The up-and-down 2020-21 season for the Dayton Flyers included a number of unexpected results — both good and bad, but maybe none more surprising than the 55-52 victory at Saint Bonaventure in the regular-season finale.
The Bonnies had already clinched the Atlantic 10 Conference regular-season championship and would win the tournament title by beating Virginia Commonwealth at UD Arena two weeks later. They were just trying to pad their NCAA tournament resume when the Dayton game arrived March 1.
Instead, Dayton briefly raised hopes — ones that would be dashed by VCU in the A-10 tournament — they could accomplish something in March.
There will be more on the line at 7 p.m. Tuesday when St. Bonaventure (10-3, 2-0) plays Dayton, (11-6, 3-1) at UD Arena. The game was originally scheduled for Jan. 2 but was postponed because of COVID-19 issues with the Bonnies.
This is a game the Flyers need to win if they want to be considered a serious threat to win the Atlantic 10 Conference regular-season championship. St. Bonaventure was a unanimous favorite when the season began. Dayton was picked fifth.
“It‘s a great opportunity,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said Saturday after a 72-52 victory at Duquesne, “and I certainly have got a lot of respect for who they are. They’re the defending champions in the league. They’ve got a great group of guys.”
While Davidson (14-2, 4-0) has emerged as another strong contender in the A-10, VCU and St. Bonaventure have the biggest early-season victories. VCU won 53-52 at Dayton on Jan. 5. St. Bonaventure beat VCU 73-53 on Friday.
Here are four storylines to follow Tuesday:
1. It’s experience vs. inexperience: Three of St. Bonaventure’s seniors — Kyle Lofton, Dominich Welch and Osun Ossuniyi — have started since they were freshmen. They led the team to the A-10 championship game before losing to Saint Louis in 2019. They won the A-10 regular season and tournament championships in 2021.
Jaren Holmes joined that group as a starter in their sophomore seasons, and Jalen Adaway, a Miami RedHawks transfer, has started with them the last two seasons.
St. Bonaventure is the 20th-most experienced team in the country, according to KenPom.com, while Dayton ranks last, 358th, in that same category.
“I think it’ll be a great test for us,” Dayton guard Kobe Elvis said, “especially with how young we are.”
2. The Bonnies lean heavily on their starters: Another glaring difference between the two teams is depth. St. Bonaventure ranks second-to-last in the country in bench minutes. The Bonnies played two reserves in their last game. One played 11 minutes. The other played four.
Dayton ranks 99th in the country in bench minutes. Against Duquesne, Dayton played a nine-man rotation.
3. Dayton has dominated the series in recent years: One thing St. Bonaventure’s seniors haven’t experienced is a victory against Dayton. The Flyers won 89-86 in double overtime at St. Bonaventure in 2019, 86-60 at Dayton in 2020 and 55-52 last season at St. Bonaventure.
In all, Dayton has won six straight games in the series since losing 79-72 at UD Arena in 2016.
4. Both teams enter the game with momentum: Dayton has won three straight games against George Washington, Saint Louis and Duquesne since losing to VCU.
The Bonnies didn’t play for 25 days because of a COVID-19 pause but returned to action Jan. 11 and won 80-76 at La Salle in overtime. They then beat VCU 73-53 at the Reilly Center in St. Bonaventure, N.Y., on Friday, ending VCU’s seven-game winning streak.
St. Bonaventure outscored VCU 23-6 at the free-throw line. Dayton had a similar advantage (19-2) at the free-throw line against VCU but could’t take advantage. Dayton had 15 turnovers against VCU. St. Bonaventure had 11.
“We have veteran guys that make good decisions and take care of the ball, and that showed by not turning the ball over in the open court,” St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt said. “It was huge to get to the line as much as we did. I told the guys before that we have to get to the foul line and we want to beat them going downhill.”
St. Bonaventure at Dayton, 7 p.m., Spectrum News 1, 1290, 95.7