Looking at best and worst of Atlantic 10 in non-conference play

Dayton coaches, including Anthony Grant, second from left, stand for the national anthem before a game against Georgia State on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

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Dayton coaches, including Anthony Grant, second from left, stand for the national anthem before a game against Georgia State on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

Rhode Island, St. Bonaventure top contenders as conference play begins

Dayton Flyers guard Trey Landers had big plans for Christmas.

"I'm going to sleep," he said after a 79-67 victory against Wagner on Saturday. "I'm going to get some of my mom's good cooking. After that, I'm going to lay down."

The Flyers (6-6) need the rest considering what they face in the next nine weeks. They took Sunday, Monday and Tuesday off for the holiday and will return to campus Wednesday to start preparing for the first of 18 Atlantic 10 Conference games. They play Duquesne at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Palumbo Center in Pittsburgh.

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Dayton’s inconsistent performance this season mirrors the conference. The combined record of the 14 teams is 89-81. The A-10 went 8-38 against the ACC, Big Ten, Big East, Big 12, SEC and Pac-12. From all appearances, it will be a two-team race this season with Rhode Island and St. Bonaventure standing well above the crowd.

Here’s a look at the best and worst of the A-10 in non-conference play:

MVP: Davidson forward Peyton Aldridge leads the conference in scoring (22.4 points per game), though his shooting percentages have declined from last season (54.3 to 52.7 from 2-point range and 40.9 to 32.0 from 3-point range). He also ranks 11th in rebounding (6.7) and tied for ninth in assists (3.5).

Top freshman: Duquesne forward Eric Williams Jr. ranks 18th in the conference in scoring (14.2) and first in rebounding (9.9). The Dukes are 9-4, but rank 350th out of 351 teams in strength of schedule, according to KenPom.com.

Best team: The preseason favorite, Rhode Island (7-3), has two strong victories against Seton Hall (No. 21 in the Pomeroy ratings) and in-state rival Providence (No. 64). The Rams rank 51st. They're the highest-ranked A-10 team, ahead of No. 57 St. Bonaventure.

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Hottest team: The Bonnies (10-2) take a seven-game winning streak into their A-10 opener at home against Massachusetts on Saturday. They have victories over three teams ranked in the top 80: No. 34 Maryland; No. 53 Syracuse; and No. 75 Vermont.

Best injury news: St. Bonaventure senior guard Jaylen Adams missed the first six games of the season with an ankle injury. He returned to action Dec. 2 and has averaged 20.7 points in six games.

Dayton will see him in its second A-10 game Jan. 3 at UD Arena. He has scored 31 and 35 points in his last two games at Dayton.

"I do like playing in that arena," Adams said at A-10 Media Day in Washington, D.C., in October. "I think they probably have the best crowd outside of us at home. I just like playing in front of big crowds."

Best job by a new coach: Virginia Commonwealth's Mike Rhoades, who was hired when Will Wade left for LSU, is 8-5. VCU has lost only to teams ranked in the top 50.

Rhoades is one of four new coaches. Massachusetts’ Matt McCall is 7-6. Dayton’s Anthony Grant is 6-6. Duquesne’s Keith Dambrot is 9-4.

Most disappointing team: Richmond was picked to finish eighth in the conference in the preseason poll. It finished non-conference with the worst record in the league (2-10). It has lost to seven teams ranked in the top 100. Its victories are against No. 119 Alabama-Birmingham and No. 241 James Madison.

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At No. 232, Richmond is one of four A-10 teams below 200, trailing No. 209 Duquesne, No. 227 George Mason and No. 229 Fordham. Youth helps explain Richmond’s struggles. It’s the 11th-youngest team in the country.

Worst loss: Saint Louis lost 72-70 at home to No. 306 Detroit (4-9). The Billikens (7-6) have won four of their last six games. They have played short-handed all season. Three players (guards Adonys Henriquez, Jermaine Bishop and Ty Graves) have not played after being accused of sexual assault in September.


SATURDAY’S GAME

Dayton at Duquesne, 4 p.m., Fox Sports Ohio, FM 95.7, AM 1290 WHIO

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