Once again the Flyers threatened to become a permanent presence in the top 25 and ruined it before we even had a chance to enjoy it. Dayton entered the poll, seemingly under the cover of darkness, and quickly absconded to the Land of the Unranked.
This marks the third time during Archie’s reign that the Flyers have been ranked and suffered a letdown the very next week. In fact, Dayton has yet to make consecutive appearances in the polls under Miller, bowing out before the banners UD was no doubt planning to commemorate the occasion with were even ordered.
- In the 2013-14 season, after an impressive showing in the Maui Invitational, Dayton entered the rankings at #25 on December 2nd. The Flyers proceeded to lose to at Illinois State (why UD was playing at ISU will forever remain a mystery) the next week and dropped out of the polls completely, never to be seen from again.
- In the 2014-15 season, Dayton finally entered the top 25 (once again, at #25) after rolling off eight wins in a row from late to mid-January. UD’s sixteen point victory over Saint Louis was the resounding performance that led to their poll inclusion. Later that week, the Flyers traveled to Davidson where they were trounced by the Wildcats. UD dropped out of the polls completely, never to be seen from again.
- This season, UD debuted in the AP poll just last week, at #25 naturally, after racking up their eleventh win of the season over Duquesne. The Flyers then blew the doors off of UMass and then went on the road (there’s a pattern forming) to take on an undermanned La Salle team. You know the rest. Dayton has dropped out of the polls completely, unlikely to be seen from again.
I’m not certain there is a reason for UD’s aversion to the top 25 under Archie Miller. The evidence presented before us forwards the following argument: Dayton teams that get ranked will soon blow their good fortune with a startlingly poor performance on the road. Not being a big believer in the psychological aspects of the game, I’m not sold that this is a case of the Flyers reading their own press clippings (especially in Big Steve’s case). It’s likely just a case of a slightly overrated UD team struggling, as usual, to win true road games.
Dayton has a chance to regain its footing on the Atlantic Ten with two key games this week, as both Davidson and George Washington come calling at the Sweater Centre this week. Davidson is first up to bat.
Davidson is 10-4 overall, 2-1 in Atlantic Ten play. The Wildcats’ resume mirrors Dayton’s, there are some decent wins but there isn’t a single notable victory among them (although, to be fair, UD does have a couple of Top 50 RPI wins to Davidson’s zero). The Wildcats have taken down Duquesne and George Mason, their loss coming on the road against the 3-0 (!) Bonnies of Saint Bonaventure. Davidson was picked third in the league’s preseason poll, garnering six first-place votes, which is a testament to the ability of coach Bob McKillop to get the most out of his clubs as the Wildcats aren’t as loaded as last year’s NCAA Tournament team. This isn’t to say Davidson doesn’t return a ton, the Wildcats have plenty experience on their roster, returning four starters from 2015’s 24-8 team.
Everyone knows what to expect from Davidson: a team that can put up points while completely eschewing defense at every turn. The Wildcats are once again one of the highest scoring squads in the nation, averaging 81.6 points per game, while ranking near the bottom in points allowed per contest (currently 306th in the nation), allowing their opponents to score 74.6 per game. If you have seen Davidson play, you already know the following: the Wildcats get plenty of three-pointers up. Around 45% of Davidson’s shots from the floor come from behind the arc, guarding the perimeter is a key component to stopping Bob McKillop’s squad.
Here’s the thing that sticks out about Davidson, they refuse to turn the ball over. For a team that runs a quick-strike, rapid pace offense, the Wildcats lead the nation in turnover percentage – turning the ball over on just 12.9% of their possessions. That’s an extremely disciplined team. Your Flyers, for comparison sake, give away the ball on 20.6% of their possessions, ranking 294th in the country. So, two teams that have similar offensive mindsets, one team turns the ball over less than any team in the nation, the other turns it over almost more than every program in the country, I await your takeaways.
The Cats are one of the most undersized teams in the conference, there’s not a true big man on the roster. Incidentally, Davidson is a horrendous rebounding team, both offensively and defensively. The Wildcats are a team of kids standing before a Pop-A-Shot machine, content to just fire away aimlessly and hope they get enough coupons at the end of the night to get a plush muppet.
