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Dayton is a strong candidate for the NCAA Tournament as of this writing. Consider that for a second. A team that is currently .500 in a mid-major conference, that lost to Illinois State and was throttled by Rhode Island, has an absolutely legitimate shot at theoretically competing for the national championship. It’s truly Obama’s America.

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Mike DeCourcy, who will tell you that he’s never been wrong in his life, sums up the situation rather succinctly:

[pull_quote_center]Having gone through the NCAA’s Mock Selection exercise last week, I can tell you one thing: If you think your team is on the bubble, there’s a good chance it’s safely in the field. If you think your team is done, there’s a chance it’s on the bubble.[/pull_quote_center]

After a couple of weeks of being awestruck, the reality is starting to set in — college basketball is terrible and UD, among others, has become a symbol of the struggle. LSU, Providence, Louisiana Tech, St. John’s and Missouri as fellow bubble members? They join Dayton as a testament to a sport that has been consistently sliding in quality (This is where I’d assign some blame, but I literally have no clue who to point the finger at).

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The cards are on the table, a “bad” loss would all but put UD on life support. I don’t think we can understate how important it is for UD to avoid a bed-shitter at this point of the season — meaning a loss to La Salle at home or Duquesne on the road. The Flyers, almost without exception, need to win their next two games to keep their name affixed to the bubble.

St. Joe’s might be the most important game left on the slate. I, for one, am not confident in UD’s ability to go into Saint Louis and steal a victory, neither are you. However, the Cagers likely need to pull a 2-1 record out of their hat on the road to contend for a tournament bid one month from now. Wins at Duquesne and St. Joe’s would do the trick. Phil Martelli’s team has been getting better every week, and have already defeated UD at the Arena. The Flyers haven’t won a game at St. Joe’s in over a decade, the odds seem stacked against us.

One game at time. The journey for an #11 seed continues,  as the Flyers look for their fifth straight conference win tonight against La Salle.

Overview

The Explorers are just a year removed from a Sweet 16 appearance — the first time the program experienced success in the NCAA tournament since 1955.  La Salle grabbed the last at-large bid and rode it to the second week of the competition, Dr. John’s name never shined brighter.

Fast forward to this season, La Salle was returning four starters and picked third in the league’s preseason poll (behind VCU and Saint Louis). This was a vital year for the program, as the Explorer’s roster is chock full of upperclassmen. If Dr. G was ever going to build momentum and solidify his program as a perennial contender, this was the year to do it.

La Salle shuffled their feet in non-conference play, racking up an inauspicious 7-6 record heading into their conference slate. Their fortunes changed quickly once league play began, as the Explorer rolled off three consecutive wins and looked like they were poised to make a run at the league title once again. One month later, La Salle has lost six of their last seven and smells like mothballs. The Explorers are 12-12, 4-6 in the Atlantic Ten. Season over, dudes.

Oh, and Tom Gola finally died. Not a good year for La Salle.

Meet and Greet

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The Explorers are led by a triumvirate of guards — Tyreek Duren, Sam Mills and Tyrone Garland. Tyreek Duren has scored in double-figures in 14 straight games, He leads the team in scoring (14.5 ppg), assists (3.6 apg), and steals (40). His 35.9 minutes/game mark ranks second in the A-10. Mills is averaging around seven points a game and is one of the league’s better three-point shooters. Garland is the team’s second-leading scorer (13.6 ppg) and the player most likely to push someone in the stands.

Bigman Steve Zack (9.5 ppg/9.6 rpg) leads the A-10 in double-doubles with 13 and ranks eighth nationally. Forward Jerrell Wright is enjoying a solid junior season, averaging 13/6 per night.

There are some other guys on La Salle’s team. They were likely very good players in high-school. Now they watch Steve Zack get after it from the bench. An eye-opening experience for them, I’m sure.

Numbers Game

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Prediction