After winning the outright Atlantic 10 regular season title, Dayton comes into Pittsburgh as the favorite to take the trophy home. Led by four experienced seniors and A-10 Coach of the Year, the Flyers seem destined for success in the conference tournament. That being said, no win will come easy in Pittsburgh. Dayton has not won the A-10 tournament since 2003 and teams like VCU, Rhode Island, and others, are determined to keep the 13 year drought alive. Winning nine of their last ten games, the Flyers must do three things right in order to stay hot and win themselves an A-10 tournament championship.
1. Dominate Defensively
In his sixth year at Dayton, Archie Miller has managed to build an elite defensive culture around the program. With tough, scrappy upperclassmen, the True Team prides itself on defense. The Flyers force their opponents to commit an average of 15.1 turnovers per game and convert those miscues into 18.7 points. Dayton’s dominant defense can both keep the Flyers in any game and translate to easy offense on the other end. Senior guards Charles Cooke and Kyle Davis were just named to the A-10 All Defensive Team with junior Darrell Davis not far behind. Holding opponents to just 66.3 points per game this year, Dayton can really frustrate the opposition’s offense at times. If the Flyers want to leave Pittsburgh as tournament champs, they must continue to play strong defense.
2. Dial in from Distance
Shooting 39% from behind the arc as a team this season, Dayton is quietly shooting the three very well. While the Flyer’s identity is not found in three point shooting, Dayton can certainly fill it up from deep. As expected, Scoochie Smith, Charles Cooke, and Darrell Davis take the most threes for the Flyers. Smith and Cooke are both shooting around 39% from deep while Davis, a more streaky shooter, is currently launching at 37%. When Dayton does catch fire from behind the arc, the offense really opens up and plays fluidly.
Dayton’s best three point shooter, though, is a guy that no one expected coming into the season. At 6’9″, sophomore forward Xeyrius Williams does not exactly look like a knock down there point sniper, but that is exactly what he has become. Williams is shooting 43% from behind the arc this year and can come through in the clutch (see game at Rhode Island). Factor in guys like Kyle Davis and John Crosby also shooting above 40% from deep and the Flyer’s have some highly dangerous snipers. In order to win three games in three days, Dayton needs to continue shooting the three ball effectively.
3. Crash the Glass
If there’s one area Dayton has struggled this season, it’s definitely rebounding. The Flyers are winning the rebounding margin by just 0.4 against opponents this year and have difficulty blocking out against teams with size. In Dayton’s first match-up with VCU this season, the Flyers lost the rebounding margin by 17. While Dayton still hung around and nearly managed to win the game, the True Team can not afford to get beat on the glass come tournament time. Josh Cunningham finally looking fully healthy again after sitting out most of the year with an injury gives the Flyers a huge boost. Kendall Pollard and Cunningham can do a lot for Dayton down low, but they still need some help. If the Flyers want to take home the A-10 title, guys like Xeyrius Williams and Ryan Mikesell must help out on the boards.
All in all, Dayton has as good of a chance to win the A-10 tournament as anyone. While the Flyers will certainly face some challenging match-ups throughout the tournament, they have the senior leadership needed to win. In order to leave Pittsburgh as champions, Dayton has to play strong defense, knock down the three ball, and rebound with efficiency.