Welcome back, fans of the Flyer. With the World Series officially in the books, it means college basketball is back. Your old pal Sully has decided to join the Blackburn Review this season after lengthy contract negotiations, so I have rewarded their trust by writing your very first article of the new season: a full-on, mouth-watering preview of your 2016-17 Dayton Flyers.
First, let me set the stage by being blunt with this post: this is the most talented group Dayton has brought into a campaign since probably 2003 — the Flyers were coming off a conference tournament title (and wasted 4 seed in the tourney) the season before, jumped off to a 19-3 start, only to lose 4 of their last 7 in the A10, dropped an L to Xavier in the Arena in the A10 tourney, and then lost a 2OT heartbreaker in the dance to old-time rival DePaul (which remains their only NCAA victory this century and the last time they were dancing).
The 03-04 season, along with the bittersweet NIT championship season of 2010, are what resonates to me as far as what CAN happen for the Flyers, when expectations going into a season are justifiably high. Whatever your expectations are for the Flyers this year, it needs to be said in black and white, in November, an exit before the second weekend of the tournament will undoubtedly feel like a letdown (it’s fun to be able to say things like this now). Missing the tournament completely, like in 2010, would feel like a total catastrophe. Brian Gregory is on his couch somewhere watching daytime ESPN and nowhere near Dayton, OH, so that second option is probably far less likely to become a reality. To keep your simple minds organized, I have broken up the latest version of the Gem City Cagers into three categories, so let’s get into it:
THE CORE – SCOOCHIE, CHARLES COOKE, KENDALL POLLARD, KYLE DAVIS
Whatever contributions Archibald gets from the rest of the team; the Flyers will go only as far as these four carry them. KP looks to be building his way back (slowly) to full participation from his knee injury just in time for games that matter (read: not Austin Peay), and his health will have a lot of impact on what the Flyers are able to do down low this year. It’s fair to say he looked a step slow in what many saw from the Marquette scrimmage, but I’m not the type of fellow who reads too much into that sort of thing just yet. With a healthy KP, Dayton can bang bodies down low with just about anyone. The off-season has made me long for a flailing, reckless KP drive down the lane that ends with a ball being flung in the general direction of the hoop without regard for the human being in front of him.
KP brings his 10pts/4.9reb/1.4A back to the lineup with him this year, but his value is understated on the stat sheet, because he allows the Flyers to both be more physical down low, and play an inside-outside game that they tend to get away from at times. When KP was off the floor last year, the Cagers were 3-3, although those three wins were Umass, URI and the worst basketball game ever played. When he came back into the lineup in mid-January against Davidson, the Flyers were able to rattle off 8 wins in a row in conference, so you can debate his value to whatever degree you see fit.
Kyle Davis once again returns as the Flyers go-to on ball defender in the back-court, which will come in handy early in the season when some Australian dude named Emmett Naar walks into the Decibel Dungeon for St Mary’s sporting his 14 PPG. KD’s value to the Flyers is two-fold: his obvious natural talent on the defensive side of the ball, and his gigantic balls that he reaches for when the Flyers need an important bucket in crunch time, (most memorably during Dyshawn’s senior night against VCU, to clinch a share of the A10 title). KD was named All-Defensive team in the A10 last year, and his line looks like this: 8ppg/3.5reb/2.1A. If he scores double figures every third night like we’ve become accustomed to, and plays KD defense, we’ll be aight.
Charles Cooke will be one of the top 3 players in the conference this year, and is as close to a pure scorer as Dayton has had since Brian Roberts. Cooke can shoot, dish, rebound and play defense, and the argument over whether he or Scoochie is more important to this team will certainly rage on all season. Cooke scored over 20 pts 12 times last year, the Flyers were 10-2 in those games. (LaSalle and Bona were the losses)
It is my opinion that the Flyers will go as Cooke AND Scoochie go, not one or the other. If they are both on, the Flyers are just straight up dangerous. Let’s hope they’ve put all the off-court tom foolery aside for the upcoming season. Cooke was Dayton’s leading scorer last year, racking up a line of 15.6/5.8/1.8. The Flyers have not had a player average at least 20 points per game over a full season in 25 years now, and this is about the best chance we’ll have at seeing it anytime soon.
SIDE NOTE: if you know who this person is without looking it up and correctly tweet it at me, I will send you my Jim Paxson bobblehead doll, no joke.
Scoochie is the general, the quarterback, the point guard, or whatever other spurious title you would like to give to the team’s on-court leader. He’s the guy who runs the show, plain and simple. Without Scoochie, UD loses to both Richmond and VCU at home last year, and there is no conference title. His 54 points in those back-to-back efforts was one of the best two game stretches in recent memory for anyone who’s worn Red and Blue.
Avoiding injuries and the obvious things, Scoochie probably ends up second team All-A10 this year, only because Jack Gibbs is still playing ball in this conference — sorry Scooch. His ability to dish, dictate the pace of the offense, and drive the lane effectively will be the lube that keeps this team ready for action. His line last year finished at 11.7/3.5/4.3 per game. Obviously for Smith, assist/turnover ratio is vital, and Scooch finished 91st in the country last year, at 2.23/1. If that number starts to creep up closer to 3 this season, it will mean A LOT for this offense going forward.
