I’m sure you haven’t noticed, but the Flyers haven’t lost since I’ve essentially turned my back on the program and stopped doing recons. Three wins in a row, just one win away from .500. Since they’ve recaptured my attention and respect, it’s time to get back on track.
UD’s three straight wins have once again made things interesting with just a few weeks left in the season. Dayton’s next four games will likely make or break the season. After visits from Rhode Island and La Salle, the Flyers will go on the road for games against Duquesne and St. Joseph’s. Those four teams have a combined 14-22 conference record, with only St. Joseph’s sporting a winning record (6-3). A 4-0 run would be nice, but a 3-1 record would at the very least give UD a puncher’s chance with a just over a week left in the season.
ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan breaks down UD’ s season in just about the most accurate terms possible:
Dayton is a drunk father and, collectively, we are his kids. He dries up for a bit, then comes home drunk one night and passes out in the shower. He sobers up for a few weeks, giving us hope, but we all know how it ends. Why we remain hopeful after all these years is just a testament to our naivety.
Dayton is getting a second look at a conference foe for the first time this season, as the Rhode Island Rams, a 88-76 winner back on January 25th, visit the Sweater Centre™ tomorrow night.
URI enters the game with a 2-7 record in conference play, tied for tenth in the league with Duquesne and Fordham. No one has owned UD quite as stridently as Rhode Island. The last time Dayton beat Rhody, a “selfie” was something you did while peering under doors of a woman’s dressing room. The Rams have won seven in a row against the Gem City Cagers and nine of the last ten matchups. That’s Norwegian Winter Olympic domination.
Rhody completely exposed UD defensively back in January, connecting on 62.5% of their attempts from the field (URI also hit 50% of their shots from behind the three-point line) — the fourth-best shooting performance in school history. It’s especially troubling considering URI continues to rate as the league’s worst offensive team according to point-per-possession metrics.
The teams that have allowed URI to shoot over 45% from the field this year are a veritable who’s who of basketball teams you would watch if the only other option was castration.
I think you get the point.
The Rams were aggressive throughout their first tilt with Dayton, continually driving the ball to the basket for easy looks or whistles on UD. URI got to the line 40 times that night and out-rebounded UD 30-21. In short, Danny Hurley’s team exploited the Flyers’ weaknesses and dominated in just about every phase of the game.
Meet and Greet
Xavier Munford (16.6 ppg/4.0 rpg) is licking his chops. After beating UD on a buzzer-beater last season, the senior guard poured in 27 points in Rhody’s victory over UD a few weeks ago. Freshman EC Matthews (12.4 ppg/4.3 rpg), who has been good as advertised, also had a strong effort against UD — 20 points and 10 rebounds. Matthews is a matchup problem given his size and ability to handle the ball. He is coming off a 24-point game against UMass last Sunday.
Junior bigman Gilvydas Biruta (10.9 ppg/7.1 rpg) had one of his better performances of the season against UD, scoring 15 points in thirty-three minutes of play. Unlike just about every other A10 team he’s fact, Biruta was able to stay out of foul-trouble and contributed on both ends of the floor. Maybe UD will attack Biruta this time around? No? Okay.
TJ Buchanan (6.1 ppg/2.5 apg) had a season-high six assists the first time around vs. Dayton and has become Rhody’s starter at the point guard spot. Freshman Hassan Martin (5.1 ppg/4.8 rpg) and sophomore Biggie Minnis (5.1 ppg/2.6 apg) round out the Rams’ roster.
UD is hot and back in tourney contention, which means they are due for a inexplicable letdown. Dayton should win this game, it’s at home, the Flyers are peaking and Rhode Island has been terrible on the road this season. This all means one thing — a UD loss.
The DDN’s David Jablonski’s dog, Radar, made a prediction as well:
Tom Blackburn is a proud U. o' D. alum. He loses faith in humanity one day at a time, but not in you, you seem like you are all kinds of alright. Charter member of the T-Man fanclub.