ESPN’s Lunardi sees Dayton as a team on rise in at-large discussion

Flyers take a three-game winning streak into Quad 1 opportunity at Saint Louis

The Dayton Flyers have flown well out of reach of the NCAA tournament bubble all season — even before the season really because no experts saw them as potential at-large team — since losing three of their first four games.

The losses to UMass Lowell, Lipscomb and Austin Peay continue to haunt the Flyers, though their frozen hopes are beginning to thaw, at least in the mind of the most famous bracketologist, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi.

Lunardi listed Dayton among 10 teams on the wrong side of the bubble on Thursday. UD was not listed among the “First Four Out” or even the “Next Four Out,” but on a line next to Texas A&M, which like Dayton is waiting in line behind eight teams, who are themselves waiting for a spot in Lunardi’s bracket.

In summary, Dayton (15-7, 7-2) still has slim hopes of earning an at-large berth entering the second half of the Atlantic 10 Conference schedule. The other most famous bracketologists aren’t even talking about Dayton — not yet at least.

Dayton’s last two at-large teams (2016 and 2017) won 24 games in the regular season. Dayton would have to go 8-1 the rest of the way just to get to that point. Those teams might have gotten in with one or two fewer victories, but those teams didn’t have the three bad losses Dayton has on its resume.

What Dayton does have is momentum as it travels to Saint Louis (15-6, 6-2) for a 2 p.m. Saturday game at Chaifetz Arena. The Flyers beat Virginia Commonwealth 82-52 on Wednesday for their third straight victory.

“I think this is going to carry over into when we play Saturday,” Dayton guard Kobe Elvis said.

Dayton improved to 3-1 in Quadrant 1 by beating VCU on the road and would get a fourth victory by winning at Saint Louis. The Billikens rank 59th in the NCAA Evaluation Tool. VCU is No. 75. Dayton is No. 60. Road wins against teams 1-75 count as Quad 1 victories.

Dayton is 3-3 against Quad 2, 2-0 against Quad 3 and 7-3 against Quad 4.

In all likelihood, Dayton will have to win the A-10 tournament to play in the NCAA tournament, though there’s plenty to play for in the regular season. Dayton needs one of the top four seeds so it has to win three games in four days (March 11-13) at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C., instead of four games in four days, and it needs to keep winning to stay in contention for the regular-season championship.

First-place Davidson (18-3, 8-1) has a relatively easy road in the second half of the A-10 schedule — a road game at Rhode Island and home games against Saint Louis and George Mason being its toughest tasks — and will be favored in every game until it plays at Dayton in the final game of the regular season March 5.

Saint Louis also brings momentum into its game against Dayton. The Billikens have won four straight games against Massachusetts, George Washington, Duquesne and George Mason.

Saint Louis beat George Mason 92-90 on Wednesday in Fairfax, Va., on a layup at the buzzer by guard Yuri Collins, who had 35 points and 13 assists.

“We just happened to make the last shot,” Saint Louis coach Travis Ford told the St. Louis Post Dispatch. “It was a total team effort. I didn’t think we played great. We had a ridiculous performance — one of the best performances from any player that I’ve seen in a long time in putting a team on his back and pulling us through.”

Saturday’s Game

Dayton at Saint Louis, 2 p.m., ESPNU, 1290, 95.7

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