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This week in the Atlantic 10: After a dismal 2017-18 season, VCU sits atop the conference with a 6-3 record. But will it continue?

Meanwhile, other Atlantic 10 teams like Dayton and Saint Louis have more losses than they would like. Here’s a full look at the conference plus games of the week.

NCAA Basketball Tournament - First Round - Salt Lake City
The VCU Rams were just 7-22 last season, but theare on track for a much better season in 2018-19. [EDITOR’S NOTE: At Swish Appeal, we prefer to feature the players we cover as the lead art for our articles, since they are the ones who make the game come alive in any given season. Unfortunately, these photos are not always available, leaving us to make do with what is available. Sometimes, all that is available is a photo of a mascot, an arena, cheerleaders or a men’s team — evidence of pervasive problems in women’s sports coverage that we at Swish Appeal would prefer to see addressed.]
Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images

Teams in the Atlantic 10 had a rough start in non-conference play so far in this 2018-19 women’s basketball season. As a mid-major conference, some teams are fodder for top-25 teams in major conferences. But some other programs in the A-10 have started quite well compared to their performances last year, while others known for better play are floundering.

Dayton is currently 3-5 which is far from where the Flyers would prefer to be at this point. Of their five losses, two were to ranked teams: then-No. 9 Maryland, 82-71, on Nov. 11 and then-No. 18 South Carolina, 65-55, on Nov. 28. However, the Flyers also lost by double digits to Green Bay, 51-35, on Nov. 24 and to James Madison, 68-55 on Dec. 3. For context, Dayton made the NCAA Tournament in eight of the last nine seasons.

Given that the losses are piling up, the Dayton Flyers will probably have to win the conference tournament to punch their tickets to the Big Dance in March. The schedule won’t get any easier for them, thought, because the Flyers will play Virginia Tech on Dec. 20 and Georgia Tech the following day in the West Palm Beach Tournament.

The Saint Louis Billikens are just 4-6 after finishing last season with a 17-15 record. Saint Louis had an early four-game losing streak, but was able to claw back to a 4-4 record. In the last week, however, they lost to No. 1 UConn (Dec. 4, in a 98-42 blowout) and to No. 23 Missouri (Dec. 9, in a 74-62 defeat). Unlike Dayton, Saint Louis only has two more non-conference games before Atlantic 10 play starts.

Unexpected leaders top the conference

Currently, the VCU Rams have the best record in the Atlantic 10, at 6-3. This is notable because they have improved considerably from last season, when they were just 7-22 overall. But in 2018-19, VCU isn’t just winning more games, the Rams also have some quality victories, including defeats of ACC foe Wake Forest (53-40 on Nov. 18) and Big East opponent Georgetown (47-45 on Dec. 2).

Rhode Island (5-5) is another team that has improved considerably from last season when they were just 3-27. The Rams’ best victory this season, however, was a win over Big East and intrastate rival Providence in a close, 72-65 game on Dec. 1. Most of their losses have been against major conference teams, including a 75-52 result to then-No. 19 Kentucky on Dec. 6. Their next contest will be on the road at No. 13 Minnesota on Dec. 22.

Like last year, the George Mason Patriots lead the conference in scoring. Natalie Butler, their star center from last season, was drafted by the Dallas Wings and now plays professionally for Belfius Namur Capitale in Namur, Belgium. But sophomore guard Nic Cardano-Hillary, the 2017-18 A-10 Rookie of the Year, is now the conference’s leading scorer, at 21.1 points per game. Cardano-Hillary scored a career-high 33 points for the Patriots in a 91-75 win over Eastern Kentucky on Dec. 9. She was named the A-10 Player of the Week on Monday and could be the Player of the Year when this season ends. Currently, Mason is 6-4.

Games of the week

Here are two of the biggest games featuring Atlantic 10 teams this week:

Duquesne Dukes (4-3) vs. UCF Knights (7-1)

When: Wednesday, Dec. 18, at 7 p.m. ET

Where: A.J. Palumbo Center, Pittsburgh, Pa.

How to watch: ESPN+ or Atlantic 10 web stream

Notes: The Dukes head into this game on a three-game win streak, which includes a 64-58 victory over Penn State on Dec. 5.

VCU Rams (6-3) at Old Dominion Lady Monarchs (6-2)

When: Sunday, Dec. 18, at 2 p.m. ET

Where: Ted Constant Center, Norfolk, Va.

How to watch: Conference USA web stream

Notes: The Rams and Lady Monarchs are both performing at a high level in the non-conference schedule heading into this game. ODU has also defeated all of their opponents outside of major conferences and will be a tough test for the Rams.

Full Atlantic 10 schedule