Week ahead: UD at UMass, home vs. Fordham

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James Naismith statue at Springfield College. David Jablonski/Staff


Greetings from Amherst, Mass. There is a lot of snow here, but it’s not on the roads and I guess that’s all that counts. I made a pit stop at Springfield College on the way here from Hartford, Conn., to see the James Naismith statue. Naismith looked cold, as you can see above. He looked like a guy who invented an indoor game.

Then I swung by the Dr. Seuss Memorial in Springfield. Not far from the Lorax statue, there’s a large plaque with all the lines to the book, “Oh, the places you’ll go.” That title could definitely describe life in the A-10. Barring delays, I’ll be home 27 hours after leaving this morning, and a week from now, I’ll do it all again with a trip to George Washington.

After tonight’s game at UMass, the Flyers (16-3, 6-1) will be two thirds of the way through the regular season: 20 games down, 10 to go.

This UMass game in Amerst (7 p.m., ESPNU) will be a big test for a Dayton team with big goals. To achieve them, they need to win games like this on the road. Here’s an except from my story Wednesday on Scoochie Smith talking about one of those goals:

Sophomores Scoochie Smith, Kendall Pollard and Kyle Davis have spent a little more than a season and a half with the Flyers. They’ve already etched their names in the record books as members of the Elite Eight team. While they’re focused on a Thursday game at Massachusetts and a Sunday home game against Fordham this week and the rest of the grueling season ahead, they also have their sights on a long-term goal.

“One thing we talk about is trying to become the winningest class,” Smith said Tuesday. “That’s something we’re looking forward to. I know we’ve got a good record. We want to keep winning and do whatever it takes to win.”

The 2010-11 senior class of Chris Wright, Devin Searcy, Pete Zesterman and Logan Nourse holds the record with a mark of 97-45 in their four seasons.

Smith, Pollard and Davis have a long way to go, but they’re off to a great start in pursuit of that milestone. The Flyers finished 26-11 last season. They’re 16-3 this season. At 42-14, they’re one game ahead of the pace of the 2010-11 seniors.

The Minutemen lost 62-56 at St. Joseph’s in their last game eight days ago. They’ve had plenty of time to prepare for this one.

“It was good for us mentally and also physically to reset the deck after six pretty tough conference games, finishing out 3-3,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said Monday in the A-10 coaches conference call. “Anytime you can get a break to feel good bout yourself and work on your skills and get some of your energy back, I think that’s important. Obviously, preparing for a team like Dayton, that’s right there in the top 25 or very close, a team that’s very very good and plays a little unconventional compared to some of the teams we’ve seen, a little extra preparation is always good.”

MassLive.com, whose writer predicts a 71-68 Dayton victory, describes this as a possible statement game for UMass. The Minutemen rank 72nd in the RPI. Dayton is 27th.

The point is, UMass is running out of time to kick things into high gear. Does this team even have that capability? We could find out against the talented and battled-tested group that is Dayton. A top-two Atlantic 10 team (along with VCU), the Flyers certainly look like one of the types of hurdles the Minutemen have stumbled over this season. UMass can prove something to itself and its fans with a strong effort – and, most importantly, a win – Thursday night.

Like almost every team Dayton has faced since mid-December, the Minutemen will try to take advantage of their size advantage.

From the Daily Collegian:

UMass big-men Cady Lalanne (6-foot-10) and Maxie Esho (6-foot-9) should be licking their chops, and head coach Derek Kellogg knows his frontcourt will have to take advantage of the smaller Flyer lineup.

“Absolutely,” Kellogg said. “Those two, for us to be good, have to be good every night. Especially when you have the size advantage, or you guys are the biggest guys on the court. They have to realize that (Dayton) is going to be slapping you, whacking you, putting five guys on the floor around you. So that can’t be an excuse of why we aren’t making layups or finishing plays.”

The Flyers will play another team coming off a loss on Sunday: Fordham (2 p.m., Fox Sports Ohio). Fordham lost 64-63 on Wednesday at home to Rhode Island.

From the Associated Press:

NEW YORK — Gilvydas Biruta scored the game-winning tip-in off E.C. Matthews air ball, lifting Rhode Island over Fordham 64-63 on Wednesday night.

Rhode Island (14-5, 6-2 Atlantic 10) quickly pushed the ball up to Matthews after Mandell Thomas made two free throws to give Fordham (5-13, 0-7) a one-point lead with 9 seconds left.

Matthews drove hard into contact and his first attempt just grazed the rim. He fought to control the rebound but lost balance and, as he fell down backward, tossed the ball up off target. Biruta grabbed the errant shot out of the air and redirected it in for the winning shot.

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