As I was watching the closing moments of UD’s loss to Oklahoma in the BAD BOY MOWERS Battle 4 Atlantis third-place game, a quote from a former Jonestown cult member came to mind. The Jim Jones devotee was asked to describe what his experience in the People’s Temple was like. “There was some good, some bad” was the man’s reply. The same can be said for the Flyers’ performance in the Bahamas.
- UD’s defense. Over the three games, Dayton gave up an average of 65 points against a trio of teams that are certainly better than anything the Flyers will face come January.
- Jalen Crutcher is slowly developing wheelbarrow balls. The sophomore point-guard played with the type of confidence (and dare I say swagger?) that belies his age.
- Josh Cunningham is….Josh Cunningham — dependable, reliable, consistent. Cunningham is the Toyota Highlander of the Atlantic Ten.
- Additionally, we keep getting glimpses of Obi Toppin’s potential. Whereas the first three games of the season exhibited Toppin’s freakish athletic ability, the games in the Caribbean revealed Obi’s ability to put the ball on the floor and even the capability to knock down jumpers. Toppin’s play this season, in my humble opinion, will be the difference between a team that wins 15-18 games and one that wins between 18-21 games.
The bad? UD’s offense. I’m not referring to Dayton’s scoring output, it’s the Flyers limitations on the offensive end that is concerning. While the UVA game was a bit of an outlier considering the Cavs’ elite defensive until, the three games did expose UD’s weakness in a half-court game. The Oklahoma contest saw the Flyers put up 24 three-pointers in a losing effort. I will make this bet with you, right here and now, the 2018-19 Dayton Flyers will not win a game this season in which they attempt over twenty three-pointers. UD is currently shooting 31% from behind the arc, which ranks them around 269th in the nation at the time of this writing.
Simply put, your Flyers are not going to outshoot many teams this season. UD averaged around 12 fast break points before the Battle 4 Atlantis, just 4 fast break points a game in the Battle 4 Atlantis — and yes, the quality of opponent factors into that, obviously. The point remains, the key to Dayton’s effectiveness offensively will be getting easy buckets, whether that be through Cunningham postups, getting out and converting transition baskets, Toppin dunks, etc.
With lessons learned, we turn to what our award-winning podcast has deemed “The Biggest Game in Anthony Grant’s Tenure.” (Which, after a quick glance, is a reasonable take.) Even the program’s Twitter account is hyping this game up.
— Dayton Basketball (@DaytonMBB) November 29, 2018
I feel like every UD home game is either sold out or close to it, so I’m not sure why the focus is on Sweaters in the seats. Bottom line, Dayton is getting an out-of-conference ranked opponent AT HOME. These chances don’t come along very often. JABLO stated that the last time Dayton defeated a ranked OOC opponent in the Arena was back in December of 2011, a 74-62 victory for LOWD Nation against the Alabama Crimson Tide. The Tide’s coach that season? Anthony Grant. Eerie.
This time around it’s the Mississippi State Bulldogs, currently ranked twenty-fifth in the nation. Dayton, as you no doubt recall, went down to Starkvegas last season and almost pulled out a W, eventually succumbing to the Bullies, 61-59. MSU returns four starters from the club, a team that finished with 25 wins and a loss in the NIT Semifinals. MSU head coach Ben Howland, which is a phrase I’ll never get used to typing, starts the Weatherspoon brothers, Nick and Quinndary, in the backcourt.
Two things: (1) How do you transition from naming your child Quinndary to Nick? Is that a clear admission that you fucked up the first time around? (2) I don’t think I would enjoy going to college with my brother (shoutout to the Biondi’s!). There’s too many negative aspects. Your sibling is going to see you at your absolute worst, experience things he can and will always hold against you. It’s a recipe for disaster.
Anyway, both Weatherspoon’s are excellent defenders and unfortunately share a proclivity for injuring themselves. The elder ‘Spoon, let’s call him Q, is the team’s leading scorer, one of the better all-around players in the SEC. You surely remember him as the player that ripped UD’s heart out last season with a last-second layup to beat your Flyers. Nick Weatherspoon is the better shooter between the two, currently hitting 57% of this threes and averaging around 11 points per game.
Aric Holman (11.5 ppg/8.7 rpg/3.0 bpg) might be a problem for Dayton. Holman stands 6’10” and has the type of athleticism that a man his size shouldn’t possess. I demand an investigation. The oddest thing about Holman is his predisposition to wander out to the three-point and jack away. I hate when big guys think they can just go around jacking wherever they want, it’s disgusting. Lamar Peters (11.3 ppg/5.6 apg) is Howland’s starting point-guard, a streaky shooter who is about as fast as a man with a basketball in his hand can be. Rounding out the starting lineup is 6’11” center Abdul Ado. Ado isn’t an offensive threat, primarily utilized on the defensive end where he rebounds and blocks shots with glee.
Miss State is an efficient squad on both sides of the floor. The Bulldogs employ a very deliberate tempo on offense and they make you work the clock on offense. Howland’s team is not a great perimeter shooting team, MSU is converting just 29.3% of their three-point attempts, which makes Dayton look like the Golden State Warriors (or so I’m told). There are parallels between Virginia and Mississippi State in the sense that they have length inside and hard-working defenders in the backcourt.
I’d expect a fairly low-scoring affair, with both teams likely scoring in the sixties. The difference will be the LOWD. I think the crowd will rise to the challenge and provide an extremely boisterous, and oftentimes dangerous, sock hop experience. Anthony Grant gets his biggest win since coming to the City of Gems. Flyers 67, Bullies 63.