First things first, let’s clear the air. The BBR needs to apologize. Between Blackburn’s trip to the ER, Mr. Vines growing more famous by the day playing various instruments and me just being a useless slacker, we have been failing you. When you add in the apathy that creeps into my bones towards this particular Dayton Flyers team, sometimes it’s hard to sit down and put finger to key. In any case, it’s a new year, conference play is upon us and we’re going to right this ship. Blackburn might be in a drunken stupor until Monday evening (if you’re just joining us, Blackburn is a big UGA fan), but in the mean time I will do my best to keep him upright and press on. Let’s mercifully get to the basketball that needs discussing:
If you just came here for the Duquesne recap, scroll on down, we got some thangs to discuss before I get to the newest Dayton disappointment. DISCLAIMER: this article is going to be slightly longer than your average BBR post, make time.
To start the year of 2018, the Flyers fanbase is as divided as I can ever remember. There is the “relax” crowd who pride themselves on reminding everyone how level-headed they are. There is the “sky is falling” crowd who want Grant fired right now for crimes against basketball. There are the “X’s and O’s” people who believe this coaching staff has been outdueled in almost every contest this year, and of course, there is the lovable faction of our fanbase who is more than willing to support those Flyers come hell or high water and rub their feet after every game, win or lose. You all have a place in our small little corner of the college basketball world.
Here’s some thoughts I gathered from a wide-ranging group of individuals: (and again, if you didn’t come for a long article full of nuggets, this isn’t the one for you)
“Lost and confused. Nobody knows their role on the team or what it takes to win games.”
“The Flyers have talent but confusion and lack of coaching is hindering their ability to play to their full potential.”
“Confusing rotation, the lack of adjustments is leaving the fan base scratching their heads.”
— Robert Schuler (@RavRanger) December 30, 2017
“Everyone can stop thinking that this team is better than it is now.”
Trey Landers is shooting our technical foul free throws and Joey Gruden is on the floor. What a great fucking time to be a Flyer #LOWD
— Tom (@FlyerTom23) December 30, 2017
“This is what happens when the greatest senior class in school history leaves and the coach is replaced with a “lifer”.”
“This style of play will not translate to winning big given the talent level you can recruit at UD.”
“You have to let him get his recruits. We’re not even a year in. I remember people losing their minds when [previous UD Coach} had an 11th place finish in A10 play.”
“I think Dayton fans have always struggled with patience and understanding of circumstances. Reasons not limited to: 1. Recent Success 2. Xavier’s consistency 3. Not enough appreciation for A-10 in the past or present.”
“I do trust that once he gets his players he can do good things in the A10. But it’s tough to watch him try to fit a square peg into a round hole for 13 games.”
Anthony Grant's 10th season as head coach, 8/10 seasons had top 68 kenpom team with a high of 27th. 86th outlier year & this year probably 140+. Don't think he has become bad coach after 2 NBA seasons. I am very frustrated too, but he is 13 games in at Dayton. #trusttheprocess
— Tom Eggemeier (@TomEggemeier) December 30, 2017
For those already killing Anthony Grant: This Dayton team just doesn’t have much talent. Never easy to replace all that they lost, especially when key pieces from the incoming class fall through (McKinley Wright). Give him time to recruit his kids before you make a call. #A10MBB
— Kevin Sweeney (@CBB_Central) December 30, 2017
“When the season started, i was too busy admiring the individual letters on the wall; I never noticed that together they spelled out “WE SUCK HARD”
Anthony Grant’s “offense” is going to set this UD program back many years
— Sam Mercuri (@sam_mercuri15) December 30, 2017
I need Anthony Grant gone immediately. https://t.co/SVMqeJZNk9
— Jared Mitchell (@J_Rod24_) December 30, 2017
Dayton isn’t doing that poorly considering they don’t have a coach.
— Adam (@adam_gutheil) December 30, 2017
Joey Gruden plays meaningful minutes.
X and Kostas do not play one minute.
