Well, it was bound to happen, wasn’t it? After five pedestrian performances coming into league play — the Flyers are who we thought they were! I did notice people on the social media were either naively surprised or strategically feigning shock. To which I say: have you not been paying attention? Have you not examined the evidence provided before us? I think I speak for the entire BBR Nation when I say it’s time to refine your focus. Take off the rose-colored glasses, reset your expectations and walk through the tunnel of reality. Join us.
I listened to the Gola Standard, the preeminent La Salle podcast, after the game and they hit all the high notes : (1) Obi Toppin isn’t walking through that door, (2) the UD frontcourt is an absolute disaster, (3) Anthony Grant will get outcoached on most nights, and (4) the Flyers had to rely on offense from a kid that just walked in off the street. Nothing new, nothing groundbreaking, but they are facts all the same (also, shout out to Ashley Howard for delivering the win and rewarding my laudatory prose in the La Salle recon).
So where do we, as a tribe, the chosen people, go from here? It all starts with the upper classmen. The rest of the season will be dictated by the play, the want and the will of Jalen Crutcher, Ibi Watson and Rodney Chatman. Anthony Grant is not going to change overnight, the UD bigs aren’t going to turn into mini Olajuwon’s in the coming weeks. UD simply has to do what every single team in the nation has to do, win with what you got. You can make excuses for a home loss to La Salle, that is certainly your prerogative (and very on brand for the Flyer Faithful), but at the end of the day you can’t shake what’s going to unfold over the next two months. Lean into it, folks.
The danger coming into this season was losing a grip on the golden ring the Flyers grasped last season. Well, that ship has sailed. This Flyer team seems incapable of putting anyone away (UD was up 16-2 on the Explorers!) and, quite frankly, seems content on going through the motions. There’s no excitement surrounding the program, everything is trending downward and both the staff and players are being exposed as Obi Toppin coattail riders (you can impugn this website with all of those charges as well).
As the legend Bob Knight once said, ”I think that if rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it.” Dayton has seventeen games left until a definitely-maybe trip to Brooklyn for the A10 tournament. This site started under the Brian Gregory regime, so I believe we can offer you some sage advice when it comes to following your Flyers from here on out. (1) Try to care less. Remember this is mid-major basketball that no one outside of your circle watches or even thinks about. (2) Learn to laugh. Turn your frustration into hilarity, realizing that there is beauty in the breakdown. (3) Don’t waver on your justified criticism and recriminations. The fans that make excuses at every turn are the clowns, you are the ringmaster.
Let’s move ahead. George Mason comes to town tonight, as sure a sign as any that life goes on.
Let’s get the obvious out in the open: George Mason is a below-average basketballing troupe. A two point win over VMI, a five point trouncing of Towson and a double-overtime triumph on Wednesday against UMass highlight their modest resume. But Blackie, you say, isn’t Dayton’s CV just as nefarious? Fair point, dear reader, I hear you loud and clear. The game isn’t played on paper, after all (True story — my dad once used the “Well, the game isn’t played on paper” line on me and I spent, in retrospect, a troubling amount of time contemplating “BUT WHAT IF IT WAS?? HOW WOULD THAT WORK???”).
The overwhelmingly good news for the Patriots was that they had the entire starting lineup from last year’s squad coming back. Granted that team went 5-13 in the A10, but it’s baby steps for GMU until further notice. Junior guard Jordan Miller (18.4 ppg/6.2 rpg) has become the focal point of the Mason offense. Miller is a versatile wing that can give you whatever you need on offense. Kid is a hell of an offensive rebounder as well, you can’t teach that kind of heart. Tyler “The White Guy” Kolek is back for round two. As you might have guessed, Tyler (11.1 ppg/36% 3fg) spends most of his time shooting from outside the arc and being a leader on the floor. AJ Wilson, the Spectacled One, is back for what seems like his sixth or seventh season. Wilson does a lot of the dirty work and takes the utmost pride in swatting your shot back into your slobbering face.
Javon Greene, what ever happened to Javon Greene? Finally a senior, Greene (10.1 ppg/3.1 rpg) never really lived up to his billing. This isn’t to say he isn’t capable of dropping 25 on you if you sleep on him, but the kid never found the consistency that would have made him an All-A10 type player. 6’9″ forward Josh Oduro (10.3 ppg/5.3 rpg) rounds out the Patriots’ main cast. After a ropy freshman season, Oduro has seemed to find his footing. He has become extremely active on the offensive side of the floor and we commend him for it.
