After a perfect 3-0 start, as the kids say, things start to get real for Anthony Grant and his Fly Boys next week. The Flyers head to Hawaii looking to at least add another SEC scalp to the Atlantic 10’s growing collection of victories over the conference where “it just means more”. An opening game victory of Georgia would set the Flyers up to possibly secure a few more power 5 wins in Maui, but the real mission besides avoiding Bill Walton all weekend is to get any win in their first two games in Hawaii to avoid the likely shit sandwich that is a match-up with Chaminade in the loser’s bracket (with no offense meant to Dayton’s Marianist sister school).
While it hasn’t been a perfect three game stretch for the Flyers, with a few issues such as rebounding and defense popping their head up, Dayton has taken care of the necessary business heading into their trip to paradise. While fans can rightly be concerned about the Flyers woes rebounding and on the defensive end, the Dayton offense has thoroughly punished the mediocre teams that have come through the Decibel Dungeon.
Ken Pom has the Flyer’s adjusted offensive efficiency at 107.6, which is 26th nationally (editor’s note: how good they are scoring the ball for you simpletons). They are 3rd in the country at effective field goal percentage at 62.7% and 1st in the country in 2-point field goal percentage at 72%. While Dayton has struggled keeping opponents off the glass while on defense, they have been able to get some offensive rebounds themselves with a 34.7% offensive rebound rate, which puts them at 59th in the country. They Flyers have also done well limiting turn-overs, only losing the ball on 17.4% of their possessions, good for 90th in the country (out of 353). This season Dayton has been able to score as often as a senior in Tim’s at 2am, and has succeeded in not turning the ball over at an alarming rate.
Offensive efficiency is made easier for a team with a constant highlight machine like Obi Toppin. Obi has lived up to expectations thus far, averaging 23.7 points, 9.7 rebounds, and is in the top 40 nationally in effective field goal and true shooting percentage. While Toppin has been impressive and lived up to all the preseason plaudits he received, Dayton’s guard play has been crucial so far in protecting the ball and getting the Flyer’s offense to tick. While newcomers Rodney Chatman and Ibi Watson have put forth impressive performances so far, Crutcher has emerged as one of the most important players on the Flyers roster. Due to roster turnover when Anthony Grant first came to Dayton, Crutcher was forced into more minutes than many would have expected for him as a freshman and it seems the experience early for the Dayton starting point guard has helped round him into an all-around player as a third year starter.
While it has been against three teams that could compete on the AAU circuit and are all ranked over 160 by Ken Pom, Crutcher has gotten off to a great start to the season. So far he has averaged 11 points, 6.7 assists, and 1.3 steals per game so far. Most importantly, Crutcher has only committed 5 turnovers this season, averaging only 1.7 per game. The Tennessee native has always been able to create scoring chances for his teammates, with very impressive assist rates as a freshman and sophomore at 26.1% and 28.3% respectively. His play-making skills seem to have even taken a step up this season so far, netting a 29.9% assist rate which is among the top 150 players nationally. Turnovers however have been a bit of an issue for the Flyer point guard up to this point in his career, with a 20.8% turnover rate as a freshman and a 19.8% rate as a sophomore. So far this season, Crutcher has only turned the ball over 3 times which is good for a 12.3% turnover rate. It is early against tomato can opposition, but Jalen Crutcher has done much better this season valuing the ball.
Not only did we see Jalen Crutcher continue to set up teammates to score, but he is a potent threat to score himself. When his career began, it seemed Dayton fans assumed Crutcher would fill the role that longtime point guard Scoochie Smith vacated for the Flyers. The two guards are a similar size, but Scoochie relied on his shooting from distance where he never averaged below a 40% 3-point shooting percentage. Crutcher has never been a great shooter from deep, averaging 34.5% shooting from the 3-point line for his career. However, Jalen Crutcher has shown an aptitude in scoring at the rim this season that has really helped his offensive output.
Throughout his whole career, Jalen Crutcher has been very good at finishing at the rim. A few games into his junior season, Crutcher has never had a field goal percentage of below 60% on attempts at the rim and averages 1.21 points per possession on shots at the rim. While he has been good at finishing at the rim, we see that Jalen Crutcher certainly was not utilizing this shot enough. His freshman year he only took 18.5% of his shots at the rim, while his sophomore year that bumped up to 26.6%. Compare that to the early results this season, where 34.5% of his shots have been at the rim.
What we really like to see here is that the basketball analytics enemy that is the mid-range jump-shot has gone down for Crutcher since last year, while these more efficient shots at the rim have gone up. Often times when a player takes more of a certain type of shot, the efficiency of that shot starts to dip. However, even though he has taken a larger percentage of shots at the rim, Crutcher has made 60% of those shots, nearly identical to the 60.8% he averaged last season. In the clip above against Omaha, we see a great example of what Crutcher does best. He beats his man off the dribble and then adjusts mid-air to complete a tough finish.
The obvious caveat to all of this praise for both Crutcher and the Dayton offense is that it has come in the minuscule sample of 3 games against teams that were brought in to be metaphorical lambs to slaughter to clench the again very metaphorical low-major blood lust of the 100 levels of the new UD Arena. Crutcher continuing to attack the rim will be vital for Dayton’s chances this year. As opposing teams zero in on Obi Toppin, Crutcher will surely get mismatches on defenders and open space from Toppin’s gravity drawing defenders. If Jalen can continue to not settle for mid-range jumpers and attack the basket, he can continue to be an offensive threat for the Flyers.
(editor’s note: you can follow all of Matt’s astute analytical takes on twitter @mattrhein86)
Wear red, be #LOWD, Sully is dropping a podcast tomorrow morning recapping the first three games of carnage and bringing on Anthony Dasher from UGA Rivals to preview the opening game in Maui.