The Dayton Flyers will follow a familiar script when they play at 12:15 p.m. Friday at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Two years ago, the Flyers lost to St. Joseph’s in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament and then won three NCAA Tournament games. Last year, they lost to Virginia Commonwealth in the A-10 championship game and then won two games in the big dance. On Saturday, they lost to St. Joseph’s in the A-10 semifinals, and Sunday they learned they will be a No. 7 seed playing No. 10 Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament.
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The Flyers again will have to forget their last game in preparation for the most important game of the season.
“We’re trying not to dwell on (the loss) too much,” point guard Scoochie Smith said Sunday, “and just get focused on the next one Friday.”
Miller said the team wasn’t down Sunday during the selection show. He sees an excited team ready for March Madness.
“We’ve had our moments like all teams do where we haven’t been as consistent,” Miller said, “but I thought we played extremely hard in our last three games. That’s going to be the biggest key going into this tournament, to establish that you can compete and play hard.
“In my opinion, there’s no shame in losing to St. Joe’s. They’re a terrific team. I wish we had shot the ball a little better. It would have helped us. But as we go into the NCAA Tournament, being around our kids today, being around the staff today, there’s no better feeling in the world to hear your name called on Selection Sunday.”
Dayton’s path to the tournament has been similar in three straight seasons. How does this team compare in other areas?
Record: Dayton was 23-10 heading to the tournament in 2013-14, 25-8 last season and 25-7 this season.
RPI: The Flyers ranked 43rd in the RPI before the 2014 tournament. They ranked 32nd last season. They rank 21st this season.
Momentum: Dayton won 10 of its last 12 games before the tournament two years ago. Last season and this season, it won eight of its last 12.
Shooting: In 2013-14, Dayton shot 46.3 percent from the field, 37.7 percent from 3-point range and 68.1 percent at the free-throw line. Last year, Dayton shot 46.2 percent from the field, 35.7 from 3-point range and 68.6 from the free-throw line.
This Dayton team falls short in the latter two categories. The Flyers shoot 46 percent from the field, 34.7 percent from 3-point range and 67.3 percent from the foul line.
Defense: Two years ago, Dayton’s opponents shot 43.5 percent from the field and 33.2 percent from 3-point range. Opponents shot 41.8 percent from the field and 32.4 percent from 3-point range last season.
This season, Dayton has improved its field-goal percentage defense (40.5) in part because of the shot-blocking efforts of Steve McElvene (55) and Charles Cooke (37) but has struggled to stop the 3-pointer. Opponents are shooting 34.9 percent from behind the arc.
Turnovers: Dayton averages 13.1 turnovers per game, which is its highest number in the past three seasons. Last season it averaged 11.5. Two years ago, it averaged 11.9.
Bench: Dayton played an 11-man rotation in the NCAA tournament two years ago, with only Dyshawn Pierre, Devin Oliver or Jordan Sibert playing close to or more than 30 minutes.
Last year, Dayton had a seven-man rotation, and the starters rarely left the court. Smith played all but three of 120 minutes in three NCAA tournament games.
The Flyers played an eight-man rotation for a large chunk of this season after Pierre returned to the team, but used numerous players off the bench during the A-10 tournament.
Miller used what was largely a seven-man rotation in the regular-season finale against Virginia Commonwealth, and if the Flyers go deeper on the bench in the NCAA Tournament, it might be due to foul trouble.
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