– A tale of two halves under Anthony Grant
— Countrybilly (@pfeiffjd) December 30, 2017
Really thought X man would be perfect for AG.. long, athletic, can defend, not super proficient on offense.. thought that was his ideal player
— Drunk Anthony Grant (@drunkanthonyg) December 30, 2017
I chose to start the article this way to simply highlight how opinions on the season thus far are as wide-ranging as ever. One thing I do not think gets said enough though is that this kind of uproar was not present during the first few bad Gregory years (mainly because they followed a few tourney appearances). And I’m willing to wager a great number of people don’t remember the 2013 team turning down a bid to the CBI after an 11th place A10 finish (although there was uproar the next season when the team started 1-5 in conference play…but that season worked out OK).
The main cause of the frustration in my humble opinion is that you people (myself included) got used to winning. Let’s remember that UD is coming off the first time EVER that we: 1. Won an outright conference title and 2. Won said conference title in back to back years. UD is coming off the first four-year stretch of tournament appearances in program history. UD also just saw the most wins ever in a four-year stretch (I know they didn’t play as many games in the old days, whatever). It’s also worth considering that an entire group of students enrolled, and graduated from UD, without ever seeing the basketball team miss the NCAA tournament. If you’re a senior at UD right now, this is the very first time someone is asking you to watch mediocre hoops on Edwin C Moses Blvd. Simply put: UD’s recent success was an anomaly to our historical success, not the norm. The program is certainly trending upwards, but that’s the reality.
So, when you are asked to digest a 6-7 start and the first season UD has been under .500 in January since 2006, I can understand it might cause some stomach pain. If you’re a younger fan, this is unchartered waters, if you’re an older fan, it may feel like UD is slipping backwards into the abyss they swam in for most of the 1990s, I can understand all sides. To stay in the context of this season, let’s start with someone who knows UD basketball well…very well…The Wehrli Bird himself, who ain’t liking what he sees right now:
I've watch these games and tried to be optimistic about a young team but something has to change offensively. Zero attempt to have any post action. Haven't seen anything other than side ball screens. It's too easy to defend and just isn't working.
— Bobby Wehrli (@bwehrli_10) December 30, 2017
Nope. We've got good players. Sure a lot of them are inexperienced and make the wrong plays time to time but this offense isn't utilizing their strengths and isn't giving them a chance to win games
— Bobby Wehrli (@bwehrli_10) December 30, 2017
So let’s dig in to the points made by gentleman and scholar Bobby: 1. Something has to change offensively because UD has been questionably stubborn about getting the ball into the post. 2. We are not utilizing our strengths.
If you’re reading this website you probably have a good understanding of basketball in general but what we are looking at is the A10 conference leaders in True Shooting Percentage, as well as the A10 leaders in Effective Field Goal Percentage. Effective field goal percentage takes regular field goal percentage and adjusts for the fact that three-pointers are worth 50 percent more than two-point field goals – EFG% = (FGM + (0.5 x 3PTM)) / FGA. As you can imagine, Josh Cunningham is the second most efficient shooter in the conference, and his numbers do not fluctuate from one graph to the other, because he doesn’t take a lot of threes. Simple.
Of the players on top of this list, Rusty Riegel, Bo Ziegler, Oskar Michelsen and Izaiah Brockington are all guys who get bench minutes and are not what we consider “key contributors” for their team. So, the conclusion we can draw from these numbers is fairly straight forward: there will always be a few bench players on top of this chart who are making the most of their few opportunities but the class of starters with Josh on top of this list includes Jay Adams, Taylor Funk and Justin Tillman. That’s 2 of the best 10 players in the conference, and the conference’s best freshman, it’s good company to keep.
So now that we know who are efficient shooters/scorers, let’s dig a little deeper into the information to see how often they are being used:
Since the first chart is slightly diluted with bench players, the chart above considers how often each player is being used, and compares it to how many points they are scoring per possession. On the far right you have Pipkins, Johnson, Aldridge and Newkirk (who’s name isn’t listed for some reason but the logo is there for SJU) who just happen to be 4 of the top 9 scorers in the conference. Not a coincidence. Umass, LaSalle, Davidson and Joes know exactly who the offense runs through on any given night, and those are the guys who get the job done. Can the same be said for Josh Cunningham? Of the top 10 scorers in the league, all are averaging over 12 shots per game. Josh is 12th in scoring and averages 9, which also explains why Josh Cunningham is currently the 12th most efficient scorer in the entire country. Yes, out of 351 teams, only 11 players have been more efficient than Josh Cunningham at scoring the basketball. Are we starting to draw connections? This concludes the longest possible way I could’ve said, “Get Josh the damn ball”. To circle back to where I started: this would satisfy Bobby Wehrli’s desire to both utilize our strengths, and get the ball in the post. They are one in the same.
