March 5, 2009 2:56 pm ET by Kyle Whelliston
Dayton at Xavier (Atlantic 14)
Cintas Center - Cincinnati, OH
9:00 PM EST
In a conference with a geographical footprint so big you can see it from space, tonight you can boil everything down to four letters: XU and UD. Or just X and D, if you think the University identifier isn't necessary. There's a lot more straightforward simplicity in this matchup: the two teams' RPI's add up to just 39, and you can count up their combined losses on two hands. And both are almost certain to be playing in the NCAA Tournament later this month.
Dayton (24-5, 10-4) rebounded well from a short two-game losing skid by stopping Temple at home over the weekend. It's also a statistical freakshow. The leading scorer is at 13.3 ppg (soph stud Chris Wright), the team has an average margin of victory of less than a basket (1.9 points), but the Flyers still sit third in the league standings behind just X and Rhode Island, but t. It's one of the poorest shooting teams in the league (44.7 percent), can't hit free throws (63.9 percent, 13th) but UD always finds a way to convert possessions into points. Floor percentage, which counts the rate of possessions that result in scores of any type, has Dayton at 52.1 percent, which is the third-best figure in the league. They look a lot more impressive on the court than on paper -- unless you're looking at an NCAA team sheet that shows a 3-1 record over the RPI top 50, and eight total top 100 wins.
Xavier (23-5, 11-3) is 4-3 against the top 50, and spent the nonconference portion of the schedule beating a lot of power-conference teams. The Musketeers have slipped up once more in league play than they did during their 14-2 season, but they're still a deep March threat for sure. We've said it a thousand times, but this is one of the most solid teams in the country at any level, except for the turnover problem that's directly led to all three A-14 losses. One of those was the 13-point loss at Dayton three weeks ago that snapped an 11-game win streak, so there's a revenge storyline in addition to Senior Night, rare status as an A-14 game on the ESPN family of networks (make sure you tune in and tell your friends), and a Blackburn/McCafferty trophy ceremony to boot. Dayton leads the all-time series 81-67, but hasn't beaten Xavier in Cincinnati since 1981.
We're out of time, but longtime friend of TMM Ray Floriani has more analysis over at the fine College ChalkTalk site.
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