Fans of the Dayton Flyers waited longer than expected for the release of the 2016-17 men’s basketball schedule. The announcement often comes in July or August. This year, Christmas came in September for Flyer fans — a little more than two months before the season opener.
UD has never had a tougher time putting together its non-conference schedule. According to a Twitter account that keeps track of when teams release their schedules, Dayton was the 263rd team out of 351 Division I programs to announce its schedule when it did so Tuesday.
“We had five or six conversations through the spring that led us in one direction or another,” Dayton coach Archie Miller said. “The next thing you know it didn’t work out. We had a lot of things fall through that prevented us from really moving faster. The thing we wanted to do the best was secure a series this year starting at home with a bona-fide NCAA tournament team. We were able to get that later than we wanted. That kind of held up our dates.”
Here are seven things to know about Dayton’s schedule.
1. Late addition: The game Miller was talking about was a 2 p.m. game Nov. 19 against St. Mary’s College at UD Arena. The Gaels won the West Coast Conference regular-season title last season. They finished 29-6 and ranked 29th in the RPI.
Dayton will play at St. Mary’s next season. In coach Randy Bennett’s 15 seasons, the Gaels have played in the NCAA tournament five times, most recently in 2013.
“Our home game against St. Mary’s was really a big, big piece to the schedule,” Miller said. “All you’ve got to do is look them up. They’ve had great success. (Bennett) does a great job. They return just about everybody from a team a year ago that won the regular-season WCC.”
2. Challenging schedule: Miller calls scheduling the second-hardest thing he does after recruiting. The Flyers play an exhibition game against Findlay (7 p.m., Nov. 4). Their season opener is a week later against Austin Peay (7 p.m., Nov. 11).
Dayton also convinced Winthrop (2 p.m., Dec. 3), St. Joseph’s College, of Indiana (7 p.m., Dec. 6), East Tennessee State (2 p.m., Dec. 10) and Virginia Military Institute (7 p.m., Dec. 23) to play at UD Arena. Vanderbilt (7 p.m., Dec. 21) is playing at UD after the Flyers played in Nashville last season.
“Scheduling is such an important cog,” Miller said. “Every decision we make is really really important. We just had a really hard time finding an opponent that would come play us here. I think in general the vibe we get is people don’t want to travel to UD Arena. In this day and age, it doesn’t make a ton of sense because of the sheer fact that you have to get good games to make the tournament. Moving forward, we’re going to have to be creative with our model. We’re trying to schedule a schedule that at the end of the day puts us in a position like last year where the NCAA tournament isn’t even a question.”
3. RPI impact: Dayton made the NCAA tournament as a No. 7 seed in March in part because it ranked 25th in the RPI last season. Its non-conference strength of schedule ranked ninth in the country.
This season, Dayton is playing a Division II school, St. Joseph’s College, because that game won’t count against the RPI. Their only other option would have been to play a team that might have ranked below 300 in the RPI.
“We’ve talked about it in years past,” Miller said. “Basically by getting the date so late with St. Mary’s, it really hindered us from getting a quality RPI game. If you’re going to put yourself in a position to have to schedule a game that’s going to hurt your non-conference schedule, at times you’re better off playing a non-D-I, which doesn’t go against you at all.”
4. No Miami: Dayton is not playing one of its traditional rivals, the Miami RedHawks, for the second time in four years.
Miller said it was Dayton’s decision to end the series and said, “it makes no sense for us to schedule any game that doesn’t help us.”
5. Tough road: Dayton will play its only true non-conference road game at Alabama (Nov. 15, time TBA). It’s the second game of the season just like last season when UD won 80-48 at home. Miller said it again could be a part of ESPN’s 24-hour tip-off marathon.
6. Chicago homecoming: Dayton will play Northwestern at the United Center (7 p.m, Dec. 17). It will be the first game at that arena for three Flyers who grew up not far away: seniors Kyle Davis and Kendall Pollard and sophomore Josh Cunningham.
7. A-10 schedule: Conference play starts a few days earlier than normal. UD has never played an A-10 game in December but opens A-10 play at home against La Salle at 6 p.m. Dec. 30.
That’s the first of 18 A-10 games. UD will celebrate Senior Day in its second-to-last regular-season game on March 1 (time TBD). Dayton plays more games on Friday than Saturday in A-10 play (5-4).
“You can see with the matchups we have and the television combinations that clearly we’re going to be one of the premier games on everyone’s schedule within the league,” Miller said. “With the Friday nights on ESPN and the television times, we really have no rhythm to our conference schedule due to television.”
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