People of LOWD, we are finally here. A magical, inconceivable season is about to shift into another gear as the A-10 tournament kicks off next week. A college basketball season is typically broken down into four phases: (1) regular season non-conference, (2) regular season conference, (3) post-season conference tournament and (4) post-season national tournament. Dayton has accomplished everything it possibly could during the first two phases of the year — an unprecedented ranking, record and win streak made sure of that.
As most of you know, UD hasn’t captured the Atlantic Ten tournament title since the 2002-03 season (and if we are being honest that accomplishment gets a huge asterisk due to the fact that the Sweater Centre hosted the tournament that season). The Flyers officially joined the conference in 1995, which, of course, means UD has won ONE conference tourney title in approximately TWENTY FIVE YEARS — and again, how much validity you want to give to that title is subjective. Recent history has not been kind to your Flyers, Dayton has failed to win their opening game in the past three years, going 3-5 in the A10 tournament over the past five seasons. I’d expect that to change next weekend.
But before the Flyers open up A10 tourney play on Friday at noon (the #1 seed shouldn’t be playing at 12pm btw), there is one last pink-socking to hand out.
George Washington is the last team remaining on Dayton’s hitlist. The Colonials come into tomorrow night’s game with a 12-18 record, a 6-11 mark in conference play. GW is on a slide entering the game, losers of their last four contests, 3-7 over the past ten games. First year coach Jamion Christian inherited a young team, with a thin bench, that had one of the worst offenses in the nation last season. This season was a recipe for harakiri if I ever saw one. If you seen GW play at all this year, you’d be very aware that they play at a snail’s pace offensively, their average possession length is currently 330th in the country. You will likely not have a super time if you are attending this one.
Senior guard Armel Potter (14.5 ppg/5.8 apg) is leaving Foggy Bottom shootin’. He is a prototypical volume scorer that finds a way to get to the foul line to pad his scoring average, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Freshman Jameer Nelson, Jr. (10.6 ppg/1.9 spg) has had a solid, if inconsistent season, for the Colonials. While his reputation as an elite on-ball defender proved well deserved, his perimeter shooting leaves much to be desired. Junior wing Maceo Jack’s (12.0 ppg/86% ft) performance this season is a carbon copy from last year, which, truth be told, is neither a positive or a negative. He’s a solid shooter poised to have a breakout season next year (it’s always next year in this league, isn’t it?). Freshman Jamison Battle (11.8 ppg/5.2 rpg) is a very promising 6’7″ forward, a kid capable of stretching the defense with his ability to knock down shots from behind the arc. Battle has, by far, been the biggest revelation for Christian this season.
The one thing that will stick out during tomorrow’s game is GW’s absolute indifference on the glass. The Colonials are an abysmal offensive rebounding squad and a merely mediocre team on the defensive glass. This bodes very well for Dayton. While Dayton is surely one of the more “finesse oriented” teams in the Atlantic Ten, no program in the league is as Charmin soft as GW. The days of plugging the lanes with the sons of African warlords, hellbent on brutality, are long gone. The all-time season series between UD and GW is tied 18-18, with Dayton winning three of the last five meetings. WE HAVE A TIEBREAKER ON THE LINE!
We have arrived at the final regular season game for the Dayton Flyers. While the results in the Atlantic 10 tournament don’t carry the high stakes for the Flyers as some of their A10 peers, every game outside of Saturday sees UD exit the competition with a loss. With such high stakes games on the horizon, the George Washington Colonials coming into UD Arena isn’t the worst thing in the world. Matching up with the Colonials will be a nice warm up and should offer ample opportunity to send off the two seniors and perhaps any other players who wish to start their professional career in any field they fancy.
After beating Duquesne on February 19th to win their second game in a row, GW sat at 6-7 in the A10 and was in line for a 9 seed in the A10 tournament. Things seemed to be turning around more quickly for new coach Jamion Christian than most expected. Since then, GW has lost 5 games in a row, including an 11 point loss to…Fordham?! Ok. Christian came into Foggy Bottom to clean up the mess previous regimes left behind, so expectations were low in his first year, but boy is GW not very good. Saint Joe’s and Fordham have gotten all the “this team is really shitty” headlines, but the Colonials underlying numbers suggest they might not be too far off from the low standards set by the Rams and Hawks. Steven Wright’s handy A10 tournament seeding spreadsheet (https://twitter.com/Steven_Wright_/status/1235663957140156421) tells me there is a very small chance GW will end up in the Wednesday Night Pillow Fight, but whoever the Colonials face in the second round will likely mercifully end their season.
