Dayton wrapped up its non-conference schedule with a solid, yet unspectacular, record of achievement. Ten wins, two losses, pretty much what everyone expected before the season began. A quick look at the resume indicates that things are going fairly swimmingly for the U of D. Four Top 50 RPI wins (Monmouth, Iowa, Alabama, and William and Mary — this, I can assure you, will change by the time March rolls around). One tough loss, to Xavier, and one inexplicable defeat, at home against Chattanooga, are the two lone blemishes on the year so far.
Like any unhealthy relationship, our experience with UD basketball this season has had its ups and downs (and rape allegations). Yet, through thick and thin, we’ve emerged with enough good times to keep things rolling until mid-March or so.
A quick look at the high notes of the season so far:
You couldn’t have asked for a better debut than the one Ryan Mikesell produced against Southeast Missouri. The freshman forward dropped 21 points in twenty-six minutes of play, connecting on five-of-seven from three-point land. He even tossed in eight rebounds to further satiate an audience desperate for something to be excited about on opening night.
Mikesell’s next game against Alabama was rather uneventful, just one three-pointer in fifteen minutes of play. And that’s pretty much where his story ends. He failed to see the court in three games and hasn’t been much of a factor at all since his first game in a Flyer uniform. There’s no indication the next three months will be any different.
The biggest non-legal question coming into this season was whether or not UD finally had a legitimate big man in the middle. The answer? Yeah, sure. Big Steve has impressed at times — racking up three doubles-doubles — and disappeared completely at others. His biggest contribution has been his sheer presence around the rim, getting easy buckets and changing shots on the defensive end. Foul trouble and a lack of a back to the basket game has plagued the freshman, something he will surely need to improve on to take that next step.
Scoochie Smith has improved greatly since arriving on campus three years ago. Smith has developed into a perimeter threat and ratcheted up the rest of his game a notch as well. The junior guard is averaging 11.5 points a game and sports an impressive 2.4:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. However, what really sticks out about Scoochie’s season thus far has been his wheelbarrow balls.
His layup in the opening game of the Advocare Invitational was the game-winning bucket against Iowa. Smith three-pointer with a minute left was the difference in the following contest against Monmouth. He has made big play after big play already this season. Scoochie seems most comfortable with the game on the line and the ball in his hands, which is reassuring with the conference schedule set to tip.
We always discuss how vital it is for Dayton to avoid bad losses and the Flyers were about as close to violating that code against Miami. While the Miami game is never a pleasant experience, it usually ends in a Flyer victory and relief. Not this year.
UD seemingly put the game away with around ten minutes to go, but, as we are discovering, the Flyers often have issues finishing teams off. The RedHawks stuck around, chipped away at the lead and were ahead by a point with around ninety seconds to go. The game was decided on a rebound by Charles Cooke that ended with a converted jumper by Kyle Davis of all people. I noted at the time that KD’s shot might loom large come March, a loss against Miami would have been a major blight on Dayton’s resume.
This one is rather self-explanatory. After assuming Dyshawn Pierre’s career at Dayton was over, the senior wing made his serendipitous premiere in the win against Arkansas Wednesday night. Pierre’s performance was underwhelming, which was to be expected, but seeing him in a Dayton uniform should bolster the confidence of a team that may have been a player short this season. Whether or not you agree with his re-enrollment is beside the point, the Canadian is back and UD is stronger.
Now, the Flyers have to get it done against their Atlantic Ten brethren. The second season starts tomorrow afternoon against the Dukes of Duquesne.
This is Jim Ferry’s fourth year as the head coach at Duquesne and things haven’t improved under his watch. The Dukes have won a grand total of thirty-three games with Ferry at the helm but seem destined for a substantial turnaround this season. Duquesne is currently 10-3 – inexplicable you say? Well, not if you take a quick gander at the Dukes schedule. Ferry’s squad has beat up on the weak and defenseless, the sick and useless. It’s shameful, really. Six of Duquesne’s ten wins have come against foes with an RPI of 200 or higher.
