The vice president of the NCAA tournament, the man with the keys to March Madness, the bracket boss, so to speak, watched Dayton beat Massachusetts 86-79 in person on Saturday. Dan Gavitt runs the show when the selection committee meets, but he doesn’t actually have a vote in the process.
That didn’t stop someone from asking him about the Flyers’ chances of dancing in March after knocking off a team ranked 12th in the RPI.
“Are the Flyers in now?” Gavitt was asked as he left the court after the game.
Gavitt laughed, knowing the question was more joke than serious query. Two weeks remain until the brackets are announced March 16. The Flyers sit squarely on the bubble, bouncing back and forth between “First Four Out” and “Last Four In,” depending on what they did in their most recent game.
Gavitt knows that and could only say, “That was a nice win.”
Indeed, it was. Dayton (20-9, 8-6) bounced back from its most lopsided loss of the season, 79-53 at Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday, to record its best Atlantic 10 Conference victory of the season. The Flyers jumped from 56th to 48th in the RPI and moved into a tie for sixth place with Richmond, which lost 66-43 at Rhode Island on Saturday.
“I’m proud of our guys,” Dayton coach Archie Miller said. “It was a terrific win against a team that will obviously be a pretty solid seed in the NCAA tournament. Coming off a very tough night in Philadelphia, to watch our guys respond the last couple days, that’s kind of who we’ve been all season.”
Jordan Sibert rebounded from a 1-of-8 shooting performance against the Hawks to match his career high with 23 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Dyshawn Pierre and Vee Sanford each hit 6-of-12 shots from the field to score 16 and 15, respectively.
Devin Oliver had 11 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Khari Price added 10 points and played the best basketball of his career, Miller said. Jalen Robinson had one of his best all-around games, scoring seven points and grabbing six rebounds.
The Flyers got off to a good start, especially when compared to their starts in the last three games. They had 11 points in the first four minutes in this game after totaling five points in the first four minutes against La Salle, Duquesne and Saint Joseph’s.
Still, the Minutemen (22-6, 9-5) led most of the first half and stretched their lead to 37-32 with 1:49 to go. That’s where the game turned for Dayton.
The Flyers scored the last four points of the first half and the first nine of the second half to take a 45-37 lead with 18 minutes left. They never trailed again and led by as many as 12 points, though UMass made it a one-possession game, 80-77, in the final minute by turning up the pressure.
Dayton shot 56 percent in the second half and held UMass to 41 percent. The Minutemen shot 54 percent in the first half.
“It’s a big win,” Sanford said. “Every game we’ve got left is (a chance for) a big win. We focus on the next game, but this is a great win for us, especially bouncing back.”
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