- Marcus Hartman
So where is Dayton basketball after an 88-73 win over Duquesne on Wednesday night?
The Flyers are 11-12 overall and 5-6 in the Atlantic 10.
Their problems have been identified by now.
Their strengths, too.
Starting with the negatives is unfortunate, but we kind of have to when a team is a game below .500 on the year, right?
And when a game like Wednesday happens, we remember why a sub .500-record is so disappointing for this Dayton squad.
Even with all the new faces and new roles.
Even with a new coach.
Even against a tough schedule.
The Flyers should be better right?
Well, they haven’t been.
If they are going to be, they can’t wait any longer.
The biggest goal of the season is out the window – they won’t be winning the Atlantic 10 for a third straight regular season.
They aren’t getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, either, despite playing a schedule worthy of one if they had, you know, won a lot more games.
But a strong finish is important.
This is not the NBA where a team can actually win for losing by earning a higher draft pick.
Tanking is not an option at this level. Well, at least not a smart one.
Dayton has six games left in the regular season.
After that, there’s the yearly March reset.
The conference tournament will present another chance to make this season memorable for the right reasons, something to build on and of course the potential to make the NCAA tournament for the fifth year in a row.
Even if they don’t accomplish that, there are positives to be wrung from this campaign.
Offseasons are long. Losing records are forever.
Narratives can be hard to change once they are developed.
Dayton has made the commitment to winning. It’s got the facilities and the fans of a major program.
Not every step will be forward, but falling too far backward at one time can be debilitating when going out there to sell the brand and recruit the best.
Momentum is important.
So how does this Dayton team finally build some of that?
If you’ve read this far, you might be expecting some sort of brilliant answer.
There’s not one.
I don’t have it, and neither does Anthony Grant.
Oh, there are plenty of potential answers. Some of them might even work. They just aren’t going to break any new ground.
That’s probably why he laughed when asked if he had recorded his halftime talk.
Certainly he said something inspiring that led Dayton to, um, fly out of the gate in the second half, right? They outscored the Dukes 20-5 in the opening minutes of the second stanza and hardly looked back.
Dayton ended up shooting over 80 percent in the second half en route to a 15-point win that snapped a two-game losing streak.
That first part isn’t going to happen every night, but they can share the ball and play that hard again and expect similar results.
» RELATED: Dayton sets second-half shooting record
“You know what? Our guys have heard my voice enough now they can probably tell you everything I say before I say it,” Grant said.
The veteran coach seemed to like hearing Trey Landers’ solution for finally achieving that consistency that has eluded the Flyers since the start of Grant’s first season on the bench at his alma mater.
“I would just say our habits, what we do on a day-in, day-out basis,” the sophomore wing said. "A big thing for us is just being able to repeat those habits. Some games we come out and we have 25 assists. We win by 20. Then some games we lose to teams we feel like we shouldn’t lose to. So I just feel like it’s consistency.”
So there you have it!
All Dayton has to do to return to the top of the Atlantic 10 is, well, do what it is supposed to do to be at the top of the Atlantic 10.
Like I said, it’s not a brilliant theory, but it is time-tested.
You’ve no doubt heard that cliched quote, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing!”
That’s often attributed to Vince Lombardi, but apparently the legendary Green Bay Packers coach never said that exact phrase (or at least wasn’t the first to if he did).
He did, however, lay out something similar in his book, What It Takes To Be Number One.
“Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all the time thing. You don’t win once in a while. You don’t do things right once in a while. You do them right all the time.
“Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.”
So that’s something to watch the rest of the way — and what is likely to determine not only how this season ends up, but what is in store for the rest of Grant’s tenure because the challenge of getting a team to work hard, be disciplined and play the right way never goes away.
The Flyers need a strong finish, and that is within their grasp.
Wednesday night proved that again.
Now we’ll see if they can hold on this time.