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Stat Matt analyzes the numbers behind Dayton’s lineup choices

Sully: as site editor, I want the record to show that KT has now promised a recap for the last two Flyers games and has yet to post a single thing to this godforsaken site. So do not blame the entire staff at BBR for our laziness, just the one guy who can’t keep his word. Anyways, Stat Matt is here to pick up the slack…

Welcome to the Ohio State Kent State Preview non-conference lineup stats review! It hasn’t been pretty, but the Flyers find themselves heading into Atlantic 10 play 4-1. The flaws of this team are apparent for most to see (though I must confess I haven’t been on UD Pride in a long time, so maybe I’ve locked myself in an echo chamber), but beating two of the three power 5 teams on the schedule isn’t the worst result Dayton could get. 

Those flaws are enough to give anyone pause about Anthony Grant and company’s chances to compete for another regular season Atlantic 10 title though. The Flyers having the 12th best effective field goal percentage in all the land at 57.6% but are only averaging 69.2 (nice) points per game highlights just how drastic the turnover issues that have plagued the Flyers are. Even when UD isn’t playing like their hands are ping pong paddles, there seems to be multiple stretches during each game where the offense grinds to a halt. This has led to the theory from some fans that the Gem City Cagers going with a lineup with multiple big men such as Chase Johnson and Jordy Tshimanga clogs up the offense and a small ball line-up would help crank up the efficiency. Luckily, we have the line-up data to examine this!

Before we dive into analyzing this data, we must sound the small sample alarm. We are only five games into a truncated season but when we slice and dice the data even further to get down to lineup level, we create even smaller samples. For example, a line-up with Jalen, Elijah Weaver, Ibi, R.J. Blakney, and Dirt Road Johnson have a 228 points per 100 possessions so far this season. Great! Get that lineup more playing time, right?! Unfortunately, they have only played 2 minutes together this season. For these reasons, we will only examine lineups with at least 12 minutes this season.

Perhaps an indicator of the lack of depth on the Dayton, only four lineup combinations have gotten at least 12 minutes of total play this season. Jalen, Ibi and DRJ are in all four of those lineups and account for 72.86% of all minutes available. Rodney Chatman and Jordy are in three of those four lineups. The lineup that has appeared the most is the starting five of Jalen, Rodney, Ibi, Chase and Jordy, playing in over 88 of the 210 possible minutes available. So how have the Flyers done with each of these line ups?

Dayton’s most used lineups this season.

So far this season, the “smaller” line-up with Chase Johnson as the five, RJ Blakney, the starting backcourt and Ibi has been the most efficient scoring the ball so far. In 25 minutes, this line up for the Flyers has scored 138.15 points per 100 possessions on offense this season. We have seen this lineup shoot the ball efficiently, with an effective field goal percentage of 66.1% and a true shooting percentage of 72.10%. Not only has this lineup lit up the scoreboard when on the court, they have done much better at taking care of the ball than the other Dayton line-ups with a turnover rate of 16.3%. These five Flyers have been able to mostly tread water on defense, giving up 100 points per possession on defense. With a net rating (which calculated by subtracting defensive rating from offensive rating) of 34.15, this has easily been the best lineup for UD thus far.

Examining the “big” lineups the Flyers have employed so far, it is a bit of a mixed bag. The starting line-up with Jalen, Rodney, Ibi, Dirt Road, and Jordy has the best defensive rating of any of the four we see above. This makes sense with a big body like Jordy protecting the rim (and getting his fair share of steals; Jordy’s 2.8% steal rate is the second highest for the Flyers) and Rodney continuing to be one of the best defensive players in the country. Dayton knows it can depend on it’s starting five to be tough on the defensive end, though scoring the ball hasn’t been easy for the starting five. The starters for UD have only put up an offensive rating of 101.97 which falls in the average range.

Usage rate and points per possession for Dayton. Sissoko on offense has been a bad time.

When Anthony Grant replaces Jordy with Moo Moo though, things have really gone off the rails for Dayton. The offensive grinds to a crawl, only putting up an offensive rating of 85. Not only does this lineup for UD struggle to score, the defense becomes porous. Opposing teams have been scoring more and shooting it better against the starters with Sissoko, scoring 127.5 points per 100 possessions and putting up an effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage above 60%. These five players have also been turning the ball around the same high rate Dayton has as a whole at 26.3% rate.  Overall, these five UD players on the court together have been outscored by 42.5 points every 100 possessions this season. Not great, Bob. 

In addition to all the macro level real world issues COVID-19 has brought, the altered college basketball landscape has eliminated the opportunity for teams like Dayton to experiment in games. There isn’t a John Knox University or Eastern Salt Lake State to try out different lineups in low stakes situations to see what sticks and what does not. We all want and certainly Dayton needs to try and schedule games that will look good on a resume come March. But when you have only a handful of non-conference games to play with, Anthony Grant and the rest of the coaching staff must figure things out quick. While the data we examined today definitely is a small sample, it’s all we have available to analyze before the nut-cutting that is Atlantic 10 play. 

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