Obi Toppin sat on the bench for nine Atlantic 10 Conference games at UD Arena last season. As an academic redshirt, he didn’t get to travel with the Dayton Flyers to the nine road games.
As 2019 begins, however, Toppin is one of the key players for a team that hopes to make noise in the conference race.
“We’re going to try to win the A-10,” Toppin said Saturday after a 94-90 victory against Georgia Southern in the non-conference finale.
“Why do you think you can win?” he was asked.
“We just have a group of guys that are together,” Toppin said. “We’re playing pretty good right now. I feel if we keep playing good, we’ll do good in the A-10.”
» MORE A-10 COVERAGE: VCU atop January power rankings
Conference play starts Thursday when George Mason (6-7) plays at St. Joseph’s (7-5). Dayton (8-5) gets underway Sunday with a noon game against Richmond (6-7) at UD Arena.
Before moving ahead, though, let’s look back at what A-10 teams did in non-conference play.
Best player: The race for player of the year is wide open, and expect Davidson sophomore Kellan Grady to make a push if he gets healthy after missing four games with a knee injury.
Right now, St. Joseph’s redshirt sophomore forward Charlie Brown, who missed all of last season with a broken wrist, has the edge. He leads the conference in scoring (20.5) while ranking third in 3-pointers made (2.6 per game) and second in 3-point percentage (48.3).
Rookie of the year: Duquesne freshman point guard Sincere Carry is tied for second in the conference in assists per game (5.9) and averages 11.1 points and 3.6 rebounds. He also ranks second in the conference in assists (3.2 per game).
Most improved player: Rhode Island junior forward Cyril Langevine has improved his scoring average from 6.1 to 14.6 and his rebounding average from 5.8 to 10.0, the best mark in in the conference. Dayton’s Trey Landers ranks second with 8.0 rebounds per game.
Sixth man of the year: Toppin ranks 22nd in the league in scoring (13.4) and second in field-goal percentage (73.3). He plays fewer minutes per game (22.2) than anyone who ranks in the top 40 in the league in scoring.
Best victory: VCU (9-4) won 54-53 at Texas on Dec. 5, beating its former coach, Shaka Smart. The Longhorns rank 36th in the Ken Pomeroy ratings and have victories over No. 8 North Carolina and No. 19 Purdue.
Worst loss: La Salle (2-10) lost 77-76 at home to No. 314 Lafayette on Nov. 10.
Best winning streak: Davidson and Fordham each had five-game winning streaks in non-conference play.
Worst losing streak: La Salle started the season on a 10-game losing streak with six double-digit losses in that stretch.
NON-CONFERENCE REVIEW: Dayton’s best games, players, etc.
Best stat: Dayton ranks second in the country in two-point field-goal percentage (61.0) with Toppin (No. 14, 73.5) and Cunningham (No. 75, 66.7) both ranking in the top 100 among individuals.
Worst stat: Rhode Island ranks 347th out of 353 Division I teams in 3-point shooting percentage (25.6).
Most due for a title: Duquesne has been with the A-10 from the start and has never won the regular-season championship.
Worst injury: George Washington lost junior forward Arnaldo Toro, a tri-captain, for the season with a hip injury. He started the first seven games and averaged 10.1 points and 9.3 rebounds.
Best game of first week: Rhode Island, the defending regular-season champion, plays at Saint Louis, the preseason favorite, at 4 p.m. Sunday.