Two games to go before things start to get interesting again. The Flyers have already wrapped up sole possession of first place in the conference and, more than likely, a protected seed which would place them in Cleveland for the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Dayton could not be in a better place right now. Do you really care if UD goes 18-0 in the league? Would you honestly be upset if UD falters in Brooklyn and doesn’t bring home the A10 tourney title? If you say yes, I believe you are lying (for what reason, I don’t know). The goal remains to get through the first weekend and go from there. Regardless of how the rest of the year plays out, the only disappointment would be not reaching the Sweet 16. The rest of the season will be a grind, anything after the Sweet 16 will be gravy.
From time to time the BBR has been known to accept outside submissions. This is one of those times. Greg Mahrer (@gmahrer), a long time reader of the site, sent over what I can only describe as a bizarre manifesto/conspiracy theory that involves Adidas, the U of D, Nike and the Toppins. Is it fit for public consumption? That’s for God to decide. Anyway, here it is, unedited in all its glory:
When I, a young 17 year old straight white male, made my decision in 2012 to attend the University of Dayton, I did so under the impression I would be attending a University with class, dignity, and morals. I thought that UD athletics and the Nike corporation had a great working relationship. My understanding was that UD would be the benefactor of jerseys that looked less modern than any picture in existence of the Showtime Lakers, and Nike would sell hundreds, maybe even several hundreds of dollars worth of UD apparel.
I thought nothing of it, until Dayton went on a miracle run to the elite 8 and were on national TV wearing those hideous uniforms. The Nike execs watching must have been appalled and disgusted that a school wearing their jerseys could look so terrible, so they made a few calls and decided that UD would get a facelift, or did they?
While Nike can’t just buy a school (ed. note: they can and do), it did seem like Dayton’s Elite 8 run came with some perks attached. UD athletics got a new logo, every team got a new set of uniforms, and most importantly UD was given an opportunity to prove to the world that Dayton’s relationship with Nike is right up there with the likes of Oregon, Ohio State, and Colin Kaepernick. With this new logo, Dayton did everything they could do to embrace the Nike brand.
And boy did they fucking nail it. Now, I know what you’re thinking, and even if there was some reason that Dayton would try and make their logo look like Adidas’, the Adidas brand is iconic and known across the world for being “the brand with the three stripes.” Surely, an Adidas backed program with the caliber and prestige of a Kansas or Louisville would be plastering three stripes all over their social media platforms, and there is no chance that they would be doing that at a Nike school, especially on the night that said Nike school clinches the Atlantic 10 regular season championship.
I MEAN, COME ON.
And to think, we have a generational talent in Obi Toppin leading this team to glory whose younger brother Jacob chose to play at Rhode Island over Dayton. I can’t imagine any logical reason for Jacob to make that decision. There’s no way that Adidas would be mad at Dayton for being all up in its DM’s and promising things would be different this time around and then not following through with a committed relationship. No chance. Jacob Toppin made this decision because Rhode Island is a great university with a phenomenal basketball program. It has nothing, NOTHING, to do with Adidas getting back at UD.
Thanks, Greg, for getting high as fuck and submitting this. You are the part of the BBR community that keeps things interesting.
Now over to Matt for our regularly scheduled bloggin’.
The first number with the Flyers trip to Rhode Island we need to discuss is 9. As in, this game between a team in Ohio travelling to one of the most eastern most states in the US starting at 9:00 PM Eastern Standard time. Fuck all the way off, CBS Sports. All the way off. None of the other BBR boyz has kids and a few are able to enjoy the perks of the Central Time Zone, but as a dad of two kids this 9:00 tip is practically a death sentence. Furthermore, I swear if this shit sandwich Butler-St. John’s game that precedes the Dayton game goes long I will burn either Hinkel or MSG down.
The arson threats are a good transition, as the Rhode Island Rams are watching as the chances they earn an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament burn slowly to the ground. The Rams have lost 3 of their last 5 games, and while there is no shame losing at UD Arena to the now #3 team in the country, losses at Davidson and home to Saint Louis have put the Rams on the wrong side of the bubble.
