We have to press on, you guys, we have to.
Last year, about this time of the year, I was looking at NCAA tournament sites/dates/times, etc. I could’ve told you every team on the bubble with Dayton, and every place UD could have landed geographically in the tournament. This year (besides my hometown of Pittsburgh) I couldn’t tell you a single tournament site, nor could I really rattle off more than 1 or 2 teams jockeying on the bubble. Besides the best 10-15 teams in the country who are on consistently on TV and the specific college players ESPN likes to perform mild-fellatio to all season for perceived ratings, that’s about how deep I’ve dissected things this year. If you’re a Dayton fan, it doesn’t matter, not even a bit. The rest of the 2018 season will be a twilight tour for the career of DURRELL, and a chance for the rest of the roster to suck less before next season.
Earlier this week, Anthony Grant did an interview with DDN where he was talking about how they review each game from a coaching perspective, and because he loves coach-speak upon coach-speak, he rattled off the fantastic phrase of “we don’t look at the final result, so to speak, we try to look at everything that happened during the course of the game.” That, my friends, is the sentence of a coach who is losing, and knows damn well there is more losing to come. Since the final results matter to everyone else but Anthony Grant, here’s where we are now:
Around the end of January/beginning of February I’ve always felt it’s a fair time to start taking RPI seriously (even though SOS is heavily involved which is a ridiculously flawed metric IMHO). Currently UD is 4-5 against teams below 150 in the RPI. I stopped clicking backwards on resumes after about 2002 to find a UD team this bad against mediocre competition. It’s been a while. (If you’re a believer of KenPom instead, UD is 7-7 vs KenPom sub 130, another truly dreadful figure)
This is Dayton’s worst start to the conference season since *drumroll* Ryan Miller’s first season! During the 2012-13 season, UD began A10 play at a truly dismal 3-7. HOWEVER, 5 of those losses were to VCU (Round of 32), Temple (Round of 32), Butler (Round of 32), SLU (Round of 32), and LaSalle (Sweet 16). So basically what I’m saying is, Dayton is 4-6 in the A10 this year and they sure as shit have not lost to 5 NCAA tournament teams. The 3-7 start for the 2013 squad was a product of the A10 coming into two of its most powerful years ever, and needless to say this year’s A10 doesn’t even have 5 teams worthy of being in the NIT. Dayton has 6 losses to 4 painfully mediocre teams and one good team who will be going to the dance (URI). Those 5 losses now include a clean sweeping (2-0) by a first year UMass coach with an absolute dumpster fire of a roster, but I’m sure many are starting to say the same about UD these days. A lot has been said about UD’s previous coach, but one thing was certain: he beat bad teams. That cannot be said anymore.
At 4-6, with the stink that continues to linger in the conference from top to bottom, UD somehow still has a chance at being in the top 4 with 8 games to go, even if it is highly, HIGHLY unlikely. A top 4 seed is unlikely because it would require a winning streak of some kind, which is something UD has been clearly unable to produce at any juncture this year. With that said, UD still has to play the four worst teams in the conference (Ford, LAS, GW, Mason) and gets the two teams above them in the standings (SLU, DUQ) at home. The light at the end of the tunnel is on low battery, but it still exists if this team were to hypothetically figure out how to play defense. Of course, you can just pencil in the losses to VCU and URI on the road now. Go in with low expectations to avoid disappointment later.
I am not holding my breath or preaching optimism as much as highlighting the reality to begin February. It really is amazing how bad the Atlantic 10 is this year, and UD is at least partly to blame as a program.
After the latest atrocity to basketball on Saturday, I asked fans to write emails and send me their best rants about the Flyers since my narrative can only get so much mileage. I’m beginning to worry about our DDN beat-writer David Jablonski since this is his first season covering the beat when we aren’t going to the tournament. Below are a few of the best emails we received from our loyal readers: (all posts are kept anonymous)
First, a loyal reader points out the failed “re-tread coaches” that have been hired in the A10 over the last 20 years, and compares Grant to a fellow coach down south:
Tom Penders (GW), Jan Van Breda Koff (Bona), Paul Hewitt (Mason), Jim Crews (SLU), Denny Nee (DUQ), Steve Lappas (UMass) are the recent retread coaches in the A10.
Not one successful in this league. Retreads don’t work in college basketball and AG is on his way joining the illustrious company of Hewitt and Nee.
Anthony Grant got swept by a fellow first year head coach with a short handed roster who inherited a team that finished in 13th place last year. That about sums up AG.
Look at former Georgia coach Dennis Felton’s record. Look at AGs. Tell me there’s an appreciable difference in big picture results. Two 50 something coaches who had successful runs at mid majors, took over SEC programs for six years made the tourney once with some NIT bids sprinkled in.
This fan suggests the unthinkable:
Another hard to watch calamitously coached loss.
One would think the KenPom rated 237th ranked defense could find a boost from a 6’11 big man with freakishly long arms. Maybe he could help protect the rim when DURRELL gets blown by. Maybe they could shift Cunningham to the 4 since he is slow to rotate on defense. Maybe we could at least see some highlight worthy blocked shots that will make these losses tolerable as fans.
Or maybe we have a coach who has zero consistency in his substitution rotations and hopefully Kostas transfers to a program that will get him on the floor.
And by far our longest, but best, entry of the campaign:
Entering the year, I was confident that Cunningham would be our best player and hopeful DD would get his shot back. Nothing but respect for both of these guys – sad they will be sitting at home in March.
