The no. 6 Dayton Flyers will look to stay undefeated inside the Atlantic 10 on Tuesday when they host the Rhode Island Rams in a meeting of the two best teams in the conference. At home, the Flyers are favored by 9.5 pants with an over/under of 147 points.
Dayton has received national attention this year and carried the torch for the A-10, but that might make Rhode Island one of the most underrated teams in the country. The Rams have won 10 in a row to get to 10-1 inside the A-10 and 18-5 overall. They will take over first place in the conference with a win on Tuesday. More importantly, Rhode Island’s best wins this season have come against Alabama and Providence, so they could use a marquee win to help get them off the bubble and into the Big Dance.
Meanwhile, the Flyers certainly have no intention of waking up from their dream season. Dayton is 21-2 overall and a perfect 10-0 in conference play. Since they play in a mid-major conference, Dayton’s seed line could tumble in a hurry if they start losing games. If they want to assure themselves of being a no. 2 seed or better on Selection Sunday, they have to keep winning.
The Chosen One
For Dayton, it’s been all about Obi Toppin this season. He averages close to 20 points and rebounds per game and warrants serious consideration for National Player of the Year honors. The 6’9’’ sophomore is a force close to the basket but is also a good enough jump shooter to keep defenders honest. More importantly, he rarely has an off night, scoring at least 15 points in 11 straight games.
But the Flyers are far from a one-man team. Jalen Crutcher and Ibi Watson are both knockdown three-point shooters who make over 40% of their shots from the perimeter. Crutcher is also one of the best point guards in the A-10, averaging over five assists per game to go along with 14.5 points every time out. In fact, Dayton has five players who average at least nine points per game, so they have plenty of depth and balance behind Toppin.
Another Bright Light
While the Flyers have Toppin, Thode Island also has a star junior Fatts Russell. The 5’10’’ guard averages over 20 points per game while also dishing out over four assists and bringing down over three rebounds per game. He’s a little small in stature but isn’t lacking in strength or heart. Russell plays nearly every minute and has carried the Rams on his back most of the season.
Rhode Island also has a decent supporting cast with three other players who average double figures. Forward Cyril Langevine is one of the best big men in the A-10, averaging 10 points and 10 rebounds per game. Tyrese Martin is also a player to watch, as he’s the team’s second-best rebounder behind Langevine and second-best shooter behind Russell.
Fly Away Home
Dayton has the best player in the Atlantic-10, as well as a supporting cast that’s better than what Rhode Island has. All but two of their home wins this season have come by a double-digit margin. Look for that to continue and bet on the Flyers to cover the 9.5-point spread against Rhode Island.