For a conference in need of quality wins, Saturday's Atlantic 10 matchup between the Dayton Flyers and Xavier Musketeers could set the pace for the rest of the season. Neither team has lost a conference game so far and defeating an in-state rival will be a huge boost of momentum for the winner.
Xavier enters the game 11-5, including 3-0 in conference. Dayton is 13-3 and holds a 2-0 conference record. Both teams hold close victories over major conference teams (Cincinnati and Georgia Tech, respectively), but neither really screams quality win.
This game could be that quality win.
Looking at the numbers, the Musketeers are a much better shooting team. As a team this season, Xavier averages 45.4 percent from the field, 39.9 percent from downtown, and 71.2 percent from the free throw line. By comparison, Dayton averages 45 percent of their field goals, only 33.9 percent from three-point range, and a miserable 66.1 percent from the charity stripe.
Not only does Xavier shoot better than Dayton, they score about eight and a half more points per game.
It doesn't fare much better for the Flyers in other categories. Xavier commits fewer turnovers per game, pulls down more rebounds, steals the ball more, blocks more shots, and commits fewer personal fouls.
It's hard not to favor the Musketeers, but they lack something Dayton specializes in: depth of bench.
Don't get me wrong. Having eight players average more than 10 minutes per game shows a real dedication to teamwork. But the fact that Xavier has two starters that cross over into 30+ minutes per game is cause for concern in the fatigue department.
Dayton, on the other hand, sports 10 players that play double-digit minutes per game, the vast majority of whom play close to the 20-25 minute per game mark. In addition, they have another player that averages just over nine minutes per game and has appeared in all but two games for the Flyers.
Meaning Dayton coach Brian Gregory trusts his bench and is not only not afraid to use them, but frequently does so.
If Xavier gets into foul trouble early and has to dig further into an untested bench, it could give Dayton the opening they need to come away with a big win.
So in spite of the fact that they haven't performed as well as Xavier so far this season (in terms of statistics), they're winning games. More importantly, they're winning as a team, and the team mentality might be enough to overcome the tough Cincinnati crowd.