Last week I mentioned that you all had better things to do than watch UD play VMI last Friday evening. I wasn’t wrong. Rather than write a full recap during a family Christmas party, I condensed it into one easy paragraph to get us going before I jump into the review of the non-conference season:

VMI was awful, Sam Miller being the lead scorer speaks to that. UD won by 36, everyone with a pulse scored in double digits. Charles Cooke didn’t even play. He didn’t have a wrist injury of any significance, VMI is just awful…as I already mentioned. Dayton was never threatened at any point. Scoochie joined the 1,000-point club in his 27 minutes of work, which was 27 more minutes than he really needed to be playing that night. The sweaters got a lazy W, our RPI is now worse off because of it and Jack Westerfield took a shot, he missed. Fin.

O ya, and Dayton hit 75 treys…wild, man.

Photo Credit: @steve_mackin

With the non-conference schedule now in the books, Dayton finished up with an underwhelming 9-3 record, (with exactly 0 signature wins) good enough for second best in the conference behind VCU and Mason (10-3). The story of the non-conference season was fairly simple: Dayton had 3 big opportunities to notch quality wins, and squandered them all. On paper, the best win is Winthrop (!!) and the worst loss is obviously Nebraska. Since beating UD on Thanksgiving, Nebraska is 3-6, and while five of those came to teams inside the RPI 100, the other was to Gardner-Webb. They are not in the top 100. Although the Huskers managed a win over Indiana last night, Nebraska will not make the tournament this year, the loss to NU is going to hurt UD at the end of the season.

On the flip side, St. Mary’s and Northwestern are enjoying solid campaigns to this point. SMC (currently ranked 19th) walks into conference play at 10-1, and their only blemish was a home upset at the hands of a surprisingly competitive UT-Arlington team (currently 21st in RPI). Northwestern has also impressed, winning nine straight after starting 3-2, including a firm handling of Penn State a few nights ago. For the rest of the year, you should be a large supporter of both teams. Their success is Ryan Miller’s success.All is not doom and gloom however, there is plenty of good to go along with the not-so-good on the young season. Expectations going into this season were extremely high (rightfully so), but let’s look big picture. Our boys dealt with the death of a teammate in the off-season, saw their star big-man-transfer get seriously injured in the second game, started the season without one of their senior leaders, got zero production from the one incoming freshman (because the other was declared ineligible), and also got little production from the one lone junior on the roster. If I told you all of those things earlier this year, you would’ve thought the team was a dumpster fire. As it stands, UD has avoided the landmines, won the games they should’ve and lost one they REALLY shouldn’t have. Chalk it up as a “decent” non-conference slate and no more. SOS is around 50, that’s fine, not great, but fine. The schedule UD was able to muster this year simply didn’t give the Flyers enough opportunities to bounce back and move the needle if they slipped up in getting a signature win. Unfortunately, they slipped up on them all. 

It has been discussed on The Twitter, but it’s still reasonable to think that Dayton will  be dancing with a regular season conference title, simply given the respect UD was handed in the preseason to do so. The key, of course, is getting 3 out of 4 wins from VCU/Rhodey, and avoiding losses to Duquesne (2), SLU (2) and Fordham. All 5 of the latter contests are near “must-wins” for UD, mainly because the margin of error is becoming thinner and all three teams will reside outside the RPI top 200 for the foreseeable future. One loss in a 45-43 stinker at Chaifetz is just the type of thing that would keep UD out of the dance. The notion that Dayton is dancing with a regular season title includes the caveat that NONE of their losses can be to the basement dwellers.

So with that, we have come to the Hickory Bar-B-Q hot takes for the rest of the season:

Dayton is still a favorite to win the conference.

Despite Dayton’s shortcomings, the A10 is as wide open as its been in years. VCU and Rhodey had similar high expectations for their respective seasons, with similar results as UD. No team looks unbeatable in the A10, including our hometown Flyers. While Archie’s boys aren’t an unanimous favorite, you would be hard-pressed to see any expert keep them out of the top 3 when all is said and done. Set 16 wins as the best case scenario, 12 as the worst. Safe to say the Flyers will land somewhere in between.

