A-10 season begins: Where Dayton has been picked and finished in the conference since 1995

Jan. 3—The University of Dayton basketball team opens Atlantic 10 Conference play tonight with a road matchup against Davidson after going 10-2 in the non-conference schedule.

UD was picked to win the league in the preseason poll.

"I don't really put stock in the predictions," said Dayton's Anthony Grant in 2017 on A-10 Media Day, sharing a quote used by coaches around the country at this time of the year.

In 28 seasons in the A-10, Dayton has finished better than its preseason position in the poll 13 times. It has finished worse 12 times. Three times, it finished right where voters expected it to finish.

The 2009-10 Flyers under-performed the most relative to the preseason expectations, placing seventh after being picked to finish first. The 1999-2000 Flyers made the biggest jump from where they were picked in the poll (fourth in the West Division) to where they ended up (first).

Here's a complete rundown of all the polls and how they compared to Dayton's actual finish:


Predicted finish: First

Actual finish: Tied for second (22-12 overall, 12-6 A-10).

Preseason quote: "There was a lot of the talk going into this that we'd be one of the favorites in the league," Dayton coach Anthony Grant said, "so it's not surprising. I think it's great for our guys to be able to get that recognition in the preseason, and for our fan base, it's certainly something to be excited about. At the end of the day, it all comes down to what you do on the court."

Season summary: Despite returning its entire starting lineup, Dayton could not live up to the hype. Injuries to Dayton's guards had a big impact on the season from the start to the finish. An 0-3 performance at the Battle 4 Atlantis derailed the team's NCAA tournament at-large chances early. Then Virginia Commonwealth ran away with the A-10 regular-season championship and beat the Flyers in the A-10 championship game. The team was so banged up at the end of the season it decided to not pursue a NIT bid.


Predicted finish: Fifth

Actual finish: Tied for second (24-11, 14-4).

Preseason quote: "I just want to say it's disrespectful," Dayton guard Elijah Weaver said of being picked to finish fifth. "I feel like we're better than the four other teams above us. I feel it's disrespectful, and it's motivating."

Season summary: With the least-experienced roster in the country, Dayton stumbled out of the gate with three stunning losses in a row at home to UMass Lowell, Lipscomb and Austin Peay but started to turn its season around with three straight victories against Miami, Kansas and Belmont in the ESPN Events Invitational. It finished one game out of first place in the A-10 behind Davidson, which was picked sixth in the preseason poll. DaRon Holmes II and Malachi Smith turned in two of the best freshman performances in Dayton history. Toumani Camara and Kobe Elvis added to Dayton's rich transfer history. R.J. Blakney and Koby Brea showed great improvement after playing smaller roles as freshmen.


Predicted finish: Third.

Actual finish: Seventh (14-10, 9-7).

Preseason quote: "It goes unsaid," Grant said, "but certainly these are unprecedented times in terms of how the season ended last year and getting our group back together and trying to build toward this season. Our guys have made a lot of sacrifices like everybody across the county in terms of doing the things we need to do to get prepared and try to keep our campus and our community and our team and individuals safe."

Season summary: Like every team across the country, Dayton dealt with cancellations, postponements and an ever-changing schedule during the pandemic. After finishing 4-1 in non-conference play, Dayton lost to La Salle and Fordham early in A-10 play and never contended for a NCAA tournament berth or conference championship. The departure of Chase Johnson from the team before the start of conference play and an injury to senior guard Rodney Chatman hurt. The Flyers made the NIT for the second time in Grant's first four seasons.


Predicted finish: Third.

Actual finish: First (29-2, 18-0).

Preseason quote: "Like I always say, what we do is irrespective of any poll. Our goals don't change every year. We try to compete for championships and NCAA tournament berths. All the other stuff is great for fans and the excitement leading up to the year, but for me as a coach, I don't really put a lot of stock in it."

Season summary: Dayton enjoyed the best regular season in school history, winning its last 20 games and running away with the A-10 championship. It climbed to No. 3 in the Associated Press poll and was competing for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament when the season was cancelled March 12 because of the pandemic. Obi Toppin was the consensus national player of the year, and Grant won all the major national coaching awards.


