By Dustin Dow
The Cincinnati Enquirer
It is not comparable to Duke-North Carolina or even Xavier-Cincinnati. But Saturday's rivalry game between first-place Dayton and second-place Xavier will go a long way in determining the Atlantic 10 champion.
Xavier (16-4, 7-1 Atlantic 10) is nationally ranked at No.20 and boasts star power with a pair of All-America candidates in David West and Romain Sato. The Musketeers are the defending conference champions but faltered early, losing to Richmond Jan.7.
Dayton took advantage of Xavier's loss and has led the conference from the start by winning its first eight A-10 games, including Wednesday's 76-75 victory over Duquesne in Pittsburgh. The Flyers are not ranked, but Dayton is the highest-rated A-10 team in the Ratings Percentage Index at No.23. Xavier is 27th. The teams meet for the first time at 2p.m. Saturday at Cintas Center.
If Dayton (16-3, 8-0) were to win Saturday, the Flyers would hold a two-game lead on Xavier with seven games to play. Dayton has not won the A-10 regular-season title since joining the league prior to the 1995-96 season, although the Flyers finished first in the A-10 West in 1999-2000. Temple won the East that year and had the best conference record.
Xavier has claimed one outright title and shared another in that span, while finishing first in the West three times.
If Xavier defends its home court Saturday, the Musketeers will move into a tie for first with Dayton and be able to control their own destiny. The teams will meet again Feb.22 at University of Dayton Arena.
Dayton holds a 77-55 advantage in the all-time series, but the home team has ruled this rivalry recently. Until last season, the home team had won every game since the 1994-95 season. Xavier won all three games last season, including a conference tournament game in Philadelphia.
Dayton has struggled at Xavier, having not won since 1981, at Riverfront Coliseum. Xavier won all 14 games at Cincinnati Gardens and the first two at Cintas Center.
CHARITABLE RIVALRY: The competition between Xavier and Dayton does not stop at basketball. Fans from each school will compete to see who can collect more goods for charity.
Trucks will be located outside Cintas Center on Saturday prior to the men's game and Sunday before the women's game.
Xavier fans can drop off canned goods, clothing, cash and small household items.
Dayton fans will do the same later in the season when UD hosts Xavier on Feb.22 (men) and March2 (women).
The school with the most weight in donations will win a trophy.
Big stakes boost Xavier-Dayton rivalry
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