Dayton notched an important win on Sunday, racking up what will hopefully be a Quad 1 victory over Saint Mary’s, 78-68. While Jalen Crutcher was knocking down seemingly every shot he took, and Obi Toppin was doing “No Stoppin’ Obi Toppin” things, Trey Landers turned in yet another stellar performance for the Flyers. The senior, who is the brother of Ohio State football player Robert Landers, registered fifteen points, eight rebounds and shot a perfect 3-of-3 from behind the three-point line against the Gaels. It was undoubtedly one of Landers’ best performance in a UD uniform.
Coming into the season, there was a slight concern as to whether or not Coach Grant would incrementally reduce Landers’ minutes as the season progressed. The pervasive thinking was the emergence of Ibi Watson, as well as consistent efforts from Jhery Matos and Dwayne Cohill, would eventually result in less and less floortime for Trey. Au contraire!
Landers has been nothing short of brilliant so far this season, unreservedly embracing his role as both an experienced leader and a get-in-where-you-fit-in guy. The senior guard, who oddly didn’t start the first game of the season (Chase Johnson took his spot?), has been as consistent as a Swiss watch/banker/piece of chocolate. After a junior season that could be gently described as inconsistent, Landers has become one of UD’s invaluable players.
You know the drill, the numbers don’t lie. As you can see from the chart above, Landers is an insanely efficient basketball player right now. If you want to get specific, and from the looks of ya, I think you do, Landers’ offensive rating is currently 26th in the nation. TWENTY-SIXTH (For a reference point, Obi Toppin, who is about as efficient as they come, currently ranks 44th in the nation with a 130.3 offensive rating). When you delve into the stats, what’s most impressive is the fact that while Landers has become less involved in the offense overall, he is contributing more.
What we can deduce from this is simple: Landers knows his skill set, is completely aware of what his role is and has picked his spots like a silent assassin (and doubtlessly got a lot of shots up over the summer). Although Obi Toppin and Jalen Crutcher have received most of the accolades, and rightly so, Landers’ contributions cannot go unnoticed. While the wear and tear of a 30+ season will eventually bring every player back to earth, even men built like a brick shithouse like Trey, his play up to this point has been nearly flawless. *salutes*
Drake basketball is more of a collective than a basketball team. With nine players averaging at least thirteen minutes per game, no one is trying to bogart the ball and crush everyone else’s mellow. The Bulldogs are coming off a 24-10 season, finishing in a first-place tie with Loyola Chicago in the Missouri Valley. Four starters return from last year, so Coach Darian DeVries is expecting some return on his investment.
The Bulldogs have four players that have scored 109, 105, 104 and 100 points on the season respectively. That’s socialist roundball, comrade. No one man is greater than the sum of the team’s parts.
Drake has a legit seven-footer, sophomore Liam Roberts (10 ppg/5.9 rpg), an elite shot-blocker who will probably foul out chasing Obi Toppin around. Senior guard Anthony Murphy (10.9 ppg/4.8 rpg) is the Bulldogs’ leading scorer who made the Missouri Valley “All-Bench” team last season — which, I didn’t even know was a thing. Roman Penn (10.5 ppg/4.3 rpg) and Liam Roberts (10 ppg/5.9 rpg)? Those are two other names you should know. The Bulldogs also have a player, Noah Thomas, who has legitimate lady hair, so that’s fun.
There is one extremely important area where Drake has Dayton plainly beat: their alternative uniform. Last February, Drake rolled out some classic baby blues to help celebrate the school’s 40th anniversary of their appearance in the Final Four (Yes, Drake has been to the Final Four more recently than Dayton).
I realize it’s silly to get caught up in foolish debates over the University of Dayton’s logo, uniforms, color schemes, etc. (but watch me go!). However, that being said, who would object if Dayton’s third uniform was a Columbia Blue piece of art as opposed to that slapdash navy blue frippery they run out a few times a season? Look at that Des Moines sportscaster for chrissakes, you don’t think he makes his romantic suitors wear that in bed so he can perform?
Besides the neutral court games against St. Mary’s and Colorado, looking at the Flyers’ schedule after Maui, the only name that gave me pause was this game against Drake. Perhaps it was just name recognition, as Drake isn’t a directional school and plays in the often decent and sometimes better than the Atlantic 10 Missouri Valley Conference. The Bulldogs come into the Decibel Dungeon 8-2, with their only losses coming at the hands of teams from southwestern Ohio in Cincinnati and Miami of Ohio. The Flyers will try and make it a clean sweep for Southwest Ohio.
Drake’s approach will almost surely be to beat the Flyers with a strong defensive performance. The Bulldogs are 86th in the country in KenPom defensive efficiency at 95.6. They are among the top 100 teams in Division 1 on defense in turnover rate (22.9%), 2-point field goal rate allowed (45.4%),and block rate (10.8%). On the other side of the ball, there is not much statistically suggesting that the Bulldogs can keep up with the Flyers offense, with only their 36.5% three-point shooting percentage being a metric that could give Flyer fans pause.
Drake won’t be able to keep up with the Flyers in a high scoring contest, so they will likely try to ugly things up and play tough defense while bleeding the clock. On defense, Drake is 312th in possession length at 18.2 seconds per possession. If Dayton can create early offense, they could build up an early lead that could be tough for Drake to have any chance to come back from. If Drake can be successful in mucking it up, it could be sweaty palms time late at UD Arena.
I don’t know about you dear reader, but if a team built around defense that is from Iowa comes to town, I’m expecting a corn fed big man to rebound, block shots, and bring your daughter home from the sock hop early. For Drake, Liam Robbins fills that role. The 7 foot big man has an 8.8% offensive rebound rate, 21.9% defensive rebound rate, and 12.4% block rate, which is 17th in the country. Surprisingly, despite his size Robbins doesn’t score it efficiently in the paint, only scoring on 46.4% of his 2-point field goals and takes 43.6% of his shots from the mid-range. Liam, what are you doing my guy?
Roman Penn is an impressive guard for the Bulldogs who does very well setting up his teammates and can contribute on defense as well. Penn has an assist rate of 37.3%, good enough for 25th in the country among D1 teams and a 4.3% steal rate, which is 55th in the country. The Drake guard can also shoot the three-point shot well; hitting them at a 42% clip, but only has taken 18% of his field goals from the perimeter. It seems Penn prefers to stick his head down and drive, taking 60% of his shot attempts at the rim but only hitting 45.3% of them.
What I wrote in the Saint Mary’s recon holds true here — I don’t see a scenario where I pick against the Flyers again this season (short some catastrophic injury or “out the court” incident). So, you may ask, what’s the purpose of this section? What’s the purpose of anything? What’s the purpose of mid-major basketball? This site? Life? There are no answers. And, just like the aforementioned, it will go on needlessly.
Flyers have come out on fire the last few times out, let’s at least make things interesting and say they start out a little flat against Drake. Nevertheless, the Flyers win big, 81-65. Obi Toppin racks up 24 points and 8 rebounds. Arrogance looks good on me.
Lastly, cheers to all you psychos that sold out the GRAMBLING STATE game. You people are both wonderful and scary.
Don’t forget to pick up your “There’s No Stoppin'” shirt from Breaking T. Get free shipping by using the code “SHIPFREE” during checkout.
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.