The Dayton Flyers have completed half of the most difficult six-game stretch in recent memory.
With games against five teams ranked in the top 50 of the Ken Pomeroy rankings in an 18-day span, Dayton will improve its strength of schedule and has a chance to build a NCAA tournament resume. Its 69-64 victory against No. 26 Butler in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis will look good in March. It's Dayton best victory since it beat No. 23 Iowa and No. 25 Vanderbilt in the 2015-16 season.
Dayton lost 66-59 to Virginia and 65-54 to Oklahoma in the Bahamas, plays No. 28 Mississippi State on Friday at UD Arena and travels to Alabama to play No. 9 Auburn on Dec. 8. Only a game against No. 270 Detroit on Dec. 4 at UD Arena breaks up the stretch of tough games.
Going back to 2002, when the Pomeroy ratings began, the only comparable stretch for Dayton came in 2012 when it played No. 95 Mississippi and then five teams ranked in the top 70.
"At the end of the day, I think that's the understanding at Dayton," said Dayton coach Anthony Grant on Monday on the Anthony Grant Show on WHIO Radio. "We're going to play the best and try to put ourselves in a position where we can compete, whether it's in recruiting or on the court. If we play to our potential, we'll have a chance every night."
All five of the challenging opponents in this stretch also ranked high in the first NET ranking, which was released Monday. Dayton was ranked 69th by the NCAA Evaluation tool.
Virginia was No. 2. Auburn is No. 16. Oklahoma was No. 42. Butler ranked 45th. Mississippi State, which improved to 5-1 with an 88-65 victory over Alcorn State on Monday, ranked 66th.
“This will be a big one on Friday,” Grant said. “I know our fans will show up. We’re excited about the opportunity. Our guys also have to do that thing called academics. They’ll take care of that in the meantime. We’ve got two weeks left in the semester. We need to finish strong there. There’s a lot on their plate, but I think they’re excited about the opportunities that lie ahead.”
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More on the NET: Ohio State (6-0) was the surprise No. 1 team in the NET. The Buckeyes rank 16th in the Associated Press poll and 26th in the Ken Pomeroy ratings.
Wright State (3-3) ranks 126th. It’s the second-highest ranked Horizon League team behind No. 73 Illinois-Chicago.
The Miami RedHawks rank 139th. They’re the sixth-highest ranked Mid-American Conference team.
Dayton is the fourth-highest ranked Atlantic 10 team behind No. 40 Duquesne, No. 56 Virginia Commonwealth and No. 62 Saint Louis.
Mississippi State at Dayton, 7 p.m., CBS Sports Network, AM 1290 and News 95.7 WHIO
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