VCU coach: Great for program to be A-10 preseason favorite

Dayton’s Jalen Crutcher dribbles against Virginia Commonwealth on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff
Dayton’s Jalen Crutcher dribbles against Virginia Commonwealth on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

Rams swept Flyers last season and finished 16-2 in league

Coach Anthony Grant spoke at Atlantic 10 Media Day on Thursday flanked by the two coaches picked to finish ahead of his Dayton Flyers: Virginia Commonwealth’s Mike Rhoades and Davidson’s Bob McKillop.

» MEDIA DAY: Grant says A-10 can be ‘really good’

The three were interviewed by Andy Katz on ESPN+ and said all the usual things about how strong they expect the conference to be in 2020. In recent years, that kind of confidence has been misplaced because the A-10 has slipped in the Ken Pomeroy conference rankings three straight years: from eighth in 2017 to 10th in 2018 to 11th in 2019.

There's good reason to believe the A-10 will reverse that trend this season in part because of the strength of the teams at the top of the conference. VCU, Davidson and Dayton, who were picked first, second and third in the preseason poll, were all included in the field of 68 in Joe Lunardi's latest bracket prediction for ESPN.

While any of the three teams could win the regular-season championship — Rhode Island is a fourth contender — VCU gets the benefit of the doubt because it returns four starters from a team that finished 16-2 in the A-10.

“At least we weren’t picked seventh like last year,” Rhoades said. “We’ll take it. It’s great for the program and the older guys, but we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.”

» PRESEASON HYPE: Dayton receives a vote in AP poll

VCU and Saint Louis, which won the A-10 tournament, represented the conference in the NCAA tournament in March. Dayton and Davidson played in the NIT.

McKillop, the longest-tenured coach in the league, enters his 31st season with the hopes of taking the Wildcats to the NCAA tournament for the third time in six A-10 seasons. He has the only team with two preseason first-team selections: senior guard Jon Axel Gudmundsson, the reining A-10 Player of the Year, and junior guard Kellan Grady, who combined to average 34.2 points per game.

McKillop expects a competitive conference race with Dayton and VCU.

“We all won 20-something games last year,” he said. “We all have a significant portion of our roster returning. But what’s exhilarating for me is there’s sort of a cheerleader in me because the better we are as a conference, the better opportunity we have in postseason play. That’s very refreshing.”

Season tickets: The University of Dayton turned back the clock to 1969 with the ticket design for the 2019-20 season opener.

Dayton Flyers men's basketball fans started receiving their season tickets in the mail this week. All the tickets feature photos of the arena from years past, but the tickets for the Nov. 9 game against Indiana State copy the design of the tickets issued for the first game at UD Arena: Dec. 6, 1969, vs. Bowling Green.

The 1969 tickets, which cost $3 if you were sitting in the upper level, celebrated the 65th season of Dayton basketball. The 2019 tickets celebrate the 50th year of UD Arena.

Recruiting: R.J. Blakney, a three-start 2020 recruit from Maryland, took an official visit to Dayton last weekend, according to Instagram posts from his mom, Dafne' Lee Blakney.

Blakney, a 6-foot-5 guard, was originally in the 2019 recruiting class but decided to attend prep school after graduating from St. Maria Goretti Catholic High School in Hagerstown, Md., and now attends the Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, Conn.

In August, Blakney wrote about his decision on Twitter: “This is the best thing for me and my family, and I can’t wait to get to work.”

Dayton offered Blakney a scholarship early this month, according to Team Thrill, a team he plays for in the Under Armour Association. Georgetown offered him a scholarship around the same time.

St. Bonaventure, St. Joseph’s, Nebraska, Towson, Hofstra, George Mason and Iona are among the other schools to offer Blakney a scholarship.