As of this writing, BracketMatrix.com has Rhody’s average seed at 11.24, which puts them as the second last team out (worth noting that the Richmond Spiders are the third team out with an average seed of 11.56, the A10 has a real chance of being a 1-bid team despite the clear improvements in the league compared to last year). Looking at Seth Burn’s Wins Above Bubble, which measures the difference in the number of wins a team has compared to the expected number of wins an “average bubble team” would have, Rhody has a WAB of 1.12. This shows the Rams have done what we would expect based on their schedule, but haven’t found that signature win. Perhaps the last chance of a signature win for Rhode Island to add to their resume comes into the Ryan Center in the form of the newly crowned Atlantic 10 champion Dayton Flyers.
The recent downturn in Rhode Island’s play largely coincides with the return of inefficient Fatts Russell. Prior to this downturn for the Rams, Russell had one of the biggest turnarounds from the previous season. In his sophomore season last year, Russell was one of the least efficient players in the conference. Fatts took 40.6% of his shots from three last season, only hitting 22.3% of them. A jump shot from Fatts Russell last season was a good result for a Rhode Island opponent. Furthermore, Fatts wasn’t very effective driving to the rim last season, only hitting 46.7% of shots at the rim. The sophomore had the highest usage rate of the 2018-19 Rhode Island Rams, but was one of the least efficient players on the Rhody squad.
This season, Fatts has become an all-around offensive threat. While he still isn’t a huge threat to punish teams driving to the hoop, he has improved his field goal % at the rim to 47.5%. The real improvement in Russell’s game has come from the perimeter though, where this season the junior has hit 36.9% of his attempts from three. This has seen his points per shot jump from 0.71 last season to 1.11 this season. Transitioning from a player opposing defenses could sag off of and go under screens on to a player that needs to be followed closely everywhere on the court has helped to open up other parts of Fatts game as well. This season has seen his assist rate jump up to 27%, an increase from the 22.4% he put out last season. Fatts has also seen his turnover rate decrease from 15% last year to 12.8% this year. Rhode Island seemed destined to compete with the Flyers for an Atlantic 10 crown with this new and improved Fatts Russell.
Of course we know Dayton sauntered to the top of the Atlantic 10 while Rhody fell off and now sits third in the conference. This five game dip by the Rams has seen Old Fatts rear his ugly, inefficient head. In the past five games, Fatts has only averaged over 1 point per shot against Saint Joe’s. The hot-shooting Fatts from the perimeter has disappeared, only averaging 1 point per shot from deep. We have also seen Fatts rely on mid-range jumpers more these past five games more than he has previously this season, taking 26% of his shots from the midrange compared to the 22% he had averaged this season. We know Fatts isn’t great at scoring at the rim, so if his jumper isn’t falling, he becomes ineffective. With Cyril Langevine missing the Fordham game and looking not 100% against Saint Louis, the offensive responsibility largely falls on the shoulders of Fatts. If we see inefficient Fatts lining up against the Flyers Wednesday, it is hard to see how Rhody gets the marquee win their March Madness hopes desperately need.
When the conference schedule began back in January I stated in this very space that I would have to predict a loss at some point simply because the odds dictated it. The game I mentally circled was tonight against the Kingston Rams, and I’m going to stick with it. That’s how much have a half-cocked prediction come true means to me.
This, of course, will only be possible if Fatts Russell has an efficient scoring night while the URI bigs rebound and are a factor offensively. While rebounding and scoring from Cyril Langevine and Tyrese Martin isn’t a big ask, assuming Russell gets hot against anyone right now seems like fool’s gold. Nevertheless, there’s a solid chance the Rams shutdown the Flyers from the perimeter again and score just enough to win this one. Throw in the fact that this game takes place in the Ryan Center, and Rhody absolutely needs this game for their tourney resume, there are enough X factors to reasonably side with the Rams. URI beats Dayton, 72-70.
It’s March, the perfect time to add to your t-shirt/hoodie collection!
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.