“That’s something that was on my bucket list,” Mikesell said Tuesday. “I was able to do it my freshman and sophomore years and obviously last year. This year, that’s our goal as a team. We’re going to go there and try to get those three games and try to punch our ticket. That’s what you dream of.”
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Dayton won the A-10 tournament for the first and only time in 2003, beating Rhode Island 74-57, Saint Joseph’s 76-73 and Temple 79-72. The games took place on three straight days at UD Arena.
» A-10 TOURNAMENT PREVIEW: VCU the favorite but UD a contender
Dayton advanced to the championship game the following season with the tournament again being held at UD Arena but lost 58-49 to Xavier. The Flyer returned to the final game in 2011, losing 64-57 to Richmond at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., and in 2015, losing 71-65 to Virginia Commonwealth at the Barclays Center.
The last three A-10 tournaments have frustrated the Flyers and their fans as much as any others. Dayton was the No. 1 seed in 2016 and lost 82-79 to eventual champion Saint Joseph's in the semifinals in Brooklyn.
The tournament moved to Pittsburgh in 2017, and Dayton again couldn't capitalize on its top seed, losing 73-67 to Davidson and Jack Gibbs, who scored 34 points, in the quarterfinals. Last season, Dayton led VCU by five with three minutes to play and was outscored 12-2 the rest of the way, losing 77-72 in Washington, D.C.
Dayton hasn’t won an A-10 tournament game in more than three years. It beat Richmond 69-54 in the quarterfinals on March 11, 2016. Only one player who saw action in that game remains the roster: Mikesell, who missed his only field-goal attempt in four minutes.
“I think it was my first time playing in a NBA arena,” Mikesell said. “I was kind of in shock a little bit, kind of in awe. This year, we’re going to go in there and try to do our thing.”
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While Dayton can hope for a NIT bid if it doesn't win the A-10 tournament — it was listed as a No. 4 seed with a possible matchup against No. 5 seed Xavier in one recent projection — the goal every year for this program is to play in the big dance. No. 1 seed VCU is the only A-10 team in the hunt for an at-large berth. The other 13 teams will pin their hopes on claiming the league's automatic berth.
“We all been talking in the locker room,” Mikesell said. “This is it. It’s do or die. If we want to play in the NCAA tournament, we have to win this tournament, so hopefully motivation shouldn’t be a question or anything like that. We’ll just go in there hungry and wanting a championship.”
Dayton vs. TBA in A-10 quarterfinals, 8:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network, AM 1290 and News 95.7 WHIO
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