Dayton lost 63-62 to VCU at home earlier in the season on Jan 13. Photo by Keegan Gupta, director of digital media and photography.
Max Cross | Sports Editor
The University of Dayton Men’s basketball team began their quest for an NCAA Tournament berth with a clean slate. Despite losing their regular season finale at Saint Louis 65-61 on March 3, the Flyers entered the Atlantic 10 Tournament with the belief that they could overcome what had been a rollercoaster of a regular season and fight their way through to the big dance.
Dayton finished the regular season 12-6 in A10 conference play, breaking a tie with Fordham and Saint Louis to earn the No. 2 seed and a double bye into the quarterfinal round. From there the goal was simple: survive and advance.
On Thursday, Dayton did just that as they advanced to the semifinal round after holding off No. 10 seed Saint Joseph’s 60-54 after Mustapha Amzil made two free throws with 11 seconds remaining that pushed the lead to five points. Just seconds earlier, Dayton watched an eight- point lead evaporate in a five-second span.
Following an off day on Friday, the Flyers continued the hunt for their first NCAA Tournament appearance in six years, and their first Atlantic 10 Championship in 20 years, following a gritty 78-68 victory over Fordham in the Atlantic 10 semifinals.
Toumani Camara added the final exclamation point with a tomahawk dunk in the final seconds. It was the first A10 semifinal win for the Flyers since 2015. Camara finished that game with 28 points. DaRon Holmes II added 20 points as they combined for 48 of Dayton’s 78 total points. The victory earned them a third matchup with rival Virginia Commonwealth, the No. 1 overall seed for the tournament.
In the A10 championship game, Dayton started out tough and was proving they could overcome all of the injuries and fight their way to an A10 title and receive the conference’s automatic bid into the tournament. The Flyers led 36-30 at the half and started out the second half with a 7-2 run to push the lead to double digits. However, it all began to spiral downhill quickly.
Dayton’s 11-point, second-half lead fizzled away in the blink of an eye. VCU began to crawl its way back and take control of the game. The final 10 minutes proved to be the nightmare no one expected.
Dayton missed its last 15 field goal attempts, scoring their final six points from the free throw line and No. 1 VCU ended No. 2 seed Dayton’s NCAA Tournament dreams with a 68-56 victory in the A10 title game. The Rams ended the game on an 8-0 run and secured the Conference’s automatic bid to the big dance, where they were selected as a No. 12 seed.
Dayton (22-12) failed to capture its first A10 championship since 2003. The Flyers have never won the tournament away from UD Arena. VCU (27-7) won its second A10 Tournament title and first since 2015 when it beat Dayton 71-65. The Rams earned their third NCAA tournament bid in head coach Mike Rhoades’ six seasons.
Despite the loss, many Dayton fans still hoped for a postseason opportunity with an invitation to the National Invitational Tournament (NIT). However, the Dayton Flyers would not hear their name called on the NIT selection show, which began at 10 p.m. on March 12.
UD released a statement at 8:35 p.m. Sunday night, just hours after losing 68-56 to VCU in the Atlantic 10 Championship game at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
“Due to health concerns for our overall roster, and in consultation with our team, the University of Dayton has decided to decline any other postseason opportunities this year,” UD Athletics announced. “While our players and coaching staff are always grateful for the opportunity to compete, this decision is in the best interests of the program this season. Everyone associated with the UD men’s basketball program appreciates the Flyer Faithful and is thankful for the fans who supported them all year.”
The Flyers battled injuries all season and lost two key players on its roster in the final game of the regular season at Saint Louis. Kobe Elvis was ruled out of the tournament before Dayton’s quarterfinal game due to his knee injury. Freshman Mike Sharvjamts did not play in the quarterfinal game but did return to play in the final two games of the tournament, wearing a knee brace.
Earlier in the season, Malachi Smith and Elvis both missed a major portion of the season after suffering leg injuries in the final game of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament back in November.
Head coach Anthony Grant was asked following the title game about whether he hoped his team would get an NIT bid.
“I think our group has been banged up quite a bit. No excuses, but we’re far from healthy,” Grant said. “We’ve got guys that are available. So I think we have to look at it and see what’s best individually and collectively for this group.”
One NIT projection, by BarkingCrow.com, had Dayton playing at Cincinnati in the first round. Another NIT expert, John Templon, did not have Dayton in his bracket prediction but wrote on Twitter before UD’s announcement he wouldn’t have been shocked to see Dayton make the field.
Dayton, which was ranked No. 24 in the AP Preseason Poll, finished 22-12 in the 2022-23 season. Grant is 124-63 in six seasons. The Flyers played in the NIT in three of his first five seasons, losing in the first round in 2019 and 2021 and in the second round last season.