There’s no more apt way to start this recon than saying Dayton has absolutely stunk against UMass since 2006. They have won 5 of the last 15 meetings, own a 4-game losing streak at the Mullins Center in Amherst, and still trail the all-time series (dating back to 1996) with a record of 12-14. Luckily for your Daytona Fliers, this game is not in Amherst, but the last 8 meetings of these clubs in Dayton, OH has yielded a deadlocked tie at 4-4. Only the likes of Xavier has had that kind of success in The Arena in the last 15 years. It’s bleak, and pathetic, and flat-out embarrassing how much UD has struggled against UMass during this period of time. Before we get to the recap, let’s get some thoughts out of the way…
- By every discernible metric, UD has been one of the 4 best teams in the conference. We have gotten to the point in the season where a finish outside of the top 4 of THIS version of the Atlantic 10 is absolutely unacceptable. Dayton is among the conference’s best, and that’s more of an indictment on the A10 than a proclamation of UD’s superior basketball-doing.
- The minute we took the lead against GW I stopped caring about what defense AG was running in the first half. It was unnecessary to be in that kind of hole against a team as bad as GW, but we won, so who fucking cares? Let’s save debating minutiae for a loss. Once you get the W, it matters not how you got there.
- The upcoming schedule is extremely favorable to UD. The next 7 games look like this: vs. UMass, @VCU, @Bona, vs. Mason, @ Fordham, vs. Joes, vs. DUQ. With the first bullet point in mind, this has 6-1 written all over it, but the Flyers fan in me says they’ll find a way to drop that second game to someone in an inexcusable fashion. We chose this life, it didn’t choose us. Saying UD should go to Saint Louis on Feburary 5th at 16-6 (8-1) at the midpoint of conference play is not only realistic but should be expected.
- As I see it, GW gave the perfect blueprint for other A10 teams to follow when playing UD. They absolutely smothered Josh Cunningham all night, and forced someone, anyone else to beat them. Luckily, Jordan Davis was up to the task. You don’t have to be a basketball genius to deduce that this scenario will probably play out again in conference play, and someone else on the Flyers roster will need to come up big to get a win. It would also help for Josh to get the flow back at the charity stripe, as he’s gone 15-for-27 over the last 4 games after coming off a 4-game stretch where he was 16-for-18.
- Some quick stats: Dayton’s offense currently ranks 52nd-best in the country, essentially exactly where they were offensively for the majority of the 2016-17 season. While it’s well documented how well UD is shooting 2pt buckets (2nd in the country at 61%) the 3 ball has been particularly non-existent. UD is getting just under 25% of their offense from deep, 322nd in the country. They’re also in the bottom 100 nationally in 3-pointers attempted, and 3pt %. Basically UD stinks from three, but they know it and don’t rely on it. Among the A10, only SLU attempts less threes per game. That’s what the stats say, don’t get all mad about it.
*checks word count* Sorry, that’s enough, let’s talk about UMass…
The Minutemen come into the Sweater Centre on Sunday afternoon in the midst of the second season of a rebuild, much like UD. However, comparing the rebuilding of UMass to Dayton is like comparing a Chilean mud den to a 3-bedroom home in Oakwood that had a tree fall in the backyard. (that’s a nice neighborhood in Dayton for my UMass people – stick around, the jokes only get better)
Leading the rebuild after the departure of Derek Kellogg, is office accountant-turned-basketball coach, Matt McCall. A guy who undoubtedly has never worn his shirt untucked or missed church on Sunday. A real family man you could take home to moms who wont keep your daughter out late at night. Three jokes about him looking like a nerd ass enough? Alright, I digress. In last year’s recon we highlighted how UMass was underskilled, undersized and undermanned, so McCall is wisely following the successful A10 blueprint of trying to duct tape this thing back together by gambling on transfers. They would be adequately defined by saying “one year away”.
