The University of Dayton men’s basketball team celebrated Thanksgiving on Friday at the Dayton Country Club, shaking off the jet lag of a long trip home from Maui with a feast befitting a team off to its best start in five years.
The Flyers had plenty to be thankful for then: a 3-1 road trip with wins over Georgia Tech, Gonzaga and California, a third-place finish at the Maui Invitational and a 6-1 start overall. Now they one more reason to be in the holiday spirit: a spot in the Associated Press top 25.
Dayton entered the poll at No. 25 Monday. It’s the program’s first ranking since it was 18th on Nov. 22, 2009. Dayton also received votes in the USA Today Coaches poll, coming in at No. 31.
“It means we played pretty quality basketball against quality competition,” UD coach Archie Miller said. “You don’t get recognized in any poll or media scuttlebutt unless you earn it. To our kids’ credit, we’ve worked very, very hard, and we continue to get better.
“But it means little to zero. We’re only as good as our last game. We know that. We have things to get corrected from Maui. It was a heck of a trip. It was a long trip. We’ve got to get our minds back on what’s gotten us to this point, which is continuing to be hungry to improve.”
The Flyers received 90 points in the poll released Monday. No. 5 Ohio State (6-0) is the only other ranked team from Ohio. One other Atlantic 10 team is ranked, No. 21 Massachusetts (6-0).
“It’s an extreme honor,” Dayton senior forward Devin Oliver said. “I’ve never been ranked while being here, but you can’t think too much about it, man. It’s something you’ve got to put in the back of your mind and get ready to grind back at practice because you lose one game and you’re right back out of it.”
Gonzaga, beaten 84-79 by Dayton in the first round of the Maui Invitational last week, fell from 11th to 19th. Gonzaga is 7-1.
Baylor, which beat Dayton 67-66 in the second round in Maui last Tuesday, fell from 18th to 20th. Baylor (7-1) lost to Syracuse in the Maui championship.
The Flyers were ranked as high as 18th in 2009 after early-season wins over Creighton and Georgia Tech. They climbed as high as 22nd in 2008.
The Flyers host Delaware State at 7 p.m. Wednesday and travel to Illinois State for an 8 p.m. game Saturday in Normal, Ill. Dayton has six games in December, all but the Illinois State game at home.
“The Maui trip is something everyone I’ve talked to has handled in different ways,” Miller said. “We handled it with a game at Georgia Tech on the way out. It became almost a 10-game road swing. We positioned the first game back to give us time to recover.
“It was a heck of a trip. Hopefully, we recuperate a little bit. Hopefully, our bodies are getting back in order. We have to be mentally ready to pick it back up here.”