The Flyers have once again found themselves matched up with a team that desires the basketball. The Patriots need the ball, they want the ball, GMU wants YOU to want the ball. Mason is one of the nation’s better offensive rebounding teams in America (I just felt your entire body tense up), grabbing a rebound on 33% of their possessions. Dayton will be in a familiar position — attempting to limit second chance points against a squad that needs second chance points to compete. A dire proposal to be sure. On the plus side of the ledger, GMU turns the ball over at a disastrous clip, nearly 20% of their possessions end with a turnover — ranking GMU second to only La Salle in the A10 as far as turnover percentage is concerned. So if UD can force turnovers at the same rate they did against the Explorers….oh…..
Matty Stats, hit em with the goddamn remix!
Stats? Here’s a stat for you. Dayton hasn’t lost to La Salle at home since 1999. Heard that one? It’s been shared across Dayton twitter plenty over the past few days for sure. So here’s a few more. La Salle’s KenPom ranking of 175 is the highest ranking of a team to beat Dayton at UD Arena since the Flyers lost to UMass in the 2018-19 season. The Minutemen were ranked 207th but beat UD 62-60 in Anthony Grant’s first season at the helm. Is that the sort of season you, dear reader, think this Dayton team is destined for? Without a wakeup call, we certainly could be heading down that path.
“But Matt, you’re a stats guy! Surely you consider variance and that Dayton could have just been unlucky against the Explorers. The boys will bounce back!” Perhaps, but so far this season, the average score differential for the Flyers has been 1.83 points. That has come against a schedule KenPom ranks 133rd in the country, so it hasn’t exactly been Murder’s Row UD has had games coming down to the final possession against. Play in enough close games, the ugly side of variance will show it’s face and you’ll lose a bed shitter against a team like La Salle. This team has the talent to compete with anyone in this conference, but it has made it abundantly clear in its current state it can lose to anyone in the Atlantic 10 as well.
Okay, let’s all hope we can forget about the La Salle disaster. If you are into this sort of thing, the Flyers lost to the 267th KenPom ranked La Salle at Tom Gola Arena in 2015-16. From there they won 12 of their next 15 to win a share of the A10. Can this version of the Flyers pull off such a run? There are worse opponents out there to try and do so than George Mason. Sully and the By George guys discussed the state of flux the Patriots find themselves on the most recent Talking Out Lowd podcast. The stats certainly reflect that state of limbo Mason find themselves in.
Though the Patriots are averaging a slightly higher than average 101.3 points per 100 possessions, it has been a bit of a slog for Mason on offense. This is reflective in their 49.2% effective field goal percentage, which falls below the national D1 average. Much of the issue with Dave Paulsen’s offense comes down to shot selection. So far this season the Patriots have taken 43.2% of their shot attempts from beyond the three point line while only hitting 30.5% of those attempts. That averages out to 0.93 points per possession on three attempts, well below what would qualify to make it an efficient shot for Mason.
What could keep George Mason in the game against the Flyers is our old friend offensive rebounding. Despite being a rather mediocre rebounding team, La Salle picked up 12 offensive rebounds in their win Wednesday. This ballooned the offensive rebound rate UD has allowed to 36%, one of the worst allowed among any Division 1 team. Unfortunately, Mason has not been a mediocre rebounding team so far. The Patriots have snagged 31.2% of the offensive rebound opportunities available to them. These second chances are how a team that struggles to score like Mason can win.
While the Patriots have struggled for efficient offense this season, they have been decent on defense. Mason has only allowed 98.7 points per 100 possessions this season. They are aggressive at attempting to block shots, seen both in their 13% block rate and 43.4% free throw rate they concede while on defense. Dayton has done well getting to the line this season, so exploiting George Mason’s aggressiveness on defense can get the Flyers some free points.
Though he missed two games due to a suspension for…reasons, Jordan Miller has been one of the best players for the Patriots this season. Miller is a do-everything forward who can score, rebound, and set up opponents. Miller has a 60.9% effective field goal range, an 8% offensive rebound rate, and 20.6% assist rate which is the highest of any Patriot this season. He can score at the rim and from the perimeter equally as efficiently, averaging 1.54 points per possession on shots at the rim and his 42.9% from three has him averaging 1.29 points per possession from three-point range. Miller could be a tough matchup for the Flyers, with no one coming to mind possessing the size or ability to contain the George Mason Junior.
Will Dayton turn in another bed-shitting performance at home against another bottom-bitch Atlantic Ten team?? We are about to find out. Do the next 17 games even matter? Nah, not really. The Flyers are playing for A10 tournament seeding, if there is an A10 tournament. If you view the rest of the season through that dedicated prism, you’ll have a much better time going forward. Mason is scrappy, I will give them that, Dayton is decidedly less so. UD has lacked CHEST and fire so far this season, maybe today, after a debilitating loss, is the time they light the fire.
I played the game out on paper. UD wins, 69-62. #LOWD