There are so many landmines directly in Dayton’s path towards their January 27th matchup with VCU that Princess Diana would have raised millions of dollars in response (maybe 2% of you will get that reference, and I’m OK with that). The Flyers put a nice little notch in their belt with their win against Rhode Island this past Saturday, putting them in the driver’s seat for the league crown — which, of course, is a marathon, not a sprint. A marathon, like the Atlantic Ten conference season itself, is long, boring without exception and barely watched by anyone outside of friends and family. The analogy is apt.
UD’s next four opponents: UMass, Duquesne, Richmond and Saint Louis are mere hurdles meant to trip Dayton up like shin splints or diarrhea. The four squads are a combined 31-31 on the season, Richmond the only program with a still-beating pulse given their 3-0 record thus far in conference play. UMass has seen their season slowly dissipate into a veritable toilet-clogger, losing their first three league games by an average margin of eleven points. A more Keloggian season you could not create.
So Dayton’s season becomes Diggstown, arguably one of the top five or six, possibly seven, movies of Louis Gossett’s career. Like Gossett’s character in the movie, whose name escapes me and my interest, UD will have to face a series of tomato cans before they do battle with VCU — represented of course in this analogy by the big fucking black guy Louis Gossett’s character has to face at the end of the film (remember when all of sudden the bad guy tells James Woods that Gossett has to fight that Mexican dude to make the bet official? Terribly anti-climatic. For our purposes here, that godless Hispanic guy represents Dayton’s roady against Rhodey in a month).
There will be plenty ventured and not much gained over the next two weeks. The Flyers have four consecutive games in which they will be expected to win. There will be nothing entertaining about it, each matchup will seem as tedious and monochromatic as watching an ancient black man pummel hillbillies and other social pariahs in a rundown VFW hall.
Derek Kellogg’s squad is currently 10-6 on the season, winless in conference play. Like most A10 clubs, there isn’t much to point at in regards to the Minutemen’s non-conference record. Wins against Temple and Harvard highlight UMass’ pre-league resume, which isn’t terrible but you’d certainly would have expected the program to be further along in what is now Kellogg’s NINTH (!!) year as head coach.
While the Massachusetts basketball program is stronger than it was during the somber days under Steve Lappas’ stewardship, it’s abundantly clear that Kellogg was not able to carry the momentum Travis Ford created in Amherst before he left for Oklahoma State. UMass went to just one NCAA tournament under Kellogg’s tenure and, short of a miracle run in Pittsburgh come March, unlikely to change in the near future. Kellogg was supposed to bring back the cult of personality era to UMass basketball, reminding the Minutemen faithful of their glory under Calipari. Instead UMass fans simply have a man with gelled hair, and that can only take you so far, even in Massachusetts.
But let’s not be so negative for once, let’s highlight the things Kellogg’s club does well. For starters the Minutemen legitimately strap it up defensively, an admirable trait if there ever was one. UMass protects the three-point line, turns their opponents over at a 21% clip and contests shots in the paint a Democrat in a losing election.
Offensively Massachusetts is a late-term abortion. Just tough to look at, something you never tell your parents, it should probably be illegal. The issue seems to be that (a) UMass is an appalling three-point shooting team, knocking down a mere 29.8% on the season, and (b) the Minutemen take an astonishing amount of attempts from behind the arc — 43.2% of UMass’ shots come from three-point land. So, you have a poor three-point shooting team repeatedly jacking up deep shots to no avail. Someone should really tell them to stop doing that, maybe the coach.
Donte Clark is Massachusetts main weapon offensively. He leads the team in scoring, 14.7 per game, and has the ability to score from all over the floor. Although he has struggled to hit from three this season, Clark more than makes up for it with his rebounding and decision-making with the ball in his hand. He is UMass’ main issue personified, a guy who would be so much more efficient with better shot selection.
