Dayton suspensions the latest blow for a reeling Atlantic 10 conference
A pair of suspensions to Dayton’s only two players taller than 6’6 are the latest blow to an Atlantic 10 conference that all of the sudden looks like it could be a 1-bid league.
It’s been almost nine months exactly since Dayton sat at the top of the college basketball world.
The Flyers took one of the final at-large bids into the NCAA Tournament and turned it into an Elite 8 run that captivated the sports world. Videos and images of the UD campus celebrations following wins over Syracuse and Stanford were shown on every website and every talk show in the country. For a couple of weeks, Dayton was America’s team.
Fast forward 3/4 of a year and the Flyers aren’t looking a team the country is going to have a chance to root for again come March.
After convincing Archie Miller to stick around and being able to return one of the Atlantic 10′s top players in Jordan Sibert, Dayton saw itself get enough preseason love to garner a handful of votes in both major top 25 polls. After a pair of double-digit losses to the two strongest teams on their non-conference schedule (Connecticut and Arkansas), that’s no longer the case.
The biggest blow UD has been dealt so far this winter came on Wednesday, when Miller announced that he had dismissed starting center Devon Scott and backup big man Jalen Robinson from the team after the pair had been involved in a trespassing incident in which they allegedly stole money.
“I’m extremely disappointed in Jalen and Devon,” Miller said in a statement. “Their actions do not reflect the behavior we want in our program. Our student-athletes are given every opportunity to be successful on and off the court. Despite ample opportunity to do so, their actions demonstrate they chose not to take advantage of that. More important than wins and losses, it’s about members of our program being committed to represent the University of Dayton in the manner we all expect.”
The exits of Scott and Robinson, who were averaging a combined 12.4 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, leave Dayton without a single player who stands taller than 6’6.
The good news? UD’s conference is currently looking as weak as it has at any time in recent memory.
For six consecutive seasons, the Atlantic 10 has sent at least three teams, including multiple squads who have earned at-large bids, to the NCAA Tournament. In the past 25 seasons, the league has seen 50 teams earn at-large bids to the big dance. Overall, only seven conferences have more total NCAA Tournament appearances than the Atlantic 10′s 139.
Which is why it feels so strange to be talking about the A-10 as a potential one-bid league, and yet, here we are. We are more than a month into the 2014-15 season, and the conference has a grand total of zero ranked teams and just one that is receiving any votes.
VCU was supposed to be the league’s flag-bearer this season, and I suppose it still is. Shaka Smart’s team still looks like the A-10′s most capable national player, but the Rams have a loss at Old Dominion to compliment a pair of beatdowns at the hands of top 10 squads Villanova and Virginia. A double overtime win over then-No. 23 Northern Iowa last Saturday might be the league’s best win to date.
After the Rams, things get pretty dicey.
Newcomer Davidson owns a sparkling 8-1 record, but lost by 18 to the only notable team they’ve faced thus far, North Carolina. Saint Bonaventure is 6-2 with no quality wins and losses to Siena and Pitt. George Washington beat former Big East bottom dwellers DePaul and Rutgers, which is something, I guess, but it also lost Penn State, Seton Hall and Virginia by a combined 34 points.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the A-10 so far is that it hasn’t gotten more from the trio of Saint Louis, UMass and Rhode Island.
The Billikens were expected to take a massive step back after losing so much from last season’s team, but at this point, SLU “overachieving” is almost expected. Instead, Jim Crews’ team is 7-4 with ugly losses to Texas A&M Corpus Christi and South Dakota State to go with blowout defeats at the hands of Mississippi State (75-50) and Wichita State (81-52).
UMass was viewed as a candidate to make back-to-back trips to the big dance for the first time since 1997-98, but the Minutemen are just 6-4 and have no real opportunities to make a national splash before the start of conference play. Rhode Island caught the nation’s attention by upsetting Nebraska on Nov. 22, but has since failed to take advantage of opportunities against Kansas, Providence and Georgia Tech.
As for the bottom six of the league? Well, it’s bad. Like, combined record of 23-29 with only one team owning a double-digit Ken Pom ranking bad.
So, chin up, Dayton. That at-large bid may look like a pipedream right now, but winning three or four games in a row at the Barclays Center in March probably isn’t going to be as tall a task as you thought it was heading into the year.