Matt McCall got the best of his mentor, Anthony Grant, in 2018. Massachusetts handed Grant’s first Dayton Flyers team two of its most disappointing losses that season.
Two years later, the Minutemen are still trying to escape the bottom half of the Atlantic 10 Conference standings, while the No. 15 Flyers have soared past every team in the Atlantic 10, judging by the all the various rankings, to claim a spot among the nation’s elite programs — at the moment, at least.
Dayton (14-2, 3-0) climbed to No. 6 in the Ken Pomeroy ratings — the highest ranking in school history on a website that launched in the 2001-02 season — on Sunday after an 88-60 victory Saturday against UMass at UD Arena. The Flyers are beating teams by an average of 18.5 points per game, the fourth-highest margin in the country. UMass didn’t have a chance after falling behind 27-7 halfway through the first half.
“Give Dayton credit,” McCall said. “To think of the job Anthony has done from 14 wins to 21 to now — a top-10 program in the country — is impressive. They played like men. We played like boys. We coached like boys. It’s not just on our players. It’s on all of us to understand how mistake free and how hard you have to play to win a game like that.”
As good as Dayton was Saturday and as dominant as it has been all season, it still has more to prove. The Flyers haven’t beaten a top-100 team since No. 33 Saint Mary’s on Dec. 8 and just completed a stretch of five games in which No. 174 UMass was the highest-ranked opponent.
The next five games will provide better tests for Dayton, especially if they have to play without leading scorer Obi Toppin, who sprained his left ankle on Saturday, for any length of time. Here’s a quick glance at the next five opponents:
Tuesday: VCU (12-4, 2-1) at Dayton, 8 p.m.
The Rams are the defending regular-season champion and preseason favorites. They still own the A-10’s second-best rankings — No. 42 in the NCAA Evaluation Tool and No. 49 in the Pomeroy ratings — despite a 65-56 loss in Richmond, Va., to Rhode Island on Saturday. VCU has won four straight games in the series against Dayton.
Friday: Dayton at Saint Louis (14-3, 3-1), 7 p.m.
The Billikens opened A-10 play with a 73-59 loss at Duquesne but have since won three straight games and beat the Richmond Spiders 74-58 on the road Saturday. That goes down as the best victory of the season for Saint Louis, the defending A-10 tournament champions. Dayton has lost at Saint Louis the last two seasons.
Jan. 22: St. Bonaventure (11-5, 3-0) at Dayton, 7 p.m.
The Bonnies turned their season around after a 1-4 start. They beat George Washington and George Mason on the road to start A-10 play and routed Fordham 64-44 on Saturday.
» NON-CONFERENCE REVIEW: Best and worst of A-10
Like UMass, Saint Louis and Saint Joseph’s, they rank among the 60 least experienced teams in the nation. Dayton has won four straight games against the Bonnies.
Jan. 25: Dayton at Richmond (12-4, 2-1), 6 p.m.
The Spiders picked up one the best A-10 victories of the first week by winning 69-61 at Rhode Island. That made the loss to Saint Louis at home all the more surprising.
The Spiders have the A-10’s best non-conference victory. They beat Wisconsin 62-52 on Nov. 25. The Badgers rank 21st in the Pomeroy ratings. Dayton has won seven straight games in this series.
Jan. 29: Dayton at Duquesne (14-2, 4-0), 7 p.m.
The Dukes sit alone in first place, a half game ahead of Dayton and St. Bonaventure. The 4-0 start in A-10 play is the program’s second best. Duquesne has beaten Saint Louis, Davidson, Saint Joseph’s and George Washington. Dayton has won seven of the last eight games in the series and swept the Dukes last season.
Thank you for reading the Dayton Daily News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Dayton Daily News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.