The last table I wanted to share from Matt Rhein was the one below:
I sorted this chart by PER, which is essentially a sum of all a player’s positive accomplishments, after the subtraction of the negative accomplishments (turnovers and missed shots), which returns a per-minute rating of a player’s performance. The higher the number, the greater the contribution to his team. As you can imagine, Josh leads this category by a fairly wide margin. If you look to the right, you see BPM; which is the basketball equivalent to WAR in baseball, measuring a player’s performance relative to league average. So +7 in Josh’s case, means that he is 7 points better than your average college hoops player in 2018. For context: if you consider Xeryius Williams the poster child for “average” in this data sample, Trae Young at Oklahoma (currently the nation’s best player) is at +16.5 right now.
Conclusion for all of this shit: Josh Cunningham and DURRELL are just about the only consistent things Dayton can count on for scoring right now, and Josh has been the best player on the team by a fairly wide margin…while still not getting the ball nearly enough to make that impact truly felt.
I went through the hassle of putting all of this together to illustrate why a large part of the fanbase is currently frustrated with the offensive schemes from the coaching staff, and why criticism of said coaching staff is not unfounded right now.
Now with that said, while I was compiling the information for this article, I got into a great conversation via twitter with a diehard Alabama basketball fan on Anthony Grant:
Honestly I was pro Anthony Grant almost to the end, as frustrating as the inconsistent effort and bad free throw shooting was. He definitely had some roster attrition issues, but y'all wouldn't have that yet. My chief complaint is probably stubbornness about defensive adjustments
— well, actuary (@WellActuary) January 2, 2018
At this point in the article you probably have deduced that I have reasons for including everything. While it is completely fair and justified to be criticizing the game plan and effort we have seen through the first 13 games, calling for the job of a head coach 8 months into his tenure is both near-sighted and unrealistic. While you don’t have to be an apologist for everything AG does, just please don’t be this:
No Crosby, Xeyrius, Mikesell, Miller, Toppin, Steve. More than 1/2 of what's left are true frosh. Our situation is unlike any other in CBB. Yet this team coulda won today. In some ways it's remarkable. Better days ahead. Be patient. #therollercoaster #GoFlyers
— UDPride™ (@UDPride) December 30, 2017
This is the holy grail of bad takes. If you need to justify things you have seen to this point, it can be easily accomplished in saying this is not a group of guys recruited by Anthony Grant to play basketball in Dayton, it was all inherited. There is no need to stretch so far that you bring up: 1. A player who was deceased before our current coach was on campus. 2. A player who was out for the season 4 full months before it started. 3. A player that was never eligible to suit up for UD for even a day this season. Just about the only accurate thing in this statement is “be patient”. When you get old, the mind goes first.
This team is definitely talented, and it’s fair to say it is not being utilized properly at this point in the season. Let’s move on.
We took so much time away from the site over the holidays, articles were starting to surface that UD actually wasn’t as bad as we think, because they had a “Great Strength of Schedule, guys!!”. As anyone educated in this area can tell you, SOS is an outdated model, which isn’t worth a damn in November, December and most of January because of the skewed sample set. Here’s is a list of reasons why UD’s strength of schedule means nothing right now:
1. The best team UD has beaten according to RPI is Tennessee Tech (142)
2. Up until 3 days ago, Wagner was a top 100 RPI team. They are 6-5 and their best win is against Fairfield.
3. UD doesn’t have a single quality win vs a tournament-caliber team anyways
4. Dayton has a higher SOS right now (January 2nd) than Duke, I mean, c’mon
Instead of analyzing if UD is better than we think (they’re not), here’s the advanced numbers for this year’s current team, including the Duquesne game:
- 136th in offensive efficiency
- 142nd in defensive efficiency
- Dayton is turning the ball over in 20% of their possessions, which is 234th best in the country.
- UD is utterly disinterested in offensive rebounding, coming down with a board on 27% of offensive possessions, good for 241st in the country.
- They play slow. Only 79 teams in Division 1 basketball play a slower offensive pace than Dayton.
