The I75 rivalry is renewed tonight as Sean Miller takes his 14th ranked Xavier Musketeers north for a tangle with Brian Gregory and the Dayton Flyers.
Both teams come into tonight’s match off a loss: Xavier at Dusquesne (72-68) and Dayton at Charlotte (79-66). The Muskies sit atop the A10 with a conference record of 8-1. The Flyers rest in third with a record of 7-2. St. Joe’s waits in second(7-1), and Dusquesne is lurking at 6-3. Rey, don’t worry. I didn’t forget Temple. They are 5-3.
Shooting 47.4 per cent from the field including 40 per cent behind the arc and 67.5 per cent from the line the X-Men score 74 points per game. Dayton drops 42.3 per cent from the field, 32.3 per cent from the arc, and 68 per cent from the stripe for 67 points per game. Xavier gets 43 boards per game while Dayton grabs 41. Dayton holds the advantage in steals per game - 6.6 to 5.1 while Xavier blocks 5.1 shots and Dayton 3.6 per game.
Both teams are holding opponents to 38 per cent from the field.
Dayton is looking to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since ‘04. The Flyers are off to 21-3 mark including an 89-75 victory at Marquette earlier in this season.
The Flyers hold an 80-67 advantage in a series that dates back to 1920, but the Musketeers have swept six games in the last three seasons versus their oldest rival. Xavier holds a 21-9 lead since the two began A10 play. Dayton won the first ever meeting 24-18 (Did they stop the clock to take the ball out of the peach basket?) Dayton needed overtime to defeat Xavier 78-74 in the finals of the 1958 NIT at Madison Square Garden.
The two teams have met at least once a year since 1946-47.
Tonight’s game is the 49th in the Blackburn / McCafferty Trophy series. Named in honor of former Dayton coach, Tom Blackburn, (1947-64) and Xavier coach and AD, Jim McCafferty, (1957-63) the series has been sponsored by Franklin Savings of Cincinnati since 1981. XU holds a 31-17 advantage in the series that only covers regular season play.
The two meet at the Cintas Center March 5th.
Characters to watch
Preparing for the Muskies has become an exercise in picking one’s own poison. Senior B.J. Raymond leads the way with 13 points and 4 rebounds per game including 21 ppg over the last five. But opponents must stop Derrick Brown (13.9ppg / 6rpg) and C.J. Anderson (10.8 / 5.8). After opponents concern themselves with the ‘Three Musketeers,’ plenty of the X-Men must be contained - all of whom can go for double digits on a given night - Terrell Holloway, Dante Jackson, Jason Love, Kenny Frease, Brad Redford, and Jamel McLean.
Charles Little is the only senior starter for the Flyers. Chris Wright leads the way with 12 points and just under 7 boards per game. Marcus Johnson chips in 11 points and 3 rebounds. Kurt Huelsman will have his hands full in the paint tonight dealing with a variety of X-threats. The 6′10″ junior forward has proven to be more than worthy. Hulesman helped hold A10 POY candidate, Ahmad Nivins, to ten points under in his average. Flyer point guard, London Warren, has already amassed over 100 steals in his career.
UMass and Dusquesne both exploited Xavier’s shortcoming of defending the dribble. The Musketeers had to go zone late in Saturday’s game at the Palumbo Center. Warren is probably not as good off the dribble as Dusquesne’s Aaron Jackson or UMass’s Chris Lowe, but Dayton can play a stiff defense. If the Flyers can create turnovers, it could be a long night for Musketeers.
The Flyers need this game more than the Musketeers. When Xavier lost earlier in the year, they followed with a second. Dayton will slay Goliath tonight.
The A10 traces its roots back to the eight-school-men’s- basketball- only Eastern Collegiate Basketball League. Dusquesne, George Washington, UMass, Penn St., Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Villanova, and West Virginia banded together for 1976-77 season and were granted an automatic bid to the then 32-team NCAA Tournament. The league eventually became the Eastern Athletic Association or Eastern 8 before becoming the Atlantic 10 when Rhode Island, St. Joseph’s, St. Bonaventure, and Temple replaced Pittsburgh and Villanova.
The UD Arena is number one on the list of NCAA venues. The site has hosted tournament games 23 of the last 40 years. Since the inception of the play-in game required by the 65th entrant to ‘The Dance,’ UD has hosted every one of those games. In all Dayton has hosted 84 games. Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City is second with 83.