If these four stay healthy, and improve upon the seasons they had last year…Dayton is going to be good, real good.THE CONTRIBUTORS – JOSH CUNNINGHAM, DURRELL, SAM MILLER, XEYRIUS WILLIAMS, TREY LANDERS, RYAN MIKESELL, JOHN CROSBY
First, let’s start with the most intriguing addition to this group, Josh Cunningham. The first thing that jumps off the page about Josh is his listing on the 2014-15 Bradley roster … 6-7, 180lbs. Today, he is listed at 6-7, 225lbs. Holy shit, man! That’s a ton of muscle to put on! Notably, JC was a high-school teammate of Kyle Davis at Morgan Park in Chicago, and I’m interested to see how Dayton will use this implied chemistry to their advantage.
Reports have been swirling all offseason that JC has refined his post moves, so if he was somehow able to maintain his same quickness at a CLEARLY larger size, we could see him as a true compliment to Kendall down low, with the obvious ability to step out and hit some shots as well. If JC can make defenders fear the jumper when he receives the ball in the high post, you have to like his chances at being a major factor on this year’s squad and beyond. Take this with a grain of salt, but Cunningham averaged 7 and 7 in his freshman year on a god awful Bradley team who went 3-10 in the Missouri Valley. He will have 3 remaining years of eligibility at UD.
DURRELL. Where to start with Darrell Davis? His freshman year he burst on the scene as one of the best three-point shooters in the conference. He shot 45% from three, which lead the A10, and contributed 5 treys and 15 points in the Oklahoma tourney loss. His sophomore year, uh…didn’t go so well. Davis shot a miserable 29% from 3, scored 15 points in the opener against whatever scrub team that was, and then never scored 15 the rest of the year. He came close against St. Joe’s with 13 points, but also shot 3-10 from downtown, so that wasn’t an efficient game by any means. In the 10 games where Durrell put up 4 treys or more he shot 30% (17/56). I don’t say all this to bag on our boy Durrell, it’s simply baffling that a guy like him can play basically the same amount of minutes, with an extra season under his belt, and see his average dip a full 11% from the most accurate shooter in the conference, to the third best on his own team. For the Flyers to truly show that they have depth in the bench, Durrell will need to finally break out and put all the pieces together that we have seen glimpses of for two years now. I think it will happen, and I see a junior season where Durrell brings his ppg average up and becomes a more dynamic threat offensively.
SAM MILLER: Honest to God I have no idea what happens with Sam Miller this year. As the year went on you just saw less and less of him. He registered 0 points in nine different games last year, saw the floor for 5 minutes or less in ten of them, and didn’t touch the floor for 5 other games, including the two biggest tilts of the year, in the A10 tourney against Joe’s, and then the merciless beating at the hands of Syracuse. I’m not sure if it was a trust thing, or Archie just going with his more experienced group down the stretch, but the fact of the matter is that Sam Miller is Dayton’s tallest active player now, so they will desperately need him to come off the bench and contribute 10 solid minutes a night (at least) to relieve both KP and Cunningham in the front court. If there was ever an opportunity to have a breakout season, Sam Miller is in line for it.
XEYRIUS WILLIAMS AND TREY LANDERS, I put them together because as you probably have read somewhere other than this shitty blog, Trey and the X-man were teammates on Wayne HS state championship team and have been reunited in the red and blue just down the road from Huber Heights. Arch and Co. are very intrigued with what Landers brings to the table, here’s a quick little highlight video if you’re bored. He’s an able-bodied scorer that’s quick, and most important, really loves dunking the shit out of the ball. The #Sweaters love dunking, I love dunking, he’s going to fit right in, don’t worry about Trey. He gives the guards a dynamic option off the bench that will most likely contribute from the get-go. To finish up, you can file Xeryius in with the description of Sam. He saw less and less minutes as the season went on, and it remains to be seen if he will have a true impact on the floor this year. Expect to see lots of Xeyrius in the early season while Arch figures that one out.
RYAN MIKESELL! Dude, remember that game Mikesell had to start the year?! Me too! Mikesell walked into his first collegiate game ever and proceeded to drop 21 pts on 7 of 9 shooting, including 5 for 7 from 3. I know, I know, SEMO State is terrible, but still! While that game was cool and good, Mikesell went on to score just 46 points the rest of the season, and didn’t see the floor much from late January until the end of the year. Along with X and Sam, Flyer Nation should be interested to see where Chip Mikesell goes from here.
JOHN CROSBY: Expect to see Crosby as a third option when Landers and Scooch are getting breathers. He filled in admirably for Scooch last season at the point, but at times had a tendency to run reckless and turn the ball over in bunches.
Ben Kanieski, Joe Gruden, Adam Goines, Jack Westerfield, Jack Parsley and Jeremiah Bonsu. Know your walk-ons, love your walk-ons, scream like hell when one or all of them drop dimes against St Joseph’s College. Jeremiah Bonsu is the kind of walk-on to get the Sweaters all hot and bothered, he did a spot for Players Tribune that was awesome, you can find it here.
If you’re still reading this preview, you REALLY wanted to know a lot about Dayton hoops, and that’s awesome man! As Blackburn has alluded to many times on this site, the only way to gain respect as a true contender on the national landscape is by putting together consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. If UD goes to the dance for the 4th consecutive year this season, it will be the first time in program history (damn 1968 team!). People around college basketball have obviously already taken notice of what’s going on in Dayton, OH, and for the first time in a long, long time, it feels like a deep run in March might be a possibility (again).
Prediction: UD goes 25-5 in the regular season, loses the A10 tournament final, gets bounced in the Sweet 16.
I left room for your hot takes if you scroll down….