Meet the Atlantic 10: Dayton Preview

Posted In News, The Reading List - By Alan Kelly On Wednesday, February 5th, 2014 With 0 Comments


George Mason will try once again to win their first Atlantic 10 game in Fairfax tonight, as the Dayton Flyers (14-8, 2-5) visit the Patriot Center at 7 pm (TV: MASN). The Patriots (7-14, 0-7) remain mired in an eight-game losing streak, while the Flyers broke a four-game skid of their own with a home win over an injury-depleted GW squad last Saturday.

The Flyers are a somewhat familiar opponent, as Mason played a very competitive four game home-and-home series with Dayton from 2007-2010. The Patriots claimed the first meeting, in Fairfax, in November 2007, 67-56 over a Flyers team that started out 14-1 and reached a #14 ranking in the AP poll before injuries derailed their season. Dayton won the remaining three games by a total of eleven points (which was also the margin of victory in Mason’s lone win): in December 2008 in Dayton by four, in December 2009 in Fairfax by one, and in December 2010 in Dayton by six.

Head coach Archie Miller’s tenure at Dayton is strongly tied to George Mason and Paul Hewitt, as he was hired to replace Brian Gregory, who left the Flyers to replace Paul Hewitt at Georgia Tech in 2011. Two and a half years later, it’s not clear that any of the three schools came out as a winner from the coaching carousel. One major theme hasn’t changed for Dayton since Miller replaced Gregory: The Flyers still start the season by tearing through their out of conference slate, yet every year they seem to collapse when A-10 play rolls around, whether due to fatigue, or injuries, or some other unexplained force.

To get an inside perspective on the Flyers, yesterday I asked Chris Rieman (@UDPride), the publisher of UDPride.com, to answer some questions.

masonhoops.com: Who’s expected to be in the starting lineup on Wednesday night for the Flyers? Can you briefly describe each starter’s role on the team?

Chris: PG Khari Price, SG Jordan Sibert, QF Devin Oliver, PF Dyshawn Pierre – and whomever the current flavor of the day is at center – possibly Matt Kavanaugh. Price is the steady PG that defers to others in the halfcourt, but likes to shoot the three on a kickout. He doesn’t venture into the lane much. Sibert is a transfer from Ohio State and is a very good three point shooter and athlete, but does not shoot nearly as well off the dribble. Oliver is the energy on the team and does a little of everything – score inside, shoot the three, and rebound. When Oliver is playing well, others usually are too. Pierre is the most talented and likes to power dribble inside for spin moves and finishes. Can step outside and shoot the perimeter shot and also rebound. The center position has been tag-teamed all year depending on who is in good form. Kavanaugh is the senior and got the last start. Does 99% of his damage within 4ft of the basket. Not a great athlete, but brings size.

masonhoops.com: Who are the key bench players for the Flyers and what do they contribute to the team?

Chris: PG Scoochie Smith plays about half the time at the PG position and sometimes closes games out. He is physically longer and taller than Khari and pushes the ball more which Archie likes, but does not have as solid an outside shot and as a freshman rarely ventures into the paint. SG/QF Vee Sanford is a senior transfer from Georgetown and former starter. Possesses a very good floater in the lane and likes to rise up in the paint for mid-range shots. Inconsistent outside shooter. Frosh G Kyle Davis is more defensive oriented so far and does not look to score.

PF Jalen Robinson has been an off/on starter and can hit the glass for stick-backs. He can be crafty inside at times, but is also foul-prone like most of Dayton’s bigs. Kendall Pollard is a burly freshman power forward without much offense but is a terrific one vs. one shot blocker. He has a knack for scoring garbage points and it used when the other bigs are not producing. Hes a liability at the foul line however (9-33, .273%).

In the middle, Devin Scott and Alex Gavrilovic add depth. Scott has started some this year, but has difficulty staying out of foul trouble and has been in rough form of late. He is a good athlete and played well in Maui but is not consistent enough. Gavrilovic battled a concussion and is just now getting back on the court and plays sparingly. Also foul prone, he can step out for an occasional jumper unlike Scott. All of the bigs have suffered from the yips at times and have been unable to finish easy shots around the basket.

masonhoops.com: What are the strengths of this year’s Dayton team?

