For whatever reason — unlike the other Power Five conference closer to home, the Big Ten — the Southeastern Conference does not shy away from playing the Dayton Flyers at UD Arena.
The last Big Ten team to play at UD Arena in the regular season was Northwestern in 1997. Meanwhile, four SEC teams have played at Dayton in the last three seasons — Vanderbilt, Arkansas, Alabama and Mississippi — and they each lost. Despite the SEC’s lack of success at UD, Auburn still scheduled a home-and-home series with the Flyers, starting at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Dayton and continuing next season in Alabama.
Dayton has won 15 of its last 18 games against the SEC and six in a row. Dayton’s first-year coach Anthony Grant has been on both sides of the Dayton vs. SEC matchup. He brought Alabama to Dayton in December 2011, his third season with the Crimson Tide, and lost 74-62.
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The willingness of SEC teams to schedule Dayton, Grant said, has a lot to do with the program’s recent success under Archie Miller.
“I think Archie did a great job of putting teams like this on the schedule early and then being able to win some of those games, either at home or on the road,” Grant said. “For the power fives, hopefully, Dayton will always be an attractive place to come to.”
The Tigers (4-1) are the first of two straight SEC opponents for the Flyers (3-2), who travel to Starkville, Miss., to play Mississippi State (5-0) at 8 p.m. Sunday. These will be the two toughest games of the season so far, though a road game at Saint Mary’s (5-2) on Dec. 19 should surpass them.
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Senior guard Darrell Davis feels these games are very important to Grant because he spent so many years in the SEC: 1996-2006 as an assistant coach at Florida and 2009-15 with Alabama.
“He preaches rebounding,” Davis said. “I feel that’s what we’ve got to do to win these games.”
Auburn and Dayton appeared in the Charleston Classic earlier this month and shared a common opponent. Dayton lost 72-69 to Hofstra in the first round. Auburn beat Hofstra 89-78 in the third-place game.
Auburn has topped 100 points twice and ranks ninth in the nation in scoring (93.4 points per game). Its top scorers are guards Bryce Brown (18.8) and Mustapha Heron (16.4).
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The Tigers have thrived despite the absence of two big men, 6-foot-11 center Austin Wiley and 6-7 forward Danjel Purifoy. They combined to average 20.3 points per game last season. The eligibility of both players is in limbo. Auburn is investigating their involvement with former assistant coach Chuck Person, who was arrested by the FBI in September in a nationwide probe into corruption in college basketball.
Auburn coach Bruce Pearl has also had to deal with the fallout from that scandal. His team has played well and ranks 46th in the Pomeroy ratings but has not beaten anyone in the top 150. Dayton ranks 114th. Auburn lost 88-74 to No. 49 Temple in Charleston.
Grant is familiar with Pearl’s teams, having coached against him twice in 2014-15, his last season at Alabama and Pearl’s first season at Auburn. Alabama won both those games.
“His teams play really hard,” Grant said. “I can look at the numbers and see they play really fast. I think defensively he has some versatility. They’re a little undersized with the guys they are missing, but I’m very impressed with what I know about them so far.”
Auburn at Dayton, 7 p.m., CBS Sports Network, FM 95.7, AM 1290 WHIO
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