It may not get any more bubbly than tonight in Atlantic City, NJ. #6 Dayton will do battle with in-state rival #3 Xavier in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 Tournament. Part of the job of the selection committee is to differentiate between like teams, and these two are as tight as they come.
Dayton: Finished 20-11, 10-7 in the A10, the Flyers finished 6-7 in road/neutral games this season with their best win coming on the road against league champion Temple. They finished 8-7 vs. the RPI top 100 with a strength of schedule of 69 and went 10-4 in their non-conference slate in which their best wins were against then #15 Alabama and Minnesota.
In terms of rankings Dayton is 74th in RPI, 62nd in KenPom, 80th in ESPN’s BPI and 64th in the Sagarin ratings. With those iffy numbers, even with a soft bubble the problem for Dayton is things may come down to the “eye test” and that is a test they have failed of late, going just 6-6 in their last 12, losing to Rhode Island 86-81 fighting off Fordham in overtime 72-70.
The Flyers may need a win over Xavier, setting up a semifinal game with #2 St. Louis to get back in the good graces of the committee. Dayton is one of the many teams across the country people have had a hard time getting a read on. Even pundit bracketologists can’t seem to agree on the Flyers; ESPN’s Joe Lunardi and Jerry Palm of CBS Sports say no, while SI.Com’s Andy Glockner has them among his last four in.
Xavier: Finished 19-10, 10-6 in the A10. Xavier challenged themselves much more in the non-conference portion of their schedule, even though they went just 2-7 (the best win coming at Vanderbilt in November) they went out and played Gonzaga, Memphis, Long Beach State and Oral Roberts. As a result their RPI (54) and SOS numbers (46) and (41 non-conference) look better than Dayton’s.
Undoubtedly the season flipped for the Musketeers after a Dec. 10th brawl with in-city rival Cincinnati. Xavier was 8-0 after beating the Bearcats but the altercation took its toll as Coach Chris Mack suspended star guard Tu Holloway for a game, Mark Lyons for 2 and Dez Wells and Landon Amos four games apiece.
Xavier lost 3 of their next 4 games, which turned into 5 of their next 6 and suddenly that 8-0 confident Atlantic 10 favorite was gone. While the individual stats were there, the chemistry, the cohesiveness was clearly shaken, and they have yet to get things going in the right direction consistently,finishing the season 11-11.
KenPom lists the Musketeers at 60 while the BPI has them at 51 and Sagarin at 57. While the bracket experts that can’t agree on Dayton, do agree on Xavier, as all three have them in the field, by a thread.
For the selection committee it may come down to the rubber match between the two teams, with both having protected their home floor during the regular season.
If you enjoy a game with two teams that have everything to play for, that will lay it all on the line and flat out don’t particularly care for each other, tune in tonight at 9:00PM eastern.