EDITOR’S NOTE: David Jablonski will update this story as long as Dayton is playing in the Atlantic 10 tournament this week.
I’ve arrived at the Barclays Center after a 1½-mile walk from an AirBnB studio apartment I rented in the Crown Heights neighborhood east of the arena. On the way here, I saw a Tweet from former Dayton point guard Scoochie Smith asked if I was going to get a chopped cheese sandwich while in New York, so I stopped at the first deli I saw and ordered one. It was delicious.
In 2015 when Smith was a junior and Dayton played at the Barclays Center, he talked up the chopped cheese delicacy during a TV interview. A year later, before a game at Fordham, I walked to a bodega in the Bronx to get one. Scoochie knows his hometown. It’s now a tradition for me.
No. 8 seed Davidson beat No. 9 St. Bonaventure 65-54 in the first game of the second round Wednesday. Foster Loyer led the Wildcats with 18 points. They won despite making 4 of 22 3-pointers (18.2%). This is Davidson’s eighth A-10 tournament appearance, and it has never lost its first game. It’s now 13-5 in the tournament. The Bonnies have lost their first game two years in a row after winning the 2021 championship.
Davidson will play No. 1 seed Virginia Commonwealth in the quarterfinals at 11:30 a.m. Thursday.
The second game of the day was the best game so far. No. 5 seed George Mason outscored No. 12 Richmond, the defending champion, 11-2 in the final two minutes to win 62-57 and earn a 2 p.m. Thursday matchup with No. 3 Saint Louis. George Mason improved to 6-8 in nine A-10 tournament appearances. It has never advanced past the quarterfinals.
Josh Oduro and Ronald Politte III each scored 16 for the Patriots. Richmond made 1 of 12 3-pointers.
In other important news, the A-10 media gift this year is a writing journal. Over the years, I’ve received a coffee mug, bluetooth speaker, etc. from the A-10 for showing up at the conference tournament.
I’m 35,000ish feet in the air on my way from Columbus to JFK Airport in New York City. They just served me the cutest bag of Sun Chips. A normal-sized Sun Chip wouldn’t have fit inside. This is as good a time as any to start this diary, which could last until Monday, if the Dayton Flyers survive and advance at the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament. Last year, the diary lasted three days.
This is my 10th season covering Dayton and the 10th time I’ve traveled to the conference tournament. In 2020, all I got to see was the press conference announcing the cancellation of the tournament. I heard the news while in an Uber ride from the airport to the arena and started making calls to get reactions from the parents of players, including Ryan Mikesell’s dad Reed. That was three years ago this week at the Barclays Center. That’s where I’m headed today after my flight lands.
I hope to catch the end of the second game between George Mason and Richmond. I’ll stick around for the game that follows between George Washington and Saint Joseph’s because Dayton plays the winner at 5 p.m. Thursday. Meanwhile, in the first game of the day, Davidson leads St. Bonaventure by seven in the second half. The winner gets No. 1 seed Virginia Commonwealth.
I’ve seen Dayton play in 22 tournaments (nine in November, nine A-10 tournaments and four NCAA tournaments) and win one (the ESPN Events Invitational in 2021). To say it is due to win the A-10 tournament is an understatement. It’s been 20 years. I wrote about the anniversary of the 2003′s championship earlier this season.
Today I posted a story to DaytonDailyNews.com with excerpts from our game stories of Dayton’s 51 A-10 tournament games. It was a lot of work but mostly copying and pasting from the stories of my predecessors, Bucky Albers and Doug Harris. Albers covered the tournament 11 times (1996-2006). Harris covered the tournament seven times (2007-13). I was lucky enough to get the beat when Harris retired before the 2013-14 season.
Dayton fans keep believing it will happen for their team, if my A-10 bracket contest is any indication. There were 62 entries this year, and 47 people picked Dayton. Six people picked No. 1 seed VCU. Five people picked No. 4 Saint Louis. Three picked No. 3 Fordham. One George Washington fan picked GW. Last year, 76 people entered the cost, and 61 picked Dayton, which lost in the semifinals to Richmond.
This is my second trip to the Barclays Center this season. I was there for A-10 Media Day in October. Expectations were never higher for Dayton than at that point. Then Malachi Smith got injured the following week. It’s been a rollercoaster ever since. That’s why no one knows what to expect from the Flyers this week — myself included.