Predicted finish: Sixth.

Actual finish: Third (21-12, 13-5).

Preseason quote: "We've been able to add some pieces," Grant said, "and hopefully the pieces we return will show some improvement as well. I think we need to be more efficient in terms of our ability to shoot the 3 and and our ability to take care of the basketball and value possessions. We've certainly got room to grow from an offensive standpoint."

Season summary: Dayton made progress in Grant's second season, but it was unable to build on a strong non-conference victory over Butler in the Bahamas, losing five games that would have helped it build a NCAA tournament resume. The Flyers exceeded expectations in the A-10 by playing well on the road, but two last-minute losses to VCU and disappointing finishes at home against George Mason and Rhode Island prevented them from contending for the regular-season championship. They settled for a NIT berth after losing in the A-10 quarterfinals to eventual champion Saint Louis.


Predicted finish: Fifth.

Actual finish: Ninth (14-17, 8-10).

Preseason quote: "Our expectation is to compete for championships," Grant said. "We realize the team we had last year will be different than the team we'll have this year. We had four seniors who graduated as the winningest class in school history: back-to-back A-10 championships; four straight NCAA Tournaments. The opportunity presents itself for our new guys and the guys who are returning in different roles."

Season summary: The Flyers suffered their first losing season since 2005-06. An inability to win away from UD Arena (2-13 in road or neutral-court games), an ineffective defense and lack of bench production hurt the Flyers in Grant's first season.


Predicted finish: First.

Actual finish: Outright champion (24-8, 15-3).

Preseason quote: "I think it shows a good testimony of how good our team is," point guard Scoochie Smith said, "and what we did last year in the conference and how good we can be this year."

Season summary: Smith and three other senior starters (Charles Cooke, Kendall Pollard and Kyle Davis) led the team to a program first. The Flyers had never won the A-10 title outright or reached four straight NCAA tournaments. Only a three-game losing streak at the end of the season stained an otherwise historic season.


Predicted finish: First.

Actual finish: Tied for first with Virginia Commonwealth, St. Bonaventure (25-8, 14-4).

Preseason quote: "We are on a quest to keep building," Miller said. "We have a new team with some veteran guys who have experience but we also have to mention some new guys. Our quest is to be playing our best at the end, which is all that really matters."

Season summary: Charles Cooke stepped into the role vacated by Jordan Sibert to become Dayton's leading scorer. The Flyers overcame a late-season slump to beat VCU 68-67 in overtime on Senior Night to clinch a share of the A-10 regular-season title for the first time.


Predicted finish: Third.

Actual finish: Tied for second (27-9, 13-5).

Preseason quote: "Our program is based on one thing, which is conference championships and opportunities to compete deep in March and create special moments," Miller said. "That's what we talk about. That's the expectation. At the same time, right now we're not even close to being where we have to be or where we can be. We're going to need a lot of things to go right here early in the season as we deal with some injuries and some depth problems."

Season summary: Despite having a seven-man rotation for most of the season, Dayton won two NCAA tournament games and would have won a share of the A-10 title if not for a loss at La Salle in the regular-season finale.


Predicted finish: Seventh.

Actual finish: Tied for fifth (26-11, 10-6).

Preseason quote: "It is going to have to be an unselfish group," Miller said. "We could be that team this year that does it by committee. This team really fits our (coaching) style more than our first two. Our first two seasons have been very good (shooting the ball). We can grow in other ways. We have a lot of different ways we can beat you. This year's team will be built on speed. I like where we are going. Guys are going to have to understand their roles."

Season summary: Dayton picked up a number of important non-conference victories, beating Gonzaga in the Maui Invitational, for example, only to lose five of six games early in non-conference play. With nine wins in their last 10-regular season games, the Flyers earned a berth in the NCAA tournament. Then they reached the Elite Eight for the first time in 30 years.


Predicted finish: Eighth.

Actual finish: Tied for 11th (17-14, 7-9).

