As we said a week or so ago, we are no longer looking for quality wins, we are focusing strictly on quantity of wins. Dayton had a chance to pick up a quality scalp, at home, against Saint Mary’s but came up just short against the Gaels. The Flyers failed to make any noise in the Wooden Legacy, losing to Nebraska (thereby missing a chance to play UCLA) before picking up ho-hum victories against Portland and New Mexico.
The remaining non-conference slate isn’t exactly a pants tightener. East Tennessee State, while a solid mid-major, will more than likely be a 100+ RPI win. Northwestern has looked decent thus far, currently 6-2 with wins against Texas, Wake Forest and DePaul (yeah, I know). Vanderbilt? Forget about it. The Commodores are 5-5, coming off a twenty-three point shellacking at Middle Tennessee State. A win against Vandy, while obviously a positive, will do little to build UD’s tournament resume. VMI? Fucking garbage.
Given what we know as of this moment, we are faced with two glaring issues:
(1) Where can Dayton pick up quality wins? (For argument’s sake, let’s define those as sub-50 RPI victories)
(2) Since UD appears to be facing a quantity of wins threshold to keep their NCAA tournament appearance streak alive, how many wins do the Flyers need to feel safe?
As you can see, Dayton’s RPI has been fairly consistent over the past few seasons. TeamRankings.com currently projects UD to finish in the mid-40s, which would be on the low-end in comparison to the previous three years. The real issue is getting enough RPI 1-50 and 51-100 games on the resume and, more importantly, getting wins in those matchups. Looking ahead, the best opportunities might actually come within the conference — games against VCU, Rhode Island and maybe Davidson present opportunities for decent wins. Northwestern, Dayton’s opponent next weekend, will likely hover around the RPI 40-60 range all season.
Looking at the big picture it is glaringly obvious that the Flyers will not have many opportunities to rack up top 50 RPI wins. If projections hold, only Rhode Island seems assured of finishing in that range come March. This is a sobering thought.
With the Atlantic Ten on a downswing, and a lack of quality OOC victories, how many wins would it take for UD to earn an at-large berth? I don’t even want to hazard a guess at this stage, but I think we can all agree a mighty effort will be required. Will the fact that Dayton has made the previous three tournament fields aid in bolstering what will no doubt be a tepid tournament resume? We shall see. This will all be moot if the Flyers aren’t big dogs in the A10 this season.
East Tennessee is coming off a successful 2015-16 season which saw the Buccaneers go 24-12 and reach the Southern Conference tournament final – Chattanooga disposed of ETSU and earned the league’s auto-bid. Head coach Steve Forbes enters his second season at East Tennessee with eight returnees and six newcomers. Although Chattanooga is the odds-on favorite to repeat as conference champs, Forbes’ club will be a serious contender – picked by most outlets to finish second in the league.
ETSU arrives in the Gem City with an outwardly impressive 7-1 record. However, like a marriage, the Bucs record is built on lies and deception. To be fair, East Tennessee put an absolute country ass whippin’ on conference brethren Fordham to open the season, a 96-59 dismantling that still has the Bronx literally shaking. The lone loss came on the road against UNC-Wilmington. ETSU’s last two contests were against Lees McRae (possibly a car dealership?) and Limestone College (which sounds like an institution day-laborers graduate from), so Dayton is not alone is scheduling what are essentially college basketball exiles.
How did East Tennessee rack up their seven wins, you ask? By doing all of the little things right. The Bucs have kept their opponents off the offensive boards, got to the line with furious anger and currently boast the fourth best effective shooting percentage (60.3%) in Trump’s America. Sure, they competition has been baby shit soft, but the numbers indicate that East Tennessee knows what they do well and they don’t stray from it. That’s what well coached teams do.
TJ Cromer is East Tennessee’s first and second option on the offensive end. The senior guard is the squad’s leading scorer at 19.1 per game, dishes out 3.5 assists a contest and is the Bucs most active perimeter shooter. Cromer is streaky, can score in bunches and will absolutely be the man Steve Forbes turns to when ETSU needs a bucket.
Joining Cromer in the starting backcourt are Desonta Bradford and A.J. Merriweather. Bradford is a former Tennessee Mr. Basketball, the team’s point-guard and leading assist man (4.75 apg). He won’t kill you from the outside but he’s good enough to make plays off the dribble. Merriweather was a Southern Conference First Team preseason selection a season ago, but was forsaken by a merciless God when he broke his hand in early January. He missed the majority of remained of the season. The junior guard has gotten off to a rather slow start this season (7.5 ppg), his offense inconsistent and wanting.
The starting forwards are seniors Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Tevin Glass. Mosquera-Perea, a transfer from Indiana, is the Bucs’ second-leading scorer (9.3 ppg) and pulls down around six boards a game. He was dismissed from Indiana after getting a DUI and a weed possession charge within three months of each other. Mosquera-Perea is what all bounty hunters will look like in the year 2040. Glass, a free agent from Wichita State, has been sluggish offensively as well. He comes into tomorrow’s game averaging 6.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.East Tennessee features a bench that goes about four deep. Junior guards Devontavius Payne (8.0 ppg, 43% 3fg) and Julian Walters (4.1 ppg, 46% 3fg) rack up significant time of the pine. Both Payne and Walters were junior college All-Americans, what coaches commonly refer to as “pure scorers.” Both gentlemen are dangerous from behind the arc.
Isaac Banks and David Burrell round out the Buc reserves in the frontcourt. Banks (7.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg) is one of the few guys on the roster that has spent his entire career at ETSU. He’s beastly on the glass and chips in around the hoop. Burrell, another junior college product, is an elite athlete that can do a little bit of everything on the floor (8.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg).
When looking at ETSU the first thing that jumps out is their effective field goal percentage. It’s over 60%! The best team in the country last year wasn’t even that high. Now it still is early in the season and looking at ETSU’s schedule probably explains why. They’ve had two games against teams no one has ever heard of, and I don’t even mean like 300+ RPI teams. I mean DII, DIII or DVI teams you haven’t heard of. If you’ve heard of Lees McRae and Limestone, you’re lying more than Willy Clinton after being with a new class of interns. Point is, despite this astronomical figure, I wouldn’t get all that concerned.
What could be a concern is the fact that the Bucs are a deep veteran team. ETSU has one freshman and the rest of the roster is comprised of juniors or seniors. In addition, 40% of their minutes come off the bench. TJ Cromer does play 30+ minutes a game, an outlier as the rest is a pretty even rotation. This appears to be a game Dayton should win fairly easily, not quite handily, but experienced teams with depth are the kind you can’t take lightly.
My last prediction on the spread vs. Winthrop failed to remember that Big South games don’t get lined. I hope you went ahead and asked your local guy for a number anyways and got what I laid out as the Flyers covered. I’m going to say the Flyers open as 8.5 point favorites and the line closes at 8. Year to date in aggregate still a total of 1 point off openers, 5 on the close.
If there was a positive takeaway from the abortion of a game scheduled last Tuesday night, it was that the Flyers came out and took care of business without exhibiting any complacency (and no one got hurt, which was my sole concern going into that particular game).
UD will have a decent challenge against ETSU, the Bucs have an identity and play within themselves. Dayton still pulls it out though, 78-70, Charles Cooke leading the Flyers with 19 points. Kyle Davis stays aggressive offensively, scoring in double-digits for the fifth game in a row. Bring on Northwestern.