Good news? There’s some, I guess:
Dayton is top 100 (98) in effective FG % and 27th in the country in 2-point FG %. I’m fairly certain you’re starting to see us come full circle with the data.
Of course, it has been discussed many times, but gaining experience is the most important part of this season for the young Flyers because there are only 50 teams in Division 1 who’s roster had less minutes coming into the season than UD.
If you sit back and look at these numbers, they point to UD just being a plain, old, mediocre basketball team that does not utilize its strengths properly. Demz are just the facts. This sentence will be repeated over and over and over, but the losing is not worrisome right now to UD fans, it’s the way UD is losing.
Ok, did you scroll down just for the Duquesne recap? Neat, let’s talk about that and then we can turn the page to set our sights on the big, bad Bonnies coming into The Arena tonight.
If you would like a little insight on just how poorly college basketball is covered in Pittsburgh, this is the recap article for you. If you read the entire thing it will become very clear that the writer knows virtually nothing about UD basketball. Whatever.
Here is the Dayton Daily News recap from someone not named Jablo. (I’m linking these so I don’t have to fully recap the game, are you getting that yet?)
First things first, you all know I cannot stand the sugarcoating: this was not a tough opponent or a tough game. Going on the road to Duquesne is not a “tough matchup.” Since 1996 when the Flyers and Dukes began to square-off yearly in conference play, UD has played in Pittsburgh 19 times and gone 13-6. As we mentioned, Duquesne made a great hire when they brought in Keith Dambrot from Akron, but he is also in his first year. To assume he inherited a more talented roster at Duquesne would simply be foolish, he outcoached our boy AG. The best thing about Dambrot as someone who grew up in Pittsburgh is that he truly wants to change the culture at Duquesne, and that’s admirable.
After the game he said: “You’ve got to believe that you can win those type of games at home or you shouldn’t be in the league.”
This is exactly what every A10 fan should want to hear from the coach of Duquesne. They have been a doormat for decades and they found a guy willing to stick it out and change things. Duquesne has a long, long hill to climb to be relevant, but their relevance will undoubtedly benefit the conference as a whole.
As far as the game, Dayton’s lineups were sporadic (again) and the game even featured fan-favorite-walk-on Joey Lee Gruden inexplicably getting some time on the floor. Draw your own conclusions as to why Grant felt this was his only option to fill-in for the foul trouble plaguing UD. I sure as hell don’t know.
I realize this has been the longest post I’ve ever made on this site, so I’m going to bullet the rest of my takes, Hickory BBQ Style, and wrap it up.
1. If you have a problem with Kostas playing with some fire, you can take it down the road. This team severely lacks intensity, it’s just important to not let it balloon into a technical foul, which of course it did.
2. UD lived and died by the three, it didn’t work out. They finished 5-for-26 from downtown, Jordan Davis and Crutcher combined for a 2-for-12 effort.
3. Duquesne was effective in getting the ball to their best scorers. Castro-Caneddy, Williams Jr and Lewis combined for 48 of DUQ’s 70 points.
4. There is still no rhyme or reason for what lineup is put on the floor, X and Kostas didn’t touch the floor for a single minute in the second half. (Jablo just recently put out an article where he asked Grant about it, but AG just kinda talks in circles and doesn’t really provide any insight of value)
5. Matej Svoboda continues to be a liability in just about every aspect of the game. On top of his blocked 3-point attempt at the end of the first, he added this defensive gem:
6. Jalen Crutcher and Jordan Davis are the most promising parts of the team, but unfortunately both struggled to get the scoring going, they finished with 2 points apiece on 33 and 28 minutes, respectively.
7. There will be many more losses in A10 play, as early as tonight (January 3rd) at home.
If you’re still reading this article you qualify as a diehard and I would like to hear your thoughts/complaints/grumbles/praises in the comments section below. The Bonnies of Olean, NY are all already comfy and cozy in the Marriott in Dayton, OH for tonight’s tilt, tip is at 830pm ET on CBS Sports Network. To get ready for the game, I caught up with Ian Nolan of the BonaBlog to discuss the matchup in a short podcast, and I also spoke with the Umass diehards in New England to discuss Saturday’s home matinee against the Minutemen. If we take every game one day at a time, we should come out of this alive.
The LOWD ambassador of Chicago, Sully has spent his life tirelessly watching UD hoops. Welcomer of all takes, hot and cold.