This season, George Washington -3.50 net ratings is third worst in the A10 with only the previously referenced Fordham and St. Joe’s with worse numbers. We get that metric by taking their points per 100 possessions scored of 98.39 (third worst in the conference) and subtract their points allowed per 100 possessions of 101.88 (second worst in the conference). With those metrics, we can see GW isn’t particularly strong on either side of the court. There really aren’t many numbers that would impress with the Colonials outside of 10.4% block rate on defense they have had this season.
Instead of diving too deep into the mediocre metrics for GW, I instead wanted to spend my time here talking about Trey Landers and Ryan Mikesell and their journey at UD. We all know that players like Obi Toppin are once in a generation for schools like Dayton. Sustained success for the Flyers will not come from five start recruits or future NBA prospects, but developing the players that the big guys are passing over. Trey Landers and Ryan Mikesell are perfect examples of what successful cases of the type of player development Dayton will need to thrive at to sustain success.
Both Chip and Trey joined successful UD teams their freshman year. Mikesell was a freshman in 2015-16 on the team that won a share of the A10 and Landers joined the outright A10 Champs of 2016-17. Thus neither player got over 200 minutes their first season on those good teams. However, both players saw their role in the team grow with experience. In their next three seasons, Chip and Trey have featured in at least 50% of available minutes, with Mikesell appearing on average 64.7% of available minutes in his next three seasons and Landers 67.58% of available minutes. The two seniors were important cogs to the Dayton Flyers machine after their freshman year.
It is not just the number of minutes that have increased for both Dayton seniors. We have talked about Trey Landers having the largest improvement in true shooting % this season in all of the A10 (https://twitter.com/mattrhein86/status/1235585703519678465), but there are various metrics Trey has improved this season. So far,, Trey has seen his field goal % improve by 10.2%, his 2-point field goal % improve by 13%, his 3-point % jump up by 12.3% and his effective field goal % go up 11.7%. Not only are Trey’s shooting numbers improved this season, Trey is averaging some career highs in the numbers we associate with the “glue guy” label he often is associated with. Trey’s 6.8 rebounds per game are a career high. He is averaging 2.4 assists per game, the highest of his career. His 1 steal a game is near a career high. Trey Landers growth on offense has been incredible, but he hasn’t had to compromise the “intangible” things that he brings to the game as well.
Ryan Mikesell has been a consistent contributor for the Flyers since he missed the entire 2017-18 season with hip surgery. After earning an offensive rating of 105.5 his sophomore year, Chip’s 120.4 offensive rating his junior year and 117.2 rating so far this year help illustrate how efficient of a scorer the St. Henry product has become. Breaking stereotypes, Chip has never relied on shooting from the perimeter instead he has been able to score efficiently inside the arc. Last season Mikesell shot 68.1% from 2-point field goals and has hit 63.9% of those shots this season. This year, only Obi and Jordy are hitting a higher percentage of their field goal attempts at the rim than Chip’s 70.7%. Further signs of his growth are seen in the 10.4% turnover rate Mikesell has earned this season. This is a 4.9% improvement from last season and by far the lowest percentage of turnovers Chip has contributed to in his career.
In addition to their impressive individual growth, Trey Landers and Ryan Mikesell’s maturation as players has correlated to perhaps the most successful season in Dayton Flyers’ history. We can estimate the number of wins that a player contributed with the stat known as Win Share. Using College Basketball Reference’s Win Share stat, we can see both seniors have continued to add more and more wins for the Flyers as their career advanced. Trey has already far surprised his previous career win share total with a league game, the conference tournament, and March Madness to go while Chip’s 1.67 Win Share per 40 minutes is the highest average of his career.
Seeing Trey and Ryan progress as players over the past four years has been incredible. With all of these metrics, it is clear just how much both players have improved in their time in the red and blue. Stats aside, as a die-hard Dayton fan I want to say thank you to both Trey and Ryan. Your contributions to this team will not be forgotten.
I feel sorry for George Washington because there’s nothing they can do but just lie back and take it (shoutout to Bobby Knight). As of this writing I have no idea what the spread on this game is — I just know that you should probably lay the points. It’s Senior Night, the last time we will see Trey Landers and Ryan Mikesell (and Obi) play in the Sweater Centre. The Flyers are in “fuck you, pay me” mode, looking to close out a perfect conference season. It’s been a long season for the Colonials and wrapping up the league slate in Dayton, Ohio isn’t a scenario I’d wish on my worst enemy.
LAY THE POINTS, UD wins by a zillion. We finally, finally, move on to Brooklyn.
Wear the Red, Be the LOWD.
It’s now March, there’s no excuse to not own a BBR approved shirt/hoodie.
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.