ReconU. Dayton BasketballRecon: Omaha

The Flyers are mentally Maui bound, but, wait, there's one more game to play. I really hope this isn't one of those "look-ahead" games. I'm being silly, right?

Charleston Southern signed up for forty minutes and Dayton made sure the Buccaneers got their money’s worth. A 90-61 UD victory sent CSU home with a deflated sense of self worth and an inflated wallet — a truly Marxian nightmare. Your Flyers rolled out to an early 14-0 lead, and inexplicably let Charleston score ten unanswered points before UD slowly added to their lead, going into halftime up 46-33. Anthony Grant’s squad put the foot on the gas during the second frame, sending the local folks home, satisfied with a twenty-nine point victory.

Dayton’s core four led the way: Toppin (21 pts/11 reb), Mikesell (14 pts), Crutcher (12 pts/7 ast) and Chatman (12 pts/8 ast) paced the Flyers to the win. As we have stated previously, Obi is fantastic but he alone won’t be enough if Dayton is fortunate enough to meet up with the Michigan States and Kansases (Kansasi?) of the college basketball world. The offensive output from Dayton’s top dogs, and the team collectively, has been a very encouraging sign. The biggest takeaway from Saturday night’s game were the 27 points the Flyers scored in transition. A common criticism of Anthony Grant’s tenure in the Gem City has been UD’s reluctance to consistently push the ball and score easy buckets on the break. With new found depth, and more than capable guards, it seems AG is finally prepared to let his dudes off the leash

Of course we must, must!, address the elephant in the room — UD’s half-court defense. As you can see from the impressive data chart I screenshotted from a pay-site, you’re welcome, Dayton’s half-court defense currently ranks in essentially the bottom fifth of the nation. Contextually speaking, this is very, very bad when the two opponents you have faced so far are Indiana State and Charleston Southern. But we digress.

The two biggest offenders, according to the numbers, are Ryan Mikesell and Jalen Crutcher. They rank in the bottom 96th percentile of the nation, both allowing 1.29 points per possession in the half-court. Bloody abysmal. Chatman and Cohill haven’t been that much better. Not to tell you something that you already know, but the Flyers will need to be consistently efficient on offense to meet expectations. If this was the corporate world, we’d be putting Dayton on a performance improvement plan, with every intention of firing them in sixty days.

The first three games of the season were always a mere precursor to the Maui tournament that begins next Monday. While the excitement of the annual national television appearance of, hopefully, both UD Santa™ and Red Beret Man™ appear wondrously in our dreams, the Omaha Mavericks (not an arena football team, I checked) make a house call to the Dungeon on Tuesday night. Coming off an impressive 21-11 season, the Mavs are off to slow start, two wins, two losses. To further compound matters, Omaha is playing in this year’s Cayman Islands Classic. You’re thinking, how is that a problem? A nice visit to the Caymans in late November, who wouldn’t like that? Well, what Omaha actually signed up for is the The Mainland Tournament at Omaha (Presented by the Cayman Islands Classic).

“Guys, we are playing in the Cayman Islands Classic this season!”
*cheers from the team*
“But it’s the mainland version. So we are playing a game at Colorado State and the two other games will be played here in Omaha, on our home-court.”
*shotgun cocks*

That fella up above is Matt “Private” Pile. He is the team’s lone returning frontcourt player, a double-double machine (12.3 ppg/9.8 reb). A cursory glance at Matt Pile’s profile indicates that he is a student first, athlete second. He is on every gotdamn academic honor roll you can imagine, majoring in something called medicinal chemistry. You won’t see him behind the desk at Enterprise when you complain about the soiled diaper you found in the cupholder of your Chevy Cruze. Pile is a horrendous foul-shooter, converting just 45% of his attempts from the charity stripe. How ’bout less book learnin’ and more free-throw churnin,’ nerd.

Guard JT Gibson (15.8 ppg/42% 3fg) is the Maverick’s bucket-getter. The lone senior on the roster is a Second Team All-Summit selection, the Mav’s best offensive and defensive player. He is going to enjoy UD’s defensive effort. Another player to remember is sophomore guard Ayo Akinwole. After a somewhat quiet freshman campaign, Akinwole (12.3 ppg/6.8 reb) has stepped up and become the team’s second-leading scorer and rebounder. (Sidenote: I know this is a classic look-ahead game. All the players have already packed up their Maui Jim sunglasses in their promotional Bad Boy Mowers duffle bags. While I think Omaha is good enough to stay with UD for a while, the cream will rise to the top. Fret not.)

The Omaha Mavericks continue the parade of teams that Dayton should really be beating comfortably Tuesday night, and yet Omaha could continue a discouraging trend we have seen from the Flyer’s opponents so far. While the Mavericks are by no means “good,” with their two wins coming against a non-D1 team and Bethune Cookman, they have done well in one area the Flyers have not. Coming into Tuesday’s game, Omaha have shot an above-average 36.2% from behind the three-point line. In their first two games, Dayton’s opponents shot 40% and 43.6% from deep, putting the Flyers defensive three point percentage at 41.9% so far in the very small sample of two games.

There is some good news though. While Omaha has shot it relatively well from the three point line, they do not take many of them. Heading into tomorrow night, 32.2% of their field goal attempts have come from deep, which is a mere 269th in the country (the three-point shot has really become the big ticket item in college basketball). The Mavericks make a decent chunk of their three’s, but they seem reluctant to take them. The better news is that there is not much else Omaha does well. They don’t get to the line much, represented by an anemic free-throw attempt rate of  23.3%. The Mavericks don’t grab many offensive rebounds, currently sporting an offensive rebound rate of just24.8%. Omaha has attempted a ridiculous amount of mid-range jump shots, which has accounted for 41% of their field-goal attempts this season — an average 0.85 points per possession. It seems Omaha has thumbed their nose at all of the generally accepted insights that modern basketball analytics has provided us.

Tom Blackburn

Tom Blackburn is a proud U. o' D. alum. He loses faith in humanity one day at a time, but not in you, you seem like you are all kinds of alright. Charter member of the T-Man fanclub.