I also thought that X could be an All-A10 player and Crosby would flourish in a run-and-gun/press 94 feet style. Turns out that the Monstars visited X-man’s dorm room without anyone knowing instead and John Crosby is still John Crosby. We don’t have an offense that is capable of getting Josh consistent open shots and he can’t create his own. Grant has made many mistakes in his first year as UD coach but letting Crosby back on the team was by far the worst.
(^this was the hottest paragraph I received via email, so much respect)
The young guys – I had excessively high expectations for Kostas and Matej. I thought both could be major contributors this season, turns out that A10 competition is better than what they experience overseas. Extremely sad given the current state of the A10, really.
Crutcher/Jordan/Trey – impressed with all 3 and excited for these guys to be cornerstones of the program for years to come.
In order to turn this program in the right direction, I think it’s best to take our 5 open scholarships (hopefully) and load up on JUCOs and transfers. Archie missed on some recruiting classes after E8 run but him and his staff were great at developing talent and coaching that we could compete in A10. Grant and his staff cannot game plan, coach, or make the in-game adjustments to be successful.
It is very possible that Cunningham decides to grad transfer and our record next year will be worse than this yr.
I waited 18 years for my first UD NCAA win. Arch spoiled us and now AG is showing signs that it might be another 18 years until we get a chance to win again in March.
Sad that this is occurring while upgrading the arena. The new WiFi better work well in the arena, I’ll need it to get through the Grant era
And one more…
While no Flyer Fan came into this season expecting another Tourney appearance or an A14 Championship, I think I would have to start referring to myself as “Swampy’s Lovechild” if I didn’t say that this season still has somehow not met my extremely realistic pre-season expectations. To be honest, the fact that we are 10-12 and 4-6 in the A14 at the time of this writing isn’t what gets me the most; frankly I expected somewhere around a .500 season. It is the way we are losing, who we are losing to, and the fact that we are losing to the fuck-ups and rejects of a conference that is the worst it has been in a decade. The distinct lack of progress throughout the season from a game plan, coaching, and adjustments perspective is horrifying. We can’t blame (much) of this on the personnel when we won’t play a bench player for over 30 minutes, and we have seen Crutcher and JD (ignore the recent rough patch) come along quite nicely over the season.
I keep telling myself that “this is AG’s first season, give him time to adjust” or “we need to give this staff a year or two to get their guys and system in place.” This may ultimately end up being true and we may have a program that follow’s the path of Ryan miller in year three, but when I see a stoic dark man in a well-fitting suit looking utterly confused game after game on the sideline, I can’t help but get the bubble guts thinking about the Flyers future.
Strangely, the person I feel for the worst for in all of this is DURRELL. The kid was a role player on a team that didn’t lose much his first 3 years, but now when he finally steps into the spotlight the only supporting cast he has is a kid who only cares about video games (X), a kid who is a complete liability on defense (Kostas), and a kid who speaks even less English than the first foreign guy and is even a larger defensive liability (you know who). Can’t help but feel bad for a guy who had a somewhat solid 4 years, a great Senior season, and who will be largely forgotten by the majority of the Flyer Faithful within 5 years as ever even being a part of this program. His fate doomed by one of the most forgettable season in my 11 years of fandom.
If this team somehow manages to play in the postseason, it should only be because Baby D wanted one more game. Even if that game looks to be trending towards the CBI. Otherwise, don’t bother accepting an invite.
Certainly plenty to unpack from these comments, but better to hear it from someone else. I took a quick listen to the Anthony Grant radio show (only the first 20 minutes, I’m losing steam, guys) and I always appreciate when Larry Hansgen capitalizes on an opportunity to be a homer and shit on another conference program.
Early on in the show, Larry said how happy he is to be returning to UD Arena on Wednesday evening because of the sub-par job UMass did on press row, with the replay screens, and with the overall game atmosphere. Now, I am certainly not one to crap on UMass, and throughout my conversations with UMass fans I have come to understand their program/administration is in a FAR, FAR different position than those of us in Dayton, OH, but it is still refreshing to hear Larry get high and mighty about something. If our basketball team is going to continue playing like this for the next month or so, we can at least still look down upon the rest of the A10 for their shanty basketball arenas. Keep on keeping on, Larry.
I didn’t really mention much about the game last Saturday, but do I really need to? Is Anthony Grant going to magically answer why he didn’t sub a player the entire second half? Would he explain that his approach to attack a depleted UMass roster was to eliminate his own teams depth? Would he tell us why they failed to stop Pipkins at any important moment in the game?
This ^^ paragraph could go on for 500 more words, at least. You get the point.
UD indeed will return their weary bones to the friendly confines of the University of Dayton Arena Wednesday night to beat the “not-fooling-me” Duquesne Dukes. People continue to be high on Duquesne when in reality they have simply sucked a little less than the rest of the Atlantic 10 this year. If you think Im being too harsh, here is Duquesne’s current resume, please notice their best win of the season RPI-wise:
Ya, it’s Dayton…at home. Their. Best. Win. Of. The. Season.
If you’re still sitting there thinking I’m just being a hater, please consider Duquesne lost to Pittsburgh earlier this season, a team who is currently 0-11 in the ACC and hasn’t won a game since December 22nd to Towson.
In an effort to come full circle, I will press on for you. I will continue to write things on the blog until the very end, but good lord, it can’t come soon enough. I vow to finish what we started here, just like our boys on the floor.
See you in Dayton on Wednesday, bring a book or an iPad.
The LOWD ambassador of Chicago, Sully has spent his life tirelessly watching UD hoops. Welcomer of all takes, hot and cold.