Dayton racked up an important victory over Richmond earlier this week to take possession of first place in the Atlantic Ten. The Flyers are 14-4 on the season and have won seven of their last eight ballgames. UD is trending in the right direction, things are falling into place.
None of it matters.
Tomorrow the Flyers take on their most hated rival, the Saint Louis Billikens. A rivalry that first took root in March of 1952 when the Flyers met the Bills in Madison Square Garden for a NIT game (won by UD 68-58) has transformed into one of the fiercest rivalries in all of college sports.
Of course, we all know that the animosity between the two schools began about fifty years before that. A stolen horse, a murdered family and whore houses – this is the foundation of what has become an extremely volatile clash between two Midwestern Catholic universities.
Archie Miller took over the head coaching job knowing he would have to do two things: (1) lie about the severity of player’s injuries and (2) beat Saint Louis. Things began smoothly for Miller, as he won his first Arch-Baron Cup in St. Louis with a 60-50 victory over the Bills. He was greeted at the Dayton INTERNATIONAL Airport as a conquering hero. Miller was offered cash, weed and women upon his return. Being the understated gentleman that he is, Archie refused most of it.
It quickly turned ugly for Archie after the Flyers lost four of the next five contests against the Billikens. There were calls for his head on local radio, “For Sale” signs began springing up on his lawn and Morgan Miller was repeatedly turned away from every hot yoga studio in the Miami Valley. It appeared the Arch-Baron Cup would break Miller, an almost unavoidable consequence of the heated conflict.
Although the Flyers did reach the Elite Eight in 2014, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Dayton fan that wasn’t disappointed at the end of the season. I had the opportunity to talk to numerous Flyer supporters in Memphis after the loss to Florida in the Elite Eight, and although most were excited about the t-shirts the Korporate Kasuals Kompany would be printing to commemorate UD’s success, most were still violently focused on Dayton’s 67-59 loss to Saint Louis earlier that season.
I vividly recall one fan, a rather disheveled fellow in a tattered sweater-vest, recounting that game while sobbing on the steps of the FedExForum. “This run has been fun,” he said while jabbing me in the chest with what I assumed was an unloaded handgun, “but it doesn’t erase the pain of that night. The last thing I think about when I lay my head on the pillow is Jim Crews’ smirk and Austin McBroom hitting all those foul shots.” He paused for a few seconds, stood and put his free hand on my shoulder. “I tried to kill myself that night, drove my car right into someone’s house on Wayne Avenue. Didn’t do the trick obviously. Sometimes the pain is too much, you know?” I did know, God did I know.
Archie Miller has won the last five consecutive Arch-Baron Cups, joining Brian Gregory and Don Donoher as the only coaches in Dayton history to do so. If Miller manages to beat Saint Louis tomorrow afternoon he will be the first coach in the storied rivalry to take home six Cups in a row. A victory over SLU will be Dayton’s sixth conference win, but it is surely bigger than that. The Cup is once again on the line, and with it, perhaps, someone’s life.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way; Saint Louis is a very bad basketball team. The Bills are 5-13 on the season, 1-5 in Atlantic Ten play. SLU doesn’t have a Top 100 win, have lost twelve games by double-digits and they practice before the women’s team. Travis Ford’s inaugural season has been a rocky road indeed, although he is recruiting at a high-level, so expect things to turn around quickly for the Billikens.
A quick glance at SLU’s profile is a horror show. They rank 342/351 in terms of offensive efficiency. They are essentially a MEAC team with white guys. The Billikens have a turnover rate of 20.8% (283rd in nation), a 22.9% offensive rebound percentage (330th), connect on just 64.4% of their foul-shots (311th) and sport a two-point field goal percentage of just 43% (330th). Travis Ford would throw a basketball off Jim Crews’ face if he ever saw him. It’s as bad a team I can remember Dayton playing.
I have nothing positive to say about Saint Louis, they are a shocking collection of stiffs. Although I do think their logo upgrade was a step in the right direction.
Help is surely on the way for Ford next season, as the former Okie State and UMass coach has taken a page out of Dr. John’s “How to Barely Stay Employed as a Mid-Major Coach” book. Three transfers come into the program next season and their impact should be felt immediately. Javon Bess, who never really fit into Tom Izzo’s system at Michigan State, will add some athleticism to the roster.
