To kick off coverage of the 2017-18 Dayton men’s basketball season, David Jablonski will publish 17 top 10 lists on various topics between now and the season opener on Nov. 10.
The non-conference scheduling strategy for the Dayton Flyers men’s basketball program will not change in the Anthony Grant era.
Dayton still wants to play four teams, outside its annual exempt tournament, every season that it expects will compete for NCAA tournament berths.
“We’ve got to play the best teams we can beat in the non-conference,” said Athletic Director Neil Sullivan on Oct. 17 at Atlantic 10 Media Day.
This season, those teams are Saint Mary’s, Auburn and Mississippi State. The fourth team is up for debate. Ball State, Akron and Georgia State are all capable of reaching the big dance.
Here’s how Dayton’s non-conference games rank in order of difficulity (not counting the two opponents at the Charleston Classic that will be determined by how the tournament unfolds):
1. At Saint Mary’s (Dec. 19, 10 p.m.)
Last year’s record, RPI and Pomeroy rating: 29-5; 17; 15.
Last NCAA berth: 2017; lost 69-60 to Arizona in second round.
Series history: Tied 1-1. The Gaels won 61-57 last season at UD Arena.
Coach: Randy Bennett (17th season; 362-156).
Top player: Jock Landale, a 6-foot-11 senior center, averaged 16.2 points and 9.2 rebounds last season.
Notes: Saint Mary’s ranked 22nd in the preseason coaches poll. ... The Gaels are the preseason favorite in the West Coast Conference, ahead of national runner-up Gonzaga. ... The Gaels have six players from Australia. ... Grad transfer Cullen Neal, a 6-4 guard, started his career at New Mexico, where his dad Craig was the head coach. He played last season at Ole Miss, averaging 9.4 points. ... Saint Mary’s is located in Moraga, Calif, just east of Oakland.
2. Auburn (Nov. 29, 7 p.m.)
Last year’s record/RPI/Pomeroy rating: 18-14; 107; 82.
Last NCAA berth: 2003.
Series history: Dayton leads 4-0. Dayton won the last meeting 73-63 at the Charleston Classic on Nov. 18, 2012.
Coach: Bruce Pearl (fourth season, 44-54).
Top player: Mustapha Heron, a 6-5 sophomore guard, averaged 14.3 points last season and was named to the All-Southeastern Conference freshman team.
Notes: The Tigers broke a seven-year stretch of losing seasons last season. ... Auburn was picked to finish ninth in the SEC preseason poll. ... The Tigers return 72.8 percent of their scoring from last year’s roster, including their four leading scorers, who were all freshmen last season. ... Assistant coach Chuck Person was one of four coaches from around the country arrested after the FBI’s investigation into college basketball.
3. At Mississippi State (Dec. 3, 8 p.m.)
Last year’s record/RPI/Pomeroy rating: 16-16; 151; 88.
Last NCAA berth: 2009
Series history: The Bulldogs lead 1-0. They beat Dayton 56-54 at UD Arena on Dec. 19, 1975.
Coach: Ben Howland (third season, 30-33).
Top player: Quinndary Weatherspoon, a 6-4 junior guard, averaged 16.5 points last season and was named to the All-SEC preseason second team this season.
Notes: The Bulldogs were picked to finish 12th out of 14 teams in the SEC preseason poll. ... They return four starters. ... They broke a streak of four straight losing seasons with their .500 finish last season.
4. Ball State (Nov. 10, 7 p.m.)
Last year’s record/RPI/Pomeroy rating: 21-13; 175; 180.
Last NCAA berth: 2000.
Series history: Dayton leads 5-1. The Flyers won the last meeting 59-35 on Jan. 5, 2010, at UD Arena. Ball State’s only victory came in the 1921-22 season, 25-15 at Ball State.
Coach: James Whitford (fifth season, 54-75).
Top player: Tayler Persons, a 6-3 junior guard, made the All-Mid-American Conference second team last season, averaging 15.5 points and 4.9 assists.
