I am experiencing a feeling that I’ve never felt as a Dayton basketball fan: serenity. With Dayton rolling and the Atlantic Ten imploding, the smart money has UD making an easy jaunt to the NCAA Tournament this season. No sweating out the selection show, no outrage at (mistakenly) being the last team selected. This year feels completely different.
This isn’t to say a few unforeseen losses wouldn’t completely alter this sentiment. Dayton is always a bed-shitter or two away from completely losing the plot. There are sixteen league games remaining on UD’s schedule. For the first time since Keith Waleskowski was a junior, I am wondering how high this team can go, not when the bottom will eventually drop out.
This is as much a testament to the culture Archie has built as I can think of — I don’t see the Flyers fucking things up.
La Salle may very well be the worst team in the Atlantic Ten right now. Coming off a loss at Fordham earlier in the week, the Explorers are now 4-8 on the season, 0-2 in the conference (Dr. John’s squad took an L against UMass to start league play). La Salle has lost seven consecutive games, its last win coming on November 28th against Rowan. The Explorers are extremely inexperienced with arguably the nation’s least productive bench (depending on the circumstances, La Salle may dress just seven scholarship players against UD). It’s a recipe for complete embarrassment.
There are similarities between La Salle and UD’s previous opponent, UMass, as the Explorer frontcourt has been decimated by departures and a lack of depth. As a result, La Salle has shifted away from an offense that flowed through its frontcourt, employing a four-guard attack on the offensive end. Unfortunately, the Explorer backcourt is horrendous on that end of the floor.
La Salle gets around 35% of its points from behind the arc – 41% of their shot attempts come from three-point land. The Explorers rarely get to the foul-line and continue to be one of the worst teams in the league as far as turnovers are concerned. La Salle used to butter its bread on the defensive end, but even that facet of the game has suffered mightily this season. Giannini’s club allows 1.08 points per possession and give up a lot of easy buckets around the rim.
Of all the teams we’ve previewed this season, fifteen in total, the Explorers are the one team I can’t seem to find anything positive about. It’s an abysmal team, a program that has slipped decidedly since reaching the Sweet 16 in 2013. Dayton does have a history of underperforming playing at Gola Arena, but I don’t foresee too much resistance from our hosts this time around. A loss to La Salle should result in Archie Miller’s caning.
Dr. John is already looking ahead to next season, as La Salle will lose only one major contributor from this year’s disaster and add three transfers from high-major schools. It is already being heralded as the most talented team since Giannini took over the program. But, until then, let the bleeding commence.
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Jordan Price is currently twelfth in the nation in scoring, second to only Jack Gibbs (23.8 ppg) in the Atlantic Ten. The transfer from Auburn is essentially La Salle’s catalyst on offense; he is the focal point of 31.7% of La Salle’s possessions and takes 32.9% of La Salle’s shots. He will shoot early and often against UD. Cleon (awesome name) Roberts is a big guard who can get hot quickly, one of the Explorers’ better perimeter shooters and defenders. If Price isn’t shooting, Roberts will be.
Johnnie Shuler and Amar Stukes are La Salle’s pure guards. Shuler is a durable guard, presently leading the A10 in minutes per game (37.6). He is La Salle’s primary distributor of the ball, which is nice, but he lacks the shooting touch to keep defenses honest. Stukes is 1-of-16 from behind the arc this year, shooting 24.6% on two-point attempts and 56% from the charity stripe. You can do better than this, Dr. John.
Center Tony Washington barely left the bench last season but, due to a substantial exodus in the Explorer frontcourt, has been tasked with major minutes this season. Washington is one of the A10’s best shot-blockers and is a solid rebounder. His offensive game is unrefined, but he is athletic enough to cause issues for slower foes (like Big Steve McElvene).
Rohan Brown and Yevgen Sakhniuk are La Salle’s two main men off the pine. Unfortunately, neither player may dress out against UD tomorrow afternoon. Brown is out with a knee injury and Sakhniuk has been battling typhoid fever for the past two weeks and hasn’t played since La Salle’s game against Miami on December 22nd. As a result, Giannini is basically stricken with a one man bench, that man is freshman guard Karl Harris. Harris is what we call a liability. Godspeed, Dr. John.
The Explorers are about as terrible as it gets in the A10. They’re currently projected to go 3-15 in conference by Ken Pom. This team isn’t even average in any material category while being similarly terrible at pretty much everything on offense and defense. The only thing they do at a slightly above average level is create steals and turnovers.
They’re 44th in the country in defensive steal percentage creating a steal on 10% of opponent’s possessions. They’re 107th in turnover percentage forcing a turnover on 1 of every 5 possessions. While this may be a bit of a concern given the Flyers turnover woes from time to time, La Salle is ranked 200th or worse in pretty much every other quantifiable category. Combine this with their lack of depth, as the Explorers are ranked almost dead last in bench minutes, and the Flyers shouldn’t struggle too much on Saturday.
As stated previously, Dayton has a history of underachievement playing at La Salle. After spending the previous one thousand words detailing how disgusted the Explorers make me, it’s rather obvious that I feel an easy win may be in the cards for the Flyers. UD wins, 79-67, improves to 3-0 in A10 play and remains ranked this Monday.
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.