Cracking the top 25 rankings for five straight weeks, the Dayton Flyers are off to one of the hottest starts in program history. After turning heads with big neutral site wins in Maui and Phoenix, Dayton climbed as high as No. 13 in the nation. While an overtime loss to Colorado momentarily set the Flyers back, Dayton’s stock remains as strong as anyone’s. With the non-conference slate in the books, let’s take a look at the Flyers’ resume thus far.
Dayton faced its first true test of the season when it traveled to Maui to take on Anthony Edwards and the Georgia Bulldogs. Despite entering the game as only two point favorites, the Flyers dominated Georgia for a full 40 minutes. Dayton won by a final score of 80-61. The very next day, the Flyers did the same thing to Virginia Tech. Dayton crushed the Hokies 89-62, putting the college basketball world on notice. After returning home for a week, the Flyers hit the road again, this time heading to Phoenix for a match-up with St. Mary’s. Once again, Dayton took care of business with ease. Leading by 15-20 much of the game, the Flyers ended up downing St. Mary’s 78-68.
While it remains to be seen just how good these three wins will turn out to be, they’ve certainly been an impressive notch on Dayton’s resume so far. Blowing out two power five teams and one of the nation’s most respected mid-majors can only help the Flyers come March. Ideally, Georgia, Virginia Tech, and St. Mary’s will all play well in their conferences and further bolster Dayton’s resume.
Up to this point in the season, Dayton has managed to avoid all potential bad losses. The only two blemishes on the Flyers’ resume both occurred in overtime on neutral sites. One came against No. 4 Kansas and the other to a very good Colorado team. While it would have been nice to win either of those games, they certainly won’t be counted against Dayton. In fact, taking a team like Kansas to overtime actually increased Dayton’s stock around the country. In terms of bad losses, the Flyers’ focus will now shift to avoiding potential landmines in A-10 play.
Looking Ahead to Conference Play
As conference play beings, I think it’s safe to say Dayton is the clear favorite to win the Atlantic 10. While teams like VCU, Rhode Island, Saint Louis, and Richmond will all make their cases, I think the A-10 title is Dayton’s to lose. That said, whether the Flyers win the conference or not, they need to avoid bad losses against the lesser A-10 teams. If Dayton can avoid dropping a game or two against the bottom half of the A-10, its resume should be in great shape come March. The Flyers set themselves up well in the non-conference, now they need to keep it rolling in conference play.
Non-Conference Grade: A
With three quality wins and no bad losses, the 11-2 Dayton Flyers put together an impressive non-conference resume. Had Dayton managed to beat either Kansas or Colorado, I would’ve given the Flyers an A+ without a doubt. Nevertheless, Dayton exceeded non-conference expectations and put itself in a great position heading into conference play. In addition to being ranked for five straight weeks in the AP poll, the Flyers continue to climb in other metric systems. Kenpom currently has Dayton ranked the highest its ever been, at No. 9 in the country. The NET rankings, which could factor heavily into the committee’s seeding in March, slots the Flyers at No. 13.
Following the Flyers’ win over North Florida on December 30th, Anthony Grant summarized his thoughts at the halfway point of the season. Grant said “In terms of where we wanted to be and the position we wanted to be in, I think we’re right there. Now it’s just a matter of us continuing to take advantage of the opportunities in front of us… it’ll be a different challenge once we get into conference play.” If Dayton continues to play like it has so far, the Flyers can not only win the A-10, but also earn a low seed in the NCAA tournament.