A new season is upon us and I can say without hesitation that the expectations for the season are higher than they’ve ever been since we started this two-bit online rag ELEVEN YEARS AGO. The genesis of this unprecedented optimism is obvious — a fresh batch of transfers, depth Coach Grant hasn’t had at his disposal since his reign began, and a chorus of big bodies. Sprinkle in some returning talent and you got yourself a pretty tasty stew. This, of course, means the season can only end in one of two ways: despair or relief. Let’s tip it off!
The Flyers are getting things started with a nice little appetizer, the Sycamores of Indiana State. ISU is coming off an underwhelming 14-15 season, finishing 7-11 in the Missouri Valley Conference. Nevertheless, Indiana State isn’t devoid of talent. Junior guard Tyreke Key led the Missouri Valley in scoring a season ago, scoring around seventeen points a game. Senior guard Jordan Barnes will retire as ISU’s all-time leader in three-point shooting, which is nice. If you closed your eyes and pictured a white person getting stabbed waiting in line for a chicken sandwich at Popeye’s he would look exactly like Sycamore center Bronson Kessinger. So, as you can see, Indiana State does have, at the very least, the framework of a decent team capable of challenging UD.
From a big picture perspective, the first three games of the season — Indiana State, Charleston Southern and Omaha — are completely irrelevant. Get to 3-0, hope for no injuries, pray that Obi Toppin hasn’t taken any money from a “family friend,” and fly into Hawaii with everything to gain. You guys are smart, I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. Everything prior to Maui should be treated as a chance for rotations to develop and for the new guys to gel. As Flyer fans, nay fanatics, we know that an early season scare against a lower-tier squad doesn’t necessarily predict doom. We have been that road and come out the other end.
That being said, Flyers roll in this one. No sweat.
The Indiana State Sycamores are the first opponents that travel to the Dayton Decibel Dungeon, hopefully to get their check for taking a loss in a game that won’t set off the pacemakers in the 100 level of the arena. Looking at their stats last season, they had an offensive rating of 101.4 and defensive rating of 105.4 (these measure the points per 100 possession a team scores and gives up on defense), which are the equivalent of Indiana of basketball metrics, very forgettable and good for 239th and 188th in the country. While I cannot claim to be updated on the comings and goings within the Sycamore’s program, I have found that there is typically a decent correlation between metrics from the year before and a team’s performance the next year. In short, Larry Legend isn’t walking through that door.
In terms of players, Indiana State will likely rely on senior Jordan Barnes and junior Tyreke Key. Barnes had the highest usage rate for the Sycamores at 25.8% last season and had an assist rate of 19.6%. Key was the leading scorer for Indiana State last season and can get hot from behind the line, shooting 44% from 3-point range. The Sycamores as a whole got the free throw line well last season, scoring 21.3% of their points from the line which was 54th in the country. Their 35.8% free throw rate was 91st in the country and they shot 73.3% from the line as a team, 90th in the country. Not doing anything else particularly well, if Dayton can keep the Sycamores off the line, then we should get the straightforward victory for our Flyers that we are all looking for.