The unveiling of the Atlantic 10 schedule last summer may have generated a collective groan among the Dayton coaches, knowing how daunting a task their team would face in opening with VCU on the road and Butler at home.
Those A-10 newcomers were the flagship programs in their leagues before coming aboard in the offseason, and they’ve lived up to their billing by climbing into the national polls.
A 74-62 loss at 22nd-ranked VCU and 79-73 defeat to No. 13 Butler have given the Flyers their first 0-2 start in the league since the 2005-06 team began 0-4 and finished 13-17 overall, the only losing season at UD in the last 13 years.
“It’s been a bear,” UD coach Archie Miller said of the early schedule. “I think one of the big things is, at the end of the day, let’s put it all in perspective. Let’s not lose our minds. We’re not that bad. We just have to find a way to get better. We’re in a great league. We have to keep competing.”
UD’s taxing conference stretch continues with a road game Wednesday at La Salle, which was picked to finish seventh in the 16-team league. The Explorers are 11-4 overall and 1-1 in the A-10 with nonleague wins over Villanova and Penn State.
The Flyers (10-6), who have dropped four of their last six games, desperately need more consistency from their veterans. If they don’t come around, Miller won’t be afraid to shake up the rotation.
In the two A-10 games, senior point guard Kevin Dillard has averaged 15 points but has 10 turnovers with four assists. Junior guard Vee Sanford is just 7-for-22 from the field, although he scored 10 straight points for the Flyers against Butler in one second-half stretch.
Junior wing Devin Oliver, the A-10 leader with 9.1 rebounds per game, has gone 5-for-19 from the field, 0-for-5 on 3-pointers and 6-for-11 on foul shots. And senior forward Josh Benson has averaged 4.0 points and 3.5 rebounds in two foul-plagued outings.
The freshmen, though, are making a case for more prominent roles. Forward Dyshawn Pierre had 14 points and nine rebounds and guard Khari Price 10 points against Butler.
“I thought they were excellent,” Miller said. “They were excellent on defense, too.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Jalen (Robinson) and Devon (Scott), either. Both of those guys were in the heat of battle. The only thing you can say as a coach to these guys is keep working, keep getting better and maybe their time isn’t COMING, maybe their team is now.
“That’s what they have to start thinking about. Gobble more minutes up. Go get them — because they’re there for the taking.”