Two games into the season and we can already establish some certainties: Obi Toppin is going to be a major contributor (how much he contributes may be directly tied to the team’s success this year) and Dayton is pressing forward with essentially an eight-man roster. While rumors of Toppin’s abilities were bandied about last season, the fact that Anthony Grant had decided to shorten his bench comes as a surprise to the Sweater Nation — and the tweets from Frankie Policelli’s mother indicate the decision to redshirt her son was a bit of a shock to even UD’s inner circle. Grant’s comments suggesting that Policelli has a “bright future ahead of him” is the type of statement you make when an incoming freshman simply isn’t ready to play night in and night out on the D1 level.
While Policelli could see the court if Dayton suffered a season-long injury along the way, it does raise concerns over the amount of minutes the Flyers’ starters will be tasked with going forward. Although Josh Cunningham has not laced up his sneakers yet this year, you’d have to assume that his numbers would line up with the rest of Grant’s starting lineup — somewhere between 28 to 32 minutes a game. I will grant you that 18-22 year old kids can sustain a season-long grind that entails playing around thirty minutes a game. However, with Cunningham and Mikesell, you are talking about two kids who have already experienced significant injuries, and are obviously more prone to get hurt going forward. Obviously hope for the best, but a move like this just seems like Grant is tempting fate. We shall see.
This quote from Coach Grant in the Springfield News-Sun is educative to say the least:
“We like having Josh available,” Grant said, “but you can’t control injuries. Next-man up mentality. We were a little short-handed. We had a couple of guys cramping over the course of the two games because of the extra load of minutes we had to play guys, but we got a chance to see some different combinations on the floor. We had a chance to look at some different lineups. I always felt if you can go through that adversity early in the year, just learning about yourself, that gave us a chance to learn a little quicker about ourselves. Obviously, once you add Josh back to the mix, you can see some different combinations that may be able to work well together based on the experience we got in the first two games.”
So, let’s follow the logic here. On one hand Grant is placing the blame on the early season cramping (ALWAYS HYDRATE!) on “the extra load of minutes we had to play guys.” Which is fine, I get it, but that’s an issue Grant created for himself by not giving Frankie Policelli any run off that bench (and you have to wonder the wisdom in playing your starters an average of thirty minutes per game against the likes of North Florida and Coppin State). Grant’s concession that “adversity” is part of the process is certainly true, a lesson he certainly had ingrained into his head after last year’s roster-management debacle.
That being said, it’s great that UD was able to “see different combinations on the floor,” but, unfortunately, none of those lineup sequences included Policelli. In sum, we have a coach that acknowledges the calamities that often occur over a 30+ game college basketball season, YET seems to paint himself into a corner by ensuring that if someone on the roster goes down for a significant amount of time Policelli will have to step in and play solid minutes without any playing experience whatsoever. That’s some dice rolling.
On a positive note, Josh Cunningham appears ready to suit up against Purdue Fort Wayne. Perfect timing, right? I’m glad his hand injury healed enough so he could get some minutes before Dayton’s uber important trip to the Bahamas next week. Just fantastic timing, guys. The Mastodons have taken two absolute dumptruckings, from UCLA (96-71) and Ohio State (107-61), earned victories over two D2 schools and actually feature a legit NBA prospect. It’s a bizarre team profile to say the least.
I remember I used to hate playing bad teams at night. These early season games drag on. You missing the party
— Lethal Weapon XV (@CharlesLittle15) November 11, 2018
John Konchar, a 6’5″ combo-guard, is a poor man’s Jimmer Fredette in the sense that he can get to the basket almost at will, is a better athlete than you’d expect (because you know) and doesn’t need the ball in his hands to make things happen. Konchar averaged nineteen points and nine rebounds against the Bruins and Buckeyes, he is going to get his against the Flyers. Konchar is one of only four active players in the nation to have scored over 1,300 points in his career. A kid from West Chicago, IL ended up having a pretty fantastic career at a small school that seems completely made up (a result of changing the name of the institution from IPFW to Fort Wayne to Purdue Fort Wayne over the course of four years. Which is what legitimate schools do, obviously).
PFW (formerly IPFW) doesn’t start and end with Konchar. You may not know this, but in order to field a college basketball team, each squad is required to have a roster of at least five players (officially: “A team consists of 5 players, but may start with 4 players. A team must have 4 players on the court at all times. Exception: Three players are allowed if a player cannot continue due to an injury or he/she has fouled out of the game.”) — senior 6’2″ guard Kason Harrell is one of those players.
Harrell is an excellent three-point shooter, shooting around 40% for his career entering this year. Harrell is a bit turnover prone, PFW’s best perimeter defender and is pretty goddamn fast. The Mastodons have six players averaging between 6-10 points per game, I’m getting close to 1000 words on this recon so I’ll just offer two other tidbits: (1) Freshman Jarred Godfrey is an Eagle Scout so he is definitely swimming in northeastern Indiana puss and (2) Junior Matt Holba transferred into the program from Lehigh, who does that?? Holba is readily reducing his lifetime earning potential to play in the Summit League for two years. Just mind-boggling.
Let’s cut to the chase, there are only two aspects of this game that have the potential to be either entertaining or elucidating — Josh Cunningham’s form and the possibility that John Konchar could score 30+ and lead PFW to the upset, perhaps both. My guess, Dayton wins this one 75-55, Cunningham racks up his first double-double of the season (17/11) and the Flyers head to the Bahamas without a blemish.