Dayton coach Archie Miller believes anybody in the 12-team Atlantic 10 tourney is capable of making a run to the title, and that’s probably not just wishful thinking.
The 12th-seeded Flyers proved they are capable of playing with practically any team in the league, even if they finished with a 7-9 league record.
“In so many cases, at this time of year, how important is it to you to be playing in the thing?” Miller said. “Some teams have their (NCAA) seeds, and some teams know where they’re going. Other teams are still on the brink.
“I’ve been in these things where a team wins a game, and a second wind turns into a monster confidence boost, and it’s almost like you’re running on adrenalin. … I think it’s wide open. I wouldn’t be surprised to see one through 12 win it.”
A-10 tourney capsules (by seed)
1. Saint Louis (24-5, 13-3)
Leading scorer: Dwayne Evans 12.9
Summary: Interim coach Jim Crews has done a masterful job in taking over for the late Rick Majerus. The Billikens still play their typical sticky defense and may have the best perimeter threesome in the league in Kwamain Mitchell and Jordair Jett, a pair of third-team all-league picks, along with Mike McCall Jr.
2. VCU (24-7, 12-4)
Leading scorer: Treveon Graham 15.7
Summary: The Rams’ motto is “Havoc,” which is meant to portray their unrelenting pace. That’s been evident while leading the nation in steals per game (11.9) and turnover margin (plus-8.0). They take nearly 23 three-pointers per game and can be vulnerable when they’re cold. But their style is unique in the A-10, and one that no foe likes to face.
3. Temple (23-8, 11-5)
Leading scorer: Khalif Wyatt 19.9.
Summary: The Owls have won their last seven games, including an 84-76 decision over VCU on Sunday that vaulted them into the third seed. They’ve made five straight NCAA tournament appearances and are poised to make it six. Wyatt is the A-10 player of the year and is known for his clutch play.
4. La Salle (21-8, 11-5)
Leading scorer: Ramon Galloway 17.4
Summary: The Explorers made the NIT last season for their first postseason trip since 1992 and are on the bubble for an NCAA bid — not bad for a team picked seventh in the A-10 preseason poll. They raised their national profile with wins over Butler and VCU in the same week. Galloway was a first-team all-league pick, while point guard Tyreek Duren made the second team.
5. Butler (24-7, 11-5)
Leading scorer: Rotnei Clarke 16.7
Summary: To fully appreciate the strength of the A-10, one needs only to look at Butler. After non-league wins over North Carolina, Marquette, Indiana and Gonzaga (the latter two having earned No. 1 rankings this season), the Bulldogs labored to reach 11-5 in the league, and no one figured they’d end up as the fifth seed after that pre-conference showing. But they finished strong with a road win against UMass and a home victory over Xavier and look like one of the tourney favorites.
6. UMass (19-10, 9-7)
Leading scorer: Chaz Williams 15.4
Summary: The Minutemen have a first-team all-league pick in Williams and plenty of proficient players around him. The loss of second-leading scorer Jesse Morgan at the start of A-10 play has hurt, but they’re a difficult match-up because of their size and length at four positions.
7. Xavier (17-13, 9-7)
Leading scorer: Semaj Christon 15.4
Summary: Although the Musketeers haven’t played up to their usual standards, Chris Mack was an A-10 coach of the year candidate for squeezing out what he did from his personnel. Xavier lost all five starters from last season. Christon, the A-10 rookie of the year and a second-team all-league pick, averaged 17.0 points in conference play, while senior Travis Taylor, a third-team pick, leads the league in rebounding with a 9.0 average.
8. Richmond (18-13, 8-8)
Leading scorer: Darien Brothers 14.6
Summary: The Spiders, much like VCU, have a unique style in the A-10. They play a match-up zone and run the Princeton offense, and prepping for them in a tournament setting with no practices could be difficult if they advance. But they lack bulk inside. Their rebound margin is minus-5.5 per game, the worst in the league.
9. Charlotte (20-10, 8-8)
Leading scorer: Chris Braswell 11.6
Summary: The 49ers made a big jump in coach Alan Major’s third year, going from 13-17 to 20-10, but they still needed wins in their final two games to squeak into the A-10 tourney. They rallied from a 17-point deficit with just more than 10 minutes to go to beat Duquesne in OT and then handled St. Joe’s in the regular-season finale. They can match up with most teams with their physical play inside.
10. Saint Joseph’s (17-12, 8-8)
Leading scorer: Carl Jones 14.1
Summary: The Hawks, who were the A-10 preseason favorites, seemed to have the kind of year Dayton had when it was given the honor (burden?) of being picked No. 1 in the poll and floundered in 2009-10. St. Joe’s beat Notre Dame in the second game of the year but never found any rhythm after that. They lack a true point guard and struggle to score. But UD went from 8-8 to an NIT title in 2010, and maybe a season reboot will give the Hawks new life.
11. George Washington (13-16, 7-9)
Leading scorer: Isaiah Armwood 11.8
Summary: The Colonials are extremely athletic but not very polished on offense. They’re one of the best rebounding teams in the league but are pitiful at the foul line. They’re shooting just 60.3 percent in league play and went 20-for-42 against Dayton on Saturday. Only a late collapse by the Flyers allowed GW to win and make the 12-team field.
12. Dayton (17-13, 7-9)
Leading scorer: Kevin Dillard 15.3
Summary: The Flyers will look back at 2012-13 as the season of “what-ifs.” They’ve lost seven games by a combined 11 points. Three or four wins in that cluster likely would have had them on the NCAA bubble. They still believe they can make noise in Brooklyn, but getting Butler in the first round is a tough draw. They would have matched up better with either third-seeded Temple or fourth-seeded La Salle — even though they lost to both in the regular-season (by a combined three points).
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