Another rudimentary victory for your Flyers this weekend against Duquesne. The Dukes were knocking down shots in the first half, getting easy buckets in the paint and essentially played as good as a first half as they could against Dayton. The Flyers shot just 2-of-10 from three in the first frame, Jalen Crutcher was held scoreless and yet Duquesne could only muster a two point edge going into halftime. A handful on A10 teams have a puncher’s chance against UD, the Dukes among them. However, for Dayton to lose a conference game, at this point, their opposition has to play an almost perfect game and hope Dayton isn’t knocking down shots from three.
That being said, if you let up for even a few minutes against UD, it’s gonna be tough sledding over forty minutes. This was the case on Saturday. Clutcher keyed the Flyer attack in the second half, scoring 17 points and knocking down a pair of key three pointers. UD put the pedal to the floor midway through the second half and next thing you know, the Flyers were up 17 with eight minutes and change to go. That was all she wrote. Dayton moved to 14-0 in the conference, with a chance to lock up first place in the league against Mason tonight.
- Ibi Watson’s struggles continue. Watson went 0-for-3 from the field and played an extremely uneventful ten minutes. The junior transfer has endured an extremely frigid February — he has shot 2-of-15 from three during the month, missing his last nine attempts. UD desperately needs Watson’s juice off the bench, let’s hope he rounds back into shape come mid-March
- We might have seen a glimpse of AG’s strategy going forward in the second half of the Duquesne game. Obi and Crutcher played the entire twenty minutes, while Chatman, Chip and Landers racked up 17+ minutes each. A few weeks ago we mentioned on this very site, as well as on a podcast, that Grant’s focus at the end of the season may center on limiting his bench exposure and running his key guys for as long as they can physically go. While not much was expected from UD’s reserves this season outside of Watson, the lack of class in the A10 has mitigated the Flyers’ inconsistent (to put it kindly) bench play. Dayton’s lack of production off the pine has obviously not been a significant factor in league play, but it will clearly be a factor come tournament time.
- I’m starting to think we will not see pre-conference Rodney Chatman again this season. Chatman is shooting 34.8% from the field in conference play, connecting on just 30% of his three-point attempts. His flatlining is easily the most troubling trend during what has been the promised land of UD hoops. At this point, it feels like Chatman is going to get 30-35 minutes a game by default. Cohill has provided a spark the past few games, but he certainly is (a) not a primary ball-handler and (b) not good enough to justify extended minutes. Watson’s recent decline has forced Grant to cut back on his minutes, which ensures Chatman’s continued presence on the floor. The hope, obviously, is that both Watson and Chatman (shit at this point we’d settle for just one of them) to reemerge over the next few weeks.
We have mercifully reached the tailend of the Atlantic Ten regular season schedule, just four games are left on the docket. The visit to Rhode Island, on March 4th, is the last remaining challenge. While we’ve spent the past six weeks tapping our fingers waiting for the field to be announced, we’d be remiss not to suck every morsel out of what remains ahead. Like a small man in prison, we must learn to enjoy every pink-socking.
The game tonight against George Mason is a dual reminder of (1) just how far we have come and, (2) how things tend to remain the same. While the Flyers have already wrapped a high seed in the NCAA tournament with four games left in the regular season (we’ve come very far!), everyone at home will be watching the game against the Patriots on their laptops (some things remain the same!). Streaming a UD game will be a nice nostalgic touch for us all.
Over the years, every Flyer fan worth his salt has had this EXACT scene play out with their significant other:
INT. LIVING ROOM – NIGHT
FLYER FAN sits on couch, bent at the waist intently staring at a laptop that sits on a coffee table. A plate of leftover spaghetti goes ignored next to the computer. SIGNIFICANT OTHER enters the room, does a double-take towards FLYER FAN with a bemused expression. The family dog, a boxer named CHAMP, naps peacefully on the floor.
What are you doing?
(eyes do not leave the screen)
Watching the Dayton game.
SIGNIFICANT OTHER, with a confused expression, ponders the comment for a beat.
Why don’t you watch it on the TV?
FLYER FAN immediately flies into a rage. He stands, grabbing the now cold plate of pasta in one quick motion and throws it against the adjoining wall. The plate smashes into pieces as marinara sauce and noodles slowly drip down the fading wallpaper. CHAMP scurries quickly out of the room. SIGNIFICANT OTHER bursts into tears as FLYER FAN collapses into the couch, head in hands. It’s happened again. SIGNIFICANT OTHER begins to hurriedly collect her keys, purse and coat.
(screams behind her as she opens the front door)
I’m going to my parents house!
FLYER FAN does not offer a retort, it would be fruitless. He sits up slowly, sinks further into the couch, emits a loud sigh. CHAMP strolls back into the living room, a handgun held firmly in his mouth. The dog slowly walks over to FLYER FAN, cautiously. FLYER FAN takes the gun, a worn .38 revolver, from his beloved pet’s mouth. FLYER FAN examines the weapon briefly, spins the barrel and places it to his temple. He quickly glances at his laptop.
(to himself, mutters)
How the fuck do you lose to La Salle?
EXT. SUBURBAN STREET – NIGHT
A MAN in his fifties slowly jogs down the street. He hears a gunshot in the distance and stops dead in his tracks. Silence, the MAN looks around for a few seconds before beginning to walk quickly in the other direction nervously. He pauses as he hears the the increasingly louder sound of pattering feet coming from behind him. It’s CHAMP running down the street towards him. The dog races right up to the MAN.
