March Madness – (11) Dayton vs. (6) Providence

(11) Dayton Flyers vs. (6) Providence Friars (-3, 131 o/u)

Back in the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive year, the No. 6 Providence Friars (22-11, 11-7 Big East) find themselves facing an effective road game against the No. 11 Dayton Flyers (26-8, 13-5 A 10) tonight in Columbus (9:57 p.m. Eastern).

In 2014, the Friars nearly upset No. 6 North Carolina. Now the shoe is on the other foot for the Friars, who coincidentally find themselves as a No. 6 this time around.

This game may be a tad personal for the Friars’ leading scorer LaDontae Henton, who originally signed with Dayton before landing in Providence.

“I’m a firm believer in everything happens for a reason,” Henton said. “It’s been a right fit ever since I came here. And I think it’s one of the best decisions I made in my life to come to Providence College, and everything is working out for the best.”

This season the Friars have also come to rely on freshmen forward Ben Bentil; last week, Bentil had a double-double in each of the team’s two Big East tournament games.

“Ben is just emerging in front of ours eyes every single day. And the more he slows down, the more efficient he’s becoming. He’s not thinking. He’s playing,” said Friars head coach Ed Cooley.

Providence has been consistently good all season, but has struggled against top teams, going 1-5 against top-25 opponents.

As for the Flyers, the team won a First Four game over Boise State on Tuesday in their home arena. Now Dayton will travel just down the road to Columbus for tonight’s tilt with Providence. The effective home-game for the Flyers bucks the usual tournament trend putting the higher seed closer to home.

When asked if playing a second game in three days would result in fatigue, Dayton guard Scoochie Smith said, “We don’t get tired … [We c]an’t afford to get tired.”

Senior guard Jordan Sibert wasn’t as stoic, though. “It was rough. Just leaving the game and trying to get on a bus and come right up here right after the game. But we did a good job just sticking together and making sure that we enjoyed the moment last night, but as soon as we got back, we tried to get rested up as much as possible. Now we’re just moving on to the next game.”

Dayton’s momentum appears to be infectious, while Providence is only 5-5 straight-up in its last ten games. Taking the Flyers for the upset is a reasonable play (+144).

(Photo credit: Pats1 at en.wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], from Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)

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