Breaking down A-10’s performance in non-conference play

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Dayton Flyers highlights: Jalen Crutcher (first 11 games)

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League play starts Thursday with five games

Bob Arciero, a Dayton Flyers fan from Boynton Beach, Fla., publishes a list of Atlantic 10 Conference tournament seeding probabilities every week on Twitter. His first table, released in the preseason, listed Virginia Commonwealth as a 55.8 percent favorite to earn the top seed in March.

» DAYTON TOP 10: Most-read UD stories in 2019

By Dec. 2, the Flyers had passed VCU as a 52.4 percent favorite, and their odds have improved every week. As of Dec. 23, they had a 65.5 percent chance of heading to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., as the front-runner.

Take that for what it’s worth. As well as the Dayton Flyers have played, the grind of the conference season always features a few surprises, even for the best of Dayton teams. Also, the top seed guarantees nothing. The last two Dayton teams to earn the No. 1 seed lost in the semifinals (2016) and quarterfinals (2017), respectively. The Flyers haven’t won the A-10 tournament since 2003, when it was held at UD Arena.

While it may be too early to talk about seeds, it’s the perfect time to discuss the A-10 race. Conference play begins Thursday with five games, including Dayton’s 7 p.m. game at La Salle (8-3). Each team will play 18 games between then and March 7.

Here’s a rundown of how the conference has fared in non-conference play

Best team: Dayton (10-2), which was picked to finish third in the A-10 preseason poll, leads the A-10 in all the various polls and rankings. It is No. 18 in the Associated Press poll, No. 10 (as of Thursday) in the Ken Pomeroy ratings and No. 13 in the NCAA Evaluation Tool.

» POLL UPDATE: Dayton still in top 20 after loss to Colorado

Worst team: While Saint Joseph's (3-9) has the league's worst record, Fordham (5-6) likely will finish at the bottom of the conference for the third straight season. It's the lowest-ranked A-10 team in the NET at No. 266.

Most disappointing team: Davidson (6-5), which was picked to finish second in the preseason poll, has won three games in a row but will need to win at Vanderbilt on Monday to finish non-conference play with a winning record.

The loss of Luke Frampton has played a role in Davidson’s struggles. He started the first five games and averaged 9.8 points but is taking a personal leave of absence and won’t play again this season. Senior guard KiShawn Pritchetthas not played this season because of knee issues. Another player expected to play a reserve role, David Czerapowicz, will miss the season after undergoing hip surgery.

» GRAMBLING STATE GAME: Flyers dominate despite short turnaroundPhotos

"I think we're in a very unique situation," Davidson coach Bob McKillop told the Charlotte Observer in December. "We're missing some things. But everybody has injuries. We have shown at times that we can put some productive minutes together. But we haven't done that enough. That's why there's the inconsistency. Maybe we haven't shown enough resiliency. But resiliency becomes a byproduct of experience. I think our guys are understanding that more than ever before."

Most surprising team: Picked to finish eighth in the A-10, Duquesne (10-1) won its first 10 games. It was the program's best start since the 1953-54 season. The perfect season ended with a 77-68 loss to Alabama-Birmingham. The Dukes dropped from No. 20 to No. 66 in the NET.

Best NCAA chances: ESPN's Joe Lunardi put two A-10 teams in his most recent bracket prediction. Dayton received a No. 4 seed and a matchup with No. 13 Vermont in Albany, N.Y. VCU was one of the last four teams to make his field and received a No. 12 seed and a matchup with Arkansas in the First Four in Dayton.

Most missed chances: While Dayton suffered overtime losses to two teams ranked in the top 30 of the NET, No. 4 Kansas and No. 27 Colorado, VCU (9-3) went 1-3 against top-60 teams, beating No. 58 LSU 84-82 and losing 59-56 to No. 45 Purdue, 72-69 to No. 46 Tennessee and 73-63 to No. 11 Wichita State. At No. 60, VCU is the third highest-ranked A-10 team behind Dayton and No. 55 Richmond (10-2).

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Dayton highlights: Toppin's big shot and OT action vs. Colorado

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Best player: Dayton redshirt sophomore forward Obi Toppin looked like a shoo-in to become the first Dayton player to win the A-10 Player of the Year award until his scoring started to drop in December. He's averaging 18.8 points per game after scoring a season-low eight in an 81-53 victory against Grambling State on Monday.

While Toppin is still the favorite, he could be challenged by players like Rhode Island guard Fatts Russell, who leads the league with 20.8 points per game, and Davidson star Kellan Grady (16.1).

Top newcomer: St. Joseph's redshirt junior guard Ryan Daly, a transfer from Delaware, ranks second in the conference in scoring (20.4) and also leads the Hawks in rebounding (8.3) and assists (4.7).

Top freshman: Massachusetts center Tre Mitchell, the top-ranked A-10 recruit in the 2019 class (No. 82 in the nation, according to Rivals.com), ranks 10th in the league in scoring (14.2) and is averaging 6.3 rebounds.

UMass (6-6) has one of the youngest teams in the country. It ranks 342nd out of 353 Division I teams in experience. It started 5-0 and then lost six straight games to top-100 teams.

Most improved player: George Washington senior guard Armel Potter is averaging 15.3 points per game after averaging 6.0 last season. He averaged 11.4 in his first two seasons at Charleston Southern.

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Dayton Flyers highlights: Ibi Watson scores 30 vs. Grambling

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Sixth man of the year: Dayton redshirt junior guard Ibi Watson earned his first career start Monday because Jalen Crutcher (concussion protocol) missed the game and scored a career-high 30 points. He has the 20th-best offensive rating in the country, according to KenPom.com. He averages 11.7 points per game and ranks fourth in the conference in 3-point shooting percentage (48.1).

Best victory: Dayton's 78-68 victory against Saint Mary's in Phoenix on Dec. 8 tops the list of best wins by A-10 teams. The Gaels rank 29th in the Pomeroy ratings and 37th in the NET.

Worst loss: George Washington (5-6) lost 68-64 at home on Nov. 16 to Morgan State, which ranks 303rd in the Pomeroy ratings.

Longest current winning streak: St. Bonaventure (8-4) started the season 1-4 but takes a seven-game winning streak into a road game at Buffalo (8-4) on Monday.

» COLORADO GAME: Grant says it’s a tough loss to take|Photos of Flyers vs. Buffaloes

Worst losing streak: St. Joseph's (3-9) recorded one of the best victories by any team in the A-10 on Nov. 13, beating Connecticut 96-87, and then lost eight straight games and will start league play Thursday at Richmond with the worst record in the A-10.

Best stats: Dayton has the third-most efficient offense in the country and ranks first in effective field-goal percentage (61.9) and 2-point field-goal percentage (63.7).

Worst injury: Saint Louis (10-2) lost its third-leading scorer, freshman guard Gibson Jimerson, for the season when he injured his foot in practice Dec. 16. He averaged 10.8 points in 10 games.

Conference summary: Through Monday, the top eight A-10 teams boasted a combined record of 75-17. Eight teams ranked in the top 100 of the NET. After slipping to 11th in the Ken Pomeroy conference rankings last season, the A-10 ranks eighth. That's where it ranked in 2016 and 2017 before falling to 10th in 2018.

MONDAY’S GAME

North Florida at Dayton, 7 p.m., Fox Sports Ohio, 1290 and 95.7 WHIO

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