Dayton Flyers: Previewing seven December games

The Dayton Flyers returned to the continental 48 states early Friday, landing in Denver after a six-hour overnight flight from Maui. Out the window, they saw snow instead of palm trees. They still had more than four hours to wait before their connecting flight to Cincinnati.

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The Maui Invitational was already a distant memory — at least if the drastic change in weather had an effect on the players — and the rest of the season awaited.

Dayton played well at the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas a year ago — beating Butler and playing Virginia and Oklahoma close — but was unable to build on that momentum in December. This team, with its improved depth and experience, is better positioned to make sure its runner-up finish in Maui is not the highlight of its season.

"I think coming into the tournament we felt really good about what we had," Dayton coach Anthony Grant said Wednesday after a 90-84 overtime loss to Kansas in the Maui final. "Every game you get challenged differently. So six games into it, I think we know more things than we did three days, three games ago. But it's six games in, and there will be all types of challenges. The one thing I think all of us in the room that have been watching basketball for a while (knows is) you can't act like you've got anything figured out because you don't."

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The Flyers (5-1) moved to No. 25 in the Ken Pomeroy ratings with victories against No. 67 Georgia and No. 57 Virginia Tech and the loss to Kansas, which ranks fourth in the Associated Press poll and eighth in the Pomeroy ratings. Now Dayton will play seven more non-conference games before starting Atlantic 10 Conference play in January. Here’s a quick glance at Dayton’s opponents in December.

Dec. 3, 7 p.m.: home Houston Baptist (0-5)

The Huskies rank 296th out of 353 Division I teams in the Pomeroy ratings. One reason for their winless record is a tough schedule. They are playing four top-40 teams in a row. They lost to No. 22 Texas Tech, No. 20 Michigan and No. 31 Houston by an average of 37 points and play Dayton next.

Dec. 8, 4 p.m.: vs. Saint Mary’s (7-1) in Phoenix

The Gaels ranked 20th in the Associated Press preseason poll and then moved to No. 18 before losing 61-59 at home to No. 178 Winthrop in their second game. It was a surprising loss, especially considering Winthrop later lost 61-58 at home to Tennessee Tech, which has two wins and ranks 319th in the Pomeroy ratings.

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Saint Mary’s has won six straight games since its one loss. Its best victories are against No. 60 Wisconsin, No. 116 Fresno State and No. 47 Utah State, which it beat 81-73 on Friday. The Gaels, who are 37th in the Pomeroy ratings, rank ninth in the nation in 3-point shooting percentage (42.4).

Dec. 14, 7 p.m.: home vs. Drake (6-2)

The No. 128 Bulldogs have lost only to Ohio teams. They lost 81-59 at No. 49 Cincinnati on Nov. 11 and 67-59 to No. 181 Miami in the Gulf Coast Showcase on Nov. 25.

Dec. 17, 7 p.m.: home vs. North Texas (2-5)

The best that can be said about the Mean Green is they almost beat No. 37 Virginia Commonwealth, losing 59-56 on Nov. 8 in Richmond. They have lost to three other top-100 teams: No. 23 Arkansas, No. 94 Rhode Island and No. 45 Utah State.

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Dec. 21, 6:30 p.m.: vs. Colorado (5-0) in Chicago

This is a rematch from last March when Dayton lost 78-73 at Colorado in the first round of the NIT. The Buffaloes have two top-100 wins against No. 68 Arizona State and No. 70 Clemson and are off to their third 5-0 start in the last 30 years. They rank 29th in the Pomeroy ratings. Colorado has one big test between now and its game against Dayton. It plays Kansas on Dec. 7.

Dec. 23, 7 p.m.: home vs. Grambling State (3-3)

The No. 300 Tigers are the lowest-ranked team on Dayton’s schedule.

Dec. 30, 7 p.m.: home vs. North Florida (5-3)

The No. 179 Osprey have lost only to top-70 teams: No. 24 Florida, No. 42 Iowa and No. 66 Creighton.


Dayton vs. Houston Baptist, 7 p.m., Spectrum News 1, 95.7 and 1290 WHIO

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