Blackburn is out with the flu so ya boy picked up the slack over the slow week to preview the Flyers matchup against the Georgia Southern Golden Eagles on Saturday.
With one game to go in non-conference play, it is fair to say the Flyers are about exactly where everyone thought they would be to begin the year at 7-5. If you were asked to sum the team up to a person who has not followed our beloved Flyers this year, you would be simplistic in saying they are a thin team (personnel-wise) that is still figuring it out. On the surface, they have the talent to play with anyone, but not the talent or coaching prowess to beat anyone. Whether or not Anthony Grant let a few slip away from his own hands is a conversation for another day.
When you dig deeper in the weeds of this Flyers team, they won’t be going anywhere without considerable contributions from post players Josh Cunningham and Obi One. Every team’s gameplan from here on out will involve taking the duo out of the UD offense, and playing face-up on Jalen Crutcher. No one else in a Flyers uniform will be keeping A10 opponents up at night, at least not yet.
What has changed in year two of the Great Grant Rebuild is the defense, but by all measures, Dayton is a very average college basketball team to this point. In almost all cases, the things they do well (2-point shooting) are offset by other things they do not do well (3-point shooting). Of course, with the A10 in its current state, if UD exploits the paint, limits turnovers, and keeps their opponents away from the offensive glass, they are going to win most nights in conference play. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Alright enough thoughts, what’s up with Georgia Southern? Well, first off, GSU blew the doors off a D2 squad in their opener this year that was too ridiculous not to include. Look at this fucking box score. They scored 78 points…in the second half! That’s an honest commitment to disrespecting your opponent’s family.
The Golden Eagles will make the trip from Statesboro, GA, a deep part of God’s country where confederate flags fly proudly and lynchings are still a part of weeknight bar conversation. The CEO of Chick Fil-A is a GSU alum. They are led by UNC-Wilmington alum, Mark Byington, a guy who looks like his wife has cheated on him before with the neighbor. Personally, I’m hoping Mark didn’t fuck this up…
He’s also been known to get water for Lebron in a past life. You know we’re moving into the new era of college hoops when D1 coaches still have easily accessible Facebook pages.
Ga Southern comes into the game at 8-4, a formidable record for a team that was picked by many to take the bid from the Sun Belt this season. They’re deep, they’re experienced and their strengths mirror UD’s in a number of ways, except the pace at which they do them. There are only 7 teams in the country who play a faster offense than GSU, and only 3 that play at a faster pace over the course of 40 minutes. GSU is currently 11th in the country in total points per game and 7th in FG%, one spot ahead of your Dayton Flyers nationally. They’re coming off a bad loss to Radford on the 21st, and sadly, their best win of the campaign so far was at home to pitiful George Mason.
Senior guard Tookie Brown is THE dude for the Eagles and will come into The Arena letting them hang incredibly low. If GSU is able to get the best of Grant’s Flyers, Tookie will be the reason. He can shoot, he can drive, he can play defense, and would have sex with your girlfriend in your bed just to say he did it. I was watching a hoops game earlier this year where the announcers referred to Tookie as “the quintessential gym rat”, and my reaction was to initially assume there was nowhere else to be in rural Georgia besides mama’s couch, before learning that Tookie can flat out ball. Tookie just recently became GSU’s all-time leading scorer and has eclipsed 20 points on 5 occasions this season. On an ideal night, Tookie is good for 10-15 shots, and will get to the line 6 or 7 times; a true craftsman in his ability to initiate contact near the rim. Most impressively, he currently ranks 37th in the entire country in his ability to draw fouls. I do not see Saturday being any different.
The supporting cast is led by redshirt sophomore Quan Jackson. I infinitely respect the simplicity of Quan more than throwing a half-assed two letter combination in front of it to be unique, let the record show. After a mostly uninspiring Freshman season, Jackson has doubled his offensive output in basically every category, going for 15pts and 4reb per game. He averages 11 in losses, and 18 in GSU’s wins, so keeping him off the scoresheet is rather important.
Ike Smith and Montae Glenn round out the Eagles senior-heavy roster. Smith has one of the more puzzling college trajectories I’ve seen. His sophomore season he led the entire Sun Belt in scoring (19ppg), made all-conference first team, then completely fell off in his junior campaign, shot under 40% from the floor, and went for 12ppg. He has missed the last two games with injury, and I gotta be honest guys, as of this writing I’m not entirely sure if he’s going to be ready to go or not. If he is, it’s not good news for the Flyers.
Glenn will be charged with handling Dayton’s bigs all evening, the tallest of tasks. He’s a consistent post scorer who camps out around the glass and has a true disdain for shooting the three ball. He refuses. Luckily for the Flyers, Glenn is truly embarrassing at the charity stripe, going for 17-29 (58%). It would behoove the Flyers to ensure he spends a good deal of time there getting familiar.
Isaiah Crawley and Elijah McCadden round out the guys that matter. Crawley is the type of guy I’ll forget about by the time I leave The Arena. McCadden has been thrust into a larger role because of the aforementioned injury to Ike Smith. Chip Mikesell will probably be charged with defending Crawley, that should tell you everything you need to know about how dangerous he is. McCadden is the third guard in a rotation of experienced, all-conference players, he’s just asked to come in and not fuck anything up.
David-Lee Jones Jr is the bench-reserve three-point man who isn’t a white guy. I am truly baffled. Just when you think college basketball is starting to make sense to you…
The key to the game for the Gem City Cagers (as will be the case every night) will be owning the paint. GSU is an offense predicated on respecting the three ball so they can blow past you to drive or kick. Considering that Tookie will get his regardless, if UD can limit the contributions from everyone else on the floor, they shouldn’t have much trouble getting buckets when they need them in the paint. Both Tookie and Josh score 20+, Obi scoring more than Quan Jackson is the X-factor, and the Flyers pull out a closer-than-you-thought-it-would-be win, 80-76.
Wear Red, be LOWD, sell the place out for the last time in 2018.