Archie Miller’s Dayton Flyers are one of the many teams on the NCAA tournament bubble, and their finish to the regular season has Dayton well-positioned to earn a bid. Dayton won nine of its final ten games entering Wednesday’s Atlantic 10 tournament game against Fordham, and the Flyers kept the run going with an 87-74 win over the Rams.
Vee Sanford scored a career-high 23 points off the bench, making all nine of his shot attempts from the field. Devin Oliver added 17 to go along with 11 rebounds for the Flyers, who shot 58.8% from the field. The win earns Dayton a shot at four-seed Saint Joseph’s in the quarterfinals, with the Hawks having swept the regular season series.
The second contest between the two, a 79-53 Saint Joseph’s win on February 25, was the lone defeat suffered by the Flyers in this current 10-1 stretch. Saint Joseph’s shot 58.3% from the field in that game while limiting Dayton to 31.7% shooting, with Ronald Roberts Jr. (22 points, seven rebounds) and Chris Wilson (20 points) leading four Hawks in double figures.
A season ago, the Atlantic 10 earned five bids on Selection Sunday. Those handful of teams all won at least one NCAA tournament game in 2013. Conference realignment stripped two of those teams from the league — Butler to the Big East and Temple to the American — but the A10 could actually get more teams bound for the tournament in 2014.
Despite losing the likes of Butler, Temple and Xavier while also seeing La Salle — which reached the Sweet 16 — struggle this season, the latest bracketology projections has the Atlantic 10 with six bids. Saint Louis and VCU have been strong as expected. UMass has been up-and-down but are bound for the tournament for the first time since 1998. George Washington, picked 10th in the preseason, finished third in the conference standings. Dayton still remains on right side of the bubble, possibly being the league’s sixth tournament-bound program.
We’ll find out by Sunday, the final day of the Atlantic 10 Tournament, if that becomes a reality.
Saint Louis, the regular season and reigning tournament champion, is the top seed, earning a double-bye along with VCU, George Washington and Saint Joseph’s as those three teams round out the top four seeds. Eyeing a run will be the Minutemen, Flyers and even Richmond, though that would require four wins in four days.
The Atlantic 10 should have one of the nation’s most entertaining tournaments, made more appealing by its setting: the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
*First round and quarterfinals can be seen on NBC Sports Network
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn
Final: March 16, 1 p.m. (CBS)
Favorite: Saint Louis
The Billikens won 19 straight games after losing to undefeated Wichita State, but stumbled late in the season losing three straight. Saint Louis avoided a completely disastrous end to the regular season as Jordair Jett’s last-second layup helped the Billikens escape with a 64-62 win in Amherst over UMass, giving them the top seed. Saint Louis has an experienced club, which faced adversity through the years, led by Jett and Dwayne Evans.
And if they lose?: VCU
The Rams were the preseason favorite and started the year ranked in the top 10. VCU has won four straight to close out the season, including a win over Saint Louis a week after a narrow loss to the same team. Havoc has the league’s most efficient defense and is third nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency. Treveon Graham and Juvonte Reddic combine for 28 points and 15 rebounds per game.
George Washington: The Colonials have certainly been a surprise this season. GW’s A10 tournament hopes improve if Kethan Savage, the team’s second leading scorer who has missed the past 12 games, can get back on the floor. Four of the Colonials’ five conference losses came with Savage, averaging 13.4 points per game, on the sideline.
Saint Joseph’s: Phil Martelli has four guys scoring in double figures. The Hawks can shoot the rock, the top 3-point shooting team in the Atlantic 10 at 38 percent.
Chaz Williams might be the best player in the entire conference. The Minutemen have some head-scratching conference losses, but they were the last team to beat VCU. UMass is the top scoring offense in the conference, but the loss to Saint Louis on Sunday kept the Minutemen from a double-bye. If they want to cut down the nets they’ll now need four wins in as many days.
Deeper Sleeper: Dayton
The Flyers are barely in the projected tournament field. In fact they could be getting a home game in the First Four. Dayton came on as an early surprise with an upset with over Gonzaga in the Maui Invitational. That was followed by a late-game collapse against Baylor the next day. In the last five weeks, Dayton has topped George Washington, UMass and Saint Louis. The Flyers have the ability to string together several upsets with this week, possessing one of the league’s top 3-point shooting teams and the A10’s most efficient defenses.
Studs you haven’t heard about:
Jordair Jett, Saint Louis: Not sure if enough people know about the Saint Louis guard. Jett is averaging 13.4 points and 4.7 assists per game. He’s also come up with some big plays in crucial moments for the Billikens.
Mo Creek, George Washington: The Indiana transfer is a huge reason why the Colonials are poised for their first tournament appearance since 2007. He’s averaging 14.6 points per game.
Langston Galloway, St. Joseph’s: One of the conference’s top scoring options at 17.0 points per game. He logs a lot of minutes (35.7) for the Hawks.
Jordan Sibert and Devin Oliver, Dayton: The impact transfer and senior forward are the two leading scorers for Dayton, better than 12 a game for both. These two can shake up the A10 bracket this week.
CBT Prediction: VCU over Saint Louis
Best Atlantic 10 Tournament Memory:
Best moment? That’s a stretch. Craziest moment? That’s a definite.
Archie Miller’s Dayton Flyers, having lost their last four games, needed to knock off George Washington in the worst way on Saturday afternoon. During much of non-conference play the Flyers had the look of a team capable of factoring into the Atlantic 10 race, but things hadn’t worked out that way through their first six league games.
That fortune changed on Saturday, with the Flyers winning 75-65. Devin Oliver led a balanced offensive effort with 17 points (and nine rebounds), and as a team the Flyers assisted on 18 of their 24 made field goals. Dayton was at its best offensively in the first half, shooting 50% from the field and 5-for-10 from beyond the arc to open up a 38-29 lead at the intermission.
Isaiah Armwood scored 19 points to lead the way for George Washington, which played without injured starters Maurice Creek, Joe McDonald and Kethan Savage on Saturday afternoon.
How big was this win for a team that entered the game 1-5 in Atlantic 10 play? With their next two games, George Mason and St. Bonaventure (which beat UMass earlier this week), being on the road Dayton could have been in serious trouble without a win over the Colonials. Offensive balance and solid defense made the difference for the Flyers on Saturday, and they’ll need that formula if they’re climb out of the 2-5 hole they’re still in.
Dayton earned an impressive road victory on Saturday when Devin Oliver banked a 3-pointer from the top of the key to top Ole Miss 83-80 in overtime. For Oliver, he scored 22 of his career-high 26 points after halftime.
Jarvis Summers had a game-high 29 points for Ole Miss while Marshall Henderson added 15.
UMass is the only ranked team from the Atlantic 10 Conference at the moment. VCU started out the season ranked No. 10, but fell out after a disastrous trip to Puerto Rico. The Flyers had a brief stint in the top 25 after its performance in Maui, but an upset loss to Illinois State bounced them from the rankings.
Adding Ole Miss to wins against Gonzaga and Cal — both during the Maui Invitational — and the Rebels have a resume that compares to the Minutemen’s wins over New Mexico, Providence and LSU.
Dayton knocking off Ole Miss was the second A-10 program to defeat an SEC team on Saturday with Rhode Island pulling off a road upset over LSU.
Oliver’s heroics over Ole Miss suggest the Atlantic 10 will be one of the more exciting conferences with UMass, Saint Louis, VCU, George Washington and Dayton all make cases for bids to the NCAA tournament.