Coming into this season, I held the firm belief that this year’s Dayton team was not a NCAA tournament squad. The reasons were simple : No Obi Toppin, absolutely no frontcourt presence, no Obi Toppin, and I figured Anthony Grant would be good for 3-5 close losses due to his in-game coaching maladies. Still, one holds out hope — if for no other reason than to have a rooting interest (or perhaps a financial one).
We all thought the La Salle loss was the basement, the lowest of the lows. And then Tuesday night happened. After sixteen straight wins over the Fordham Rams, what felt, at this point almost inevitable, finally became reality. The Flyers were bested by the worst program in the conference. Before their win against Dayton, Fordham was bested in two blowouts — a 24 point loss to George Washington and a 37 point loss to La Salle. There was talk, scuttlebutt even, that this was the worst Rams team since their induction into the Atlantic Ten back in 1995.
So what’s the issue, why is this team so awful to watch, why is this team seemingly running at half speed?
If you think Dayton’s offense seems stuck in first gear, congrats, you are correct. UD is currently #339 in the country in adjusted tempo, second only to Davidson in the conference (you’ll be granted a reprieve if you decided to skip the Wildcats/Flyers game on Friday). On a related note, Dayton is averaging just 67 points a game — aided in part by their double-overtime output against Mississippi State — down from 80 points from a season ago.
Here’s the odd thing, UD’s offense remains efficient. Honestly, it is. The big issue, of course, has been turnovers. Turnovers have led directly to Dayton’s demise. If Dayton was just turning the ball over at the national average they’d likely be sitting at 8-0 right now. 25% of UD’s possessions have terminated with a turnover, you won’t beat many teams at that rate. Shit, you won’t even beat fucking La Salle or Fordham!
While turnovers and a snails pace offense are obvious critiques, there seems to be more at play. Steven Wright, an excellent follow on Twitter, highly recommend, put out a Tweet on Tuesday night that seemed to sum up the season so far:
It is frustrating digging for that unusual reason why an outcome happens and it just isn’t there. Nothing just slaps you in the face without having watched that game to say, “well, there ya go.”
— Steven Wright (@Steven_Wright_) January 6, 2021
I’d hate to throw armchair clichés at you, but this year’s team just doesn’t seem to have any pride or desire. They just seem like they are going through the motions, resting on unearned laurels and playing out the string. Some observers have speculated that the Flyers don’t seem like a team that likes playing with each other. Maybe there’s some truth to that, perhaps it’s frustration boiling over a wasted season (Seriously, I couldn’t imagine being a senior going out like this, it’s just downright sad).
Let’s quickly check out this play from Jalen Crutcher from Tuesday night’s game. The Flyers have the ball up two with 1:48 to go in the game:
This is a big possession, we can all agree on that. However, there doesn’t seem to be even a hint of urgency on UD’s part. The Flyers pass the ball around the perimeter for twenty-five seconds, and then Crutcher INEXPLICABLY passes the ball to Zimi Nwokeji with three seconds left on the shot clock. What do we take from this? Laziness? Could Crutcher have lost contact with his environment during this possession? It’s not the type of play you expect from your Senior All-A10 guard. Again, it just seems like a team going through the motions, resolute in their mediocrity. It’s indicative of a team with an exceptionally low basketball IQ.
You want to see more laziness? Check out the next possession. Fordham swings the ball to Josh Navarro, not exactly an offensive threat, who comes off a screen and drives almost impeded to the bucket for an easy deuce. Particularly pay attention to Chimichanga unexplainably shifting out to the perimeter to cut off Navarro, help me understand, and Elijah Weaver giving it the ol’ “ole!” as Navarro drives right by. Again, these are plays that simply indicate a lack of focus and a severe indifference to the importance of the possession. Lazy, lazy, lazy.
Should we even bother to breakdown UD’s final possession?? Sure, why not? I’ve watched this play a few times and my opinion and hot take changes after each showing. When I watched it live, it just seemed like no one was on the same page, everyone was content to watch Jalen Crutcher work some magic and save the day. The play started out like every play Dayton runs in late-game situations — a inbounds to Crutch, a quick pass to the right side of the court, an immediate pass back to Crutcher who dribbles off a screen to his favorite spot on the right elbow extended.
Only Crutcher didn’t take the final shot like everyone in Rose Hill Gym expected. Instead, Jalen throws it over to Ibi Watson, with around three seconds on the clock, which essentially forces Sleepy to make something happen with mere seconds on the clock. Again, is this Crutcher lacking awareness of the situation? I don’t know, truthfully. Nevertheless, you can clearly see Crutcher holding his hands up expecting a return pass from Watson, and his frustration is palpable after Ibi’s shot bounces off the rim. At risk of repeating myself, this is not the type of play you expect from your fourth-year All-A10 guard. Crutcher’s pass all but guaranteed a bad look offensively for the Flyers and the result was predictable.
In sum, the Flyers aren’t playing smart right now. They aren’t making “winning plays” as they say in the biz. They aren’t playing with emotion, intensity or pride. Dayton looks completely defeated and it’s not even mid-January.
On another note, it appears Rodney Chatman’s hand injury is more serious than previously thought. Chatman, according to the most trusted voice in Dayton, seems like he will miss most, if not all, of the rest of the season (which isn’t a bad idea).
NEW from @DaytonMBB: Rodney Chatman is out 6-8 weeks after surgery on his right hand to repair a torn ligament. UD says the Flyers guard suffered the injury during the La Salle loss. @WHIORadio @whiotv pic.twitter.com/Hh3tryIRPu
— John Bedell (@JBedellWHIO) January 6, 2021
This might actually work out in UD’s favor, follow me here. With Chatman out, and the season lost, it opens up opportunities for underclassmen and newcomers that desperately need it. Zimi, Weaver, Blakney and Brea will have their chance to contribute and prove their mettle. And Christ, maybe scaling back Crutcher’s minutes isn’t the worst idea in the world either. Let’s watch the world burn, together.
There is still plenty of basketball to watch. No one would object if you opted out as a fan for the rest of the season, it’s understandable. But let’s not forget my diatribe from last week — there is beauty in the breakdown. You can still enjoy watching this team play, albeit for all the wrong reasons. Anthony Grant wears no clothes, the seniors seemed checked out and UD just lost to Fordham. All you can do is laugh and hug your loved ones.