Dayton Flyers vs. Duquesne Dukes Pick & Prediction MARCH 14th 2024

Despite being one of the dominant teams in the Atlantic-10 Conference’s recent history, success in the yearly conference tournament has eluded Dayton.

The 24th-ranked Flyers (24-6) locked up the third seed in this year’s tournament and will look to start a championship run Thursday night against sixth-seeded Duquesne (21-11).

Three wins the Barclays Center in Brooklyn would give the Flyers their second A-10 Tournament title, the first coming in 2003.

In the four years since the pandemic forced the cancellation of Dayton’s 2020 dream season, when it finished 29-2 and was unblemished in conference action, postseason play has been unkind to the Flyers.

In 2022, Dayton guard Malachi Smith went down with an injury in the tournament semifinal against Richmond, which was followed by a blown 15-point lead, just missing the 68-team field.

Last year, the Flyers let an 11-point lead slip to VCU in the conference final, and again missed out on postseason play.

This time around, Dayton, largely due to a NET ranking of 21, should be comfortably in the NCAA Tournament, but this week represents unfinished business for Flyers coach Anthony Grant.

“Some of the guys on the team have some heartbreaking experiences in terms of what we’ve had to endure throughout the tournament,” Grant said. “From Malachi’s injury to last year falling short in the championship game. I’d like to see this group have the opportunity to experience what it feels like to be a champion.”

Dayton, which hasn’t played since Friday’s 91-86 overtime win against VCU in the regular-season finale, enters Thursday on a two-game winning streak and boasts the recently named conference co-Player of the Year in DaRon Holmes II.

Holmes, who leads the team in scoring (20.2 points per game) and rebounds (8.3), shared the award with Richmond’s Jordan King.

“It means a lot,” Holmes said. “It just shows all the hard work I’ve put in. I’m trying to get better every day. It’s a blessing.”

Following Holmes’ scoring are Nate Santos (12.1 points) and Koby Brea (11). Brea’s 49.7 three-point shooting clip leads the nation.

Standing in Dayton’s way is red-hot Duquesne, which has won five straight games entering the meeting, most recently an 83-73 win over 14th-seeded Saint Louis in Wednesday’s second-round matchup.

“In this league, it doesn’t matter where you finish from top to bottom, as you can tell,” Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot said. “Every (tournament) game has been close. We were lucky to get out of here with a win.”

After falling behind 1-0 early Wednesday, the Dukes took the lead in the opening minutes and wouldn’t trail again.

Jimmy Clark III led the Dukes with 20 points on 4-of-7 3-point shooting, followed by Dae Dae Grant’s 17 points and game-high seven assists. Grant’s 16.7 points per game lead the Dukes on the year, while Clark adds 15.2.

Duquesne is looking to avoid a third loss to Dayton this season, as the Dukes fell 72-62 to the Flyers on Jan. 12 and 75-59 on Feb. 13.

–Field Level Media

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