Friday, February 20, 2004

Dayton stands in way of XU's late-season run


Flyers cling to No.1 spot in West

By Dustin Dow
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A matchup of teams headed in opposite directions increases the stakes for Saturday's game between Atlantic 10 rivals Xavier and Dayton at Cintas Center.

Dayton (20-5, 10-2) leads the West Division. But the Flyers have lost two of their last three games, and hold a slim, one-game lead over George Washington for first place with two weeks left in the regular season.

Dayton needs a win against Xavier to avoid hurting its seeding in the conference tournament, or harming a possible seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Xavier (15-9, 6-5) experienced a letdown during January, but has won its last five games. That leaves the Musketeers just 2 1/2 games out of second place in the West Division.

The NCAA Tournament remains an outside possibility for Xavier, which likely needs to win the rest of its regular-season games to be considered for an at-large bid.

"I haven't thought about it, Xavier coach Thad Matta said. "Dayton on Saturday at 2 o'clock. We've taken that approach the last three weeks with this team because we don't have the capacity to think long term."

A win against Dayton, rated 38th in the ratings percentage index, according to CollegeRPI.com, would be Xavier's third-best RPI win of the season. It also would enhance Xavier's RPI standing, currently at No. 57. Xavier's two highest-quality RPI wins are against Alabama (30) and Cincinnati (32).

"It's an opportunity to play a great opponent," Matta said. "We've got another real good basketball team coming into Cintas Center."

Dayton defeated Xavier 74-67 Jan. 31 at UD Arena. Xavier hasn't lost since.

"We're having fun," Xavier senior Lionel Chalmers said. "We're just seeing what happens. We're going to come out and give what we have, and hopefully we'll turn out on the good side."

E-mail ddow@enquirer.com




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