It has been four long months since we sat around the virtual campfire to discuss Dayton basketball, but we’re back bitches! The Blackburn Review is proud to kick-off our 10th season (!!!!) with a rousing recap of the Gem City’s newest non-conference basketball calendar, which dropped this morning at 9am via this tweet that you will want to mute immediately (but is overall a well-produced video because I like giving credit where it’s due):
2K18-19 non-conference schedule released!
— Dayton Basketball (@DaytonMBB) July 31, 2018
First things first, RIP and let’s please have a moment to say goodbye to the Friday night sock hop that has marked the opening of Dayton basketball over the last 3 seasons. We will remember it fondly and I will be the first to crusade for the Friday night opener becoming a UD bball tradition. As it stands, the 2018 opening game will be a Wednesday evening, November 7th on Edwin C Moses Blvd….
North Florida – Wednesday, Nov. 7th
Opening night isn’t a cakewalk, but we’re not exactly opening up with Kentucky, either. The Ospreys of North Florida were kind of shitty and really young last year and went 7-7 (14-19 overall) in the 1-bid-as-hell Atlantic Sun that produced Lipscomb in the dance last season. When I say young, I mean REALLY young, UNF didn’t have a single upperclassmen on the roster last year. They bring back the farm. They’re crazy balanced, with the entire starting 5 averaging 10-12 points/gm last season. The team last year was pretty simple: they’re going to shoot efficiently, play at a quick pace, and defense is optional. UNF was dead last in Division 1 last year in time spent on defense. With a full year under the belt for the entire squad, this should be a decent matchup for the Flyers out of the gate. Yes, they absolutely could get snuck up on, no they absolutely should not let that happen.
Presbyterian (12/22) and Coppin State (11/10)
These are the only ones I put out of order because of their level of significance. You know how this goes: the little guys need a paycheck a few times a year to keep the wheels greasy inside their less fortunate institutions. These are the victims of 2018. Both of these teams are bad. Unspeakably bad. When I pulled up the schedule for Coppin State it startled me to the point where I shut my laptop for a second to regroup. I won’t spend time dissecting just how bad they are out of respect for basketball, but they started the season 0-17 and didn’t win their first game until January 8th (in OT). Basically, both of these schools will make you question why Division 1 basketball has 351 teams….
…because Presbyterian is going to be just as bad. They lost their two leading scorers from a team who got shellacked by bottom dwellers consistently en route to an 8-20 record overall and 4-14 in the Big South. Presbyterian should be respected, however, for hanging on to the nickname of Blue Hose all these years. While it is simply a shortened version of “Blue Stockings” from old newspaper guys, I’m certain Presbyterian can connect the dots to understand why every now and then they’re going to catch a few jokes about bringing smurf-looking prostitutes to their games. Be kind to both of these teams, they aren’t coming to Dayton to harm anyone. The Blue Hose will receive their pink-socking right before Christmas on Saturday the 22nd. Bring the kids and leave early, no judgments for this one.
(UPDATE: I forgot to include this in the original post, but the Coppin State game is a part of the mainland pairings from the Bahamas tournament and was an unavoidable game from the UD perspective)
Fort Wayne – Friday, November 16th
UD welcomes Fort Wayne to the Arena for the first time since the most important shot in the modern era of Dayton Flyers basketball:
The Mastodons live in the rare air of D1 teams who have never gone dancing, and 2018-19 will be no different. Gone is Fort Wayne’s leading scorer (an impressive 22 ppg) but back is the bulk of their team. Their coach is in his fifth season and hasn’t done much of worth besides beating a couple terrible Indiana teams in consecutive years. Fort Wayne is known for playing smart, up-tempo offense and will likely do their damndest to get UD in a track meet. Much like UNF, the Mastodons COULD sneak up on the Flyers at home, but they shouldn’t. There’s no trap games in The Arena.
Butler (Bahamas) Wednesday, Nov. 21st
I like crowdsourcing things to those who know best, so the following was passed along to me by Lukas Harkins, who writes for the Bulldogs on FanSided. You can find a full write up of Butler here, if you’re really curious.
In short, Butler will be Butler during this coming season. After losing key upperclassmen Kelan Martin and Tyler Wideman to graduation, there are two seniors returning on the roster (big man Nate Fowler and guard Paul Jorgensen), however the leader of the team will be rising junior Kamar Baldwin. After two strong seasons to begin his career, Baldwin looks to be the go-to-player for the Dawgs. An excellent two-way player who might be the best perimeter defender in the Big East, Baldwin is ambidextrous around the rim and is a ~35% shooter from 3-point range. While Baldwin may bring the star power for the Bulldogs, the strength of BU will be in its depth. Sean McDermott was one of the most efficient wings in all of college basketball last season and is a serious breakout candidate because of his size and shooting ability to complement Jorgensen’s long range game. In addition, rising sophomore Aaron Thompson will reprise his role as the starting point guard during this upcoming campaign. Although his per game averages are not spectacular, he understands how to manage a game and is a tenacious defender. With Baldwin and Thompson on the perimeter, Butler has one of the best defending backcourts in the country. However, the interior is where there may be flaws. Without Wideman, Nate Fowler and Joey Brunk will take over the center position. While both are skilled offensive players, they have not shown a lot of signs of being above-average defenders to this point. Without development in this regard, interior defense could be Butler’s biggest weakness. (Note: Because Dayton vs. Butler will occur in November, Duke transfer Jordan Tucker will not be eligible to play yet and therefore was not included here.) – Lukas Harkins
Simply put, Dayton will not be favored in this game. Beating Butler would be both unexpected and an early sign that maybe UD is a serious college hoops team. The bracket for Bahamas is below. It scares me, you guys. Things have the potential to be really ugly for the Flyers in the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Mississippi State – Fri. November 30th
Mississippi State comes to Dayton as the marquee home game of the non-con. The Bulldogs are coming off a truly Brian-Gregory-esque season, please tell me if this sounds familiar: MSU started 13-1 and in early January were on the precipice of a ranking, with their only blemish to a strong Cincy team. The wheels, muffler and tailpipe then proceeded to fall off and they pushed the car home to an 8-9 record the rest of the way through the SEC. They made an attempt to salvage their season by winning the NIT, but eventually bowed out to Penn State in the final. Flashbacks of 2010 are starting to surface, I must move on…
Since last year’s Bulldogs had exactly 0 seniors, all 6 of their top scorers return including the brothers Weatherspoon that bent UD over last December. MSU will come to Dayton hungry, with an experienced team, and look to notch a quality early win into their tournament belt. If the Arena isn’t LOWD for this one, what is any of this for?
