Echo chambers can be a dangerous thing. They have the ability to skew information and create truth out of falsehoods. The least appealing quality of an echo chamber is its tendency to stifle opposing viewpoints in favor of groupthink and oftentimes censorship (consider any political website’s comment section or UD Pride). The idea that Archie Miller is earning astronomical money while at Dayton? That’s the byproduct of the Gem City echo chamber.
The interesting, distressing, aspect to the modern echo chamber is that it is self-imposed. Whereas in the past people were constrained by their location, education level, economic status, etc., in the manner in which they consumed knowledge about the world around them, today’s citizen subsists in a self-imposed bubble. We choose to consume media that fits our worldviews and biases, regardless of its source or it veracity. We like to debate, but we love to be right. Echo chambers provide an environment where everyone is in agreement, the appearance of overwhelming consensus act as reassurance.
A rather infamous, and dubious, quote encapsulating the echo chamber phenomenon came from a New Yorker film critic who said after Richard Nixon completely annihilated George McGovern in the 1972 election, ““I can’t believe Nixon won. I don’t know anyone who voted for him.” (There are obvious parallels to draw to the manner in which the 2016 election was covered, but I’ll let you connect the dots).
We are starting to see the effects of an echo chamber within the LOWD nation. Fans are beginning to bellyache over the fact that (a) Dayton isn’t projected as highly as they would like in various tournament projections, and (B) the Flyers can’t seem to make any headway as far the Top 25 rankings are concerned (UD received nine votes in the AP, and 6 in the Coaches).
This is a situation that requires neutrality and detachment. Feast your eyes upon UD’s resume going into tonight’s game against George Mason: The question I keep asking myself this season: Just how good is this Dayton team? Outside of the somewhat misleading 21-5 record, there isn’t empirical evidence that this team is Top 25 worthy or even a dead-lock for the tournament. UD’s “best’ win this season has been….at home against Vanderbilt? On the road against Rhode Island? If you were an impartial observer you would scoff at the idea that a team with UD’s resume should be included in the Top 25 or a tournament seed higher than eight or nine.
Let’s all pump the brakes for a moment, show some patience and take off the red and blue tinted glasses. For all the good that the Dayton basketball program has accomplished recently, and I stress recently, the Flyers haven’t won enough to earn the benefit of the doubt that Gonzaga, Wichita State or the Overlords receive. The good news is that Archie has the program trending in that direction, and in the near future 21 wins next to the Dayton name will resonate regardless of quality of opponents.
The Flyers will likely make their fourth consecutive NCAA tournament this March. While that is a significant accomplishment for our mid-major program, it’s merely a launching point. Gonzaga has made 17, soon to be 18, straight trips to the Dance. Wichita State will be headed to the tournament for the sixth straight season, and Xavier will be in the field for the eleventh time in the past twelve seasons (VCU will be making its seventh straight appearance if its name is called on Selection Sunday). Winning breeds respect, particularly in the mid-major world. Dayton is on the precipice, it’s just a matter of time. Trust me.
In a dogshit year for the Atlantic Ten, George Mason has been the flower rising from the feculence. Picked to finish twelfth in the preseason poll, the Patriots are currently tied for fifth in the league, bringing an 8-6 conference record to the Sweater Centre. After a rough first season at the helm, Coach Dave Paulsen has turned GMU’s fortunes around quickly. That being said, Mason has somehow managed to lose to Saint Louis twice this season – which should be cause for immediate dismissal in my humble opinion.
Mason had plenty of metrics trending in the right direction coming into this year’s campaign. GMU returned six of their eight leading scorers from last season, and welcomed four freshmen who were expected to make an immediate impact. But seriously, how do you lose to Saint Louis twice in a season? How does Dave Paulsen sleep at night?
Last year’s Mason squad was offensively abysmal. A year ago the Patriots were dead last in three-point shooting in conference play, ranked 328th in effective field-goal percentage and shot just 67% from the charity stripe. GMU had all the makings of a terrible college basketball team: too many turnovers, not enough rebounds and a penchant for committing fouls. Now last year’s team, I could see them losing twice to Saint Louis. They were appalling.
The current Patriots are shooting threes at a respectable 36% clip, are getting to the line more frequently than any team in the A10 not named Dayton (where they are converting 75%) and are one the better offensive rebounding teams in the league. The statistical turnaround has been both remarkable and palpable. Those losses to Saint Louis keep popping up in my mind, how does Dave Paulsen look his children in the eye? Granted one of the defeats was in double-overtime on the road, but I’m pretty sure I would sit in my car for hours afterwards. I’d probably leave my family.
