Freshman guard Mike Sharavjamts made the first basket of the season at UD Arena against Lindenwood on Nov. 7 and the last basket on the final day of February against La Salle. In between those two 3-pointers, the Dayton Flyers experienced a roller-coaster of a season that should have prepared them well for whatever March brings.
Nothing will surprise anyone in the Flyer Faithful at this point at the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament next week. A quick quarterfinal exit? Another semifinal heartbreak? The ultimate gut punch of a loss in the A-10 final? Or the incredible ending of Dayton winning the A-10 tournament outside its own arena for the first time?
All of that’s on the table, but first Dayton will have to play one more regular-season game. A 7 p.m. Friday game against Saint Louis at Chaifetz Arena will be all about heading into the A-10 tournament, where a NCAA tournament berth will be on the line, on a positive note.
“It’s huge for a lot of reasons,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “No. 1 is just the momentum you want to have going into the into the postseason. When you’re playing a team like Saint Louis, that’s a very competitive game every time our teams get together so it probably wouldn’t matter what was at stake. We’re going to compete at a high level when our teams get together. It’s just the way it is. We want to be playing our best basketball heading into the postseason. So I’m excited and looking forward to the opportunity to finish the regular season at their place and get that competition in and then get prepared for Brooklyn.”
Dayton (20-10, 12-5) sits alone in second place. It trails regular-season champion Virginia Commonwealth (23-7, 14-3) by two games and leads two teams tied for third, Saint Louis (19-11, 11-6); and Fordham (23-7, 11-6), by one game.
The Flyers won the first matchup with Saint Louis 70-56 on Feb. 10 at UD Arena. No matter what happens Friday, Dayton will be the No. 2 seed in the A-10 tournament. If it beats Saint Louis, it will sit alone in second place. If it loses, it will be tied with Saint Louis and possibly Fordham, which plays a home game against Duquesne (20-10, 10-7) on Saturday, but would win the tiebreaker against both teams.
• Dayton would win a tiebreaker against Saint Louis because of a 1-1 record against VCU. Saint Louis was 0-2 against VCU.
• In a three-way tie with Saint Louis and Fordham, the tiebreaker would be the record against the other teams in the group. Dayton would be 2-1 against Saint Louis and Fordham. Fordham would be 1-1. Saint Louis would be 1-2.
As the No. 2 seed, Dayton will open the tournament in the quarterfinals at 5 p.m. March 9 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. The Flyers will seek their first A-10 tournament championship since 2003. They were the No. 2 seed last season and lost to eventual champion Richmond in the semifinals last season.
“We’ve all been waiting for this since last year around this time,” Dayton point guard Malachi Smith said Tuesday after a 77-53 victory against La Salle. “We remember that Richmond game (in the A-10 semifinals). We were supposed to win that. That’s been in the back of our minds the whole season.”
Since losing to Dayton, Saint Louis has won home games against Davidson, Duquesne and Loyola Chicago and lost road games at Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth.
VCU is the only A-10 team to win at Saint Louis this season, 73-65 on Feb. 3, and VCU completed a sweep of Saint Louis with a 79-67 victory Tuesday in Richmond, Va. That victory allowed VCU to clinch the A-10 regular-season championship outright for the first time since 2019.
Saint Louis led VCU 35-31 at halftime. VCU broke open a tie game midway through the second half and put the game away with a 16-8 run in the final four minutes. The Billikens committed 20 turnovers.
“They forced us into a lot of turnovers and we took tough shots we didn’t make. The stat sheet says it all,” Saint Louis coach Travis Ford told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We got outrebounded and didn’t shoot a high percentage. We hung in there a long time, even when I didn’t think we were playing well.”
Dayton at Saint Louis, 7 p.m., ESPN2, 1290, 95.7
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