Rashaan Holloway is the Minutemen’s second-leading scorer and the team’s top rebounder. At 6’11″/335-ish, Holloway is hard to miss. He obviously eats up a lot of space and has the ability to alter shots. He’ll be dead by the time he is 35, but at least he is the one guy on the roster that doesn’t think he is Steph Curry. The man knows what he is, and who among us can say that with confidence? Freshman Brison Gresham will likely start alongside Holloway in the frontcourt. He snagged the starting spot two games ago against George Mason and is looked upon to bring energy when he is on the court (energy being what you say about a guy who has some size but no definable skills).
The starting backcourt is rounded out with freshmen DeJon Jarreau and Luwane Pipkins. After sitting out last season because “he don’t read so good,” Pipkins has emerged as a talented scorer and an absolute ballhawk defensively, currently ninth in the nation in steals. The guard from Chicago likes to get shots up and plays with just enough intensity to piss you off. Does he remind me a bit of former Minuteman Chaz Williams? I don’t know, I guess. Jarreau will be a stud once he puts a bit more meat on his hindquarters. The lithe wing can play the 1-3 spot if needed and is the team’s most dangerous player with the ball in his hands. His perimeter shooting is not quite up to snuff, but there’s definitely enough potential there to think he may be a serious weapon in a season or two.
Zach Lewis and CJ Anderson get major minutes off the UMass pine. Lewis, a transfer from Canisius, scores around eight points a contest and has the words “high-volume scorer” on his license. Anderson is a sold sub, does a little bit of everything on the floor. Tyrn Flowers, Malik Hines and Seth Berger comprise the rest of Kellogg’s reserves. I have no idea how to pronounce Flowers’ first name, Hines is decent around the bucket and Seth Berger is the guy who looks like his name is Seth Berger.
UMass is certainly down a tier from the Atlantic Ten elite, but I think we all know the Flyers can take nothing for granted on the road, and certainly not in Amherst given their recent history there. From a high level, UMass isn’t quite the match up Dayton would want, but digging deeper, the Men of LOWD may be ok.
It’s been said all year given Dayton’s strength is on defense, and teams with a good offense and poor defense would be a better matchup then if those were flipped flopped. In this case UMass is better on defense (62nd in defensive efficiency) than on offense (230th in offensive efficiency). However if you look at UMass’ weakness on defense, this is an area Dayton can exploit. Massachusetts is in the bottom 10% in terms of fouls committed. Dayton is in the top 15% in terms of fouls drawn. UMass has some height in Rashaan Holloway and Malik Hines, but both average more than 6 fouls per 40 minutes of play. It probably comes as no surprise these guys don’t play close to forty minutes a game. I would expect Pollard’s quickness to get these guys in foul trouble early and Dayton to increase their offensive efficiency by getting to the charity stripe repeatedly.
On offense the Minutemen jack a ton of threes. 43% of their field-goal attempts are from long range, which is interesting considering they’re only shooting 29.8% from behind the arc. They shoot 54.7% from inside the arc, when they do get the ball down there, which is an elite percentage. Massachusetts’ time of possession is one of the shortest in the country, at an average of 15.3 seconds a possession, good for 28th in the country. Given this fact it appears the Minutemen don’t spend a whole lot of time trying to get it inside with Donte Clark, Luwane Pipkins and Zach Lewis content to let it fly. This is good news for the Flyers, they can get beat up inside and their pack line defense’s weakness is allowing three-point attempts. Despite what would appear to be a more difficult matchup, given how UMass scores and defends, I think the Flyers should fair well tonight if they bring effort and don’t fall flat on the road.
I think the Flyers open up as six point favorites and call my crazy but would consider playing them up to -8 given the match up advantages highlighted above. Of course this means I’ve put a hex on them, and they lose by five.
There are not many games where I think Dayton has an extreme coaching advantage (talent advantage is a different story), but the annual UMass tilt is an exception. Kellogg’s teams never seem to get better as the season goes on and the same issues and problems seem to plaque the Minutemen throughout the year.
Dayton gets the W as we watch UMass shoot around thirty three-pointers to everyone’s dismay. Flyers win 77-69 as Charles Cooke steps back into the lineup and scores 17 points. I’m really interested to see how Holloway is tasked with attacking Dayton offensively. L-L-L-LOWD.