Chris: Archie’s teams have always been able to score the basketball and this team is no exception. Outside of a couple games this year, UD shoots the ball for a high percentage, can shoot the three, typically rebounds well, and does a nice job of spreading the points around. There may not be all All-Conference player on the entire roster, but there’s enough diversity to keep teams from focusing on just one or two players. At the same time, lack of a Rolls Royce player means fans never know which guy will be “on” from game to game. Archie tends to roll with the hot hand that night. There are about 4-5 guys that could put up 18+ points on a given night. Most of them rarely do, but there’s always the chance someone gets it rolling. In Maui, UD was sensational at moving the basketball on offense and finding open shots. The ball movement has not been as good since, but in nearly every Dayton loss, UD scored enough points to win – it was the other side of the ball that let them down. I wouldn’t call it a pretty offense, but the numbers do not lie – they figure out a way to put the biscuit in the basket.

masonhoops.com: What are the weaknesses of this year’s Dayton team?

Chris: It’s a clear two-horse race with defense and fouling being major crutches this year. The Flyers haven’t been able to stop anyone defensively – even bad offenses like Rhode Island put up almost 90pts on Dayton and that’s inexcusable. The Flyers allow teams to shoot a high percentage because they are poor defenders on the perimeter and cannot stop dribble penetration. St. Joe shot over 70% from the field in the second half in last week’s win over UD at UD Arena. The Dayton bigs also leave their feet a lot, reach in, and foul to avoid giving up the easy basket. The Flyers get called for numerous ticky-tack fouls that are completely senseless and do nothing to give them a tactical defensive advantage. Opposing teams end up shooting far too many FTs they did very little to earn. Lots of pointless hand-checks from not moving feet defensively. All of this contributes to the enormous fouling problem that has plagued not only this team but last year’s team.. On offense, UD gets called for too many moving screens. The Flyers also have serious trouble at times understanding switches and can lose their assignments on defense.

masonhoops.com: Are there any key statistics or trends that fans could watch for on Wednesday night, that might indicate whether the game is going well or poorly for the Flyers?

Chris: If Dayton is defending, they will be tough to beat because their offense is usually so consistent. But that’s a big if because UD has shown very little ability to make a team (let alone good teams) shoot under .400%. It’s still a game about making shots but on the road, defense is where victories are dug out. It’s also a toughness factor because defense is largely effort-based and Flyer fans are still largely unconvinced Dayton has the kind of toughness it needs to impose their defensive will on an opposing offense. Usually Dayton wins by swapping baskets. It’s fool’s gold.

masonhoops.com: The Flyers (picked 7th in the preseason) got off to a great start to the season, going 12-3 in out of conference play, including wins over Mississippi, Gonzaga, Iona, and California, but as has been their custom in recent years, they seem to have run out of steam, and even after last Saturday’s win over short-handed GW, are in 9th place in the league at 2-5. Is this the same old pattern repeating, or can this Dayton team turn things around and finish strong?

Chris: Anything can happen, but wanting it so doesn’t make it so. You cannot finish strong in the last half of the season if you do not play solid defense and until UD demonstrates an ability to stick a cork in teams, I doubt the dynamic you speak of changes much. Simply trading baskets is not a recipe for success. Dayton defended much better in Maui against much better competition. The carrot-on-the-stick is they have proven an ability to actually do it. But it was so long ago Maui almost feels like a different season altogether. After 22 games, you probably are what you are and major improvements, let a alone re-invention, is unlikely. The identity needs to be set in concrete by now. Teams still searching for it are probably not going to find it this year.

masonhoops.com: The latest round of conference realignment cost the Atlantic 10 half of it’s western presence (Xavier and Butler). Has this affected how Dayton (the program and the fans) view membership in the Atlantic 10?

Chris: The least of Dayton’s problems right now involves conference re-alignment. They need to worry more about how to finish above .500 in the conference they are in and spend less time looking elsewhere for salvation. That’s not to downplay the emotional and economic attraction to a league like the Big East. It would unquestionably sell more tickets and create a larger buzz in the Dayton area. UD has historical ties to several of those Big East teams. But do those teams really care about Dayton? I’m completely unconvinced because few of them ever went out of their way to schedule Dayton in the non-con portion of the schedule over the last 15 years. I think that tells me all I need to know about how they feel about the Flyers.

