Dayton has passed every test this season with flying colors. Even in their losses, the Flyers have played well enough to come away with victories.
The Flyers, who have moved up to fifth in the nation, sport a 23-2 record (12-0 in the Atlantic-10) and have won 14 straight games. Both losses have come in overtime — to No. 3 Kansas in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational finals and against Colorado on a last-second shot at the Chicago Legends tournament.
They’re taking everyone’s best shot and appear to be heading toward at least a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
A road game Tuesday night at VCU (17-8, 7-5) is the next test for Anthony Grant’s squad. The Flyers have not won at VCU in five years. Dayton is 6-0 on the road this season, while VCU is 13-2 at home.
The Flyers are first nationally in field-goal percentage (.523) and are second in assists per game (18.2).
Obi Toppin, who is on five national player of the year watch lists, leads the team with 19.7 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Toppin might get most of the attention, but Grant’s got plenty of other weapons in Jalen Crutcher, Ibi Watson and Trey Landers.
Against Massachusetts on Thursday, Crutcher scored 11 points in less than two minutes as the Flyers won a tough road game.
“It was amazing,” Toppin told the Dayton Daily News. “Every single time he’s on the court, he’s always going to do good for the team. We have a lot of confidence in him, and he has a lot of confidence in himself.”
Yes, this is one confident bunch. Players openly talk about winning a national title. Grant has tried to keep the team’s focus on the next game and winning the A-10 title.
“When you ask young men what their aspirations are, they’re always going to think big,” Grant said. “Our aspirations are to make sure we do everything we can to win our next game right now. That’s all we can control. I think all those guys will tell you we need to be better.”
The Flyers beat the Rams by 14 back on Jan. 14. With the game tied at 41-all, Dayton held VCU scoreless for six minutes, outscoring the Rams 22-0.
“They (Dayton) made some plays, but we lost it,” VCU coach Mike Rhoades said on the Rams radio network after the game. “The wheels fell off for that stretch, and we were very undisciplined. … We took some bad shots, we turned it over.”
The Rams went on to win their next four games, but now have lost three of four, including two straight.
Rhoades has mixed up his starting lineup trying to instill some energy while also giving younger players some time. Sophomore wing Vince Williams made his first start Saturday against Richmond.
“I thought we needed a little more versatility,” Rhoades told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “(Williams) didn’t shoot it well (Saturday), but he gave us some really good energy and plays, and got downhill.”
Senior Marcus Evans, who leads the Rams in assists and is third in scoring at 10.6 points per game, did not play in Saturday’s 77-59 loss to Richmond. His status for Tuesday is uncertain.
Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland (8.2 points) will get the start if Evans can’t go.
–Field Level Media