Dayton starts Atlantic 10 play Saturday at Duquesne

1:19 p.m Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017 Sports

More than a third of the way into the season, it’s still hard to know what to make of the Dayton Flyers. Work continues on building an identity, coach Anthony Grant said, and he’s trying to figure out the winning formula.

Inconsistency has plagued the Flyers since the opener Nov. 10. Putting two strong halves together has been a challenge, as the Flyers (6-6) showed in games last week against Saint Mary’s and Wagner. They played strong first halves and poor second halves in both games.

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A year ago, the Flyers were on their way to a second straight Atlantic 10 championship and a fourth straight NCAA tournament berth. Those are still attainable goals. The beauty of college basketball is the conference tournament, which gives everyone one last chance to make something of their season.

For Dayton, however, the main focus right now, senior guard Darrell Davis said, is winning two games in a row. That’s something this team has yet to accomplish.

Dayton beat Wagner 79-67 on Saturday at UD Arena and will try to win a second straight game Dec. 30. Grant’s first journey through the A-10 schedule starts with a 4 p.m. game against Duquesne in Pittsburgh. First, the coaches and players get three days off for Christmas.

“Right now, I’m going to enjoy this win and try to spend some time with my family and let my players spend some time with their families,” Grant said. “We’ve got a few days here to get prepared for Duquesne. I’m going to take it one game at a time as I do with every game and get us prepared to go on the road to Duquesne.”

Dayton improved its A-10 record in each of the last five years of the Archie Miller era (7-9 to 10-6, 13-5, 14-4 and finally 15-3 last season). Based on how Dayton played in its non-conference schedule this season, finishing A-10 play with a winning record would be a feat, though it is a down year for the conference as a whole. A league that sent six teams to the NCAA tournament in 2014 might be lucky to send two in 2018.

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Rhode Island (7-3) ranks 17th in the RPI. St. Bonaventure (10-2) ranks 30th. Dayton is 67th. No other team ranks in the top 100.

It’s a similar story in the Pomeroy ratings. No A-10 team ranks in the top 50. Only four teams rank in the top 100. Six teams finished in the top 100 last season. Seven teams ranked that high in 2016. In the banner season of 2013-14, when the Flyers reached the Elite Eight, the A-10 had four teams in the top 50 and eight in the top 100.

All that means even a young, inconsistent Dayton team could turn its season around in A-10 play.

“The league’s wide open,” Davis said. “A lot of people are playing good teams. Obviously, they think other teams are better than us, but it’s all about when you step on the court.”

Postgame interview: Dayton's Darrell Davis after beating Wagner
David Jablonski - Staff Writer
Postgame interview: Dayton's Anthony Grant after beating Wagner