Despite losing centers Devon Scott and Jalen Robinson before conference play, the undermanned and undersized Dayton Flyers are soaring, carrying an eight-game winning streak, including its first five conference games, into tonight’s showdown at Davidson.
The Flyers, however, already know how quickly momentum can change in the middle of conference play.
“I think the guys understand how delicate it is because a year ago at this time, things weren’t going really well,” said Archie Miller, whose team started 1-5 in the A-10 last season before winning nine of its final 10 conference games leading up to its deep NCAA run. “You can get back in that situation real quick if you take your eyes off the prize. We just have to stay with it and stay focused.”
The Flyers (15-2, 5-0) have been, well, flying as of late, and the nation is starting to notice — Dayton finds itself at 22 in both current polls. With the absence of Scott and Robinson, the Flyers, without many options, turned to small ball, which, as Mat Shelton-Eide explained, opened up their offense. Since Shelton-Eide published his piece, Dayton’s offense has slightly slipped, scoring just 61 points in its last two games, but the Flyers have still been beating opponents in convincing manners. In the eight games without Scott and Robinson, Dayton has beaten its opponents by an average of 14 points, and has won by single digits just once.
Tonight’s clash at Davidson (12-4, 3-2), however, will be, at least on paper, their toughest conference game yet.
The A-10 newcomers have been the A-10’s biggest surprise so far this season. Although A-10 coaches picked the Wildcats to finish 12th in the preseason poll, Davidson has proven to be anything but conference bottom-dwellers. The Wildcats have scored at electric rates — their 117.8 adjusted offensive efficiency is best in the A-10 and 6th best nationally, according to Kenpom.
They do, however, have one significant blemish on their resume – an utter dismantling at the claws of the Spiders last Saturday.
Richmond’s offense, which has been shaky at best for much of the season, torched Dayton for 89 points, as part of Richmond’s 26-point blowout win. Yes, the Spiders were hot – Richmond has not and will not consistently drill 14 3-pointers in a game – but still, a 26-point loss? And it wasn’t just shooting. The Spiders, an average A-10 team, simply outclassed Davidson, who has looked better than an average A-10 team for most of this season.
A loss for either side would not be overly dramatic, but a win would help each prove its worth in different spectrums. For Davidson, a win would help verify that the Richmond game was an anomaly and give the Wildcats a much-needed impressive victory. For Dayton, a win would give the Flyers its first notable A-10 win, and further prove that they, alongside VCU, are the current class of the A-10.
There’s only one A-10 game tonight, but thankfully it should be a fun game to watch. Catch the game on CBS Sports Network at 7:30.