Another ho-hum performance from your Flyers as the good guys take down St. Bonaventure, 86-60. Five players in double figures, including a season-high 23 from Jalen Crutcher, a Mikesell alley oop and a few Obi dunks thrown in for good measure. What else could you ask for on a cold, January weeknight?
With that pink-socking behind us, we look to what could be the toughest two-game stretch for the Flyers during conference season — visits to the Robins Center in Richmond and the PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh to take on Duquesne. Everyone’s favorite shut-in, Kenneth Pomeroy, gives Dayton a 70% chance of beating Richmond and a 76% chance of defeating Duquesne. If my Discover Arts degree has taught me anything it’s that accordingly, the Flyers have a 53.2% of winning both games.
If UD can get by both squads, even less than convincingly, the “run the table” talk can commence in an earnest and logical manner. Dayton’s toughest games remaining on the calendar would be at Virginia Commonwealth in mid-February and a trip to Kingston to take on Rhode Island on March 4th.
Looking ahead is the Devil’s music, so let’s focus on UD taking on a very tough and balanced Richmond on Saturday evening in what will be a SOLD OUT contest that, believe it or not, will be for first-place in the conference.
Chris Mooney has managed to keep the haters at bay this year, as the Spiders currently sit at 15-4 on the season, 5-1 in league play (the lone loss coming at the hands of those bullies Saint Louis). The Spiders have nice wins over Wisconsin and Rhode Island, but a inexplicable loss to Radford mars what is a decent mid-major resume. All that can change over the next few days for Richmond though, as their next two games are against Dayton and VCU. Two wins, even a split, and the Spiders are cooking with gas.
I always thought Mooney was one of the better in-game coaches in the A10. I will now use this KenPom chart to strengthen my argument:
In close games, when decisions from the bench can really make a difference, Mooney is one of the most elite coaches in the country, the tops in the Atlantic Ten — in the same category as Brad Stevens, Mark Few, Bill Self, Jim Boeheim and RYAN ARCHIBALD MILLER (was kinda surprised to see Ed Cooley’s name above the 60% plateau, and man, Andrew Toole, the head coach at Robert Morris, is a stone cold killer in tight ball games). I’ve always been a Chris Mooney fan and I’m glad to see the Spiders reemerge this season. For the A10 to be strong, it needs programs like Richmond, Rhody and SLU to be better than average.
Richmond took a bit of a hit as starting guard Blake Francis went down with an injury against Saint Louis (typical) and is out for 4-6 weeks. In his stead, freshman Tyler Burton has stepped up and admirably filled the void. Grant Golden is the big guy in the middle for the Spiders, he will be the man responsible for slowing down Obi Toppin. Many have tried, many have failed. We wish him luck.
Jacob Gilyard, the leading scorer in conference play last season, was just named to the midseason team for Naismith’s defensive player of the year. He is the Mighty Mouse of the Atlantic Ten, a diminutive fella (generously listed at 5’9″) who seems to be flying all over the court for the entirety of the game. Gilyard is one of the most entertaining dudes in the conference to watch. Nick Sherod rounds out the starting lineup, he’s the Spiders’ premier threat from the perimeter.
Matt will dive deeper into the statistical profile for the Spiders, I just wanted to quickly hit some high notes: Richmond is the second-best team in the A10 as far as offensive efficiency is concerned (109.2), they are currently ranked 46th in the land of plenty. UR is also the second-best defensively adjusted team, just barely trailing behind A-10 leader VCU (92.3). Mooney’s team is the second-best foul-shooting team in the entire nation, YET barely get to the line — only 15.7% of their points come from the charity stripe (311th).
Richmond will present a challenge to the Flyers, but it will be a stark contrast to the highly anticipated match-ups with Saint Louis and VCU. In a way, the Spiders are a Five Below version of the Flyers in that they have been successful scoring the ball efficiently while also being an above average defensive team. Instead of a team that looks to clog things up against UD, the Spiders will be looking just as much as the Flyers to light up the scoreboard and we could be in for an nerve-wracking entertaining, high scoring affair.
If it wasn’t for this season’s edition of the Dayton Flyers, the Spiders would have the best, most aesthetically pleasing offense in the Atlantic 10. Richmond has the second best offensive rating in the A10 (though they are 8.6 points per 100 possessions behind the Flyers), with a 109.1 KenPom Offensive Efficiency Metric. Though all of these metrics are slightly behind what Dayton is putting forth, the Spiders have an impressive 14th ranked in the nation effective field goal % of 54.8%, a 34th ranked 37.1% 3-point shooting percentage, and a 21st ranked 54.2% 2-points field goal percentage.
The Spiders are one of the best free throw shooting teams in the country, shooting 80.5% from the line which puts them 2nd among Division 1 teams. Though they mostly convert all their opportunities for free points, Richmond does not get to the line much though– only earning a 25.4% free throw to field goal attempt ratio. One area where Richmond does not excel is at offensive rebounding, where they are only earning 21.2% offensive rebound rate—good enough for 339th in the country.
