Dayton Again Flying to Unexpected Early Heights

Posted by Nicholas Patrick on December 4th, 2013

Expectations were relatively low for Dayton entering the season, as Archie Miller’s Flyers were picked to finish seventh in an Atlantic 10 Conference that had lost some of its top contenders (Butler, Temple and Xavier, not to mention Charlotte). They had lost point guard Kevin Dillard and were counting on contributions from a number of unproven players, none of whom earned preseason A-10 honors of any kind. But after hitting a buzzer-beater to survive a season-opening scare against IPFW, Dayton has hit its stride, winning convincingly at Georgia Tech (at the expense of former coach Brian Gregory) before an impressive showing at the Maui Invitational, during which they sandwiched a heartbreaking loss to Baylor between victories against Gonzaga and California.

Dayton Enjoyed Its Feast Week Trip to (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)

Dayton Enjoyed Its Feast Week Trip to Maui (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)

The Flyers are executing on both ends of the court. According to KenPom, Dayton ranks 20th nationally in offensive adjusted efficiency and 20th in three-point field goal percentage. They rank 23rd in defensive turnover percentage and 13th in defensive steal percentage. Newly-arriving guard Jordan Sibert (a transfer from Ohio State) has led the offense, senior forward Devin Oliver has supplemented his penchant for rebounding and hustle with newfound scoring ability, and offensive threats Dyshawn Pierre and Vee Sanford are sure to heat up any time. But Dayton’s biggest weapon has been its depth, as the Flyers have received key contributions from 11 different players. Of course, depth is always helpful when playing three games in three days (beware conference tournament opponents), but it can be especially beneficial to a team who runs a relentless uptempo offense, and to any team in a season where fouls are assessed at a markedly increased rate.

A 6-1 November has garnered national attention, as Dayton is now ranked #25 in the AP Poll and just outside looking in at the Coaches’ Poll. Dayton also climbed as high as 8th in RPI, but that ranking is likely to slip throughout the remainder of its non-conference schedule. December (and New Year’s Day) will be about holding serve against lesser teams and amassing a gaudy non-conference record. Dayton will then be tested at Ole Miss in early January before beginning conference play.

We’ve seen this script before from Dayton, an annual bubble tease. Specifically, we’ve seen the Flyers impress during November and December, even in early-season tournaments against power conference teams (winning the Chicago Invitational Challenge five years ago, winning the Old Spice Classic two years ago, and winning two of three games at last year’s Charleston Classic). The real test begins during conference play. Since 2005, Dayton has only finished with a winning conference record twice (2009 and 2012). They’ve been especially unreliable on the road, finishing with a losing A-10 road record every year over that period. The Flyers must find a way to close out tight games as well, as they finished a gut-wrenching 0-7 in games decided by three points or fewer last season. This year’s schedule sets up as favorably as it could hope – Dayton will play A-10 contenders VCU, UMass, and George Washington exclusively at home, and will play Richmond, St. Joseph’s, and St. Louis home-and-home. Only time will tell if Miller’s team can navigate that minefield, but one thing is certain – after such an impressive start to the season, Dayton won’t be overlooked by any of their opponents.

Nicholas Patrick (5 Posts)

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