Sully hit most of the high notes regarding the loss to Colorado in his recap, I’ll add a few more just to really hammer it home for you good folks. I’ll start by saying this — I really thought we were going to get away from it. I honestly thought Dayton would take down Colorado and just slide into the Top Ten and kinda hang around the rest of the season. I believed that UD, with wins over Georgia, Virginia Tech, Saint Mary’s and Colorado would stand against the wall and whistle while the rest of the country looked at us incredulously, wondering what the hell we were doing there. Instead, the Buffs doused a bucket of reality on the season.
A victory on Saturday night could have been the hammer on the nail of legitimacy. Sure, UD’s wins won’t jump off the page season, but they beat who they played — that’s all they can do after all, correct? The close loss to Kansas could have continued to act as a footnote during the ongoing campaign against the doubters (“And Dayton should’ve beaten Kansas!”). With the loss to Colorado, the benefit of doubt has been eliminated. Anyone who was aghast at the Flyers’ meteoric rise up the polls can point to last Saturday’s loss as proof that UD was fool’s gold. And that’s fair, unfortunately. If you are strictly looking at Dayton’s resume to this point, it hardly screams elite (that being said, a play here or there in UD’s favor would have the Flyers undefeated. But, alas, the BR chooses to only work in absolutes).
Nevertheless, we collectively turn the page. We know this team can play with anyone in the nation on any given night. That’s the great news. The sour news? Now comes the hard part. With the non-conference schedule behind us, Grambling and North Florida notwithstanding (the disrespect!), the Flyers have the somewhat inevitable task of being favored in every game remaining on the docket. Dayton is no longer in the position to build their reputation with eye-catching victories, those days are behind us. What UD has in front of it are games that can give fuel to the nonbelievers fire. Sure, there are a handful of games that will register tiny blips on the laptops of amateur bracketologists, but, for the most part, Dayton faces an eighteen game conference schedule full of potential disasters.
While a victory against Colorado could have given serious momentum to a protected seed, now the Flyers’ tournament placement ceiling is much lower. The task at hand is obvious — win, win big and win again. That’s what it left for this team to do. To regain its footing the Flyers are going to have to stomp a mud-hole in the rest of the Atlantic Ten. We are talking no survivors, a veritable Hiroshima must be dropped on the rest of the league. The talent is obviously there, but will the consistent focus necessary to dominate lesser teams night in and night out remain until March? This, ultimately, is the question that will be answered over the next three months.
Let’s put aside the fire and brimstone for a second, the Flyers have a chance to work out some aggression against Grambling later today.
Grambling has the typical profile of any HBCU squad, they’re terrible. Standing at 6-6 on the season, with wins over East Texas Baptist, Ecclesia (?), Southeastern Louisiana, Paul Quinn (what??), Louisiana Monroe and Rust (look it up, I swear), the Tigers are significantly below-average in just about every metric that matters. They turn the ball over, don’t shoot the ball well and basically run from competition. This team has no CHEST whatsoever. You are hopefully enjoying the Christmas season with your family and not even reading this. But, if you are, I don’t have much more to say about this program. It probably shouldn’t exist.
While there have been justified complaints about the non-conference portion of Dayton’s schedule, Grambling State waiting to be a nice soft pillow for the Flyers to land on after Saturday night in Chicago could be just what the doctor ordered. The Tigers stink, plain and simple. They haven’t beaten a D1 team under the KenPom rank of 275 this season and currently sit at a ghastly 290th in those same rankings. Strength of schedule, this will certainly not help.
Pretty much every vital statistic for a competent basketball team looks ugly for Grambling. Specifically worth highlighting is the Tigers 49th standing in possessions per game at 72.8, a fairly quick pace. The Tigers don’t score efficiently, an effective field goal rate coming in at a dismal 47.7%. On the flip side, they allow their opponents to score extremely efficiently, at a 54.4% effective field goal rate, and allow their foes to shoot 56.4% on two-point field goals — which is “good” enough for 327th in the country. Furthermore, their opponents are racking up assists on 62.4% of their field goals made, which is 337th among D1 teams.
Running against UD while not scoring efficiently and allowing Dayton get to the basket with ease is not a formula to beat the anymore, let alone the Flyers. If Jablo isn’t counting lob dunks by the end of the night, this whole thing will have really not been worth it. The only positive metric to pick out of the sorry bunch for the Tigers is their 34.8% free throw rate, which is the ONLY offensive stat for Grambling that isn’t among the bottom half of D1 teams.
They have players, some of them score at times, because someone has to, I guess. Ivy Smith is a senior guard that doesn’t score the ball effectively away the free throw line, where he has a very respectable 51.1% free throw rate and an 80.4% free throw percentage when he’s on the charity stripe. I know refereeing is still a sore subject after Saturday, so I will just leave it there to breathe. The other Tiger worth noting is 6’9” senior DeVante Jackson. Jackson actually doesn’t embarrass himself on the offensive end, averaging 14.5 points a game coupled with a decent 54.7% effective field goal percentage and a 55.8% true shooting rate. Jackson also draws quite a few fouls himself, but his 60% free throw percentage limits the damage he does from the line.
It would be hard not to expect the Flyers to come out a little flat to start this game. They are coming off a deflating loss and taking on a team that simply can’t (shouldn’t) hang with them for forty minutes. I’d expect UD to play a bit lazy, relying on three-point shots and fast-break opportunities to get them going offensively.
Eventually Obi and Company will simply get tired of batting Grambling around and go on like a 22-4 run. The Tigers will then give up the fight and allow the bloodletting to continue. On a podcast a few weeks ago we discussed the fact that Grant will eventually have to cut down on minutes in order to (1) get guys like Matos, Chimichanga, Cohill more burn and (2) provide some much-needed respite for Obi, Crutcher, Mikesell, et al. This, my compatriots, is one of those prime opportunities. The Flyers should roll in this one, we should see every walk-on play, and everyone hopefully goes home with a nice, easy victory to ring in the birth of Our Lord and Savior. Dayton wins, 91-63.
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.