Preseason quote: "For our returning guys, when we lost at Iowa last year (in the NIT) and finished that season, they worked as hard and worked together for that six-month period as much as any team," Miller said. "It's up to our young guys to fill in and find their niche — chemistry is important. But our team will go as those seven returners go. Those guys are motivated. It's the first time they've been in our program through our offseason. They're better. Each and every one of them is better."

Season summary: Miller's second team lost seven games by three points or fewer.


Predicted finish: Sixth

Actual finish: Tied for fifth (20-13, 9-7).

Preseason quote: "One thing you have to give the University of Dayton on paper — without the coaching change or without anything else — is we have a couple older players," Miller said. "We have some guys who have been in big games before — whether it'd be Chris Johnson, with him being touted as one of the better players in our conference, and you look at guys like Luke Fabrizius and Paul Williams and Josh Benson. Those guys have played minutes in the Atlantic 10. When you have a core of upperclassmen, no matter how deep you are or how thin you are, experience can carry some weight."

Season summary: The Flyers overcame some shocking losses (84-55 at home to Buffalo, for example) to earn a NIT bid in Miller's first season. This was the best free-throw shooting team in school history (77.8 percent).


Predicted finish: Fourth.

Actual finish: Tied for eighth (22-14, 7-9).

Preseason quote: "You had two or three guys in the last three or four years who really hung their hat on defense," Gregory said. "Who's going to be that now? That's always the challenge — playing with the same grit and determination and scrappiness we've had in the past. We have guys who have been solid defenders for us, but they're going to have to take steps up. We're smaller on the perimeter, and thinner in the post. So, we need to figure out ways to highlight the things we might be better at and hide the things where we might be different."

Season summary: A team that received top-25 votes in the preseason after winning the NIT in 2009 lost five of its last seven regular-season games and settled for another NIT bid in Gregory's final season.


Predicted finish: First.

Actual finish: Seventh (25-12, 8-8).

Preseason quote: "We're not putting a target on our backs, we're putting a target on everyone else's back," Gregory said. "If you come after us, we'll come after you."

Season summary: The Flyers salvaged a disappointing regular season that included four losses in the last five games by winning the NIT for the first time since 1968. Dayton set a school record with 128 blocks, a mark tied by the 2016-17 team.


Predicted finish: Third.

Actual finish: Tied for second (27-8, 11-5).

Preseason quote: "We're happy with (the preseason poll)," Chris Wright said, " but we know the season determines everything, especially what you do in March."

Season summary: Led by sophomore Chris Wright (13.3 points per game), the Flyers fell one victory short of the school record for wins and won a NCAA tournament game for the first time since 1990.


Predicted finish: Sixth.

Actual finish: Tied for seventh (23-11, 8-8).

Season summary: Dayton improved its win total for the third straight year thanks in part to a 13-game winning streak in December and January but settled for a NIT bid in Brian Roberts' senior year.


Predicted finish: Sixth.

Actual finish: Tied for seventh (19-12, 8-8).

Preseason quote: "We all have a sense of urgency this year," Roberts said. "We know what we have on this team, as far as talent, and we know what we can do."

Season summary: Dayton started the season 10-1 but was unable to find consistency in A-10 play.


Predicted finish: Fifth.

Actual finish: Tied for 11th (14-17, 6-10).

Preseason quote: "Outside of GW and Charlotte, no one knows where anybody is going to finish," Gregory said. "UD being picked in the top half is probably based on what we did last year. This year is going to be interesting."

Season summary: Despite a breakout year by the sophomore Roberts (16.0 points per game), a player who would become one of the best in school history, the Flyers had their only losing record in the Gregory era. It would be their last losing mark until the 2017-18 season.


Predicted finish: Third in West Division.

Actual finish: Second in West Division (18-11, 10-6).

Preseason quote:"(Being picked third) may have more to do with the success that past teams have had than our present team," Gregory said. "We need to look at it as a sign of respect people have for our program and take it as a great challenge."

Season summary: A young roster featuring only one senior, Mark Jones (7.8 points per game), was a reason Dayton's five-year run of postseason berths ended.


Predicted finish: Second in West Division.