Much of Richmond’s offensive efficiency comes from their abilities to score in transition. The Spiders are scoring 1.216 points per possession on transition, which is the 4th highest in the country. Dayton’s arachnid opposition doesn’t necessarily run a ton in games, with transition possessions only accounting for 13% of their total positions. They don’t often work fast on offense and are ranked 200th in the country in tempo on KenPom, averaging 68.1 possessions a game. The Spiders only get out in transition selectively, but when they do it is potent.
Similar to the Flyers, Richmond is efficient scoring on cut plays. This season, the Spiders are scoring 1.245 points per possession on these plays that feature cuts. This makes sense given Chris Mooney’s Princeton style offense that emphasizes constant movement, back door cuts and movement off of picks. While recent opponents have relied on athleticism and size to try and score against the Flyers, Dayton will face a vastly different challenge in the Richmond offense with their movement to try and get their good shooters open.
As we continue the Spiderman pointing meme theme for Richmond and Dayton, while the Spiders having an efficient offense grabs the headlines, their defense has been above average this season as well. They are holding opponents to an effective field goal % of 47.3, which ranks them in the top 3rd of all teams in the country. They have been able to create steals on defense effectively this season, illustrated by their 45th ranked in the country 11.3% steal rate. Certainly these are impressive figures, but there are other numbers that suggest there are areas the Flyers can find success against the Richmond defense.
The Spiders opponents have shot 49.2% from 2-point field goals, which is about the nationwide average. While teams haven’t yet to exploit the Spiders inside the perimeter, it does not seem Richmond locks down the rim. Teams have been able to score 1.24 points per shot on shots at the rim, well above the 1.17 Atlantic 10 league average. Now, teams are only taking 34.7% of their shots at the rim against the Spiders so perhaps the Richmond defense can successfully keep people out of the paint. But despite not allowing a ton of shots in the paint, it is not as if they are forcing opponents into bad mid-range shots instead. 40.9% of Richmond’s opponent’s field goal attempts have come from the three-point line, one of the highest percentages in the A10. These teams have not shot it particularly well, only hitting 29.7% on threes so far. However, much of Dayton’s success on offense has come from surrounding a NBA lottery pick with 4 shooters and the Flyer’s 37.4% 3-point % ranks 30th among all D1 teams. A team that sees opponents be efficient at the rim and concede a lot of 3-point attempts do not seemed destined to be able to stop the Flyers.
Last season, to use a technical term, Grant Golden was fucking terrible against the Flyers in Richmond’s 72-48 loss at the Arena. The Spider’s bigman scored 4 points, pulled down 3 rebounds, and had 4 turnovers in the most forgettable day in Dayton since I had two fishbowls at the Fieldhouse. Putting that stinker behind him, Golden has been a key contributor for the Spiders. He has the high rebound and block rates you would expect a 6’10” player to have, but the most intriguing stat for Golden is his 23.5% assist rate. You don’t typically see a big guy with that type of involvement creating for his teammates, but Golden helps the Spiders go inside out to draw defenses into the paint and then find his hot shooting teammates on the perimeter.
Speaking of those hot shooting teammates, Dayton will not be able to do much helping off of Golden or going under screens when guarding Jacob Gilyard and Nick Sherod. The two juniors are the best offensive weapons for Richmond, with Sherod netting a 113.7 offensive rating and Gilyard earning a 53rd ranked in the country 123.2 offensive rating. Both can light it up from deep, with Gilyard hitting 37.9% of attempts from the perimeter and Sherod hitting 41.8%. Not only can Gilyard shoot it from deep, he’s an elite finisher at the rim where he averages 1.35 points per shot when he takes it to the basket. These two might be the best two offensive players the Flyers have faced at least since Maui and UD will need a huge defensive effort to neutralize them. Unfortunately for Richmond, they will be missing a third great shooter in Blake Francis. The 6’0” junior guard was shooting 37% from three, but recently learned he will miss 4-6 weeks with a fractured sternum.
Before league play began, we had four games circled on the calendar as possible hiccups on UD’s road to the A10 title — the games at Saint Louis, Richmond, VCU and Rhode Island (I refuse to even humor the thought of UD losing a league game at home this season). While the Billikens posed issues due to their rebounding and defensive effort, Richmond is likely going to be the most balanced team that UD will face in the A10 this season. The Spiders are one of the few league teams that can keep pace with Dayton offensively and cause the Flyers issues on the defensive as well. That being said, UD wins, 73-68. We do wish the Spiders well against VCU next week, however.
Here is Obi Toppin on SVP last night in case you missed it:
Part 2 pic.twitter.com/u2l3yXuN35
— Sully (@sullymygoodname) January 24, 2020
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.