RICHMOND- Tuesday night is considered the busiest night for many college students.
For VCU fans, some of those study plans have been altered as they will swap textbooks for pom-poms and cheers as their hometown Rams welcome a familiar foe to the Stu.
The 6th-ranked Dayton Flyers are heading into Richmond for a primetime showdown with VCU, who is looking to bounce back into NCAA tournament consideration following two losses in A-10 play.
At the start of the season, The Rams were the league’s favorite to win the A-10 crown and won their first six games but have been inconsistent, especially on offense, hence their record at 17-8 this season.
Meanwhile, Dayton has steadily improved and now sit at a perfect record in conference play at 12-0 and 23-2 overall.
The highest-ranked opponent VCU has ever beaten at home is Saint Louis, when the Billikens were No. 10 in March 2014.
Still, members of the Rowdy Rams student section express faith in their team and the belief that victory can be theirs.
“This is a big one”, senior Akhil Nair said. “These guys have to go out there and show that they care about this season and not let it slip away”.
In their last two games, the Rams have played poorly in terms of shooting, going less than 40% in FG and 3-PT, both categories that have been favorable to the Rams in previous years.
The team is also senior heavy, with six players set to graduate in the spring including De’Riante Jenkins, Isaac Vann, and Marcus Evans.
In contrast, the Dayton Flyers are well rounded, led by their superstars Obi Toppin and Jalen Crutcher. The Flyers are also coached by former VCU coach Anthony Grant.
In their last meeting, Toppin scored 24 points on a tender ankle and led a 22-point run in the second half as Dayton beat VCU 79-65.
The Rams have only one quality win this season, against LSU back in November, but with bad losses to Richmond and George Mason, it’s practically a win-out situation.
“I know the fans are going to come out angry and ready”, senior Daniel Macchiavello said. “This game is personal to all students here after the way people have been calling us out in the media and we have no choice but to respond in a big way”.
The Rams are hosting their annual black-out game which tends to fare well with VCU during games with big opponents. Throughout their history, blackout games have been when VCU has risen up to the challenge against ranked teams.
Blackout matchups against teams such as Butler in 2013 during their Final Four rematch and against Dayton just last season when the Flyers were hot coming in, favored the Black and Gold faithul.
Evans will look to make a return to the lineup after missing the game against Richmond with a knee injury.
Freshman guard Bones Hyland has played well during Evans’ absence and could look to be a major factor against Dayton, especially if he returns to his hot 3-PT shooting form.
Fans have already gotten permission to forgo class for one night and head to this big event or have already turned in their assignments ahead of time to make sure they don’t miss anything.
Others are just interested in seeing one last major home game before the season heads into the final stretch before the A-10 tournament in Brooklyn.
“We just have to find our groove in the game”, junior Justin Tall said. “If we get ourselves together and get focused and play the way we know we can play, we will be celebrating tomorrow”.
VCU tips off against No.6 Dayton on Tuesday the 17th at the Stuart C. Siegel Center @ 8:30 pm on CBS Sports Network.