I know the title is obvious, I get that. But if you’ve learned anything about me in the 5+ years that I’ve been contributing to this site, you know that I use commas all too frequently, have never turned down a hard seltzer in my life, and only write something on the BBR when there’s something to say. Today is one of those days.
Did I feel more compelled to contribute today because KT promised to write a recap of the MSU win and then didn’t? I’ll let you decide.
On the day of this writing (12/16), here’s what the KenPom slate prognosticates about your Dayton Flyers….
As you can see, Dayton started the year ranked 54th and has since dropped to 63rd from a few lackluster performances, indicating they’ve come out of the gate a tad less impressive than the numbers said they would be…fine.
So before I lay this out in black and white for you. I want to provide an example of the cold reality in A10-land. Here’s Dayton’s report card from the 2015 season:
Going into the weekend of December 19th, coming off a loss to a good Arkansas team, take a look where UD was ranked:
Now look down the schedule at 2021 compared to 2015.
The middle of the conference is decidedly better than it was 6 years ago, but the schedule looks about the same as it always does, doesnt it? A few “B” games, a couple “A” games…and that’s all, folks. Of course, the one big difference is that going into the weekend of December 19th in 2014 UD was 7-2 with 3 games remaining to further prove themselves, and they did, beating a bad Boston team, a very bad Brian-Gregory led GT team, and an Ole Miss team that would eventually end up back in Dayton for the First Four in March. Before the turn of the calendar year to 2015, UD had 12 opportunities to prove themselves, and put together a satisfactory resume at 10-2.
If you’re starting to recall how that season ended, UD lost to VCU in the A10 title game hours before the Selection Show, where the committee placed Dayton on the home floor for the First Four, giving the rationale that had they not gone to the A10 title game that day they wouldn’t have made the tournament at all. Digging deeper, UD lost on a buzzer beater to GW and then dropped a Saturday stinker to DUQ before closing the season with Archie’s biennial loss at LaSalle. That was the margin of error the Flyers had in conference play, even after beating an eventual tournament-bound VCU team on the road. By now you should see where I’m heading with this.
Those opportunities don’t exist this season. Saturday IS the opportunity, and there won’t be others.
After Saturday’s game I had a nice long think about the world of college hoops right now and the trickle down of the shortened season. I came to the conclusion that no conference in college basketball right now will be negatively impacted more than the A10, for the simple reason stated above: the A10 needs every non-con opportunity possible to prove themselves before the calendar turns.
In a typical year, the majority of the league would have played 9-10 games. by now, with 2-4 still to go. As of this writing only VCU, URI and Davidson have played more than five, and URI/Davidson have already inflicted enough bruise on themselves that they’ll be playing for Sunday in Brooklyn from here on out as well. Unfortunately for us (fans of the A10) this basketball year is about as close as we can get to the finality that exists from a loss in college football, and I’m thankful this will seemingly be a one-year problem.
For example: URI has now lost four games and sits at 3-4. While all their losses are respectable, where do they make up the ground the rest of the way? Is it realistic to believe they can do better than 3-3 in their six games against UD, VCU, SLU and UR? Even if they do, a bottom feeder will likely trip them up along the way. Similarly for Davidson: they are now 3-3 with a BAD loss to Charlotte last night (12/15). There is likely only three or four total top-50 games left for them to rebound and prove themselves, the rest are just landmines where you have to avoid a bed-shitting loss nightly that is of no help to you. I hate to be dire, but the A10 has found itself in a bad position this year for no other reason than college basketball world has affectively limited the collective chances of proving they belong. When you compare these schedules to basically any schedule in the Big 10, Big East, ACC, you will find that the number of games played in those conferences that aren’t “A” or “B” quality are five or less. UNC has one remaining game on the schedule that falls outside that category (home vs Wake), Iowa has one as well (home vs Nebraska). Dayton has seven…for now. That number is likely to get worse.
So in comes Ole Miss (recon coming soon) on Saturday to UD Arena for what is actually UDs final opportunity to put together something that resembles impressive over five games. As you saw above, Ole Miss is projected to be a middle-of-the-pack SEC squad with the capabilities to end up in the NCAAT. I believe Dayton’s ceiling is about exactly the same. The Rebels have yet to play anyone particularly challenging, and wrap up a lackluster 4-game stretch with MTSU on Wednesday night before packing bags for the Gem City. If you’re going to sneak up on a team in your empty home arena, I like UDs odds against a team who will have played four games the previous nine days.
After Saturday Dayton fans are back in the familiar muck that has been our existence in the A10 for the better part of a decade now: avoid all the bad losses and win a few big games. For those of you who must simplify things like I do, here are the games that matter the rest of the way. If a game isn’t listed, it’s a game UD needs to win to remain a respectable tournament foe, simple as that:
1/23 – @ VCU
1/26 – @ SLU
1/30 – URI
2/5 – Richmond
2/16 – @ URI
2/19 – SLU
2/28 – @ Bona
3/3 – VCU
The season will hang in the balance of UDs record in these 8 games. Any loss outside of these eight will stink like shit, and multiple losses outside these eight games will likely land UD at the bottom of a mountain thats too tall to climb.
So that brings me full circle to the main discussion topic on Talking Out LOWD this week: what record will get UD in the tournament? Let’s set the expectation right now so no one can come back bitching and moaning in March if UD ends up on the outside looking in.
Here’s where I stand, and I hate misleading you, so I don’t do it often:
If the Flyers are 4-1 Saturday evening, a 14-4 league slate is probably what they need, going 10-0 in the crap games and splitting the eight above (4-4). Only one team has gone to the NCAAT from the A10 since they expanded to 18 games in 2015, and it was the VCU team mentioned above who went 12-6, just to win an A10 title against UD on Selection Sunday. Set the bar now: nothing less than 13-5 is acceptable from this Dayton team, or any Dayton team moving forward. You cannot claim to “own the conference” or even start discussing jumping to another league when you cant stay above that very reasonable bar, year-in and year-out.
With a loss Saturday, the mountain is steep. MSU is not going to end up being worth much to UD when all is said and done, so I remain convinced the ice would be razor thin and 15-3 would be necessary to not be sweating in Brooklyn.
Either way, I keep landing at 18-5 for our Flyers by March to be in the thicket of discussion surrounding the tournament. Am I certain this team is capable? Absolutely. Am I convinced they’ll reach the consistency necessary to get there? Not so much.
There’s a lot of work to do yet for the Dayton Flyers this season, but it all starts with handling business on Saturday.
Wear red, be LOWD, Go Flyers.