Halfway Home

Halfway Home

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A Look Back

We have made it to this season’s halfway point. 15 games down, 16 to go. First of all, I offer my congratulations. It hasn’t always been easy, but this version of the Flyers has played some (surprisingly) entertaining basketball. UD averaged a robust 78 points per contest and shot at a 48% clip from the field in non-conference play so, at the very least, it looks as though the days of the Brian Gregory-sponsored 52-47 slugfest are behind us.

The Flyers have posted a more than respectable 12-3 record with (at the time of this writing) two wins against the RPI top 50 and only one game in the dreaded “bad loss” category. The possibilities for this season are endless. The potential limitless. But isn’t it always at this point in the year? The bottom line, as usual: Take care of business in conference play and UD will have a strong shot at an NCAA tournament berth. Shit their pants and the Flyers will be NIT bound – or worse.

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Jordan Sibert has been a most pleasant addition for the Cagers. The Ohio State transfer leads UD in scoring and is knocking down 46% of his 3-point attempts. Devin Oliver has been the most consistent Flyer – second in scoring and the team leader in rebounds and assists per game. I’m tempted to criticize Dyshawn Pierre for not having the breakout season some were expecting, but having a player who is consistently solid if not spectacular is not something to be taken for granted in these parts. So without further ado, let’s take a look back at the first half of the 2013-2014 Dayton season in the most easily digestible and hacky way possible – a list. Your top 5 moments thus far:

5) Matt Kavanaugh is removed from the starting lineup.kavclown

This site (well, Blackburn mostly) has had more than its fair share of fun at Kavanaugh’s expense over the years. There was the “Boof” nickname, the infamous clown suit picture, and something about sexual assault allegations. I can’t seem to recall the exact details of that one at the moment. HOWEVER, the most recent criticism of Kavanaugh – based solely on his on-court performance – has been completely and utterly justified. The redshirt senior was nothing short of pathetic in the season’s first month. It took a long trip to the bench (5 total minutes played in a 3-game stretch) before big Kavs finally showed some signs of life. Good on Archie for inserting Devon Scott into the starting five.

4) UD routs Cal in Maui.

I admit I had no idea what to expect as the Flyers suited up for their third game in as many days in the Maui Invitational, but an 82-64 pink-socking of the Cal Bears certainly wasn’t it. The win was significant for two reasons. UD had controlled its game the previous night pretty much from whistle to whistle, only to let one get away and lose by a point to Baylor. The Flyers could have easily folded, laid an egg against Cal, and returned to the mainland with a disappointing 1-2 record. Instead, two wins made for a successful trip. The second reason, and one that may prove even more important in the long game, is the fact that the Cal might not be half bad. The Bears are currently in the RPI top 50 and – judging by how solid the Pac 12 has looked – will have several chances to earn key wins in the season’s second half. A game that was something of an afterthought could turn into a key resume win for the Flyers come March.

3) Jordan Sibert hits a game-winning three to defeat IPFW 81-80.

Should it have taken a miraculous steal and a desperation three to beat a team as shitty as IPFW? No, but this is the hand we were dealt, Flyer fans. Is it sad that this is #3 on this list? A little, but there’s no question that a loss to the nation’s #159 RPI team would have been devastating. Sibert’s late-game heroics saved the season from crashing and burning before it even left the ground. (The season is an airplane in this metaphor, get it?)

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2) Devin Oliver banks in the game-winner at Ole Miss.

I’m choosing to ignore for the moment that Archie Miller seems to think his team’s best chance of scoring on the last possession of a given game is an isolation play for Vee Sanford. I’m choosing to ignore that Sanford either chose to wait or was told to wait far too long to start his move toward the basket and thus forced to settle for a contested 24-foot jump shot. I’m choosing to ignore the fact that throwing the ball to your power forward 60 feet from the basket, then having him dribble the length of the floor and fire up a running 3-point heave is destined to fail far more often than it will succeed. Yes, I’m choosing to ignore all of that because of this: Dayton rarely wins games like these. I mean almost never. Down by 4 points with 1:11 to play on the road in overtime, I couldn’t see a scenario for UD to come back and win this game. The fact that the Flyers have salvaged not one but two games that seemed like certain losses – and in pretty fucking thrilling fashion, I’d add – is reason enough to ignore that other stuff.

1) Dayton beats then #11 Gonzaga 84-79 in the Maui Invitational.

Huge game and huge win for UD. Beating the 11th ranked team in the country is always nice, but avoiding the loser’s bracket and a date with Chaminade was almost as important. The RPI boost from playing Baylor and beating Cal will be significant for the Flyers. And with the Zags sitting at 14-2 and 4-0 in the WCC (Seriously, they have already played four conference games. How many games are in the WCC season? 30?), this win will likely improve as the season chugs along.

A Look Ahead

The Atlantic 13 is off to a solid start in ’13-‘14 and currently checks in as the #7 conference RPI-wise. The A-13 has four teams in the RPI top 50 and seven squeezing into the top 100 spots. UMass is ranked #5 in the index, like seriously fifth out of all the teams. Perhaps even more surprising is George Washington. The Colonials jumped out to a 12-2 start and have climbed to #22 in the RPI, and I could not name for you one George Washington player or its coach. It’s not still Karl Hobbs, right? It can’t be.

Blackburn alluded to it in the Ole Miss recap, and I’ll reiterate: The first five games of conference play will speak volumes about this team. Home games against conference favorites St. Louis and VCU mixed with three roadies may give us more of an indicator than the entire non-conference slate. Come January 25th, we should have a strong idea where these Flyers are headed.

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Honestly, I like this version of the Cagers more than any in recent memory (not much of an accomplishment, but still). The top seven in the rotation is as solid as it has been in some time. I’ll leave you with three things I’m on the lookout for in the season’s second half:

1) Will UD’s big men step up and at least become serviceable? None of these guys is going to morph into Keith Waleskowski overnight. But can Scott, Kavanaugh and Robinson be more help than hindrance in the second half?

2) Will Scoochie take over the lion’s share of the point guard minutes? Conference play is usually when a freshman makes a leap forward or hits the wall and runs out of gas. Scooch is already a superior distributor/creator on offense and arguably a better defender than Price. Can he limit turnovers and perform at a consistent enough level to stay on the floor for larger stretches?

3) Finally, will Dyshawn Pierre reemerge as UD’s best player? The second half of his freshman year was a coming out party for Pierre. Can he duplicate those results in 2014? I’m of the opinion that a Flyers team with Pierre as a solid role player goes to the NIT. A UD squad led by Pierre front and center performing at an all-conference level goes dancing.

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