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Recon: Northern Kentucky

UD looks to get back on track against NKU

Recon: Northern Kentucky

It’s been around a year since we’ve seen a UD loss, an extra-time setback to Colorado in Chicago. Last weekend’s loss to SMU was the first defeat at the Sweater Centre since Rhode Island came into Dayton and pulled out an overtime win against the Flyers on March 1, 2019. Since that loss to the Kingston Rams a lot has changed in our world. A whole fine mess of of rappers no one heard of (I think all of them had “Lil” in their names) were shot to death, Only Fans reimagined the way Americans digest their pornography, and US Department of Defense finally conceded that UFOs are, in fact, real. While it has been a pretty unpredictable year, it seems like most UD fans were not prepared for the feculent stench of a Dayton loss in the year 2020.

We are only two games in and I’ve never been more confused about a Dayton basketball team: Are the freshmen this far behind the curve? Can this team win if Dirt Road Johnson has an off night? (Yes, I just asked this question). Is Dayton still a Powerhouse? How would a loss to Northern Kentucky tonight affect their Powerhouse status? Who is manning the Powerhouse during COVID? What if the Powerhouse turned out to be a gay gym?

Sidebar: Did anyone know that Dayton, fucking Dayton, had streetcars? Maybe I should know this?

Like your Flyers, NKU is in a bit of a transition year. The Norse won the Horizon League last season and were on their way to the NCAA tournament before the Chinese government conspired to put an end to their happiness. Head coach Darrin Horn was ready to get himself a little pay bump after leading Northern Kentucky back to the Dance in his first year in charge, instead he spent most of 2020 in sweatpants just like the rest of us.

NKU is 2-1 on the season, with wins against Ball State and Tennessee Tech, their loss coming against Chattanooga. The Norse were scheduled to play Butler on Sunday, canceled. UD was slated to square up with Purdue-Fort Wayne, canceled. I was supposed to go to Hedonism II with my boss, canceled. Through all the confusion and gloom, Dayton and Northern Kentucky have found each other. Nature finds a way.

As far as NKU’s personnel is concerned, guard Trevon Faulkner and forward Adrian Nelson are the duo to focus on. Nelson has started the season with three straight double-doubles, and Faulkner is averaging a 15/5/4 stat line. Freshman guard Marques Warrick has been named Horizon League Freshman of the Week each of the first two weeks of the season, becoming the first Horizon player to ever achieve the feat. He is averaging 11.3 ppg and 3.7 rpg on the year.

Matt will get into the nitty-gritty in a second, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out one extremely problematic metric going into tonight’s game: NKU ranks 8th in the country in offensive rebound percentage (40.5). Watching UD give up 8-10 offensive boards will lead to a conversation I have with my old lady nearly every time I watch the Flyers.

Me: “Jesus Christ, I could have grabbed that rebound.”
Old Lady: “You wouldn’t do shit, you fucking asshole.”
*four hours of complete silence*
Me: “Good night.”

Matt…take it away.

This weekend I put together an early season graph to show every Atlantic 10 player’s usage rate and points per possession so far this season. It is admittedly a small sample, with some A10 teams not playing a game yet. Despite that, it can tell us in that small sample what A10 players are scoring efficiently and who is being used the most on offense. Looking at the Dayton Flyer’s on the plot there’s some good news and some troubling signs.

Click to embiggen

First, the good news! Ibi Watson has been able to use his ability to get a basket anywhere on the court to continue to be an efficient scorer despite being asked to be a larger part of the offense. Though they are slightly below the average usage rate we see in the graph, Chase Johnson and Jordy Tshimanga have been able to contribute on offense as well with both netting an above A10 average in points per possession.

Now the bad news. At least offensively, the UD backcourt is not putting enough points on the board given their usage on offense. Jalen Crutcher is averaging 0.79 points per possession on 23.4% usage rate while Rodney Chatman 0.72 points per possession on 20% usage. That’s just not going to cut it. Contributions from guys like Chase and Jordy are great and help the Flyers immensely, but a senior leader like Jalen Crutcher needs to be scoring more and scoring efficiently if the Flyers want to compete at the top of a tough Atlantic 10.

After a buzzer beater loss featuring a few disappointing performances, the Northern Kentucky Norse are a decent team to bring into the Arena to try and get right. Though winning 2 of their first 3 games, looking at the Norse’s number there seem to be some weaknesses that Dayton can exploit and bring that feel good feeling back. With an offensive rating of 98.8 points per 100 possessions and 102.2 points conceded per 100 possessions, NKU seems rather mediocre on offense and bad on defense.

The Norse aren’t a prolific offense, especially when it comes to jump shooting. So far this season they have only hit 29.6% of attempts from three. They have hit 40.7% of their jump shots inside the arc but we’ve learned that those shots can be an efficiency money pit and that’s only netted out to a 0.81 points per shot. NKU are scoring efficiently when they do shoot at the rim, scoring 1.23 points per shot there. However, their shot selection is pretty evenly distributed between shots at the rim, 2-point jumper, and threes. The Norse are taking shots they don’t seem to be particularly good at just as much as the gimmies at the rim.

The one area Northern Kentucky do excel in is on the offensive glass. Though a team like NKU with an offensive rebound rate of 40.5%, 8th best in the country, will put the fear in Flyer fans. However UD did pretty well on the glass against SMU and Dayton out-rebounded the Mustangs 34-29. It will be vital for Dayton to hit the glass hard again given the only place the Norse score efficiently is near the rim.

On other end of the floor, teams have been scoring at the rim nearly at will against Northern Kentucky. An overall 52.9% effective field goal % conceded is mostly due to teams scoring 61.9% of their field goal attempts at the rim, which is equal to 1.24 points per possession. NKU are also allowing most of their shots at the rim, so there should be plenty of chances for Chase and Jordy to continue to score and hopefully Jalen to light up the scoreboard like we are used to.

NKU junior Trevon Faulkner certainly gives off poor man’s Jordan Goodwin vibes. The 6’3” guard seems to be a good rebounder despite his size, earning a 7.2% offensive rebound rate. Faulkner also does well to set up his teammates on the floor, with a 23.5% assist rate but does not score the ball efficiently on his own. His backcourt partner Bryson Langdon has gotten the largest share of playing time of any Northern Kentucky player, but doesn’t really do much besides shoot threes and get fouled.

Jordy, Chase and Mou Sissoko will be tasked with battling Adrian Nelson and David Bohm on the boards. The former has the 6th best offensive rebound rate in the country at 22.6%. An Adrian Nelson rebound has usually been the Norse’s best offense so far this season, with his 60% effective field goal % by far the best of any NKU player. Nelson has taken 60% of his field goal attempts at the rim, converting on 73.3% of them good for 1.47 points per possession. If Dayton can keep Nelson from getting the offensive rebounds that he so easily converts to points, they will be on their way to victory.

A three-point victory over Eastern Illinois, a game that was almost taken to overtime at the buzzer, and a two-point loss to SMU, a game that was won at the buzzer, don’t necessarily inspire a lot of confidence. However, I refuse to believe that Jalen Crutcher will put up three stinkos in a row. Crutch gets back on track, Dirt Road continues his ascension and Ibi Watson scores the quietest 18 points you’ll ever see. The early line had UD as 11.5 point favorites, and although I haven’t placed my wager yet, which will reflect a huge shift in the spread, a sane man would have to like NKU getting almost a dozen points. Flyers 67, Thee Norse 61. #LOWD

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