Dayton faces A-10 champion in final regular-season game

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Caption
Top plays from final minute and overtimes as Flyers win 89-86 on Jan. 19, 2019, in Olean, N.Y.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The Dayton Flyers have proven they can lose to anyone in the Atlantic 10 Conference this season. The Dayton Daily News headlines paint a grim picture.

• “La Salle ends Dayton’s 20-game A-10 winning streak.”

• “Fordham beats Dayton for first time in 15 years.”

• “Dayton gives up most points in 22 years in loss to Saint Joseph’s.”

La Salle (9-15, 6-11), Saint Joseph’s (3-14, 2-9) and Fordham (2-11, 2-11) occupy the bottom three spots in the standings. Of course, Dayton also has two victories over seventh-place Saint Louis (12-5, 5-4), and it beat fourth-place Davidson (11-7, 6-4) on the road and sixth-place George Mason (12-8, 8-6) twice at UD Arena.

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The Flyers have been great. They have been terrible. Often they have been both in the same week or the same game.

What should fans expect in the days ahead when Dayton (12-8, 8-7) closes the regular season with a 5 p.m. game Monday on ESPNU at St. Bonaventure (13-3, 11-3), which has already clinched the Atlantic 10 Conference regular-season championship? Who knows? This team is a mystery, a model of inconsistency. No matter the result Monday, it will still be capable of making a run in the A-10 tournament later this week in Richmond, Va., or exiting after its first game.

One of the special things about college basketball is the chance for every team to start the postseason with a clean slate in the conference tournament, and Dayton will get that chance. That was said the last 17 years, too, and Dayton failed to win the A-10 tournament every time — though there’s a big asterisk next to the 2020 season because Dayton had its best chance and saw the tournament cancelled by the coronavirus pandemic.

An odd season continues Monday with the Bonnies playing to stay in contention for an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament and Dayton playing to improve its seeding in the A-10 tournament.

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Here are three things to know about the game:

1. What’s on the line?

The Flyers enter the game in Olean, N.Y., in eighth place, and they won’t get anything worse than the No. 9 seed if they lose. They could improve their position if they win. That also depends on what happens in the two other remaining games in the conference: Massachusetts (7-5, 6-3) at Saint Louis (12-5, 5-4); and Saint Joseph’s (3-14, 2-9) at Richmond (10-11, 6-4). Both games also take place Monday.

If Dayton gets the No. 8 seed, it would play the No. 9 seed at 11 a.m. Thursday. Duquesne (8-8, 7-7) could be that opponent. A victory would lead to a second game in five days against St. Bonaventure at 11 a.m. Friday. The Bonnies have clinched the No. 1 seed.

St. Bonaventure also clinched the outright A-10 regular-season championship for the first time in its history when Virginia Commonwealth (17-6, 10-4) lost 65-57 Saturday at Davidson.

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2. Who has the momentum?

While Dayton has lost four of its last six games, the Bonnies take a three-game winning streak into Monday. They swept two games from Davidson last week (69-58 at home and 56-54 on the road) and then routed George Washington 88-41 on Friday.

“We’ve got experienced guys, mature guys that understand what it takes to be successful,” St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt told PickinSplinters.com and other local news sites after the victory Friday. “Can’t overlook anybody. You respect everybody and just go out there and try to play as well as you can. Our guys did that. They were focused, their physical and mental toughness. Just really proud of their effort and their mindset. Came off two big wins and it could be a letdown; we had one day to prepare. But our guys really, really responded.”

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3. What’s the recent history in the series?

St. Bonaventure’s junior class, led by Kyle Lofton, Osun Ossuniyi and Dominick Welch, has played a big role since the start of their college careers and started against Dayton as freshmen in an 89-86 overtime loss in Olean in 2019.

As successful as that class has been, it has yet to beat Dayton. In coach Anthony Grant’s four seasons, his teams have lost at least once to all but four teams: St. Bonaventure; Richmond; George Washington; and Davidson.

The Bonnies last beat Dayton on Feb. 20, 2016, winning 79-72 at UD Arena thanks to 31 points by Jaylen Adams. Dayton has played better at St. Bonaventure’s Reilly Center over the years than at just about any other A-10 arena. It has won five straight games there. Its last loss (81-73) came on Jan. 11, 2012, and it was Archie Miller’s first loss in the A-10.

TODAY’S GAME

Dayton at St. Bonaventure, 5 p.m., ESPNU, 95.7, 1290