Yuge win for the Flyers last night as they take down fellow mid-major Butler in the first-round of the BAD BOY MOWERS Battle 4 Atlantis. I started drafting this recon five minutes after the UD game, yes I was willing to risk UVA losing to Middle Tennessee (and, truth be told, if the Blue Raiders upset the Cavaliers there wouldn’t be a recon at all), so I obviously haven’t had the opportunity to read Sully’s recap of the win. So indulge me if I’m being repetitive. Just a few quick observations:
- The Battle for Atlantis is clearly a vehicle to promote the Atlantis Resort. I’ve never seen so much focus on the host of a televised holiday tournament before. I wouldn’t be shocked if a bellhop is the color guy during UD’s game against Virginia. Jimmy Dykes must have spent an entire day shooting footage with seals and dolphins. Every comment during the game was some variation of: “Nice turnaround by Cunningham, he swam right by his defender there. Speaking of swimming, I spent some time with Sebastian the Seal yesterday…” For fucksakes.
- Dayton’s defensive effort was EXCELLENT. Clearly the biggest takeaway from last night’s contest. UD held Butler to 40% from the floor, 30% from three and completely put the Bulldog’s star, Kamar Baldwin, in a cocoon of horror (particular shout out to Jhery Matos who absolutely harassed the talented BU guard all night).
- The Flyers’ offense wasn’t necessarily clicking on all cylinders, but they knocked down enough shots to keep the margin comfortable throughout the ballgame. UD jumped out to a 13-4 lead and gave themselves some breathing room right from the start. A good start out of the gate was essential and Dayton delivered.
- Foul-shooting remains problematic and it’s an area of the game that will cost Dayton at some point. Missed foul-shots down the stretch gave Butler a chance and it extended the game. I’m going to chalk it up to tired legs as most of the misses came during the last seven minutes of the game, but here me now and believe me later, the foul-shooting has to improve.
- Butler broke out the press under the five-minute mark and one of the issues we discussed in the preseason reared its ugly head: ball-handling. Crutcher (even with four turnovers) and Jordan Davis were steady, but everyone else in Red & Blue looked panicked with the ball in their hands facing the Bulldog press. Outside of Cohill, I’m not sure who else you can trust to protect the ball under pressure. It’s an issue and it presented Butler with an opportunity to chip away at the lead.
Now then, on to Virginia. I’m going to keep this one as short as possible because it’s Thanksgiving and most of you are probably already yelling at your kids/parents/baby mamas and will likely never see this post anyway.
I’m starting to feel bad for UVA coach Tony Bennett, or as bad as one can feel for a 49 year-old multimillionaire who’s never had an honest job in his life. I’ve seen Bennett interviewed three times this season and the loss to UMBC in last year’s tournament seems to be all reporters want to talk to him about. Bennett is too classy to absolve himself, but I’d completely throw my players under the bus. “I didn’t play a single second against UMBC. They did *point to the team*. Why don’t you ask them about the loss?” That’s just me though. Honestly it seems like the UMBC game will always be a major part of Bennett’s biography, something he will never escape. Sad.
Virginia is led by their backcourt duo of Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy. Jerome (14.5 ppg/5.0 apg/61% 3fg) reminds me of former Fordham (and current Marquette) guard Joseph Chartouny, a crafty point-guard who can do a bit of everything. Jerome is the team’s main distributor, a solid penetrator and can knock down the outside shot. The sophomore plays with a steady calm that seems to rub off on the rest of the team. Guy (12.5 ppg/4.0 rpg/39% 3fg), who unfortunately doesn’t rock the man bun anymore, is a deadly perimeter shooter who lead UVA in scoring last season. But don’t let Guy fool you, he can take defenders off the dribble too and has a knack for knocking down tough shots. KG, I call him KG, was Bennett’s go-to guy when the Wahoos absolutely needed a bucket last season. Jerome and Guy are both unflappable, two white kids doing the best that they can.
Although the UVA backcourt is Bennett’s pride and joy, the Cavaliers also got some solid bigs. De’Andre Hunter, last season’s ACC Sixth Man of the Year, is a freaky athlete, capable of playing a multitude of positions. Hunter (14.5ppg/5.8 rpg) toyed with the idea of entering the NBA Draft last spring, was slated to possibly be a late first-round pick, but opted to return to Charlottesville for another go-round (Kostas actually got drafted, so judge this statement accordingly). Mamadi Diakate (9.5 ppg/2.5 rpg), a 6’9″ junior forward from Guinea, and 6’11” center Jack Salt, from New Zealand, round out the UVA frontcourt. You know exactly what Diakate’s game is like, I don’t even have to tell you. Salt is a big ole boy, a wide-bodied problem defensively and he rebounds the ball with aplomb. Jack Salt is a kid who is too big not to have an impact on both ends of the floor, even if he doesn’t mean it.
UVA doesn’t do anything fancy to beat you. Bennett’s squad employs a tough Pack Line defense that forces teams to quickly move the ball around the floor to find open looks and they attack their opponents with physicality. Offensively, the Cavs are what we like to call “efficient.” Virginia doesn’t beat teams by outscoring them, they simply let their defense set the tone and get enough easy buckets to chalk up a win. In a sense, UVA is the college basketball version of LSU football. They wear you down, don’t make many mistakes and score just enough to make it look easy.
I caution you not to take too much away from the Butler win. The victory over BU is a very encouraging sign due to the fact that the Bulldogs have talent and play a demanding style. That being said, we know nothing about what kind of squad they have and we probably won’t have a good idea until a few games into the Big East schedule. On an extremely positive note, Dayton won’t face too many teams of Butler’s caliber in the Atlantic Ten, I can assure you of that.
Virginia is a different animal. The Flyers are going to need plenty of transition buckets and shoot better than 35% from three. With Jerome, Guy and Hunter, UVA has three guys that can consistently score and make things miserable for UD defensively. We only need to harken back to the Purdue Fort Wayne game to detail how the Cavaliers have the potential to really open the contest up from the perimeter. In addition, Virginia has plenty of length and size around the basket. While I’m certainly encouraged by yesterday’s performance, and believe UD has every chance to beat Virginia, I think the Cavs are just going to be a bit too much for the Flyers to handle. Hoos 68, Dayton 60.
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.