D.J. Foreman comes to Saint Louis from Rutgers after Eddie Jordan was fired as head coach of the Scarlet Knights. Foreman is a big body who will be one of the league’s better power-forwards next season. Adonys Hernandez left Central Florida after Donnie Jones was finally let go this offseason (Johnny Dawkins is now the UCF coach, does anyone know that?). Hernandez made the American Conference All-Rookie and the 6’6” guard averaged 10.5 points over two seasons at UCF. Ty Graves, a point-guard from Boston College, announced he would transfer to Saint Louis earlier this month.
As previously mentioned, Ford is getting it done on the recruiting trail as well, as two four-star recruits will be on campus next season. Jordan Goodwin, a 6’4” wing from Illinois, and Hasahn French, a 6’7” forward from New York, are two impressive signings that will get a chance to play on day one. Given the evidence before us, it’s pretty clear SLU made the right coach when they hired Ford. The program should be back on its feet in short order and likely will be one of the better programs in the confernece in 2-3 years.
Saint Louis features a three-guard set led by Davell Roby. He is the Billiken’s leading scorer (10.6 ppg) and is a solid perimeter shooter, converting around 40% of his three-point shots this season. Roby is the team’s best defender and, with the injury to starting point-guard Jermaine Bishop, SLU’s playmaker with the ball in his hands.
The other two staring guard spots are occupied by Mike Crawford and Aaron Hines. Crawford, finally a senior, plays the most minutes of anyone on the roster. Crawford looked to be a solid catch-and-shoot weapon for Saint Louis as a freshman but he has simply trailed off since then. He is shooting a dreadful 21% from three and is converting only 62% of his free-throws. He needs a sports psychologist. Hines is now the starting point-guard for Ford’s club. He’s had a solid A-10 campaign, averaging 8.7 points and 3.5 assists per game.
Freshman Jalen Johnson and Elliott Welmer start up front for Saint Louis. Johnson has played well with additional playing time, starting the Bills’ last three games and scoring just under twelve points per outing. He is shooting 40% from three and is a solid offensive rebounder. Welmer is Ford’s man in the middle, a 6’9” guy that can step out and knock down shots. Welmer is connecting on 56% of his three-point attempts in conference play.
Reggie Agbeko lost his starting job and now comes off the pine. The senior wide-body still racks up starter’s minutes, I assume Ford must have a reason for not starting him? (I’ve never understood this coaching philosophy) He’s the same player he’s always been – decent around the hoop and by far the team’s best rebounder. Agbeko is a hard-nosed guy that probably should have left the program last summer. Zeke Moore is a freshman wing with good size that hasn’t found his footing quite yet. He has struggled from the perimeter and failed to get in done inside the arc. Moore’s shooting 28% from the field this season, a dismal performance indeed. Travis Ford cannot wait for this season to end.
Obviously the Cup is on the line, but there’s really not a lot to say about SLU other than they suck. If Duquesne was a basic white girl than SLU is her horrific looking friend. Almost the worst looking offense (face) you could see, but she offsets it with a very average defense (not that she typically needs it.)
There’s really only one number that will make this game interesting, points allowed — can Dayton hold SLU under 30 points? Dayton is ranked 8th in Ken Pom’s defensive efficiency rankings. The Flyers also force their opponents to take a substantial amount of time to find shots, 17.8 seconds average per possession to be exact. The Billikens are LITERALLY better on offense than 9 teams. NINE. TEAMS. The likes of Maine, Grambling and Chicago State are all somehow better than St. Louis on offense. SLU’s season low on offense is 45 points against the aforementioned Chicago St. and Wichita State. The Billikens won one of those games and lost the other by 30. I’ll let you determine which is which. Hint: Chicago State’s defense is ranked 250th, while Wichita State’s is in the 50’s.
I really think the Flyers have a chance to hold the Billies to single digits in a half and under 30 for the game. All that being said…they could score 90, as long as Dayton scores 91. #BecauseItsTheCup
I feel like making a prediction is worthless, but here it goes — Dayton wins handily. If the Flyers don’t win by at least 15 points they should leave the Arch-Baron Cup at the scorer’s table. This might be the worst conference team that has visited the Sweater Centre in quite some time, domination should be the result.
Charles Cooke scores 22, Scoochie chips in 15 and we see Gruden, Westerfield, Big Jack Parsley get some burn. Flyers win 82-61, pushing their record to 6-1 in league play and holding onto first-place in the league as they head down to Richmond in a huge tilt against VCU.