Dayton coach Archie Miller is in a position he certainly wanted to avoid going into the last week of the regular season, but being in a desperate fight for the final spot in the Atlantic 10 tournament is bringing out the best in his team.
The Flyers (16-12, 6-8 A-10) have won three of their last four games and are tied for 11th in the conference with Charlotte (18-10, 6-8) and George Washington (12-15, 6-8). In their last two outings, they’ve produced field-goal percentages of 55 and 61.7 and finally broke through with their first league road win.
“We had a huge week just in terms of understanding where we are and reality and moving toward the postseason with the conference tournament,” Miller said. “The league is so deep right now that every game for us really matters — not that they all didn’t. But there’s a heightened sense of awareness with our players right now.”
The rest of the teams on the “bubble” for the 12-team conference tourney have the same mindset. The Flyers host St. Bonaventure (14-13, 7-7) on Wednesday and then visit GW on Saturday. Six teams are either 6-8 or 7-7 and are fighting for five spots, meaning a 7-9 league record might not be good enough since the 12th seed could be decided by tiebreakers.
“It’s coming down to the end. Every game is important. We know what’s at stake,” St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt said. “One of the teams is going to be left out, and the team that’s left out is going to be a really good team. That’s why this league is so good and so balanced.”
GW coach Mark Lonergan is glad first-round games will be played at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn rather than at campus sites as in past years. The Colonials played at Dayton on the final Saturday last season and returned to UD Arena for their tourney opener the following Tuesday.
But while travel requirements will be the same for all participants, he has a beef with the league leaving out four of its 16 teams.
“I think that’s really disappointing. I felt that way this summer,” he said. “But decisions had to be made for financial reasons or whatever.
“The 13th team is going to be a pretty good team. It might be a team that’s hot that just didn’t get enough wins. It might be a team like us. We’ve beaten some pretty good teams. I just don’t know of any other league where only 12 of 16 make it.”
St. Bonaventure (14-13, 7-7 Atlantic 10) at Dayton (16-12, 6-8), Time Warner sports channel, 95.7, 1290