To kick off coverage of the 2017-18 Dayton men’s basketball season, David Jablonski will publish 17 top 10 lists on various topics between now and the season opener on Nov. 10.
Fourteen Atlantic 10 Conference men’s basketball coaches and the players from the preseason all-conference team will travel to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday for A-10 Media Day.
Two seasons in row, coaches and media members have voted the Dayton Flyers the preseason favorite. That won’t be the case this season — not with UD losing four senior starters. It will be interesting to see where the Flyers land in the poll. One preseason magazine ranked them eighth.
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Dayton started playing in the A-10 in the 1995-96 basketball season. The official announcement that Dayton — along with La Salle and Virginia Tech — would join the conference came on Feb. 9, 1995. For the four previous months, UD knew the Great Midwest Conference was folding but didn’t know where it would end up. Oliver Purnell, then in his first season as Dayton head coach, saw the uncertainty affecting recruiting.
"Time was running out," Purnell told the Dayton Daily News in 1995. "You had to step up and take a big shot."
The Flyers have now played 22 seasons in the conference. Here are the top 10 victories from those years.
1. Two straight: Picking a moment from last March to rank No. 1 isn’t just recency bias. When Dayton beat Virginia Commonwealth 79-72 on March 1 on Senior Night, it was a peak moment for Dayton in the A-10. The Flyers clinched their first outright regular-season championship and secured their second straight conference title, a first for the program.
This game turned out to be even more important considering what happened in the weeks ahead. Dayton lost its last three games: its regular-season finale at George Washington, its first A-10 tournament game against Davidson and its NCAA tournament game against Wichita State. This was the last of a school-record 102 victories for the senior class. This also turned out to be Archie Miller’s last game at UD Arena.
2. First championship: Dayton beat Temple 79-72 to win the A-10 tournament for the first time — and still the only time — at UD Arena on March 15, 2003. Sean Finn starred with 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting.
"We all won today,” UD legend Jim Paxson Sr. told Dayton Daily News columnist Tom Archdeacon after the game. “Anybody who has ever had any connection to the the Flyers feels this right now."
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Dayton clinched its second and last NCAA tournament berth of the Purnell era. This would turn out to be his last victory as Dayton head coach and his last game at UD Arena. He left for Clemson in April 2003.
3. Title share: Dayton beat VCU 68-67 on March 5, 2016 to earn a share of the A-10 regular-season title with VCU and St. Bonaventure. While UD won or shared the A-10’s West Division in 1998, 2000 and 2004, this was the first time it won a share of the title since the conference did away with divisions in 2005.
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“We wanted this,” Miller said. “We’ve been wanting this for a long time, not only for this year but when we first started out to build this thing. To do it on our home court in front of these fans is so exciting.”
4. First win: Dayton lost its first two A-10 games to Massachusetts and Temple in 1996, and by that point, it had lost 20 conference games in a row. That counted the last five Great Midwest Games it played in 1994 and all 13 it played in the Great Midwest in 1995 (12 regular-season and one tournament).
Dayton broke the streak with an 84-77 victory over Rhode Island in front of a crowd of 10,027 at UD Arena on Jan. 14, 1996. Ryan Perryman had 20 points and 13 rebounds. The Flyers finished 6-10 in the A-10 that season.
5. Emotional night: On Feb. 17, 1996, Dayton played St. Bonaventure in its first home game since the death of Chris Daniels, who passed away on Feb. 8, 1996.
The Flyers lost 68-58 at Fordham two days after Daniels died, and in their return home, they won 66-58. Freshman Andy Metzler scored 21 points.
Prior to the game, the team chaplain, father Gene Contadino, prayed with the team, according a story by Archdeacon from that game.
“God, it is with heavy hearts we offer our prayers to you,” Contadino said. “It's hard to give thanks when we want to scream, ‘Why?’”
6. Big win: The highest-ranked A-10 team Dayton defeated in its first 22 seasons in the league was No. 12 Xavier on Jan. 7, 1997. The Flyers overcame an early 14-point deficit to win 98-91 at UD Arena. Darnell Hoskins scored 30 points. Rodney Horton and Mark Ashman each had 20.
"That's one of the most exhilarating feelings I've had in my life," Hoskins told Dayton Daily News beat writer Bucky Albers. "That's college basketball. It's unpredictable. Anybody can beat anybody on any given night. We wanted to come out tonight and put the pressure on those guys, make them make the decisions, make them make plays.”
7. Road upset: Dayton’s Elite Eight run in 2014 might not have happened if it hadn’t upset No. 17 Saint Louis 72-67 on March 5 at Chaifetz Arena.
Saint Louis had already clinched the regular-season title and had planned to celebrate after the game by cutting down the nets. It taped a pair of scissors to a ladder near one of the baskets. Instead, the Flyers left the court with an important victory for their tournament resume. Until this game, the Flyers were 0-15 against conference ranked opponents on the road in the MCC, Great Midwest and A-10
“We’re not worried about the bubble,” Miller said. “The great thing about this team is we’ve eliminated all the noise. We had to do that back in January when nobody liked us, when we weren’t playing well. It’s been a constant, everyday fight for ourselves, to just stay together, to be about the right things. We have high-character guys.”
8. Improbable victory: Dayton recorded one of its most important road victories in A-10 play in 2015, beating No. 22 VCU 59-55 on Feb. 28 at the Siegel Center. The Flyers had six players for the last five minutes, and two of those players were playing with four fouls.
“It’s the right time to play this type of basketball,” sophomore point guard Scoochie Smith said. “We played hard. March starts tomorrow.”
9. Winning streak: Dayton earned a NCAA tournament in 2004 in part because of a 9-0 start in A-10 play. One of the best victories in that stretch came on Feb. 4 against Richmond at UD Arena.
The Flyers 62-57 in overtime. Mark Jones hit a game-tying 3-pointer with 9 seconds left to send the game to overtime. Keith Waleskowski had 21 points and 18 rebounds.
10. Breakthrough season: Dayton joined a conference for the first time in 1988 and finished 6-6 in its first season in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference. It was 10-4, 8-6 and 5-5 the next three seasons but then suffered five losing seasons in a row — between the MCC, Great Midwest and A-10 — in league play.
The 1997-98 team ended that slump with an 11-5 mark in the A-10. UD clinched a share of the A-10 West Division title on Feb. 25, 1998, with a 68-62 victory at Duquesne.
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