When Xavier was in the Atlantic Ten, no game was more hotly contested than the Jimmy Carter Classic. Dayton reveled in taking on the Musketeers on their very own hostile court, and Xavier fans took joy in reminding UD how many presidential elections had occurred since the Flyers had won at X. Dayton fans hated Xavier players; at least one Xavier player loved it. Those were good times.
You know what even better times are? Playing in the Big East and having 32 of 36 conference games in the past two years played against teams with a KenPom ranking of 110 or better (thanks for nothing, DePaul). Gone are the days of watching the ol' RPI plummet after beating Fordham by 25, but gone with it is the pleasure of having a rival just up I-75 inspiring sincere distaste.
The obvious answer to this is to schedule UD in some sort of recurring arrangement like the Musketeers enjoy with UC and Wake Forest. We've floated that idea a couple of times on social media, and I've frankly been surprised at how many Xavier fans were against it.
If Brian Gregory were still stealing a paycheck from UD, I could understand it. In eight years at UD, Gregory made the NCAA tournament twice and finished outside the KenPom top 100 four times. Being conference foes made it easy for Xavier fans to enjoy UD's failings, but they were on the schedule merely due to shared A10 affiliation. They weren't bad enough to be a buy game or good enough to be an out-of-conference milepost contest. They were just kind of there.
Gregory is gone now though, having departed Dayton for Georgia Tech, who really should have known better than to hire him. The Yellow Jackets did UD a favor, emptying the top seat at the bench just in time for the Flyers to bequeath it to Archie Miller.
Miller, like his brother before him and more recently Coach Mack. Is the it young coach of the moment. No opening in a top conference can go by without everybody and his mum mentioning how great a fit Miller would be there. For the moment though, he remains at Dayton. In four years there, he has improved the team every season, made the second weekend of the NCAA tournament twice, and piloted the team through some difficult circumstances, most recently playing the last 2/3rds of last year without a single scholarship player over 6'6".
Height, you may well know, is important in basketball. Archie Miller is a good enough coach to win without it.
After this year he'll lose just one player, flex forward Dyshawn Pierre. He has landed a respectable if not spectacular recruiting class for 2015 and is gaining momentum in 2016 thanks to five NCAA tournament wins in the past two seasons.
If it hasn't become clear by now, I think Xavier and UD should be playing each other every season. X can afford to knock an IUPUI or a Florida Gulf Coast off the schedule in favor of a hotly contested in-state rivalry. Both teams are led by young coaches on the rise, both are establishing themselves as perennial contenders. It would be good for both schools and basketball in the state of Ohio if these two could find a way to meet again.
What's your take on throwing UD back onto the schedule?