DAYTON, Ohio – A few pregame thoughts and notes on today’s game between No. 17 Butler (13-2, 1-0) and Dayton (10-5, 0-1)…
**There aren’t many breathers in this year’s Atlantic 10, and this game qualifies as big for both teams. It might be bigger for Dayton as the Flyers are 0-1 in conference play and are at LaSalle next. Butler scored a huge road win at St. Joseph’s on Wednesday and has all sorts of momentum. Butler has lost just once since early November, to Illinois in the Maui Invitational championship game.
**As much as rankings don’t really matter, tangible proof of how much stronger the additions of Butler and VCU have made the A-10 can be found in this stat: After losing at VCU three nights ago, today marks the first time the Flyers have played back-to-back ranked opponents in-conference since the 1993-94 season when Dayton was a member of the Great Midwest Conference. It’s the first time they’ve played back-to-back ranked opponents, period, since the 2009 Puerto Rico tip-off.
**Butler coach Brad Stevens said this week that Dayton point guard Kevin Dillard might be one of the league’s best players. Dillard will have to play like it today. Butler is one of the nation’s best rebounding teams, has one of the top 3-point shooters in Rotnei Clarke and almost always plays an efficient game.
**Dillard leads Dayton at 15.1 points per game and 4.7 assists. He also has a team-high 21 steals. The Flyers have lost three of their last four.
**Butler’s starting point guard is walk-on Alex Barlow, a graduate of Cincinnati Moeller High School and the hero of Butler’s December upset of then No. 1 Indiana with the winning basket. Barlow’s parents are season ticket holders at Dayton, and Barlow said this week he’s seen “hundreds” of games at UD Arena through the years and played there every year in high school.
**Barlow scored 6 points in that Indiana game — as many as he scored the whole season last year as a freshman. He chose Butler after not falling in love with any of his Div. II scholarship offers and because he wants to be a college basketball coach one day. Stevens is a pretty good guy from which to learn — and now he’s counting on Barlow, who’s started the last eight games and is doing the little things — steals, assists, quality minutes — that Stevens always finds someone to do. His emergence at point guard has allowed Clarke to move to a more natural and more dangerous role off the ball.
**Said Barlow: “Obviously Butler is a great program. People talk about Butler’s magic, and what’s happened here is impressive, but it’s not really magic. It’s doing things the right way. There are no shortcuts. We’re not always the most athletic, most impressive team. It’s attention to detail and believing it’s going to work.”