The 106th season of Dayton basketball kicks off against a program entering its 13th season in Division I.
Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne — commonly known as IPFW because that official name would never fit in a headline — visits UD Arena for a 2 p.m. matchup today against the Flyers. It’s the first of three home games in the first eight days of the season for Dayton.
If the Flyers lose any of these first three, it would be a big upset. Wednesday’s opponent, St. Francis (Pa.), finished 5-24 last season. Next Saturday’s opponent, St. Francis (N.Y.), was 12-18 a year ago. The Mastodons of IPFW were 16-17 last season and have had two winning seasons since 2001-02.
For the Flyers, these games are about figuring out what works and getting ready for the tougher games. They’re just happy to be playing anyone after so many practices and exhibitions against Ryerson and Findlay.
“It’s kind of the calm before the storm,” said coach Archie Miller, who is 2-0 in season openers. “You take a deep breath and say here it comes. When it finally does arrive, it doesn’t stop. It’s a refreshing feeling. We’re excited to play.
“We know we’ve got a lot of work to do. I think our kids, more importantly, are tired of practicing against one another, and you really do truly figure out what you need to work on once you get into those games.”
The Mastodons opened last season with a 61-50 loss at Auburn. That was a tie game until the final seven minutes. The Flyers played Auburn nine days later in Charleston, S.C., and won 73-63.
Six of IPFW’s top eight scorers return, but not Frank Gaines, who averaged 19.8 points per game and finished his career as the program’s all-time leading scorer.
“Any home opener, you’re not as prepared as you are maybe a couple weeks from now with footage and understanding the game plan,” Miller said. “IPFW is going to present us with a lot of different types of challenges. They’ve got a couple good big guys inside. They can shoot the ball from a couple positions. Defensively, they’re very sound. We’re going to have to defend, and we’re going to have to execute, obviously.”
IPFW at Dayton, 2 p.m., Fox Sports Ohio, 1290, 95.7