The University of Dayton basketball team has been installed by KenPom.com as the favorite to win the Atlantic 10 tournament when they play in a quarterfinal game Thursday at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center and the Flyers must win the tournament to make the NCAA field.
As far as the University of Dayton basketball team is concerned, the web-site KenPom.com is like the scene in the movie, The Sandlot: “You’re killing me, Smalls.”
It is The Curse of the Hardwood for the web-site to install the Flyers as the favorite to win the Atlantic 10 conference tournament.
The Flyers were the favorite two years ago and were in Brooklyn ready to begin the tournament in the Barclays Center. It was a no-go. COVID-19 canceled the rest of the season.
UD was the favorite last year too, but lost in the semifinals to Richmond and the fourth-seeded Spiders went on to win the tournament.
And now they’ve done it again. Despite the fact the Flyers tied for second during the regular season with Fordham and Saint Louis and are the No. 2 seed behind regular season champion VCU, KenPom predicts the Flyers will take it all.
It begins Thursday at 5 p.m. for the Flyers in Barclays Center, a quarterfinal game against Saint Joseph’s, a team the Flyers whipped in UD Arena February 10, 76-56.
By finishing in the top four during the season, the Flyers earned a double bye into the quarterfinals with VCU, Fordham and Saint Louis. Saint Joseph’s, the No. 10 seed, already played two games and won both to make the quarterfinals. One of the Hawks’ best players is guard Lynn Greer III, a transfer from UD to Saint Joseph’s.
For the Flyers, and any other A10 team, winning the tournament is a necessity to qualify for the NCAA tournament. It is unlikely any A10 team will be graced with an at-large bid.
That means the Flyers must win three games in four days — Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
KenPom’s analytics give the Flyers a 33% chance of claiming the trophy, with VCU at 28.5%, Saint Louis at 12.9% and Fordham at 8%.
VCU romped to the regular season title, finishing three games ahead of the second place teams. UD and VCU split the season series, both teams winning on the other team’s floor.
Seven different schools have won the last eight tournaments. . .and one is not Dayton. It has been Richmond, St. Bonaventure, Saint Louis, Davidson, Rhode Island (twice), VCU and Saint Joseph’s.
As the rest of the league points out, UD has never won the tournament outside UD Arena and that was 20 years ago. They beat Temple (long gone from the league), 79-72, before the tournament was moved to a neutral site.
When the season began, the Flyers were picked to win the regular-season title, but an emergency room full of injuries and some clunker games put deep potholes in front of them.
And DaRon Holmes II was the pick to win the league Player of the Year Award. While he and Toumani Camara were named to the league’s first team, Holmes lost out on Player of the Year to VCU guard Ace Baldwin.
As always, Holmes was magnanimous about not winning an award he probably should have won. Opposing teams did everything but put a strait jacket on him to keep the 6-10 sophomore away from the ball and the rim.
Speaking at a media session Tuesday on the UD campus, Holmes said,“ Unfortunately, that’s out of my control. I’m happy for Ace Baldwin. He was the best player on the best team.”
Best team? Hmmm.
Holmes averaged 18 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.7 steals and 1.7 blocks. Baldwin, a point guard, averaged only 12.6 points with 2.9 rebounds 5.8 assists, 2.5 steals and 0.2 blocks.
Holmes and Camara also were named first team All-Defensive, apropos from a team that led the league in defense.
But losing out on Player of the Year should give Holmes some extra drive and incentive for the A-10 tournament, like giving a shark some extra teeth.
VCU enters the tournament on a six-game winning streak while the Flyers lost their finale at Saint Louis, 65-61.
But it was a game that UD coach Anthony Grant was not unhappy with, other than taking a loss.
“I feel like we’re playing good basketball,” he said after the Saint Louis game. “I saw guys step up and take ownership on both sides of the basketball. There were a lot of good things. Now we have to get rested up and get ready for next week. We have to continue to move forward and we’re looking forward to getting to Brooklyn.”
Next week is here and it is do-or-NIT for the Flyers.
Holmes shook off a first play of the game ankle twist against Saint Louis and Camara played only 14 minutes due to foul trouble.
Now, if the Flyers are to make KenPom look good, it is time for Holmes, Camara and the supporting cast to turn it on like a search light.