A new era of Dayton Flyers basketball begins with a number of interesting storylines, among them Dayton’s pursuit of a third straight Atlantic 10 championship and a fifth straight NCAA tournament berth.
One of the highlights of Atlantic 10 play will be first-year Dayton head coach Anthony Grant’s return to Virginia Commonwealth. Grant, who Dayton hired in March to replace Archie Miller, coached VCU for three seasons (2006-09). He’ll return to the Siegel Center on Feb. 10, and it shapes up to be one of the toughest games on Dayton’s Atlantic 10 Conference schedule.
The A-10 released the schedule Wednesday. Here’s how the 18 games rank by degree of difficulty:
1. Rhode Island (away, Feb 23): The Flyers have won back-to-back games at the Ryan Center in Kingston, R.I. after losing six straight games there from 2007-2014. The Rams have one of the top players in the conference, fifth-year senior guard E.C. Matthews (14.9 points per game), and two other standout senior guards, Jared Terrell (12.6) and Jarvis Garrett (6.0).
2. Virginia Commonwealth (away, Feb. 10): The Flyers are 1-2 at the Siegel Center in Richmond since VCU joined the A-10 in 2012. The Rams lost six of their top eight scorers plus their head coach, Will Wade, but should rank among the top contenders as usual under new coach Mike Rhoades.
3. Saint Joseph’s (away, Jan. 17): Dayton has lost eight straight games at St. Joseph’s. The Hawks lost 10 of their last 11 games last season, finishing 11-20 overall and 4-14 in the A-10. They return their top six scorers, including guard Shavar Newkirk, who suffered a season-ending injury in the A-10 opener.
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4. Rhode Island (home, Jan. 20): The Rams finished third in the regular-season standings last season behind Dayton and VCU, earning a berth in the NCAA tournament by winning the A-10 tournament for the first time since 1999. Rhode Island is 5-9 at UD Arena since 1996.
5. St. Bonaventure (home, Jan. 3): The Bonnies return two of the top four scorers in the A-10: senior guards Jaylen Adams (20.6) and Matt Mobley (18.5). Adams scored 35 points in a 76-72 loss at UD Arena last season. The previous season he scored 31 points in a 79-72 upset of the Flyers in Dayton.
6. Virginia Commonwealth (home, Jan. 12): Dayton beat VCU on Senior Night at UD Arena the last two seasons, clinching a share of the conference title in 2016 and the first outright championship in school history last March.
7. Richmond (away, Jan. 9): The Spiders lost their top two scorers: forward T.J. Cline (18.5); and guard ShawnDre’ Jones (16.8). They return two double-digut scorers: guards Khwan Fore (11.2) and De’Monte Buckingham (10.5). Dayton ended a six-game losing streak at Richmond’s Robins Center in 2016 and has won five straight games in the series.
8. La Salle (away, Feb. 28): The Explorers improved from 9-22 in 2015-16 to 15-15 last season. They return three of their top four scorers, including guard B.J. Johnson (17.6). Dayton has lost three straight games at Tom Gola Arena.
9. Davidson (home, Jan. 23): This game will feature the return of Kevin Kuwik to UD Arena. An assistant coach at Dayton during Miller’s six seasons, Kuwik was hired by Davidson in August as director of basketball operations. The Wildcats lost the top scorer in the A-10, guard Jack Gibbs (22.1), but return the third-leading scorer, senior forward Peyton Aldridge (20.5).
10. Saint Louis (away, Jan. 27): Beware of the Billikens in Travis Ford’s second season as head coach. They have lost seven straight games to Dayton but debut five transfers: guard Javon Bess, of Michigan State; forward D.J. Foreman, of Rutgers; guard Adonys Henriquez, of Central Florida; center Rashed Anthony, of Seton Hall; and guard Ty Graves, of Boston College.
11. George Mason (away, Feb. 14): The Patriots return two double-digit scorers: guards Otis Livingston II (14.3) and Jaire Grayer (11.4). Dayton is 7-0 against George Mason since losing the first game in the series in 2007 in Fairfax, Va.
12. Massachusetts (away, Feb. 3): Dayton suffered its worst A-10 loss last season in Amherst, 67-55 on Jan. 11. The Minutemen finished 14-18 overall and 6-12 in the A-10, fired head coach Derek Kellogg after nine seasons and hired Matt McCall, of Chattanooga.
13. George Washington (home, March 3): The Colonials fired coach Mike Lonergan last September but managed to record their fourth straight 20-win season (20-15), beating Dayton 87-81 in Washington, D.C., in the regular-season finale. Maurice Joseph had his interim tag removed in March. Forward Yuta Watanabe (12.2) is the team’s top returning scorer.
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14. Saint Louis (home, Feb. 20): The Flyers beat the Billikens by double digits at UD Arena the last three seasons. In this game, UD fans will get their first look at the top-ranked recruit to enter the A-10 in 2017: guard Jordan Goodwin, who ranked 53rd in the nation, according to 247Sports.com.
15. Duquesne (away, Dec. 30): The Dukes return two starters: guards Mike Lewis II (14.1) and Tarin Smith (8.6). They will compete with nine scholarship players. Five transfers will sit out the season.
16. Massachusetts (home, Jan. 6): The Flyers have won four straight against UMass at home. UMass returns two of its top three scorers: Rashaan Holloway (10.4); and Luwane Pipkins (10.2).
17. Duquesne (home, Feb. 7): The Dukes have a new head coach, Keith Dambrot, who left Akron after 13 seasons. He’ll try to end a streak of five straight non-winning seasons.
18. Fordham (home, Feb. 10): Dayton has won 13 straight games against Fordham, which finished 13-19 last season, and 14 straight in Dayton. Fordham’s only win in Dayton came in 1953 at the UD Fieldhouse.