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We should question where, not if, Dayton gets in the field

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

C (USATSI)
Dayton has ended the A-10 tourney on the bubble twice. The first time led to the NIT. (USATSI)

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BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- Now comes the part every coach fears and hates: the wait.

Archie Miller and his Dayton Flyers find themselves confident but cautionary. No one's totally sure what to make of the Flyers' NCAA Tournament hopes. With a win on Friday, they surely would have been in the good.

But the Flyers lost a close, physical, entertaining A-10 quarterfinal that featured controversy at the Barclays Center. Saint Joseph's won 70-67 after Langston Galloway drained a 3 -- after not getting called for an offensive foul following a push-off on Kyle Davis.

"You're up one with 20 seconds to go. It's March," Miller said.

He did not blame the officiating, either.

"It could go either way," Miller said. "The referees did a god job. It was a well-officiated game. I felt like he (Galloway) got some space. Now, is every referee going to call that call with the game on the line? Probably not. Let them finish it out. ... Guy makes a great shot. He's a great player."

Flyer Dyshawn Pierre said, "We thought it was a push-off, but at the end of the day, that's a really good team and that's a really good shot."

Dayton is now 23-10 with 10 wins against the RPI top 100. The team has won 10 games on road and neutral courts, with four wins overall coming against the 50 best teams according to RPI.

It's played 12 games since Jan. 26, going 9-3 -- all three losses coming to Saint Joe's, two of them by three points. All told, that resume speaks well compared to other teams -- like Nebraska, Minnesota, Cal, Missouri -- who are scraping at the entrance.

"You all know what you just saw. You saw two high-level teams, and if justice is to be served ... they'll get their names called on Sunday," Saint Joe's coach Phil Martelli said. "That, literally, was a fist fight."

It's three sub-100 RPI losses that are the chain around Dayton's ankle right now.

But in spite of that, there should be almost no doubt that Dayton is worthy. My opinion, anyway. Those, like our Jerry Palm, are trying to guess at what the selection committee will do. That makes it tougher. And what makes it agonizing for Miller is not getting any more chances. He's got to sit for the next 48 hours and watch a few other teams try to win their way past Dayton's standing.

Miller said he won't watch anything, though; it would drive him nuts to do that.

If Dayton gets in, the question becomes: Where will the Flyers be placed? The First Four is hosted at Dayton's home arena. If the selection committee deems the Flyers are one of the last four to make it into the field, they will be placed at the Dayton site.

That's never happened before. It would be interesting.

It would also be bittersweet, because the team wouldn't get the experience of the NCAA Tournament. Part of the fun of this is hopping on a chartered plane -- paid for by the NCAA -- and flying to a site, bunkering down in the hotel and immersing yourself in the experience.

"You don't go into the season saying, 'I hope I get the draw that we can get at home,'" Miller said. "The mission is to get to the tournament. Great things that can happen when you're in the tournament. To play in [Dayton Arena], would it be familiar, yes. It's a different crowd. It's going to be an equal deal for the gam. When you tip, maybe the rims are a little more familiar, but I think the quality of the opponent, that atmosphere and environment would change the mindset a little bit."

Obviously if it's First Four or nothing, Dayton's going to take the quasi-home game and run with it. But this has become an interesting subplot in the hours leading up to the selection.

"I hope we'll have one more burst in us where we can make something happen," Miller said. "I hope we get a call. I expect to get a call."

He's right to expect the call. But Miller is in a spot no other coach has ever been in: not only rooting to get into the NCAAs, but also hoping he doesn't have to play on his home court when "DAYTON" flashes across the screen on Selection Sunday.

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