Notes: The Cardinals have won back-to-back MAC West Division championships. ... Seniors Francis Kiapway and Sean Sellers rank among the top-five 3-point shooters in school history.
5. Akron (Nov. 25, 7 p.m.)
Last year’s record/RPI/Pomeroy rating: 27-9; 55; 100.
Last NCAA berth: 2013.
Series history: Dayton leads 11-2. Dayton won the last matchup 76-68 on Nov. 16, 2010, at UD Arena.
Coach: John Groce (first season).
Top player: Junior guard Jimond Ivey averaged 10.1 points per game.
Notes: The Zips have won 21 or more games 12 seasons in a row. ... Akron lost five of its top six scorers. ... Groce is back in the MAC after four seasons at Illinois. He coached Ohio from 2009-12. ... Trotwood-Madison graduate Torrey Patton is a freshman guard.
6. Georgia State (Dec. 16, 7 p.m.)
Last year’s record/RPI/Pomeroy rating: 20-13; 106; 131.
Last NCAA berth: 2015.
Series history: First meeting.
Coach: Ron Hunter (seventh season, 123-74).
Top player: D’Marcus Simonds, a 6-3 sophomore guard, averaged 13.4 points and 4.0 rebounds and was named Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year.
Notes: Georgia State has won 20 or more games three of the last four seasons. ... Hunter is a Miami University and Chaminade Julienne High School graduate. His associate head coach is Ray McCallum, the former head coach at Ball State.
7. Penn (Dec. 9, 3 p.m.)
Last year’s record/RPI/Pomeroy rating: 13-15; 202; 171.
Last NCAA berth: 2007
Series history: Dayton leads 1-0. The Flyers won 71-60 on Nov. 28, 1997, in the San Juan Shootout in Puerto Rico.
Coach: Steve Donahue (third season, 24-32).
Top player: A.J. Brodeur, a 6-8 sophomore forward, averaged 13.9 points and 6.9 rebounds. He was named to the All-Ivy League second team.
Notes: The Quakers have suffered five straight losing seasons. ... They were picked to finish fourth in the Ivy League’s preseason poll. ... Penn returns four starters.
8. Hofstra (Nov. 16, 7:30 p.m.)
Last year’s record/RPI/Pomeroy rating: 15-17; 198; 188.
Last NCAA berth: 2001
Series history: Dayton leads 1-0. Dayton won 77-54 on Dec. 29, 1981, at UD Arena.
Coach: Joe Mihalich (fifth season, 69-64).
Top player: Justin Wright-Foreman, a 6-1 junior guard, averaged 18.1 points per game and was named to the preseason All-CAA first team.
Notes: This is Dayton’s first-round game at the Charleston Classic (S.C.). The winner plays Clemson or Ohio in the semifinals. ... The Pride were picked to finish fourth in the Colonial Athletic Association.
Last year’s record/RPI/Pomeroy rating: 16-14; 243; 247.
Last NCAA berth: 2003.
Series history: Dayton leads 1-0. Dayton won 67-65 on Dec. 6, 2003, at UD Arena.
Coach: Bashir Mason (sixth season, 87-69).
Top player: Senior guard JoJo Cooper averaged 8.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game last season.
Notes: Mason was hired in 2012 to replace Dan Hurley, who left to coach Rhode Island. At 28, he was the youngest head coach in Division I. He got the head coaching job five years after his senior season at Drexel.
10. Tennessee Tech (Dec. 6, 7 p.m.)
Last year’s record/RPI/Pomeroy rating: 12-20; 274; 257.
Last NCAA berth: 1963
Series history: Tied 1-1. Dayton won the last meeting 81-60 on Nov. 18, 2005, at UD Arena.
Coach: Steve Payne (seventh season, 91-97).
Top player: Senior guard Aleksa Jugovic, of Serbia, averaged 15.2 points per game last season.
Notes: Tennessee Tech will be the only team to play Indiana, led by former Dayton coach Archie Miller, and Dayton in the 2017-18 regular season. The Hoosiers host Tennessee Tech on Dec. 21.