The general feeling among fans of the Dayton Flyers — something being repeated over and over this season — can be summed up by six words: “What a time to be alive.”
Dan Sullivan, of BlackburnReview.com, used that phrase Wednesday on Twitter. Grant Kelly, of A10Talk.com, typed it Feb. 3 when Dayton climbed to No. 6 in the Associated Press poll. Dayton super fan Tom Hirt picked that phrase on Twitter to describe his mood Feb. 2 after sharing a New York Post story about the “new college basketball powers that can dominate March.”
UD junior Solomon West, one of the students who sits in the front row of the Red Scare section at UD Arena, echoed those viewpoints Wednesday night after the Dayton women extended their winning streak to 13 games, matching the men’s team.
“Dayton basketball has been 26-0 for the last 54 days,” West wrote. “With the last loss being on Dec 21 against Colorado in OT. What a time to be alive.”
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When your team has its best record through 24 games (22-2) since the 1957-58 season and is off to its best start ever in the Atlantic 10 Conference (11-0), it is indeed a great time to be living and breathing and watching basketball. ESPN analyst Jay Bilas even listed Dayton among the top-10 national title favorites on Thursday.
Bilas, who saw the Flyers play in the Maui Invitational in November, called Dayton star Obi Toppin the best player in the country and wrote, “Watch Toppin run the floor and establish position early (around the foul line). It is a nightmare to contain. Yet Dayton is much more than Toppin. Anthony Grant plays two legit point guards in Jalen Crutcher and Rodney Chatman, has three ‘complementary stars’ in Ibi Watson, Ryan Mikesell and Trey Landers, and the Flyers lead the nation in 2-point field goal percentage. Does anyone ever say, ‘Live by the 2, die by the 2?’ No.”
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Dayton takes a 13-game winning streak, tied for the fourth-longest active winning streak into the country, into a 12:30 p.m. Saturday game against Massachusetts (10-14, 4-7) at the Mullins Center in Amherst, Mass.
Here are four things to know about the game:
1. Dayton dominated the first game: Obi Toppin scored 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting despite missing the last 15 minutes after spraining his ankle. Five other Flyers scored in double figures.
The Flyers won 88-60. It remains their most lopsided victory in A-10 play. They have won seven games by double figures.
2. Dayton also won big in its last trip to Amherst: Dayton won 72-48 at UMass last February. Toppin set the UD single-season record for dunks in that game and scored 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting. He enters this game with 80 dunks and could again set the record at UMass. He’s three away from tying his own record.
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3. UMass has had almost a week to prepare for this game: The Minutemen last played Sunday, beating George Mason 69-67 at home. That same George Mason (14-10, 3-8) team beat Virginia Commonwealth 72-67 on the road Wednesday, recording the biggest upset so far of the A-10 season.
“We need this week to get healthy,” UMass coach Matt McCall said Sunday. “We need rest. We need to get better.”
4. Dayton is wary of UMass: While UMass is 1-5 against the eight teams above it in the standings, it lost by only six, 73-67, at Rhode Island on Feb. 5. Dayton coach Anthony Grant saw the film of that game while preparing for Rhode Island, which Dayton beat 81-67 on Tuesday.
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“We’ve got to be ready,” Grant said. “They’ve played a lot of freshmen, and at this time of year, freshmen become sophomores because they’re experienced. They’ve been through it.”
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