The national college basketball preview magazines don’t give the Dayton Flyers much of a chance in the Atlantic 10 Conference this season.
Lindy’s Sports College Basketball Preview picked Dayton ninth in the 14-team league. Street & Smith’s picked Dayton eighth. The Flyers, who will hold their first official practice of the 2018-19 season on Oct. 4, will use those outside expectations as motivation as much as they can.
“You see that stuff on Twitter and what not,” redshirt junior forward Ryan Mikesell said Wednesday. “You try not to read too far into that. You just try to focus on yourself and getting better every day. Obviously, we’ll come out this season, playing with a little chip on our shoulder knowing we’re kind of the underdogs.”
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Saint Louis is the popular favorite in the league race with George Mason, St. Joseph’s and Davidson also expected to contend. Most experts concede it’s a wide-open race.
What writers and fans who have also made predictions online see when they look at Dayton’s roster is a group lacking second-round NBA Draft pick Kostas Antetokounmpo and four other players who left the roster. Dayton returns four starters but also has five players who didn’t play last season, and four of those — Mikesell being the exception — have never played Division I college basketball.
“I think they’re going to look at the roster and say there’s a lot of new faces,” Mikesell said, “but ultimately our chemistry, the way our team has come together throughout the summer and throughout the preseason is really going to help us out come the season. I think we’re going to be a real close-knit group. We’re really going to play for each other.”
Dayton was the preseason favorite two years in a row in the final years of the Archie Miller era. It slipped to 14-17 last season under Anthony Grant and placed ninth in the A-10 with an 8-10 conference mark.
“We’ve got to come out and perform every night,” redshirt senior forward Josh Cunningham said. “It really depends on us and how we perform. They’re probably going off of what they saw last season. This season is a totally different season. We’ve got totally different players. We’ve got people who can play this season. Ryan’s able to play this season. We’ve got Obadiah Toppin. The team we have is going to be great.
“It’s always fun being an underdog because we can surprise people. They’ll think, ‘We’re going to play Dayton and it should be easy,’ but it’s never going to be easy when you play us.”