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Another huge opportunity and difficult task looms for UD at Saint Louis

The madness has begun. March is here, even if February remains camped in your front yard.

Look closely enough at the ground. Some bulbs have poked their way through the soil and the snow. The time changes this weekend. Everyone will soon get an extra hour of daylight to shovel the driveway the next time the snow hits.

The weather never changes inside the gym, but when March 1 arrived and Dayton hosted Massachusetts four days ago, coach Archie Miller said, “It felt like March on Saturday.”

All across the country, bracketologists are working 24-hour shifts at this time of year, while the computers calculating the RPI rack up the overtime pay. For teams like Dayton, Providence, Nebraska, Missouri, Florida State and others, there’s only one word to describe this time of year: Bubblicious.

The Flyers (20-9, 8-6) sit on the right or wrong side of the bubble in the last week of the regular season — depending of whether you’re talking to experts like Jerry Palm or Joe Lunardi — but they have a great chance to convince everyone of their tournament worthiness tonight. Dayton plays at 17th-ranked Saint Louis (25-4, 12-2) at 9 p.m.

The Flyers are 49th in the latest RPI. Saint Louis is 14th. Considering this game is on the road, this would easily be Dayton’s biggest win of the season and maybe of the Archie Miller era.

“We know the environment,” Miller said. “We know who we’re going up against and what we’re dealing with. I want to see our guys battle.”

Dayton had a similar chance one week ago and suffered their worst loss of the season, 79-53 at Saint Joseph’s. They rebounded with an 86-79 victory at home against UMass to keep their tournament hopes alive.

“We’re looking forward to going to Saint Louis for the simple fact that the last time we went on the road, we didn’t show up,” Miller said.

Saint Louis needs one win in its last two games against Dayton and at Massachusetts on Sunday to clinch at least a share of the A-10 regular-season title and the top seed in the A-10 tournament. It could also clinch both if Saint Joseph’s (21-7, 11-3) loses one of its last two games at George Washington and against La Salle.

Saint Louis beat Dayton 67-59 on Jan. 11 at UD Arena. Saint Louis has the A-10’s best defense and showed it in that game, holding the Flyers to a season-worst shooting performance of 30.6 percent. Dayton’s best player, Devin Oliver, had the worst offensive game of his career, missing all 12 of his field-goal attempts. The Flyers also lost starting center Matt Kavanaugh to a concussion in that game.

Dwayne Evans led Saint Louis with 22 points, and Austin McBroom scored 17 points off the bench.

“The great thing about Saint Louis is they’re veterans,” Miller said. “They play a lot of teams different ways. You never get a good grasp of what they’re going to do to you. When we played them in game one, they used a lot of different coverages in terms of positioning on the ball that we hadn’t seen coming in. I don’t think we handled that very well. We missed a lot of point-blank baskets versus their size.”

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