opponents: Dayton, which finished 29-2 last season 18-0 in the A-10, plays home and away games against these five teams:

Virginia Commonwealth: The preseason favorites last season finished eighth with an 8-10 mark. The Rams lost seven of their last eight games to finish 18-13 overall in coach Mike Rhoades’ third season. They return one starter: sophomore guard Nah’Shon Hyland.

Rhode Island: The Rams (21-9 overall) lost four of their last seven games, finishing third at 13-5. They return two starters: senior guard Fatts Russell and junior forward Jermaine Harris.

Saint Louis: The Billikens (23-8, 12-6) won the last five games to secure the No. 4 seed for the A-10 tournament, which was cancelled because of the pandemic March 12. They return their top eight scorers and will be one of the preseason favorites.

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Duquesne: The Dukes (21-9, 11-7) placed fifth last season and have climbed in the standings every season since 2017 when they finished last. They return seven of their eight leading scorers, including three fifth-year seniors: center Michael Hughes; and guards Marcus Weathers and Tavian Dunn-Martin.

George Washington: The Colonials (12-20, 6-12) tied for 10th. They have finished in the bottom four in the standings three seasons in a row after finishing in the top half four seasons in a row. Dayton beat George Washington 76-51 on March 7 in the final game of the season.

2. Familiar foes: This will be the sixth straight season Dayton has played Duquesne twice in the regular season and the seventh straight season it has played two games against Saint Louis. Pittsburgh and St. Louis are the two A-10 cities closest to Dayton.

Dayton will place VCU twice for the fifth straight season. The Flyers swept the season series for the first time last season, ending a four-game losing streak against VCU.

Dayton will also play Rhode Island twice for the fifth straight season. The Flyers won the games last season in Dayton and Kingston, R.I., by a combined total of 41 points.

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3. Where else Dayton plays: Dayton also plays road games at Davidson, Fordham, Massachusetts and St. Bonaventure. This will be the fifth straight season it has played at UMass.

4. Who else visits Dayton: George Mason, La Salle, Richmond and Saint Joseph’s also play at UD Arena.

Richmond, which finished second last season with 14-4 mark, should be the preseason favorite. It returns its top seven scorers. The Spiders’ 24-11 mark was their best overall record since a 29-8 season in 2011, the last time they reached the NCAA tournament.

5. Best games: The Flyers should be one of the top four contenders, especially if point guard Jalen Crutcher returns for his senior season. As of Thursday, he had not made an announcement about whether he plans to turn pro and keep his name in the NBA Draft or return for his senior season.

Dayton’s home game against Richmond and the two games against Saint Louis should rank among the most important games on the conference schedule.

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6. Return to New York City: Dayton was in Brooklyn, N.Y., when the A-10 tournament was cancelled and at the airport preparing for the flight home when the NCAA tournament was cancelled. It will return to New York City twice in the season ahead, not only for the game at Fordham but again for the A-10 tournament, which will be played March 10-14 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

This will be the third year in a row the Barclays Center has hosted the A-10 tournament. The event moves to Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C., in 2022 and then returns to Brooklyn in 2023 and 2024.

7. History lesson: This will be the seventh straight season the A-10 has played an 18-game schedule. It played a 16-game schedule from 1993-2014.

The regular-season champion finished 14-4 or 15-3 from 2015-18. VCU’s 16-2 league record in 2019 was the best in the conference since Xavier finished 15-1 in 2011.

In 2020, Dayton became the fifth team to finish A-10 play without a loss. The previous teams were: Temple (18-0 in 1983-84 and 1987-88); Saint Joseph’s (16-0 in 2003-04); and George Washington (16-0 in 2005-06).

8. NCAA hopes: The A-10 didn’t win a NCAA tournament game in 2019, and there was no NCAA tournament in 2020. By the time the 2021 tournament comes around, three years will have passed since Saint Bonaventure beat UCLA in the First Four at UD Arena. That was the A-10′s lone win in the 2018 tournament.

In his offseason bracket prediction, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi projects Saint Louis and Richmond will make the 2021 field. Dayton has not played a NCAA tournament game since 2017, but it was the league’s only lock last season and may have received a No. 1 seed.

9. New faces: There were four new coaches in the A-10 in 2018, including Dayton’s Anthony Grant, two in 2019 and two in 2020. All 14 programs return their head coaches this season.

10. Looking ahead: The exact dates of the A-10 games will be announced at a later date. Last year, the A-10 announced the full schedule on Sept. 5.