After winning their first three games of the season, the Dayton Flyers traveled to the Bahamas for their first real test of the year. Playing three games in three days against one of the country’s most talented holiday tournament fields, Dayton knew it was in for a challenge. That said, not many were expecting Dayton to win its first round match-up. Nevertheless, Flyer fans remained cautiously optimistic and found themselves quite surprised by Dayton’s play.
Facing Butler in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis, Dayton opened as 8.5 point underdogs. Expected to make the NCAA tournament once again, those around college basketball regard the Bulldogs as a tough, disciplined team. Wednesday night, however, Dayton looked like the much tougher team. Controlling the action from the start, the Flyers led by double digits for most of the game. With 20 points from starting point guard Jalen Crutcher, Dayton downed Butler by a final score of 69-64. Grabbing an impressive quality win in their first test of the season, the Flyers moved on to face No. 4 ranked Virginia on Thursday afternoon.
While beating Butler was an outstanding surprise, beating a top five team in the country would be even more incredible. Leading for the majority of the first half against Virginia, it looked like Dayton had a serious chance to pull off a shocking upset. Despite struggling to hit shots and turning the ball over too much in the first half, the Flyers played toe to toe one of the nation’s top five teams. Even in the second half Dayton refused to go away. Battling hard the whole 40 minutes, the Flyers fell to Virginia by a final score of 66-59.
Playing Oklahoma for third place in the tournament on Friday, Dayton had another chance to pick up a quality win. After two hard fought games Wednesday and Thursday, though, the Flyers looked sluggish out of the gates. Despite going down by 14 at one point in the first half, Dayton never quit fighting. Five minutes into the second half the Flyers had come all the way back to take a seven point lead. But for whatever reason, Dayton went cold after that. Going just 1-14 from the floor after taking their largest lead of the game , the Flyers were unable to hang on against Oklahoma. The Sooners won by a final score of 65-54.
So what did we learn from the Battle 4 Atlantis? Well we learned that Dayton is much better than most people expected. A dominant win over Butler (most likely a tournament) and toe to toe fight with top five Virginia prove that the Flyers have NCAA tournament potential. With top 25 ranked Mississippi State coming to UD Arena Friday night, the Flyers have the opportunity to pick up another high quality win. If Dayton can find a way to knock off the Bulldogs, the Flyers’ main focus will shift to avoiding bad losses the rest of the way. In a down year for the Atlantic 10, Dayton certainly has a shot to compete for the conference title. That said, the Flyers are still young and ahead of schedule. They will need to find a way to stay focused on each game and not get ahead of themselves. Here’s to hoping Dayton can keep things rolling and possibly snag a NCAA tournament berth.
Featured Image Via David Jablonski/Dayton Daily News