Dayton Flyers: Breaking down Atlantic 10 with nine games to play

First-place Rhode Island undefeated in conference play

Four years after the Dayton Flyers had the honor of being the last Ohio team standing in the NCAA tournament, their fans have felt the disappointment of not being part of a banner season for college basketball in the state.

Three Ohio teams rank in the top 15 of the Ken Pomeroy ratings: No. 6 Cincinnati, No. 12 Xavier and No. 15 Ohio State. Ohio teams from the Mid-American Conference and Horizon League stand well above the Flyers: No. 95 Toledo and No. 121 Wright State. There's even a Division III team not far from Dayton, 19-0 and third-ranked Wittenberg, enjoying its best season in 12 years.

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Dayton has finished in the top 100 of the Pomeroy ratings 10 years in a row since posting its lowest rankings (131 and 124) in 2006 and 2007. This season, it has dropped from 103 at the beginning of the season to 143.

Of course, this is college basketball, and despite all that, there's still something to play for if you're the Flyers (10-11, 4-5), particularly a decent seed in the Atlantic 10 tournament. Dayton hit the halfway point of the conference schedule Saturday with a 75-65 loss at Saint Louis.

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Dayton’s tied for eighth in the 14-team league with Saint Louis (11-11, 4-5) but only 1½ games out of fourth place. Dayton has head-to-head tiebreakers over three of the top-four teams, though it still has to play one of those teams, Virginia Commonwealth, on the road.

Here’s a look at the conference with nine games to play:

Favorite: This hasn't changed since the start of conference play and won't change. Rhode Island (17-3, 9-0) has a three-game lead over Virginia Commonwealth (14-8, 6-3) and Richmond (8-13, 6-3).

Player of the year: La Salle senior B.J. Johnson leads the conference in scoring and ranks fourth in rebounding (8.3). He has scored 26 and 27 points in La Salle's last two games, returning to form after missing five games with an ankle injury.

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However, the award typically goes to a player from a contending team — La Salle (9-12, 3-5) is tied for 10th — so Davidson’s Peyton Aldridge, VCU’s Justin Tillman and Rhode Island’s Justin Terrell will get consideration.

Rookie of the year: Freshman Eric Williams Jr. has played a big part in the resurgence of Duquesne. He's averaging 15.1 points per game on the season and 16.6 in A-10 play.

Most improved player: Dayton senior Darrell Davis has improved his scoring from 5.5 points per game to 16.5. He has made his biggest jump in 2-point field goal percentage (23.8 to 49.5). He also leads the conference in free-throw percentage (76 of 87, 87.4).

Coach of the year: Rhode Island's Dan Hurley or Duquesne's Keith Dambrot will win this one. It will be hard not to pick Hurley, even though his team was the preseason favorite if the Rams finish 18-0 in the A-10. Dambrot could win because of what he's done in his first season on the job.

Most improved team: Duquesne (14-8, 5-4) sits alone in fifth place. The Dukes finished last a year ago with a 3-15 A-10 record.

Most disappointing team: St. Bonaventure (14-6, 4-4) was picked to finish second and is tied for sixth with all four losses coming on the road.

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Best rebound: Richmond was 3-13 after losing 87-81 at home to Dayton on Jan. 9. It has since won five straight games, including three on the road.

Best game ahead: Rhode Island plays at VCU on Friday. It's one of five road games in the last nine for Rhode Island, which has risen to No. 33 in the Pomeroy ratings and ninth in the RPI.


Dayton at Massachusetts, 2 p.m., Spectrum Sports, FM 95.7, AM 1290 WHIO

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