In a summer filled with a whole lot of nothing in regards to college basketball news, we finally got our first glimpse of the 2017-18 Dayton Flyers basketball season today as UD released their schedule right around lunch time. Much like a short one night stand, there’s nothing outwardly impressive about this schedule, but it’ll get the job done. Let’s get under the hood for some takes:
The Flyers will get going in what is becoming an age-old tradition on the banks of the Great Miami River: The Season Opening Sock Hop. UD will welcome the Cardinals of Ball State into The Arena on Friday night, November 10th. However, unlike the opening night opponents of the past few years, Ball State isn’t complete dogshit, so this game does have the makings of an entertaining ball game to begin the year. BSU is coming off a 21-13 campaign which saw them finish first in the MAC West, eventually bowing out in the first round of the CIT against IPFW. BSU graduated a few role players and two of their top three leading scorers, but have plenty of pieces remaining from last year’s team to field a competitive MAC squad (including bringing back their leading scorer Tayler Persons, who averaged an impressive 15.5 pts a game last season — 13th in the conference).
The following week UD will travel to South Carolina for the Gildan Charleston Classic. All we know right now about this tournament is that UD will start on a Thursday afternoon and will be on the opposite side of the bracket from Auburn. As I’ve said before and will say again, the field in Charleston kinda sucks and there isn’t really a “best case” scenario that doesn’t involve us just winning 3 games and coming home with a plastic trophy we’ll all forget about by Christmas. In case you forgot, or didn’t care, or some combination of both since it’s still July, here’s the field again:
Auburn, Clemson, UD, Hofstra, Indiana State, Old Dominion, Ohio, Temple
I’ll write more on this tournament when we know the pairings, times and things of that nature.
The Flyers will return from Charleston for some more MACtion, scheduling what I presume to be a Saturday evening game with Akron, since OSU-Michigan are playing at noon that day.
Now, believe it or not, this is actually a fairly solid non-conference game for UD. Akron is coming off a regular season conference title, a 27-9 record, and was only a few missed buckets away from dancing, losing a tough MAC tournament championship game to Kent State. Akron did lose undoubtedly their two best players, but not much else. At the very least, this won’t be a cellar-dwelling MAC team, and best case scenario Akron challenges for the league’s auto-bid again. Fine by me, come get your licking at The Arena.
Next is the “marquee” home game, if you even want to call it that. UD welcomes Auburn to the Gem City on Wednesday, November 29th. I would presume this is scheduled for a weeknight to give UD the best chance at grabbing a national TV spot. The students will be back from Thanksgiving break, so this will be a rare opportunity for some LOWD in the non-con. Auburn lost a couple of key contributors from last years group, is a very young team (just one senior), and this game should be the start of a solid series for UD as Bruce Pearl slowly starts to grab the necessary recruits to contend in the SEC. Auburn resembles UD a great deal because they will virtually have the same squad for the next two seasons. The time for forward progress is now for AU basketball, the question is obviously whether Pearl gets it done or not.
I don’t know if it’s fair to say this is a “tough” stretch, but the following Sunday UD will travel to Starkville, Mississippi to begin the home and home series with the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Much like Auburn and UD, Mississippi State is a young team with one senior on the roster and a new coach looking to make a mark. Ben Howland lugged his ass to Starkville after being shit canned by UCLA in 2013 and is now in year three of a rebuilding project from the scrap-heap that was left by Rick Ray. (Side note: who the hell is Rick Ray? When you win 37 games in 3 season I guess your name doesn’t pop up a lot in national conversation. Go figure, I digress.)
Howland won fourteen games in his first season, then went .500 (16-16 last year), so it certainly seems like steady improvement is occurring. This will be a very crucial year for Howland’s future, and overall tenure in Starkville. You best believe they’re bringing UD into their building to try to get Howland a signature win early in the season.
December 6th will be the annual “fill up the schedule” game against Tennessee Tech. Quick, tell me what conference they’re in.
You can’t. It doesn’t matter even a bit. There’s no way you could even tell me you knew what city (read: town) it was in without looking it up. In any case, this team went 12-20 last year and is total trash. They’ll make the trip up I-75, catch a beating, collect the check and head home. If UD loses this game feel free to give up on the season in early December.
The first of three consecutive Saturday home games in December starts with the Quakers from the University of Pennsylvania. Penn was terrible last season, posting a dismal 13-15 record and going 6-8 in the Ivy League. They bring back two freshmen who averaged double digits a year ago, so the hope is that this game will be somewhat competitive. Again, you can feel free to give up on the season in early December if UD loses this contest. Penn doesn’t have the horses to hang with UD, dropping this game at home will be a disaster for UD, plain and simple.
The following Saturday UD will welcome Ron Hunter and Georgia State to Dayton. You remember Ron Hunter don’t you? Of course you do…
This game has some warm and fuzzies attached to it as Hunter is a Dayton native and a graduate of Chaminade-Julienne High School. The head coach of the Panthers, whose name was actually mentioned in connection with UD’s opening this spring, will be making a homecoming to take on the Flyers. Hunter’s team is coming off a 20-13 season, which was good enough for second in the Sun Belt conference. They lost their leading scorer and all-around best player to graduation, but GSU does bring back the rest of its core and is expected to contend for a conference title this season. Nothing wrong with this game at all, there are worse options out there.
The second-to-last non-con game will be the much-anticipated trip to Moraga, CA to play St. Mary’s. Let’s just put this in black and white in July so we’re all on the same page: UD will probably-to-almost-certainly lose this game because SMC is no one to fuck with and BY FAR the best team on the schedule this year. They will be ranked to start the season and return their top three scorers from a team that went 29-5 and handed Dayton a four-point loss at The Arena last November. The trip out west is potentially unpleasant, an early wake-up call for the Flyer Nation.
Wagner closes out the non-con schedule a few days before Christmas with a Saturday game at The Arena. The Seahawks from Staten Island lost their top two scorers from a team that went 16-14 (11-7), a good enough finish for third place in the NEC. In the likely event that UD gets steamrolled out west, this should offer a nice, comfy opportunity to get back on track before the A10 season begins a week later.
Overall scheduling grade: B –
As many of you know through my rhetoric, I am usually highly critical of UD’s scheduling, primarily for two reasons:
1. I am a season ticket holder that wants quality games to attend in November and December.
2. If the UD program is to be taken seriously, eventually we will need to go on the road and beat (at least play) some big boys, without the reciprocation of a return game in Dayton. The latter can be excused, at least for this year, because frankly this looks like a .500 team on paper and there’s no value to stacking the schedule with away games when your fate is uncertain.
With that said, after looking through this schedule and measuring it against what we are bringing into this season talent-wise, I don’t think anyone can be upset at what Neil and Co. produced. UD will have a few tricky games in a very winnable Charleston field, and then three good tests in MSU, Auburn and St Mary’s. Georgia State and Akron fall into the “bring them into the arena and pray they snag an auto-bid” category, in the same fashion ETSU and Winthrop gave UD two “quality” wins last season.
UD took enough risks on this season’s schedule to give the Flyers opportunities for good wins, while still protecting this squad from a challenging non-con slate that could’ve landed them at 7-5 or 6-6 to begin A10 play. While we will certainly see this team evolve and grow as the season draws on, Charleston will be a great test out of the gate to gain some perspective on this Flyer team’s potential. There’s nothing sexy about this schedule, but at best we’ll be battled tested with decent wins by the end of it, or worst case, UD takes a few mild beatings that all but guarantees an up-and-down season.
Flyers season is officially 109 days away as of this writing, stay LOWD and wear red until then. We’ll have a podcast to discuss the schedule later this week.