Kyle Davis has had an unimpressive season thus far.

In the three losses this season, Kyle has tallied 3, 7 and 2 points respectively on an average of 23 minutes/gm. In conference play, the Flyers can’t expect Scooch and Cooke to score 40 a night (even though they’re fully capable). Kyle will be a huge part of that equation. With the lack of depth at guard, the cupboard gets bare if KD isn’t scoring and eating up minutes.

DUURRELL will be the Flyers X factor.

If Durrell is hitting shots, UD can beat any team in the conference. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been doing that. While Durrell’s defense has improved over last year, he still isn’t adding much of anything to the offense. In games that weren’t VMI or Austin Peay (a combined 7-18 on the season) Durrell is shooting 30% from 3 (7-23), and getting to the line less than one time per game. The jury is still out on whether Durrell can put it all together this year, conference play would be a fine place to start.

John Crosby and Trey Landers will have little impact on this year’s team.

To be fair to Crosby, he really won’t be asked to do all that much this season. He’s the clear backup at PG, and has an inflated average in minutes/gm due to games like Austin Peay, St. Joes (Ind.) and VMI. If Crosby can give the Flyers 8-10 minutes per game without turning the ball over, that should be enough.

Slowly putting freshmen into the mix has been an Archie staple for three seasons now, and the case is no different with Trey Landers. The lone frosh has appeared in five games thus far, and essentially been relegated to walk-on-esque duties. I would not expect to see him much in conference play, and at this point I think it’s fair to question why he is not/was not redshirted.

Sam and X will have as much to do with UD’s success as Scooch and Cooke.

While Scoochie and Cooke will obviously carry the load on most nights, UD simply cannot do without production from their front-court, both on the boards and on the scoreboard. Simple as that. Experience is no longer an excuse as Sam and X have seen enough burn to deserve being counted on for quality minutes.Charles Cooke will be in the top 3 in POY voting.

The reason this take doesn’t read “Charles Cooke will win A10 POY” has less to do with him and more to do with the rest of the POY frontrunners. Adams/Mobley have been playing out of their minds in Olean, Jack Gibbs is still Jack Gibbs, and Shavar Newkirk is wearing ankle weights trying to pull his St Joe’s team out of the mud, game in and game out. If you add in what a surprising season at Mason could do for Marquise Moore’s candidacy, the top gets very crowded and Cooke will have to shine on a nightly basis.

Dayton will lose a stinker on the road.

I wasn’t going to have a takes section without giving a nice, fresh-out-of-the-oven hot take for the masses. As I mentioned, UD plays Duquesne, Fordham and SLU all on the road, and it is my belief they will be dropping one of those.

Assume this team will be without Josh Cunningham for the rest of the season.

It’s easier that way, and lends itself to less heartbreak. I’m just looking out for you. I have no factual information on whether or not this will be the case, but I would rather be surprised than disappointed.

Conclusion:

Given what has taken place so far this season, you should be neither disappointed nor ecstatic. Somehow Dayton is still firmly in the tournament conversation despite a shaky start, and they can only play their way out from here. UD will not be going 18-0. There will be bumps, bruises and a few unwatchable games with SLU to come, but they are set up to control the conference and play their way into a bid. If the non-conference has showed us anything about these Flyers, it’s that they’re a downright dangerous team when they want to be, but sometimes it takes them a full half to get there. If the slow starts are corrected, and the sophomores continue to improve, UD should be expected to compete for the A10 crown.

Prediction: UD goes 14-4, 25-8 (with losses to Duquesne, VCU, Rhodey and UMass), wins a share of the conference title again and loses the A10 championship game in Pittsburgh. They go dancing and get a 9 seed.

We will be recapping the non-conference for the rest of the A10 later this week, along with predictions from the BBR staff and various minds around the A10 as to where your team will finish. After Blackburn figures out why we scheduled a 6pm game on a Friday night, he will be back to give you the skinny on La Salle.

If you ever want to know where the alumni game watches happen in your city, you can find that info here.  If you’re in Chicago (like me) you know you better get your ass to Glasscotts.

Hot takes, predictions and grievances to the above takes belong down below. Stay red, stay LOWD.