Mason plays small ball, sporting one of the most undersized rosters in the nation, going with four guards in their starting lineup. Marquise Moore and Otis Livingston are GMU’s two leading scorers. Moore, one of just two seniors on the squad, scores around eighteen points per game and, at just 6’2”, pulls down an insane ten and a half rebounds per contest. Moore is the top rebounding guard in the nation (10.5 rpg), is third in the country among all players in defensive rebounds/game (8.7), 13th in overall rebounding and is one of only nine players nationally (and the only guard) with 17+ double-doubles. In addition, Moore is an elite, versatile defender who will likely guard Charles Cooke tonight. Oh, Moore also leads the team in assists. He’s a bad, bad boy.
Sophomore Otis Livingston and freshman Justin Kier join Moore in the Mason backcourt. Livingston scores fifteen points per game and averages three boards and assists an outing. Livingston is the Patriots’ number one ball handler and the top foul-shooter in the Atlantic Ten. Expect him, like Moore, to go as close to the distance as possible. Kier has had an impressive debut, a play Paulsen has grown increasingly reliant on as the season has progressed. Kier is a solid perimeter shooter and is one of the better rebounders in the lineup.
The rest of the starting lineup is filled out by sophomore Jaire Grayer and senior forward Jalen Jenkins. Paulsen’s main issue with Grayer last season was his shot selection and over-reliance on the three-point shot. Although Grayer is still an enthusiastic perimeter shooter, his accuracy has improved tremendously and he has become a more physical player in his second season in Fairfax. Jenkins is Mason’s main cog in the middle, a player who has finally figured out what he does well on the court. Gone are the mid-range jumpers, Jenkins is focused on playing around the hoop and getting buckets in the paint. He’s a decent rebounder, Mason’s third-leading scorer at 12.3 points per game.
Paulsen calls upon three main reserves: Freshmen Troy Temara, Karmari Newman and Ian Boyd. Boyd has been the most impressive bench player, a physically strong guard who can get to the hoop. Newman needs to put some meat on his bones, he’s a one-dimensional player at this stage of his career, opting to jack threes. He has braces too, poor kid. Temara is the first post-player off the bench for the Patriots. He is of questionable ethnicity.
George Mason has been a mild surprise this year. Performing a bit better in conference play than most would suspect. They’re a stronger team on offense than defense and feature an undersized squad with few minutes off the bench.
Jalen Jenkins is 6′ 7” but almost all of their remaining minutes come from players 6’4″ or shorter. You’d think they’d like to live from the outside with this type of lineup, but in reality take an underwhelming amount of shots from long range. They rank near the bottom of the NCAA in regards to percentage of three-point shots attempted. Basically, Mason gets a good chunk of their points on one-on-one play, in transition and from the foul-line. This leads us to GMU’s senior guard, Marquise Moore.
Moore plays over 85% of minutes and ranks high nationally in usage and percentage of shots taken. He’s excellent at getting to the line, drawing almost six fouls per 40 minutes played. He shoots well from everywhere. Otis Livingston is their other main scorer who shoots decently from both outside and inside the arc but is a Red Sweater’s wet dream from the free throw line, shooting over 90%.
The Patriots are about as average as it gets on the defensive side of the ball. Considering George Mason’s strength is their offensive back court and the Patriots are without an intimidating front court presence, I like this match up for Dayton. Back court players trying to score with little ball movement is not a recipe that is going to break Dayton’s consistent and effective defense.
I think this is an interesting matchup for Dayton. The Patriots do all the things that you must do to beat the Flyers — they rebound the ball exceptionally well, GMU gets to the line (and keep their opponents off of it) and they don’t settle for deep shots.
Defensively, George Mason prioritizes guarding the three-point line, utilizing a system light on pressure yet effective nonetheless. Dayton is obviously the favorite in tonight’s game but I believe this game will be a lot closer than most people think. Let’s call it UD, 71-69.
Dayton has their first away sock-hop this Friday at Davidson, before a huge faceoff with VCU next Wednesday. Then the Flyers close out the regular season at George Washington, historically a very tough place for Dayton. The last three games will go along way as Archie Miller and company chase the school’s first outright A10 regular season title. Remain vigilant, look out for overserving and always be LOWD.