La Salle at Dayton, 7 p.m., Wednesday, CBS Sports Network, 1290, 95.7
The Dayton Flyers have reversed course, soothed some aching hearts just in time for Valentine’s Day and boosted spirits among the Flyer Faithful with the stretch run just ahead.
What Dayton does in the final six regular-season games and the Atlantic 10 tournament will determine whether it plays in the three-letter tournament it won four years ago or the four-letter one it hasn’t seen since 2009 — or neither.
The opportunity is there. Dayton (17-8, 5-5) jumped to 58th in the RPI, according to ESPN’s daily update, with a 76-69 victory over Rhode Island on Wednesday, and the Flyers play four top-50 teams in the next three weeks: Saint Joseph’s (44), Massachusetts (20), Saint Louis (15) and Richmond (41).
Right now, Dayton has a decent resume, but the bracketologists would tell you it has work to do. It’s 3-4 against teams in the top 50 0f the RPI and 3-1 against teams ranked between 51 and 100. In 2011, the last time the Flyers sat on the NCAA bubble, they were 2-7 against top 50 teams and had two losses to teams below 200 in the RPI. This team hasn’t lost to any team currently below 136.
The players can’t afford to look at the big picture, of course, because every game in the A-10 is so tough. George Mason started 0-8 in the A-10 and has won its last two, upsetting Massachusetts on Wednesday. The Flyers were once 1-5 and are now two games out of third place after winning the first four games in February for the first time since 1986.
“I’m proud of our guys,” Dayton coach Archie Miller said Wednesday. “They continue to keep the good fight going. Anytime you’re in February, you take them and you run with them because you know you’re not going to be perfect. The team you’re playing against knows you very well. Every game this time of year feels like a bloodbath.”
The Flyers don’t play Saturday and return to action at 9 p.m. Wednesday at home against La Salle. Miller said he would give the players the day off on Thursday. The Flyers will practice today and Saturday, take Sunday off and get back on their normal schedule Monday. Miller wasn’t concerned about the break disrupting his team’s hot streak.
“Anytime you can get a break at this time, you can freshen up your mind and freshen up your body,” he said. “It’s a good thing. I don’t really like a break when you have to take the weekend off. I’d rather have the break during the week when you have school.”