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The Wildcats haven’t had a scorer like Jack Gibbs since, dare I say it, Steph Curry. No one in the Atlantic Ten is as important to his team offensively as Gibbs. The junior guard from Ohio accounts for a ridiculous 35.4% of Davidson’s offensive possessions. In addition, he is averaging just over eight assists per game in conference play. The worst thing you could say about Gibbs is that he is a streaky shooter from three (or that his mother sucks cocks in hell – maybe one of you will get that reference, probably TMan). Gibbs is built low to the ground and ready for action.
Joining Gibbs in Davidson’s starting backcourt is Brian Sullivan, who some of you may remember transferred into the program from that godforsaken…public school, Miami (Ohio). Sullivan was the Cats primary ball-handler last season and turned in an impressive campaign, averaging a nearly 3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio while featuring as one of Davidson’s better three-point shooters. Sullivan has picked up where he left off last year, increasing his scoring load a bit while racking up a remarkable 8.9% turnover percentage. I find Sullivan’s transferring from Miami to Davidson fascinating; you couldn’t two more diametrically opposed basketball philosophies. This is fundamentally the college basketball iteration of transgenderism.
Up front, Davidson is anchored by Nathan Ekwu, Oskar Michelsen and Peyton Aldridge. Ekwu doesn’t play what you would consider starter’s minutes, he racks up approximately sixteen minutes a game, but he is far and away the Wildcats’ most effective rebounder. He is pretty solid defensively and is relegated to setting screens on offense. Michelsen would be an enormous weapon if he shot the ball a bit better. The 6’9” forward from Finland likes to pop out to the perimeter and chuck it, but he is only connecting on 32% of his attempts from three. 82% of his shot attempts this season have come from deep but his lack of accuracy has been more of a detriment to McKillop’s offense at this point in the season. Peyton Aldridge was supposedly close to committing to Dayton before he was told he’d have to either major in Discover Arts or Peeping Tomism. He made the right call. Aldridge is a microcosm of Michelsen, a player with some size who likes to hang around the arc but doesn’t convert nearly enough to be a consistent weapon (to be sure, Aldridge was a solid three-point shooter last year, hitting on 39% of his attempts). Aldridge, another Davidson player from Ohio (joining Gibbs, Sullivan and senior guard Jordan Barham), is scoring on just 32% of his three-point attempts.
The aforementioned Barham, Jordan Watkins and Andrew McAuliffe pace the Wildcat bench. Barham is seeing time at the three position and, like many of Davidson’s sharpshooters, is struggling to hit perimeter shots this year. He is an extremely efficient scorer and an excellent rebounder for his size. Watkins is a freshman guard who will likely be a thorn in the rest of the A10’s sides for years to come. He’s a solid shooter who respects the basketball like it’s family. McAuliffe is a big body off the bench who inexplicably doesn’t fancy himself a three-point marksman.
Davidson is overly reliant on Jack Gibbs, as he goes, so go the Wildcats. He plays 81% of minutes and his usage rate, or percentage of possessions that end in him either shooting or committing a turnover, ranks 10th among all D1 players. He takes 32% of the teams shots, which is good for 30th in the country. Gibbs doesn’t just have the ball and shoot for shooting sake. He’s hitting 56% on two-point buckets, 38% on three-point baskets and 80% from the charity stripe — all while ranking 72nd nationally in assist rate. The guy really does everything…except rebound and play defense. The good news is no one on his team picks up the slack in those areas.
Davidson ranks 300th in offensive rebound percentage allowed and 334th in getting their own misses. The Wildcats also rank in the bottom third in both three-point and two-point field goal percentage allowed, while not turning anyone over at a significant clip. Given their average defensive possession length is 15.9 seconds, ranking 17th nationally, it would appear quick/easy buckets will be a plenty.
With no inside presence, or any real defensive resistance, I would expect Big Steve, Dyshawn (and Pollard?) to feast. Let’s just hope Kyle Davis makes Gibbs look like Kris Dunn in March.
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This game scares the hell out of me. Davidson is due to go off from three and the Sweater Centre is just a good a spot as any. However, the fact that this game is at the Arena give me hope and confidence. UD, as we know, rarely loses in the Decibel Dungeon, let’s hope this gives the Flyers the edge. Dayton pulls away late, 83-77. Scoochie regains his composure and posts 17 points and 8 assists in the win.
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.