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The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Underachieving Dayton topples Xavier, takes aim at NCAA bid

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There are two ways for Dayton fans to view the Flyers' 68-67 Atlantic 10 quarterfinal upset of top-seeded Xavier.

Either they can be thrilled Dayton's in position to salvage a disappointing season with an unlikely conference tournament run, or exasperated the Flyers haven't played like this the previous four months.

Back-to-back impressive victories over UMass and Xavier have Dayton two victories away from an NCAA tournament berth. The Flyers need only to defeat fading Duquesne or 12th-seeded St. Joseph's to set up an Atlantic 10 title-game matchup likely against either Temple or Richmond.

It certainly wouldn't have been a surprise four months ago to envision the Flyers in the Atlantic 10 semifinals, but they underachieved more than any other team in the league during the regular season. Dayton (21-12, 7-9) slid to a tie for eighth place in the league despite returning elite forwards Chris Wright and Chris Johnson, and adding talented freshman point guard Juwan Staten.

Even though Dayton lost five of seven games to end the regular season, the Flyers seem to have found the spark they've been missing in the Atlantic 10 tournament. They jumped out to a 21-3 lead on Xavier, survived a 30-12 second-half Musketeers run and won it on a pair of Luke Fabrizius  free throws with 5.8 seconds remaining.

Xavier had a chance to win at the buzzer, but Tu Holloway's buzzer-beating 3-pointer rimmed out. It's the fifth straight year the Musketeers have failed to win the Atlantic 10 conference tournament despite earning at least a share of the regular-season title each of those seasons. {YSP:MORE}

Because Dayton will meet either Duquesne or St. Joseph's in the semifinals, at least one of the two Atlantic 10 finalists will be a team with no hope of earning an at-large NCAA tournament berth.

That means bubble teams across America will become big Temple fans the next few days. If Dayton, bubble-bound Richmond, or anybody else takes the Atlantic 10 title, one of the unaccounted for at-large bids will disappear.

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