McCall limped the Minutemen to a 13-20 finish last year but has the team trending in the right direction this season at 7-8, while still being a season or two away from true relevance. It cannot be understated how depleted their roster was last year, and literally any win McCall could accumulate was an accomplishment. As is the case with 7-8 teams, UMass hasn’t done anything outwardly impressive yet, with their best win coming @ Providence, and the worst loss being Howard at home. A truly pathetic defeat.
“Either you sell dope, you pick up a microphone or you pick up a ball.”
These were the wise words of cold blooded mf’er, Luwane Pipkins, when describing the neighborhood he grew up in on the south side of Chicago. What McCall lacks in intimidation, Pip more than makes up for. For my money, there is not a better scorer in the A10 conference right now, nor a better guard, and the entirety of what UMass does on offense runs through him – in the same way UD relies on Josh Cunningham for production. Pip is currently tied for the league lead in PPG (19.5) and fourth in Assists per game (5.4). He has 30, and 36-point efforts to his name this year, and is showing an unwavering commitment to shooting the 3-point ball 7 or 8 times a game. He accounts for one-third of all shots attempted by the Minutemen. If Pip is hitting, UMass can play with anyone. If Pip isn’t hitting? UMass could lose to anyone, literally, anyone. The list of teams who rely on one player more than UMass does Pipkins is incredibly short. If you recall, last year Pip went for 25 in his first game against Gem City, and then 28 in the OT game pictured below. He cares about no one’s feelings in Dayton, OH.
Pipkins main partner-in-basketball at the other guard spot is Carl Pierre, a guy UMass got off the scrap heap last April. Pierre is a real rags-to-riches guy, going from zero division 1 offers a month before graduating high school to a very useful three-point threat and main sidekick in his sophomore campaign. Against Providence, Pierre’s 5-for-6 shooting was the key factor in getting the win. If both him and Pipkins are making it rain, this could be another episode of the series that ends poorly for the Flyers.
The only other bright (?) spot for UMass is combo forward Jonathan Laurent, a transfer from Rutgers, currently averaging 11.8 PPG to go along with 5.2 RPG, and in all honesty probably the second-best player on this team. He’s an efficient finisher around the rim that has the ability to step out and hit a few big ones, like a veteran gigolo. Curtis Cobb (9.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG) is a transfer from Fairfield who’s role has been volume scorer at guard that goes hot and cold and doesn’t really do much on the defensive end. Keon Clergeot is a skinny ass guard transfer from Memphis who can play defensive but remains utterly uninterested in scoring, and then there’s a guy named Baptiste who just started playing in the second semester, who is also a transfer, from Vanderbilt. Rashaan Holloway is still in the middle being incredibly rotund and slow. That boy has never missed a meal. Just graduate already, man. There’s a handful of other freshman that chip in around the house and make sure the cooler is filled but I’m now realizing I made this recon too long, so we’re done here.
Analysis aside, UMass kinda sucks again this season. They’re caught in a weird position of solely relying on a junior guard who might not be around long enough to see the rewards of his labor. McCall is hoping his five transfers can make an impact while Pipkins is still on campus, but whether or not that happens remains to be seen. For now, they’re trying to mesh together 5 transfers with 3 freshman in time to really give it a go next season. Without the shooting/scoring of Pipkins, the Minutemen would be deficient in just about every category. It’s worth repeating that if they aren’t hitting threes from deep, they can beat absolutely no one, and the defense is just porous overall.
UMass played SLU tough on Wednesday but will come in with a 3 game losing streak that includes an L to god awful LaSalle. This wouldn’t be the MOST embarrassing loss of the series for UD, but it would certainly be near the top. The post presence of the Flyers should be a little too much to handle, and the supporting cast for UD will have their way with the inexperienced core of McCall’s squad. I know we’ve all seen some unspeakable things in this series, but again, for the fourth time in a row, I just cannot see how the Minutemen are able to pull this one out. Defend the perimeter, win the game.
Flyers win 78-63.
Wear Red, be #LOWD