This Dayton offense has not slumped. It has been either good or very good and even had success against one of the nation’s best defenses, scoring 1.08 points per possession against Kansas in a 90-84 overtime loss in the Maui Invitational championship.
Dayton’s next opponent, Colorado (9-2), provides a similar test. The Buffaloes rank 14th in the nation in defensive efficiency. They allow 59.4 points per game, tied for 24th in the country.
Here are five storylines entering the game:
1. Revenge factor: Dayton lost 78-73 at Colorado in the first round of the NIT last season. It was a back-and-forth game with 22 lead changes. Dayton trailed 66-65 with five minutes to play but gave up an 8-0 run, failing to score in the next three minutes.
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Dayton returns its top three scorers from that game — Obi Toppin, Ryan Mikesell and Crutcher — as well as two other players to saw action: Trey Landers and Dwayne Cohill.
All eight Colorado players who played in that game are still playing for the Buffaloes.
“There’s a lot of familiar faces from that game,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “They’re a really talented team. They’re well coached. I’ve known coach (Tad) Boyle for a long time and have a lot of respect for his program. I think it’ll be a great matchup. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Dayton vs. Colorado in NIT: Top 10 plays
2. Point guard matchup: Colorado point guard McKinley Wright and Crutcher will forever be linked because of events in the spring of 2017.
Wright signed with Dayton but was released from his letter of intent when Archie Miller left UD for Indiana. Crutcher signed with Chattanooga but ended up at Dayton, which needed a new point guard after the graduation of Scoochie Smith and the decommitment of Wright, when Matt McCall took the head coaching job at Massachusetts.
Wright and Crutcher both have played big roles from the first games of their freshman seasons. Wright has averaged 13.3 points, 4.9 assists and 4.8 rebounds in three seasons. Crutcher has averaged 11.4 points, 5.1 assists and 3.5 rebounds.
3. Resume-building opportunity: Dayton enters the game ranked ninth by the NCAA Evaluation Tool. Colorado ranks 28th. For both teams, this would be their best victory of the season at this point. It's a Quadrant 1 game in that it's a game on a neutral court against a team ranked in the top 50 of the NET.
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Dayton is 1-1 in Quadrant 1 games, losing to No. 2 Kansas and beating No. 36 Saint Mary’s. Colorado is 1-2. It also lost to Kansas and to No. 28 Northern Iowa but beat No. 29 Arizona State.
4. Almost a top-25 matchup: While Dayton has its highest Associated Press ranking since 1967, Colorado climbed to No. 20 before losing 72-58 to Kansas and falling to No. 24. It then fell out of the top 25 with the 79-76 loss at home to Northern Iowa on Dec. 10. Northern Iowa outscored Colorado 6-0 in the last 70 seconds.
“Extremely disappointing loss,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. “I thought we fought hard in the second half to come back and take the lead, but our attention to detail is just not not good enough right now. It was really evident tonight by the way we guarded. They deserved to win. We did not.”
Prior to this season, Colorado had not been ranked since January 2014.
Watch: Dayton goes cold in final minutes in NIT loss to Colorado
5. Fan advantage: This will be the second time in four seasons Dayton has played at the United Center. It lost 67-64 to Northwestern on Dec. 17, 2016, in a homecoming game of sorts for seniors Kendall Pollard and Kyle Davis.
While the only current Dayton player from the Chicago area is walk-on guard Camron Greer, whose high school Rich Central is 32 miles from the United Center, UD expects to have a strong showing from the numerous Dayton alumni who live in the Windy City.
“That’s a huge alumni base for us,” Grant said.
Dayton vs. Colorado, 6:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network, 1290 and 95.7 WHIO