As we enter the weekend on Week 2 of college basketball, we've gotten a pretty good view as to how this year's Atlantic 10 conference looks in comparison to the rest of the NCAA. When looking at how A-10 schools played this week, I'd say it's a mixed bag. A couple of solid wins, but a few games left me wanting more out of these teams. Here are a few of the moments from this week that stand out to me the most.
No update to the rankings yet. I'll save that for Monday.
Davidson finds positives after a tough Maui Invitational
The beginning of this week was tough for the Wildcats, with two consecutive losses in the Maui invitational against eventual winners Texas and Big East powerhouse Providence. Both losses were within one possession, with the second game ending on a missed buzzer beater layup from sophomore forward Hyunjung Lee. However, Bob McKillop wasn't ready to be upset with his team, instead commending his team's ability to keep up with two solid programs, one of them currently ranked in the top 25.
During the Texas game, the Wildcats never trailed by more than seven, holding a one-point lead midway through the first half. Sam Mennenga had a breakout performance, scoring 17 against the Longhorns off of 6 for 10 shooting. In the post game presser, Coach McKillop said that Texas' guard strategy allowed him to find some holes in their defense that allowed Mennenga to flourish. Against the Friars, Davidson was able to completely wipe away a 19-point deficit before halftime, with Hyunjung Lee and Kellan Grady each scoring 17 points.
Things were looking up for Davidson by Wednesday, as they finished the Maui Invitational with a much needed win against UNLV. Four players scored in double digits, and their superior rebounding allowed the Wildcats to take down a struggling Rebels team 77-73.
Dayton underwhelms in their debut
To expect Dayton to finish with a record similar to last season would be absolutely ridiculous. However, nearly blowing two double-digit leads against Eastern Illinois is a little under par for what this current Dayton team is capable of.
Early on, the Flyers were wiping the floor with EIU (e-i-e-i-o? No? I'll see myself out), quickly amassing a 17-4 lead, hitting every single one of their first eight shots. They opened the second half of play with an 8-0 run as well, while holding the Panthers scoreless for various stretches throughout the game. Senior guard Ibi Watson led Dayton in scoring with 16 points, one of four Flyers to score in double digits. Considering these impressive scoring performances, how was EIU able to keep this so close?
There are a few reasons, but the biggest was rebounding. EIU bodied Dayton on the glass, outrebounding the Flyers 33-30 overall, but 13-3 on the offensive end. Turnovers were also a major problem for Dayton, with Jalen Crutcher and Rodney Chatman each committing four. There's plenty to work on with this Dayton team, and it's better to shake out the cobwebs early, especially if you're able to get a win along with it. Their last three non-conference games against SMU, Ole Miss, and Mississippi St. will be valuable tests of whether or not Dayton can make these key adjustments before conference play begins.
Rhodey impresses over Seton Hall
I may say it a lot, but I really believe that when you're playing out of conference, you're playing for more than yourself; you're playing for your conference. By winning non-conference games against teams in the more reputable league, you're earning good looks for yourself as well as the chance for more bids to the NCAA tournament. Right now, according to ESPN's Basketball Power Index, the A-10 is poised to have at least two teams playing in mid-March, three if we're being generous.
Rhodey's win against Seton Hall is exactly one of those games. Given where the conference is now, the A-10 should look at their games against the Big East as their biggest non-conference rivalry games. Not only are there plenty of in-state rivalries (Fordham-St. John's, URI-Providence), but the A-10 has steadily been eclipsing the Big East's level of play over the last few years.
Fatts Russell was no doubt the hero in this game, as he lead the Rams with 17 points, featuring a clutch 3-point shot late in the second half that pretty much sealed the game for Rhode Island. No team held a lead larger than five throughout the entire game, and solid defense from Rhodey prevented Seton Hall from hitting their last eight shots.
Overall, the A-10 is 1-2 against the Big East this season, and with the Fordham -St. John's game now cancelled, we may not get another chance to see these two conferences go at it until March. Hopefully URI's win over Seton Hall is enough to carry their stock high enough through conference play.