Xavier's schedule for the upcoming season is coming together nicely. Unlike the monstrosity that college football is, basketball allows for schedule changes and adjustments to ensure matchups that are good for everyone involved. That's how Xavier ends up with Baylor, Utah, and Colorado on the slate. All present good opportunities for both teams. Xavier, though, still has two open dates on the schedule to fill. One of those should to an old not friend.
As much as we love to clown on Dayton, and we do love it, they don't have a bad little program for a mid major. Since Archie Miller took over, the worst KenPom ranking the Flyers have put up is 71st. The best they've been is 37th, so they aren't a real powerhouse, but they represent good return on scheduling investment. Last season UD was 59th in KenPom and ended the season as a seven seed. There are some cream puffs already on the schedule, so taking a shot with a decent mid level team isn't a serious risk for Xavier. Win, and you have another decent mark, somehow lose and there are both easy wins and potential resume builders with which to recover.
That's not the only reason to add the Flyers of Dayton to the schedule, though. Looking at the the non-conference now, there's not a lot that stirs the blood. Of course, the Crosstown Shootout is there. That's the jewel of the season and it will always be filled with rightful vitriol. Other than that, though, there's not a lot. Baylor knocked Xavier out a few years back, but not in such a manner as to engender hate. Lehigh may not like Xavier after Mark Lyons finished them off with a breakaway windmill dunk, but the feeling (or even the awareness) doesn't go both ways. Buffalo? Wake? There's just not a lot there worth really sinking the teeth into. Xavier fans will be passionate for those games because they always are, but it will be to see what their team can do and how they can improve, not because they are desperate for a win over a particular opponent.
That changes with Dayton. The Flyers lead the overall series 84-75 but since 2001 Xavier has a 24-9 edge. The series has been played since 1920, so history alone would lend some sort of gravitas to the proceedings, but even that doesn't fully explain the pathos both groups show. Xavier fans are fond of reminding Dayton that they haven't won in Cincinnati since Jimmy Carter was in office. Dayton recently printed up shirts proclaiming that Xavier girls were ugly. When Dayton had Kevin Dillard and NCAA hopes, Mark Lyons and Tu Holloway took turns dispatching them. I'm sure Dayton has also significantly hurt Xavier in some way at some point, but at just over three decades old, I probably wasn't around for it.
It basically comes to that. Mario Mercurio has put together a great schedule (again) for Xavier. In doing so, he's assured that the Musketeers have meaningful games throughout the non-conference. He's also created a situation in which another rivalry game against a lesser program can be added without running an inordinate amount of risk. Get Dayton back in there to add another little jolt of aggression before the Big East kicks off play. The Flyers need the game to have a chance at a legit win, Xavier only needs it to continue to assert dominance all across southern Ohio.