Josh Cunningham wouldn’t bite. Given the opportunity to talk about the beach and the pools and 80-degree temperatures the Dayton Flyers will see this week in the Bahamas, he gave the quote repeated over the years by numerous Flyers.
“It’s not a vacation,” Cunningham said Saturday after a 90-81 victory over Purdue Fort Wayne at UD Arena. “It’s a business trip. We’re not there for (the beaches). We’re there for basketball.”
Ryan Mikesell said the same thing in 2016 before Dayton left for California to play in the Wooden Legacy. Former Dayton coach Archie Miller took it a step further in 2014 before Dayton played in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, calling it a “very serious business trip.”
Considering the quality of the Battle 4 Atlantis field, this is not only a very serious trip for Dayton but a difficult one. The Flyers (3-0) play Butler (3-0) in the first round at 7 p.m. Wednesday (ESPNews) at Imperial Arena, a ballroom turned into a basketball facility at the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island. Here’s a preview of the tournament:
Winning two games in this tournament — however it happens — would be a success for Dayton, which at No. 100 in the Pomeroy ratings is the second-lowest ranked team in the field, ahead of only No. 165 Middle Tennessee State.
However, coach Anthony Grant liked what he saw from his team in the first three games.
“I like being 3-0,” Grant said Friday. “Every game we get to learn from. Our guys have done a very good job of being able to take the things we’re talking about that we need to do to get better and stay grounded. (Playing Purdue Fort Wayne) was a challenge, having not played for a week, just the way the week went. Then obviously we’ve got the trip where we’ll be gone for a week, heading to the Bahamas. When you’re dealing with 18- to 22-year-olds, people always want to take them to the past or they want them to predict the future. For them to be able to stay focused on what we had to take care of today, that was a challenge for us. I thought we were able to overcome the adversity that hit us, handle the distractions that surrounded us all week and be able to focus in on who we had today.”
Dayton hasn’t played Virginia since 1987, Middle Tennessee State since 1965 or Wisconsin since 1961. Dayton and Butler last played in 2013, the only season Butler was in the Atlantic 10 Conference.