Detroit Mercy – Tuesday, December 4th
You youngsters won’t have much to-do about this matchup, but this is a nostalgic home game for the old sweater-clad fogies in the Arena. Dayton and Detroit Mercy played every season from 1981 to 1995, but have not met in the regular season since UD jumped for the A10 after the ‘95 season from the Great Midwest Conference. After this initial sentence, the matchup lacks intrigue. The Titans are coming off back to back 8, yes 8, win seasons, and have been a doormat in the Horizon for the last 5 years. Same thing as Coppin State and Presbyterian: come into town, accept a meal, don’t kick up a fuss and have a safe trip home. Your standard buy-game for the boys up I-75.
@Auburn – Saturday, December 8th
This will likely be UDs toughest opponent of the season, and on the road to boot. If you remember from last year, Auburn was the king of the SEC pretty much the entire season and cruised to a conference regular season title. After stumbling in the first round of their conference tournament as a 1 seed (that sounds familiar for some reason), Auburn bowed out of the dance in the second round to Clemson, after taking down College of Charleston in the first round. Auburn did not get out of the offseason unscathed, however. This is college basketball after all. Their leading scorer played the transfer market and moved closer to home to St Johns. DeSean Murray, a junior 6-5 wing who averaged 10pts/6reb a night, decided that Auburn, AL just wasn’t big time enough for him, and took his talents to Bowling Green, KY to play for Rick Stansbury. Just something in the water down there these days. Kids are really buying into the WKU program. Incredible buy-in, across the board. It’s impressive to see a program that gets kids to buy-in like they do.
Auburn cleared eligibility for a top prospect named Austin Wiley in the aftermath of the NCAA investigation into their program, and will bring back enough talent to be ranked top 15 going into the year. A win at Auburn would be an indication that maybe UD is a tournament-caliber team. Don’t get your hopes up, I’m being all hypothetical.
Tulsa – Sunday, Dec. 16th
This matchup is slightly intriguing if not underwhelming. UD will take on Tulsa at Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut on Sunday, December 16th. Since making the First Four a few years back, Tulsa has been mostly mediocre, and lose about half of their scoring from a mediocre team last year. I’m going to remain skeptical about how good this version of the Golden Hurricane will be, but at the very least, we will know exactly how good they are by the time Tulsa plays UD. The early season schedule for Tulsa includes: Nevada, Utah, Kansas State and Oklahoma State. Dayton has said for years that they try every year to schedule one game in a market with a lot of alumni, this game checks that box.
Western Michigan – Wednesday, December 19th
UD needs to fill its MAC quota every year, and this is that game. Nothing special here. WMU went 17-15 last year, 9-9 in the MAC, and beat Ball State twice fairly comfortably (something which UD was not able to do, comfortably, of course) as well as SLU. They lost their leading scorer to graduation and are projected to be in the middle of conference again. They’ll get a nice check and will hopefully leave without making much of a fuss. There is a chance this game could be Penn from last year, but its slim.
Georgia Southern – Saturday, Dec. 29th
The Eagles from Statesboro, GA will close out the 2018 non-conference slate for the Flyers on the second half of back-to-back Saturdays in The Arena. This is one of the matchups UD is trying to gamble on this year with the hope that their horse will go to the NCAA tournament. Georgia Southern finished 3rd in the Sun Belt last year at 11-7 (21-12) and bring back the bulk of their production, including a fella named Tookie Brown (18ppg), to challenge for the conference title after a heavy graduation from reigning-champion Louisiana. UD has done this kind of game fairly successfully over the years (think Chattanooga, ETSU, etc) but it will always remain a crap shoot in July.
All in all, UD didn’t have to take a lot of chances with their non-con scheduling, and didn’t. With the return games of Auburn and Mississippi State already on the docket, the neutral game with Tulsa, and the addition of the Bahamas tournament, UD had a strong non-con regardless of what Neil and Co. cooked up for home buy-games. Are the home games mostly snoozers? Sure, but they really didn’t have to be anything else. Overall this schedule allows UD to mop up on some weaklings, and maybe scratch together enough in the A10 to make this a 20-win season. That’ll do for now.
Stay #LOWD, the schedule release sets the countdown in motion. See you November 7th.