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How far can they go in March? Experts weigh Dayton’s chances in NCAA Tournament

Published: Wednesday, February 19, 2020 @ 2:50 PM

Contributed Photo/David Jablonski, Dayton Daily News
Contributed Photo/David Jablonski, Dayton Daily News

For Dayton Flyers fans, the 2019-20 season has already contained achievements that seemed nearly impossible for a “mid-major” team in the current landscape of college basketball:  A top-5 Associated Press ranking, 15 game winning streak, and national player and coach of the year candidates are only some of what the Flyers have done en route to a 24-2 record. 

>>Dayton Flyers rewriting history book as win streak reaches 15

But could the Flyers claim one of the other seemingly impossible achievements: Advancing to the NCAA’s Final Four, or beyond? 

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>>Dayton Flyers climb into Top 5 of Associated Press poll

The Flyers have many fans among national college basketball analysts and writers, many of which continue to include Dayton in their lists of contenders to reach the final weekend of the tournament. 

The phrase “Dayton is Legit” has been echoed by ESPN analyst Jay Bilas across multiple national broadcasts this year. Bilas has been one of the biggest proponents of the Flyers and placed UD No. 7 in his list of national title favorites Feb. 13. 

This week, Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel wrote a story defending the claim UD could win the whole thing. 

“Can Dayton win the national title? You’d have gotten crooked looks if you mentioned that at Atlantic 10 media day after the Flyers were picked third in the league. But the record, résumé and results would indicate that it can,” Thamel wrote. 

The resume Thamel refers to includes only two losses on the season, to Kansas and Colorado, both in overtime and on neutral courts. Those two teams also find themselves currently in the AP Top 25, with Kansas also considered a national championship contender.  

But its not just the writers, advanced analytics like KenPom and even the NCAA’s own evaluation tool, the NET, continue to rank the Flyers among the top 10 teams in the country.

Sure, Dayton is still a work in progress. Ask a Flyer fan where the team has weaknesses and they’ll likely point out the Flyers give up too many offensive rebounds, among other flaws. And yes, Dayton has allowed opponents to reach double-digits in offensive rebounds the last three games. 

This team already is in the process of rewriting the history books both for the program and the conference, as Dayton Daily News reporter David Jablonski wrote about after UD’s win Tuesday at VCU. 

But with the wide-open landscape that is this college basketball season, who knows what story those record books might tell at the end of the season. 

If you believe the experts, and the numbers, Dayton just might be the team that can cut down the nets in Atlanta April 6.