That being said, UD tends to under perform in Pittsburgh for whatever reason. Dayton is 2-3 in its last five trips to the Iron City, a scarlet letter that local hero Archie Miller surely obsesses over. It’s the type of mark that causes Miller to stare off into the distance each time he pours ketchup on his pasta.
Duquesne returns four starters from last year’s club, yet was picked a distant eleventh in the Atlantic Ten preseason poll. Whether this says something about the quality of the Dukes’ returnees or the gauntlet that is the A10 conference is up to you and Bernie McGlade.
The Dukes don’t like shooting threes, they love it. Like completely obsessed with it the way Asian people are with robots. An astounding 43.4% of the Dukes shots this year have come from behind the arc (guard Micah Mason has already launched 101 threes, ranking 24th in the nation in three-point attempts). And with good reason, as Duquesne is shooting just north of 37% from the three-point line this season.
Needless to say, the Dukes play a very quick up-tempo offensive system, averaging around seventy-four possessions per contest. Duquesne barely has time to dribble on offense, as their average possession lasts just fifteen seconds. Ferry’s personnel rotation basically goes eight or nine players deep, which seems to belie the type of system Duquesne employs. But what do I know?
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Micah Mason is the human embodiment of Ferry’s offensive system. The senior guard will statistically go down as one of the best three-point shooters in college basketball history, coming into this season on pace for second place on the all-time three-point percentage list. Mason is a bit of a combo guard, as likely to handle the ball as he is to shoot it, and my man loves to shoot it. Derrick Colter is Mason’s running mate in the backcourt, making Duquesne’s guards one of the more formidable duos in the league. Colter will get plenty of shots up as well, one of the best pure scorers in the Atlantic Ten. Mason and Colter will rarely leave the floor.
Up front, the Dukes are dealing with losing co-captain Jeremiah Jones for the season after the senior forward tore his goddamn ACL against Robert Morris two weeks ago. Eric James started in Duquesne’s game against Georgia Tech and will likely get the starting nod against the Flyers. James had a double-double against the Jackets, and is averaging 12 points and 9.5 rebounds since Jones went down with his injury. L.G. Gill is long and athletic, a 6’7” forward with the ability to knock down shots from the perimeter. Staring in the middle is a true center, Darius Lewis. Lewis is your typical foul-prone big man who doesn’t possess many offensive skills, there’s a reason a 6’11” kid ends up at Duquesne after all.
TySean Powell, Nakye Sanders and Jordan Robinson are the Dukes’ main contributors off the bench. Powell is a solid offensive player and a tip-top rebounder. Sanders is a 6’8” freshman and is still exploring his body. Robinson is from Dyshawn Pierre’s neck of the woods, he has yet to miss a meal.
This matchup certainly sets up as one of those in conference land mine road games. This one has me worried more than most as the Dukes offense appears to be — come down the floor, jack a three and hope they’re hot for forty minutes. Duquesne gets almost 40% of their points from three-pointers, due to the fact they shoot 43% of their shots from behind the arc. They do this while averaging only 15 seconds per offensive possession, which is 16th in the country.
Derrick Colter and Micah Mason lead the Duke’s long range game. Colter shoots almost as many threes as twos while Mason fires off almost two 3-point attempts for every 2-point attempt. Both of these guys make their threes at an above average rate as well. Allowing three-point attempts will always be a weakness of the pack line defense and that’s why a team that is willing to fire from long range, and can convert, will make me nervous, especially away from home.
UD hasn’t played a road game since defeating Vanderbilt back on December 9th. Although this is a true road game, by definition, there’s always a healthy contingent of Flyer fans in Pittsburgh (note: this one is being played on Duquesne’s cozier gym, the Palumbo Center, not the spacious, modern Consol Center. I don’t know why I wanted to mention this but I did). Realizing that UD doesn’t defend the three well gives me pause, but I think Kyle Davis will be disruptive enough to keep either Mason or Colter in check from behind the arc. Dayton opens their conference account with a close win at Duquesne, 79-75.