Dayton coach Anthony Grant: Loaded tournament field ‘good next step’ for Flyers

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Dayton's Anthony Grant: Bahamas trip a 'good next step'

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

UD to face another 3-0 team, Butler, in first round Wednesday

The Dayton Flyers left campus in style Monday morning, taking a Dayton Dragons bus to the airport. Their charter flight landed in Nassau, Bahamas, late in the afternoon.

It didn’t long for the team to feel at home. The Dayton basketball Twitter account shared a photo of Dayton flag flying from a yacht in the marina at the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island. That’s a sure sign Dayton fans will flock to the Battle 4 Atlantis even if their team may be an underdog Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in a field that features teams from all the major conferences.

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Thoughts of playing the likes of Virginia, Middle Tennessee State, Florida, Oklahoma, Stanford or Wisconsin can wait because Dayton has all of its focus on Butler, the opponent in the first round at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Imperial Gym.

“This will be a good next step for us,” said Dayton coach Anthony Grant after practice Monday at the Cronin Center. “We’re excited about a chance to go and play. It’s a great tournament. It always has been. I’m excited to have our guys participate in it. We’ll play a Butler team that’s playing really well and off to a good start themselves. We’re looking forward to it.”

Here are seven things to know about the game:

1. Big leap: No. 102 Dayton (3-0) played three teams ranked in the bottom half of the Ken Pomeroy rankings in its first three games: No. 226 North Florida; No. 350 Coppin State; and No. 186 Purdue Fort Wayne. Those teams have a combined record of 3-10.

Butler (3-0) ranks 32nd and finished the season in the top 30 in each of the last four seasons. The Bulldogs also have already been tested by a top-100 team, beating No. 76 Mississippi 83-76 on Friday.

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2. Upset potential: Dayton will find out fast in this tournament how much it has improved over last season when it was 0-2 against teams from power conferences, losing to Mississippi State and Auburn. A victory against Butler would be the biggest non-conference victory so far in the Grant era.

“It’s a great opportunity for our group,” Grant said. “Certainly when you have to play three games in three days, you’ll find out a lot about yourselves. You’ll find out a lot about where you are this early in the year.”

3. Short tournament: For the first time since the 2013 Maui Invitational, Dayton will play three games in three days in an exempt tournament. In the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, Advocare Invitational, Wooden Legacy and Charleston Classic, Dayton played three games in four days.

Even with an eight-man rotation, Dayton won’t worry about how many minutes players are seeing.

“I think our focus will be on what we need to do to put ourselves in position to win one game at a time,” Grant said.

4. Injury update: Ryan Mikesell played 13 minutes Friday in a 91-80 victory over Purdue Fort Wayne. Grant said after the game Mikesell was on a minutes restriction because of a foot issue.

“We limited him in terms of what he’s done in practice,” Grant said, “but I think he’s feeling good and hopefully will continue to progress in the right direction.”

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5. Star player: Butler's leading scorer is junior guard Kamar Baldwin (23.3 points per game). Through two seasons, he had 893 points, the fourth most in school history.

6. Familiar name: Butler's second-leading scorer is redshirt senior guard Paul Jorgensen (18.7), who played his first two seasons at George Washington. In two appearances against Dayton when he was with the Colonials, Jorgenson made 2 of 12 shots from the field and scored five points.

7. Strong offense: Butler ranks fourth in the country in 2-point field-goal percentage (65.3). It's not quite as strong from 3-point range (35.7), ranking 122nd.

Dayton’s offense has picked up where it left off last season. It ranked second in the country in 2-point field-goal percentage last season (59.5) and ranks 27th this season (60.2).

WEDNESDAY’S GAME

Butler vs. Dayton in Battle 4 Atlantis, 7 p.m., ESPNews, AM 1290 and News 95.7 WHIO

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