Archie Miller was in a good mood for a good reason. His team had recorded its most important victory of the season, beating Massachusetts 86-79 Saturday at UD Arena to add some shine to its NCAA tournament resume.
You knew Miller had an extra bounce in his step when he started joking with a couple of sports writers after the postgame press conference.
“I’m going to watch the score ticker all day,” the third-year Dayton coach said, claiming he sees Dayton’s name come up about 80 times after every loss.
The Flyers (20-9, 8-6) still have some work to do make the NCAA tournament. Dayton plays at Saint Louis (25-4, 12-2) at 9 p.m. Wednesday and hosts Richmond (18-11, 8-6) at 7 p.m. Saturday in the regular-season finale.
Based on the current standings, Dayton probably can’t earn anything better than a No. 4 seed in the Atlantic 10 tournament even if they won their last two games or anything worse than a No. 7 seed if they lost their last two. If they win their last two games, they have a good chance of earning the No. 4 seed and thus a bye all the way to the quarterfinals.
The Flyers jumped to 49th in the RPI Saturday and could climb as high as 43 if they beat the Billikens, ranked 14th in the RPI. Saint Louis looked like a lock for the top seed in the A-10 tournament, but it lost 71-64 Thursday at home to Duquesne and 67-56 Saturday at Virginia Commonwealth. It now leads Saint Joseph’s by a game.
For now, CBS bracket expert Jerry Palm lists Dayton as one of the “Last Four In.” ESPN’s Joe Lunardi lists Dayton as one of the “Next Four Out,” meaning there are at least four teams ahead of them on the waiting list.
An NCAA tournament “Dance Card,” using a formula developed at the University of North Florida, ranked Dayton one spot below the bubble line before the victory over UMass. That formula predicted all 37 at-large teams last season.
Like Miller, Dayton fans need to keep an eye on the scoreboard to see how fellow bubble teams perform this week. Xavier and Oklahoma State recorded victories over top-10 RPI teams, Creighton and Kansas, respectively, on Saturday.
Dayton hasn’t played in the NCAA tournament since 2009 and missed the NIT last season after three straight appearances.
“We’re alive,” Miller said. “We’ve got 20 wins, and we’ve got two games left and the conference tournament. We weren’t this far ahead in the previous two seasons for sure, but you’ve got to take care of business. Part of it is not listening to the noise and worrying about anything other than what we’ve been doing.”
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