Does Dayton Deserve an NCAA Tourney Bid? Survey Says...No

Nathan BitnerSenior Analyst IFebruary 11, 2009

Some people might suggest I've had it out for the Dayton Flyers (21-3, 7-2 Atlantic Ten) all year long. In a way, they would be right. I think that for much of the year they have been one of the most overrated, unnecessarily-praised teams in the land.

The whole premise of the "Dayton bandwagon" was a single victory over Marquette back in November, when Marquette was ranked No. 15. Currently, Marquette is ranked No. 10, though they may not stay there long after back-to-back losses to South Florida and Villanova.

The win was a good win, but the résumé becomes extraordinarily thin after the game with the Warriors.

Dayton hovered at the edge of the AP and Coaches' Poll rankings due to a string of victories in an incredibly weak conference, punctuated by painful losses to Creighton of the MVC (by 18 points) and the No. 10 team in their conference, Massachusetts (8-13, 3-5 Atlantic Ten). UMass handled them easily, 75-62.

Worse yet, the Flyers are playing terribly in the vast majority of their conference games (and many of their non-conference games), and they have been eking out victories against teams they should have been blowing away.

They beat Wofford (11-11, 7-6 Southern) by three.

They edged SEC weakling Auburn by just one.

Four-point wins were all the Flyers could muster at MAC foe Akron and at home against the CAA's George Mason (which, by the way, is probably their next-best victory after Marquette).

In conference play, Dayton hung on for a 72-71 victory over the worst team in the A-10, Fordham (3-17, 1-7 A-10).

The Flyers performed "twice as well" with a two-point win over Fordham's basement roommate, George Washington (7-13, 1-7 A-10).

Add in a one-point home win over St. Louis (14-9, 5-4 A-10) and a two-point victory at LaSalle (12-10, 3-5 A-10) to boot. There's "winning ugly," which isn't always a bad thing, but this is simply "playing ugly."

This terrible basketball led to a gaudy record of 21-2 and prognostications of a seven or eight seed in March before the Flyers' poor play finally caught up with them last Sunday.

Ahead by six in the second half against a poor Charlotte (8-14, 2-6) team, Dayton squandered every opportunity they had and lost by 13. Dayton doubled Charlotte's turnover total, and were outplayed in nearly every facet of the game, including coaching.

The Flyers managed to lose by double digits despite shooting .500 from the field and .538 from behind the arc, which shows just how awful they were otherwise. In fact, Dayton shot better from the field than they did from the free throw line (.450, 9 of 20).

Dayton has been one of the worst free throw shooting teams all year, and the game against the 49ers was no exception.

If a team is 21-3, they need more than one quality win from three months ago to make the Big Dance. Their losses are bad enough, but some of their wins are even worse.

They have two games left against Xavier and one with Duquesne. If they lose all three of those games, there probably won't be any talk of March "bubbles," but if they lose even two of three, I'd seriously question whether they deserve to be discussed.

That's assuming, of course, that they run the table on the rest of their A-10 opponents, something that is far from a lock for the Flyers.

If the tournament started today, this team should be excluded because, to put it plainly, there are far more deserving at-large teams who actually decided to play someone in December or at least challenge themselves with a significantly better non-conference slate.

Unless someone pulls an upset in the conference tournament, don't be surprised to see just one Atlantic 10 team in the NCAA tournament this year.

Let Dayton try their hand at the NIT. They'll see better competition there than they have for the majority of the season, anyway.