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This Week in the Atlantic 10: VCU remains undefeated in conference play, with Dayton is close behind

Elsewhere in the A-10, George Mason’s sophomore star, Nicole Cardano-Hillary, is the conference’s leading scorer. What does the future hold for her?

NCAA Basketball: Cincinnati at VCU
The VCU Rams are undefeated in Atlantic 10 conference play, but they still don’t have any votes in the polls.
Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

Conference play is now well underway in the Atlantic 10 Conference. With five games in the books, some teams have separated themselves from the pack.

The VCU Rams (13-5) are on a seven-game winning streak and lead the A-10 with an undefeated 5-0 record in conference play. Since A-10 play began, VCU has won all of its games by double digits, except for a 47-44 win over Fordham on Jan. 16.

Sophomore guard Tera Reed is leading the Rams in scoring with 13.4 points per game; she was also the team’s leading scorer as a freshman when the Rams were just 7-22 overall. Reed is also an efficient three-point shooter averaging 41 percent from long range.

VCU is winning its games with a combination of team rebounding and overall great team defense. Only two players who are 6-foot-4 or taller — Danielle Hammond and Sofya Pashigoreva — but no one is averaging 5 rebounds a game. Yet, the Rams are out-rebounding opponents 37.3 to 34.0 boards per game because eight players are averaging three or more rebounds each time out. As a team, the Rams are holding teams to 31.1 percent shooting and 21.1 percent shooting from the three-point line while their offense is shooting 42.6 percent overall and 32.5 percent from the three-point range.

The Dayton Flyers (9-7) had a rough start to their non-conference season, but they are now one of three teams with 4-1 conference records. The Flyers won five of their last six games, all by double digits. Still, their 46-45 loss to the George Washington Colonials (6-12) on Jan. 12 hurts.

The Davidson Wildcats (10-8) and the Duquesne Flyers (10-8) are the other two team with 4-1 records in conference play.

Elsewhere in the A-10

  • Like Dayton, the George Washington Colonials have a 3-2 conference record despite a rough start to their season. The Colonials won four of their last six games and won three consecutive games before losing 64-60 at home to the George Mason Patriots last Saturday. But GW will still have to go on a very hot run in regular-season and conference tournament play to make at least the WNIT.
  • The George Mason Patriots (10-8) have the conference’s leading scorer in sophomore guard Nicole Cardano-Hillary, who is averaging 19.9 points per game. Though she is putting up big numbers, Cardano-Hillary is still shooting just 36.7 percent from the field and 25.8 percent from three-point range. There is still plenty of time for her to improve her efficiency, though. If she does, the Patriots could be one of the A-10’s top teams in the next few seasons and Cardano-Hillary could get consideration from WNBA teams.
  • Dayton inducted former Flyer star Justine Raterman to the Flyers’ Hall of Fame on Sunday, Jan. 13. She finished her career with 1,832 points and 915 rebounds from 2008-12. While at Dayton, the Flyers made three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances from 2010-12 and also advanced to the Round of 32 in 2010. Raterman is now an assistant coach for the Miami (Ohio) Redhawks in the Mid-American Conference. Former Flyers head coach Jim Jabir reminisced about coaching Raterman in an interview with Tom Archdeacon of the Dayton Daily News.

Games of the week

Here are two games for you to watch this week in the A-10:

George Washington Colonials (6-12, 2-3) vs. VCU Rams (13-5, 5-0)

When: Wednesday, Jan. 23, at 7 p.m. ET

Where: Charles E. Smith Center, Washington, DC | TICKETS

How to watch: ESPN Plus

Notes: The Rams are currently the team to beat in the A-10. They may not have any votes in the Top-25 polls just yet, but VCU is in a very good position to get a postseason berth at the very least. Meanwhile, GW is about to begin its toughest in-conference stretch of the season with two of these games being played at home. After this contest against VCU, the Colonials will face off against Duquesne on the road and then host Davidson. If GW can win all three of these games, it will once again be in good position to make things interesting within the A-10 despite their rough start.

La Salle Explorers (3-16, 0-5) vs. Richmond Spiders (3-15, 0-5)

When: Wednesday, Jan. 23, at 7 p.m. ET

Where: Tom Gola Arena at Trumark Financial Center, Philadelphia, PA | TICKETS

How to watch: ESPN Plus

Notes: The Explorers and Spiders are both at the bottom of the A-10 standings but will have an opportunity to separate themselves from each other in this match. Of the two teams, it appears that La Salle has an edge based on the team’s recent play. The Explorers are hosting this game and have kept the margins of defeat rather close while playing at home. They lost to GW last Wednesday, 67-59, and against St. Joseph’s last Sunday, 60-57. Even if La Salle loses to Richmond today, the Explorers are still faring a bit better than Richmond who has lost five consecutive games overall and each of their last four by double digits.

Full A-10 Schedule