Actual finish: First in West Division (24-9, 12-4).

Preseason quote: "After the season we had last year, (the preseason poll) should get us fired up," senior forward Keith Waleskowski said.

Season summary: A strong senior class featuring Ramod Marshall, Waleskowski and Sean Finn led the Flyers to a Maui Invitational championship, a nine-game winning streak in A-10 play and a second straight berth in the NCAA tournament in Gregory's first season as head coach.


Predicted finish: Second in West Division.

Actual finish: Second in West Division (24-6, 14-2).

Preseason quote: "We all know the goals," Brooks Hall said. "We have 27, 28 short-term goals. That's to win every game."

Season summary: Dayton won its first and still only A-10 tournament championship, beating Rhode Island, Saint Joseph's and Temple on three straight days at UD Arena to earn the team a berth in the NCAA tournament. Hall, Waleskowski, Marshall and Finn all averaged in double figures.


Predicted finish: Second in West Division.

Actual finish: Third in West Division (21-11, 10-6).

Preseason quote: "This is all based on the largest number of players returning," Purnell said. "It's logical to assume that we (Xavier and Dayton) are the top two teams. Yet it's also important to realize that the race is won and lost on the floor."

Season summary: Dayton saw its 3-point shooting (37 to 35.6) and free-throw (73 to 68) percentages decline from the previous year and settled for a second straight NIT bid.


Predicted finish: Fourth.

Actual finish: Sixth (21-13, 9-7).

Preseason quote: "I believe there are five or six teams that could win the league race, and I believe we're one of them," Purnell said. "Where did they pick us last year, fourth in our division?"

Season summary: Despite wins over Connecticut and Maryland in the season-opening Maui Invitational, Dayton fell far short of returning to the NCAA tournament and settled for a three-game run in the NIT. A lack of size hurt. Dayton had only one major contributor who stood taller than 6-foot-7: the 6-8 freshman Waleskowski.


Predicted finish: Fourth in West Division.

Actual finish: First in West Division (22-9, 11-5).

Preseason quote: "Everyone realizes that this poll is not the important one," Purnell said. "That one comes at the end of the season. Our coaching staff feels this is a team that can compete for the West Division championship."

Season summary: Dayton doubled its win total from the previous season. The 11-win improvement was the biggest one-season jump in school history then and still is. Dayton returned to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1990.


Predicted finish: Third in West Division.

Actual finish: Fifth in West Division (11-17, 5-11).

Preseason quote: "We tied for first place last year, but those two teams were in the NCAA Tournament last season and we were in the NIT," Purnell said. "Polls don't mean anything. We feel we have an opportunity to win it this year."

Season summary: Illnesses and injuries affected a number of players, including Josh Postorino, Nate Green, Coby Turner and Andy Metzler. This was Dayton's sixth losing season of the decade. It would have one losing season in the next decade.


Predicted finish: Third in West Division.

Actual finish: Tied for first in West Division (21-12, 11-5).

Preseason quote: "We had our problems on the road last season," Ryan Perryman said. "This is a team that can win. It's all mental. We have to go in there with the attitude that we're gonna win."

Season summary: The Flyers earned a NIT bid, ending a six-year postseason drought, thanks in part to a strong performance by the team's only senior, Perryman (15.2 points per game), and standout freshman Tony Stanley (13.1).


Predicted finish: Fifth in West Division.

Actual finish: Fourth in West Division (13-14, 6-10).

Preseason quote: "I've seen enough to recognize that we can be a pretty decent basketball team if we do the things were capable of," Purnell said.

Season summary: Eight losses in the first 10 A-10 games doomed the Flyers, who finished 1-11 in road games with their only victory coming at Wright State.


Predicted finish: Last place (sixth) in West Division

Actual finish: Fourth in West Division (15-14, 6-10).

Preseason quote: "Why should I be surprised (to be picked last)?" Purnell said. "I didn't pick us, but coming off a season where you win seven ballgames, you can't expect much."

Season summary: The Flyers won eight more games than the previous season, their last of two seasons in the short-lived Great Midwest Conference.