Before Dayton even tipped off against Northern Kentucky on Tuesday night, I went into the drafts folder and I jotted down this surely grammatically incorrect sentence, being certain it would be as true by game’s end as it was that afternoon:
The game against NKU on Tuesday was destined to do one of two things for this year’s version of Dayton: keep the jury out on their trajectory until at least Saturday OR give fans a very harsh realization of exactly how much “build” there is in the word “rebuild” when it comes to our Flyers this year.
It is tiring being right so often, in case you were curious…
Dayton limped out of the gate playing their worst basketball of the season, only to adjust, get the wheels greased, and eventually cruise to a 6-point victory that wasn’t as close as the score indicated. There are still countless questions about UD’s lineup, the bench, the rotation, the rebounding, the turnovers…but this is why you schedule “Get Right Games”…warm bodies must be brought into The Arena and paid to put a win on UD’s schedule. It’s as integral to college basketball as hookers on campus visits. One cannot exist without the other. (thanks to Jablo for the photos)
As you saw me mention above, the first four minutes of Tuesday nights contest ended up being UD’s worst of the season. Northern Kentucky (known for playing a particularly unique zone-defense) seemingly confused the Flyers early-on and by the first media TO I found myself wondering why there was so much standing around on offense. I wrote on a notepad that it looked like UD had no plan for how to counteract the zone, and they would look that way until about halfway through the first frame. Thankfully after the game with hindsight to my advantage I believe we can chalk up the slow start to the minimal amount of preparation done towards the Norse. When you have 48 hours to prepare for a team, you likely aren’t going to be able to effectively come out of the gate firing against an established defensive strategy thats new to you. Real galaxy brain shit here, I know.
The lifeless offense continued being lifeless until UD found themselves down 16-8 in most embarrassing fashion, with Jalen Crutcher and Ibi settling for deep threes and “hero-ball” (this is what I call it when you exclusively go 1-on-1 like the NBA to get a bucket) which obviously did not work. UD then began to use the fast break to their advantage and rattled off a 9-0 run sparked by 5 straight from Ibi, and before you could blink the good guys took the lead back at 17-16.
After Jordy hit the pine things started to really open up for UD, and I do believe they will be at their best this season going small and getting back to being as close to last year’s offense as they can – constant ball movement, inside-out passing, good spacing, first man with the open look shoots. The last few minutes of the half also gave UD fans their first glimpse of an actual bench contribution when RJ “Skinny Pollard” Blakney cashed a pair of buckets and an offensive board into the box score.
After trading leads 10 different times in the first half, UD used another 9-0 run to go into the break up by four – Jalen, Ibi and Dirt Road (DRJ for short) cashed in 30 of UD’s 36 (something tells me that will be a theme for the rest of the season). All in all, after a slow start, it was hard to be disappointed in UD’s first half, if you’re willing to put aside the turnovers. More on that later.
I’m encouraged by the last 10 or so minutes. The defense in a work in progress but offensively they look so much better playing smaller. The ball moves. It’s how they should be playing. Defense will catch up over time. Get the offense right.— Adam (@adamg1224) December 9, 2020
In the second half we began to see more of a traditional December game in The Arena: build a comfy lead, sit on it too comfortably, make Flyer fans sweat out a completely unnecessary stretch in the last four minutes, and eventually send everyone home happy. UD kicked things off with a 6-0 run and quickly ballooned the lead to 15 thanks to a plethora of NKU turnovers that we can only assume were committed to keep up with the Flyers pace of turning the ball over. The combo of Jalen/Ibi proved to be a little too much for the Norse, who very clearly didnt have a player on the roster capable of going bucket-for-bucket with either name mentioned, and the two-man game between Jalen and Chase finally started to sprout leaves. That same two-man game will be absolutely critical to UDs offensive success moving forward, since we can all agree that manufacturing buckets has been particularly challenging up to this point in the early season.
I got all the way down to this part in the recap without giving credit to NKU for the effort on Tuesday night. They were outmanned, outgunned and frankly just couldnt match the talent on the floor, but goddamnit those boys came to Dayton to play 40 minutes. I’m always happy to give respect to a team that competes until the final whistle, and NKU certainly falls into that category. By the 12 minute TO I found myself not being all that concerned with the inevitable outcome of the game, and I was right to feel that way. With ten minutes to go, and down 7, NKU missed back-to-back threes, and it just felt like that was going to be their chance to fully get back in the game…and it was. UD would try their damndest to keep it interesting though – bringing in Christian Wilson who immediately got attacked and gave up a bucket, and then subbing in giraffe-on-ice Zimi Nwokeji, just to see if NKU was paying attention. With all that said, the game is never close if UD turns the ball over half as much as they did (22 times) and alternatively, NKU probably walks out of UD Arena with a win if they do any better than 1-for-12 from 3pt land in the second half. Alas, NKU couldn’t make a long range bucket to save their life, and Dayton was not bad enough to lose to a clearly inferior team. NKU forced the issue at the end, getting within four, but it was not to be. UD improves to 2-1 and looks ahead to Mississippi State on Saturday.