(bends down to pet CHAMP)
How’s your night been, boy?
(staring attentively into the MAN’s eyes)
FADE TO BLACK
Prior to the Dayton victory at the Richmond multi-purpose room last week, we tried to dissect the numbers from the RPI Rams loss to George Mason. While the woes that the commuter school in Richmond the past week or so continue to be laugh out loud funny for Flyer fans, the loss at home to George Mason still a surprise. While the Rams seem to be lacking the CHEST to do anything of note outside of planning an NIT game around Market Day night, losing to the Patriots really poured salt in the wounds of the guy who like to cosplay as a Ram because friends, George Mason stinks.
In the forensic exam of their upset over VCU, the perimeter shooting of the Patriots helped propel them to victory. Mason shot 40% from deep in that game, much higher than the 31% Mason has averaged this season. It’s not just from the perimeter that Mason struggles to score. With an offensive rating of 100.12 (which measures how points per 100 possessions a team scores), the Patriots rank 11th in the A10. They are only shooting 47.8% from 2-point field goals this season, which firmly puts them in the bottom third of all Division 1 teams. Their effective field goal % of 47.4% is 273rd in the whole country, showing the Patriots struggle to put together efficient offense consistently. The struggle to score efficiently for George Mason largely has come down to their shot selection this season.
A common theme this season in these previews has been examining how shot selection effects offensive efficiency. To summarize, mid-range jump shots typically are inefficient shots. While there are certain exceptions to this analytical rule, for the most part it’s typically a bad shot for a college basketball player. Apparently this news hasn’t made its way to Dave Paulsen. This season, Mason has taken 5% more of their total field goal attempts from the mid-range than any other Atlantic 10 team at 32.9%. The Patriots are scoring 0.68 points per shot from those mid-range shots, which is slightly below the conference average. Taking a lot of below average efficiency shots? You’re going to have a bad time.
As we mentioned earlier, Mason is a bad shooting team from the perimeter and only is averaging 0.93 points per shot from deep. Yet compare that what they average from the mid-range, the shots from three are much more potent for Mason. If we move closer to the basket, Mason has actually been efficient in their shots at the rim this season, averaging 1.24 points per shot there. Yet the Patriots have taken the same percentage of shots at the rim as the have from mid-range jumpers, 32.9% for both. If the Patriots take a large chunk of their field goal attempts from jump shots either from three or the mid-range, it is tough to imagine how they keep up with the Flyers outside of another outlier performance like the had last week.
Of course taking a lot of jump shots and missing a large portion of them leads to the two words that keep Dayton fans up at night, offensive rebounds. There are plenty of offensive rebounding opportunities this season for George Mason and they have done well corralling them. The Patriots have a 33.2% offensive rebound rate, which is 34th best in the nation. Yet, they do not necessarily make those opportunities count, only scoring 0.97 points per possession on offensive rebound put backs. This puts them 11th of 14 teams in the A10. Now, offense can come from teams resetting after a rebound and not exclusively just from put-backs. Given Mason’s overall struggles on offense though, we can presume the Patriots aren’t the threat to capitalize on second-chance points like a Saint Louis, Duquesne or VCU would.
On the other side of the ball, Mason has been competent playing defense this season. They have held opponents to a 48.9 effective field goal %, turned over opponents 19.3% of the time, and have a team-wide block % of 13.3%. All of these figures are above the nationwide average in Division 1, so Dayton won’t necessarily be able to coast on offense in Fairfax Tuesday. In a theme of the season though, the Patriots opponents have only shot 31.6% from three this season, but they have allowed an above average 38.2% of field goal attempts from deep. Yet again, I’ll remind you of the theory that variance runs wild (see a bad Mason team shooting 40% from three against VCU) in individual game three point shooting. How often a defense allows teams to shoot from three is a better indicator in their defensive abilities.
Mason may have been able to get away with letting Loyola of Maryland shoot 40% of their shots from deep but only hit 23% of them. Letting the 36.9% shooting from three Flyers take so many threes could lead to trouble for Mason. I may sound like a broken record harping on the Flyers abilities from deep the past few weeks, but the ability to have four starters (including No Stoppin’ Obi Toppin) shooting over 34% from three helps them go inside out on offense so effectively with a guy like Obi.
The Flyers opened up as 12 point favorites in the desert, and I feel like it is a little low. George Mason’s offense is simply shameful, I don’t see any feasible way for the Patriots to keep pace with UD for forty minutes. The one facet of the game that Mason does at an elite level is crashing the offensive boards, a sore spot for the Flyers all year long. That being said, GMU would need at least thirty offensive rebounds to have a chance in this one. Is this hyperbole? I’m not even sure at this point.
At this point in the season we are essentially focusing on the minute details. Specifically, at this point, we are hoping for the continued confident play from Cohill and a breakout game from either Watson or Chatman. Again, not to beat a dead hung horse, Mason is exactly the type of team that provides ample opportunity for offensive improvement. The Flyers win a laugher, 85-69. UD heads into the #LOWDBOYZ weekend with a perfect 15-0 conference record. STAY LOWD and charge your laptops.
Lastly, thanks to everyone who has purchased shirts/hoodies. Please continue to do so.
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.