Dayton-St. John’s Preview

Dayton is making its fourth consecutive NCAA tournament

appearance, but the Flyers plan on sticking around a bit longer in

this one.

Seventh-seeded Dayton begins what it hopes will be a deep

tournament run Sunday in what’s essentially a road game against No.

10 St. John’s at Carnesecca Arena.

The Flyers have been part of the last three NCAA tournaments,

winning one game as a No. 8 seed in 2010 before falling in the

first round as a No. 11 seed in each of the last two.

“We’re not just happy being here anymore,” Dayton coach Jim

Jabir said. “It’s the highest seed we ever had. We want to play on

Tuesday, very, very badly. Just getting that first game in and

going home is not enough for this team. To be a national program we

need to get out of the first weekend and that’s a goal.”

It’s been a record season for Dayton (27-2) as the Flyers won

their first Atlantic 10 regular-season title before falling to

Saint Joseph’s in the conference tournament semifinals. The team

has already surpassed the school record for wins.

Not bad for a squad that lost a lot to graduation last year and

has the sixth-youngest roster in the country. The Flyers used a

balanced offense that features four different players averaging in

double figures.

“The six returners that we had coming back got together and

wanted this not be a rebuilding year,” senior Sam MacKay said.

MacKay is one of those players averaging at least 10 points,

while sophomore guard Andrea Hoover (12.2) leads the way. Hoover

averaged 15.4 points in her final seven games leading up to the


While the Flyers’ roster had huge turnover, the Red Storm return

most of their team from last season’s regional semifinal run. The

biggest change was at head coach when assistant Joe Tartamella took

over for Kim Barnes Arico, who left for Michigan.

The Red Storm (18-12) struggled in the early part of the season,

losing three games on the final possession before turning it around

with victories in eight of their last 10 contests. They have

reached the past four NCAA tournaments after only making it four

times total before their current run.

“It’s extra gratifying,” Tartamella said. “The seniors get to go

out playing in four straight tournaments. Our goal has always been


Dayton is ranked 18th in the current AP poll, and that could be

bad news for St. John’s. The Red Storm are 0-6 against Top 25 teams

this season.

St. John’s is led by Shenneika Smith, who averages 16.7 points,

and Nadirah McKenith, who scores 12.9 per game. McKenith is one of

eight players in the country to average at least 12 points, five

rebounds and five assists.

The winner will face either second-seeded Kentucky or No. 15

Navy on Tuesday.