I have a lot to say, so let’s get more organized about The Takes section today. Here’s what we know and still don’t know about the newest version of the Flyers:
What we know: The bench isn’t worth a shit
Regardless of how you feel about Christian Wilson getting considerable minutes, what continues to be most concerning are the scholarship bodies in the shadows who have yet to take off their warmups. Through 3 games this season, UD has a grand total of 12 bench points, and 10 of those have came from RJ Blakney, who continues to look like the only newcomer who actually belongs in a college rotation. Sissoko has certainly been a serviceable replacement, and won’t be asked to do all that much anyways, but beyond those two…there’s literally nothing. Zimi has looked overwhelmed and constantly reminds me of a giraffe walking across an ice rink, but at least I can have an opinion of him thus far because the other freshman haven’t even seen the floor. To the best of my knowledge Koby Brea is still dealing with some type of injury that I can’t confirm, and after three games I think its fair to surmise that Lukas Frazier simply isnt ready for this level of basketball. I’ll go as far as to say you don’t need to be expecting him to contribute anything meaningful this season. The USC-transfer, Elijah Weaver, is the only other warm body on the bench, but given UD’s reluctance to apply for a waiver, it tells me something else is at play here. I’ll let you speculate what that is, I know where my mind lands.
What we don’t know: Why Christian Wilson continues to get so many minutes
Have to say it one more time for the people in the back: this isn’t a personal knock against the kid, he just isn’t helping. Regardless of how useless you think the other freshman are at this point…they’re going to need to step on the floor eventually. I’m sure Wilson works hard in practice and is a young man you would take home to mom and all that, but if he isn’t in the long-term plans for this team, I believe we’ve seen enough of this experiment to know it’s not working. If you wanna pull out the stats on me, fine, here’s Wilson’s offensive rating (how productive he was) in each of the first three games: 0, 0, 0. That is all.
What we know: The scoring will be coming from Jalen, Ibi and DRJ
So far Dayton has scored 196 points in three games, and a mind-blowing 142 of those points have come from the aforementioned threesome. That’s 72% of scoring. We knew Jalen needed to be the primary focus on offense, we knew Ibi was going to be the primary scorer, and the emergence of DRJ offensively has been MORE than welcome, but my god, you guys…we need some other people to score. There’s absolutely no way UD is blowing through the A10 and winning games with three productive players.
What we don’t know: Who else is capable of contributing offensively
Rodney is always going to be a nice compliment to Jalen because their strengths balance each other out, and I think UD fans are starting to realize what we have with Jordy down-low, but after that…idk guys…
What we know: The turnovers are flat-out embarrassing
UD has turned the ball over 56 times so far in 3 games. They’re 288th in the country in turnover percentage and are committing turnovers via unforced errors on 1 in FIVE possessions, good for 298th in the country. When your ranking gets that low you start to be among MEAC and SWAC teams…and that basement is extremely dark. For all the things I’ve written here today, this is the #1 thing that needs fixed immediately, like, before Saturday. The fact that Dayton is still scratching a top 50 offense in the country despite their turnover numbers should leave you with a shred of optimism that they’ll be able to score once they take care of the ball. Unfortunately, that mountain gets taller to climb by the day.
What we know: This team will live and die by their defense
Last two. I’ve said this once or twice on the podcast in the last week, but this team is looking more and more like the teams from when I was in school (2008-11 specifically) where BG knew his offensive weapons were streaky at best, so the team motto turned into “hold them under 60”. I fear that may end up being the team motto into 2021. The offensive concerns are a-plenty for our Flyers, but the defense has been extremely encouraging – if you’re willing to put aside UD getting their clocks cleaned on the offensive glass on a nightly basis. DRJ has been an obvious weak-spot in the defense, and gets attacked accordingly, but his upside on the offensive end far outweighs what he lacks on defense. Start taking the unders until Vegas gets wise. First one to 60 points wins on Saturday.
What we don’t know: how long it will take UD to effectively close out games
Pretty self-explanatory here. UD has been pitiful in the last five minutes of each game. That must change before Saturday in Atlanta.
Alright, if you made it all the way down here, you’re a die hard, so here’s what we got coming up this week:
- Rapid reaction podcast already released from the NKU game here.
- Thursday morning podcast with special guest Tyler Horka to breakdown Mississippi State
- Talking Out LOWD hour on ESPN Radio 1410 Thursday night at 6pm ET
- Live pregame show from Timothy’s Bar & Grill on Brown Street, starting at 10am ET, running right up until tip-off
- Noon ET game against the Bulldogs on ESPNNews
Wear red, be LOWD, the season is upon us.