But would the Big East provide more success for Dayton? Doubt it. The A10 is a great fit for Dayton and as long as the league doesn’t lose any more bell cow programs, it offers no weaker a path to the NCAA tournament compared to the Big East. In fact, you can make a legitimate case that the A10 is a far better conduit for reaching the NCAAs on a regular basis. It’s simply a numbers game: every league finishes .500. With just 10 or 12 teams in the Big East, only 4-6 will ever have the league record to steal bids from the BCS. The Big East has also over-leveraged and over-sold their television package. Their ratings on Fox Sports 1 are atrocious. The deal will have to be re-negotiated because the dollars are not there to write the checks. The A10 has also been very good to Dayton and that has not fallen on deaf ears around here. We know who our friends are. But the loss of St. Louis or UMass or Richmond or VCU could be too much to keep things together. Dayton needs the profile schools to stay put because they see themselves as a main tenant in the league with considerable influence.

masonhoops.com: Can you tell us something interesting about the University of Dayton that George Mason fans might not know?

Chris: In spite of the economic calamities of higher education right now, UD is one of the few schools in the nation that is not just surviving but thriving. The campus footprint has nearly doubled in the last 10 years and has added over 1M square feet of usable building space. Nearly every building has been renovated and several new undergraduate and graduate dorms were added. It’s a campus that is 160 years old but also feels 21st century at every turn. UD now owns a former Fortune 500 headquarters (NCR) which abuts campus. General Electric just built a $50M research facility in the heart of campus to design cutting-edge power systems for future aircraft. UD opened a campus in China. Nearly 10% of all students are now international – up from just 3% less than a decade ago. It’s a university that is becoming more national and international in both reach and research, with an emphasis in post-graduate study. President Dan Curran is attempting to position Dayton among Notre Dame and Georgetown as the top private catholic universities in the country in terms of tools, research, and funding. It’s a great renaissance and one of the reasons UD continues to be so attractive to a more diverse student population.

From a basketball side, UD won more basketball games in the 1950s and 1960s than any other program in the country.

UD also has an impressive football pedigree. Names like Chuck Noll, Wayne Fontes, Jon Gruden, John McVay, George Perles, etc., either played or coached at Dayton. Former coach Harry Baujan, now in the College Football Hall of Fame, played at Notre Dame for Knute Rockne. Dan Patrick also went to UD.

masonhoops.com: Thanks for your time, Chris!

DAYTON FLYERS FACTS
Institution
Founded: 1850
Type: Private (Catholic)
Endowment: $415M
Location: Dayton, OH
Campus: Urban
Students: 8,069 undergraduates
Men’s Basketball Program
Athletics Budget: $20.8M (2012)
Men’s Basketball Budget: $4.0M (2012)
Began Play: 1903
Joined A-10: 1995
A-10 Championships: 1
NCAA Appearances: 14 (Most recent: 2009)
NCAA Record: 14-16 (.467)
NIT Appearances: 23 (Most recent: 2012)
Head Coach: Archie Miller
Coaching Tenure: 3rd season
Coaching Record: 51-35 (.593)
Arena: UD Arena
Arena Opened: 1969
Arena Capacity: 13,435
Colors: Red and Columbia Blue
Mascot: Rudy Flyer
Student Section: Red Scare
2013-14 Season
Preseason A-10: Picked 7th
Current Record: 14-8 (2-5)
RPI: 65
Pomeroy: 64
Top wins: vs Gonzaga, vs California, at Mississippi, vs Iona
Bad losses: at Illinois State, at Rhode Island
George Mason Series History
Meetings: 4
Record: Dayton leads, 3-1
Current Streak: Dayton, 3 wins
Most Recently: 12/29/2010, Dayton won 73-67

Meet the Atlantic 10: An introduction to each team in George Mason’s new conference
VCUSt. Joe’sUMassURIFordhamGWSLUDayton – Duq. – St. Bona – Rich. – La Salle

About - Alan Kelly is a 2010 and 2013 graduate of George Mason University and a former member of the Patriot Platoon. He had the memorable experience of being in the middle of the college decision process as George Mason's Final Four run unfolded. He currently resides in Northern Virginia.

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