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Know Your Opponent: Dayton Flyers

Looking for a Dayton Flyers blog, I found two. Both proprieters were willing to answer questions, thankfully, and I asked the same questions to both. What will follow is a question I proposed, then each writer's response.

The two Dayton blogs, both of which are fabulously excellent, are Blackburn Review and Peanut Butter and a Blanket. Visit both, read both profusely, learn about Dayton. They are both awesome and fantastic. I answered questions for both of them, so expect to see my own answers up on their blog at some point. But, seriously, read both.

1) How big was the win over West Virginia for the program?

PBB: Huge, enormous and even bigger than that. Before yesterday, UD had not won a tournament game since 1990. Dayton is a program with a pretty rich basketball history and tradition, but it had not been relevant on the national stage in quite some time. I’m not saying winning one NCAA game does that – certainly not to the extent of the Kansases, the Carolinas, the UCLAs of the world – but it is one giant step in the right direction. Plus, this is a fairly young team. Other than one player (senior F Charles Little), this entire team will be back next season. The win over WVU was about more than just one game; it was about Dayton proving to itself that it could win in this tournament. Winning tomorrow is going to be a tall order, and I’m sure the Flyers will be a substantial underdog. As a UD fan, your goal is for your team to be playing on the second weekend, something that now seems possible and tangible after beating the Moutaineers.


BR: It was huge.  The entire campus felt like Japan right after Pearl Harbor.  Just extreme excitement and a feeling that the program is finally headed in the right direction.  Dayton has been on the cusp of national respectability before, but yesterday's win over West Virginia might be the sign that UD is finally ready to leave its imprint on the national scene.  The future is certainly bright for the Flyers.  Only Charles Little graduates this season, meaning 4 of the 5 starters will be back for UD next season.  Brad McEldowney, who has been hobbled all season with an undisclosed injury, is reported to have a 60-inch vertical leap and able to lift two refrigerators at once.  He is a fan favorite who acts as the team's hype-man before home games.  Although that practice was halted when McEldowney, probably too amped up before the Xavier game, told the the UD crowd to "raise your motherfucking gats in the air" before the game.  The administration objected to his vulgarity and the fact that he was holding a plastic gun in his hand when he said this.  Still, fans are very excited about McEldowney's potential next season.  The point?  UD is poised to exceed their success in 2009-10.


Rest of the questions and answers after the break...




2) Your thoughts on Brian Gregory? What do you think about his recent extension?

PBB: Haha, I am probably the wrong person to ask on this one. Long story, but let’s just say that Brian Gregory and I do not exchange Christmas cards and phone calls on major post office holidays. You won’t find a bigger BG critic out there than I’ve been. He inherited a team that was a 4 seed on the Dance the year before, made the Tournament in his first season, then proceeded to miss the postseason (even the NIT) for three consecutive years. After the third, I was firmly on the Fire Gregory Bandwagon. At this point, though, that just looks foolish. He’s done something no UD coach has done in 19 years, so all the people who were talking “hot seat” before this season started (mainly just me) have shut up in a hurry.

I think most Flyers fans see the contract extension as a positive move, but little more than a formality. It is great to (theoretically) lock up your head coach for the foreseeable future and ensure some stability within the program. However, I think BG has his eyes on the bigger prize, a major D-I coaching position. If he is Dayton’s head coach all the way through this extension, it would be more than shocking. It would pretty much be a miracle.


BR: I'm "in like" with Brian Gregory.  I don't necessarily agree with many of his tactics, but that's why he was preparing for Kansas late last night while I was scooping up my dog's shit with a plastic bag. His emphasis on defense has obviously been the key to the Flyer's success this year.  To keep that sort of constant defensive pressure, you have to substitute liberally.  This means sacrificing your best offensive weapons at times. However, if yesterday's game is any indication (Wright, Little and Marcus Johnson all played over 30 minutes for the first time this season) he is going the distance with his thoroughbreds.  You can't argue with results, especially in March.  

The extension is merely an insurance policy for both parties.  Gregory's stock keeps rising, and UD wants to make sure they are compensated handsomely when some program comes along and offers BG a job he can't refuse.  Like all equitable agreements, there is some give and take.  UD gets paid if Gregory leaves, and Gregory gets paid if UD kindly asks him to leave sometime in the near future.  Like I said on my award-winning blog, if Greogry is still around in 2018, something has gone horribly, horribly wrong.  A win against KU would only raise his asking price--something UD would obviously welcome for many reasons.


3) What defense do the Flyers primarily play? M2M, or do you mix in zones, as well?

PBB: All man-to-man all the time. Brian Gregory is stubborn. You play hard-nosed, in-your-face man D or you sit. He hates the zone and, to be honest, on the very, very rare occasions when the Flyers have gone zone this season, it has not been at all effective. This team is going to play up on the ball as tight as possible and try to force you to make a mistake. UD is best in the transition offense, and the best way to make that happen is to get the opponent to turn the ball over. The Flyers will also press for the majority of the game, but it is just extending the tight man-to-man D to the full court. There will likely be no trapping our double-teaming out of it. It’s not a press designed to get steals (a la Louisville). It is a more nagging press, designed to have a more cumulative effect and wear down an opponent’s back court by the end of the game.


BR: They play hard-core adults-only man-to-man defense.  I'm not going to lie to you, Dayton is not a good offensive team.  They average 67.5 points a game (171st in the nation, 11th in the A10).  They live and die with their defense.  If UD can cause some turnovers and limit KU's second chance opportunities, they have an excellent chance of winning this one.  If the Jayhawks are nearing 40 points before halftime? Gregory will be waving the white flag.


4) Who is your next-best player, after all-everything Chris Wright?

PBB: Marcus Johnson. Hands down, no question about it. In fact, you could make a case that M. Johnson is actually the team’s best overall player, but, after yesterday, that would just seem silly. It’s Wright and Johnson and then scoring by committee. When the Flyers get a third guy in on the act (like Charles Little did against WVU), they can be a tough team to beat. Also, Marcus Johnson tends to draw the toughest defensive assignment among the opposition’s perimeter players.


BR: Personally, I don't believe Chris Wright is UD's best all-around player.  He is clearly the Flyer's best athlete, but don't be fooled by his 27 point outburst against the Mountaineers.  Kountry Chris averaged just a vagina hair over 12 points a game this year.  In my feeble mind, Marcus Johnson is UD's best player. He is Dayton's best outside threat (meaning he can hit a shot outside of five feet), and the only Flyer who can create his own looks.  White girls love him and he frequently leaves messages on LeBron James' cell phone. If there are two seconds on the clock and Dayton needs a basket, I want the ball in MJ's hands.  If we are deciding the game on a dunk-contest, which is only a matter of time at this point, I want Kountry Chris.


5) Who will have to guard Sherron Collins? Cole Aldrich?

PBB: This is a tough one for me to answer. I just stated that Marcus Johnson would tend to draw this type of assignment, but London Warren is extremely quick and just an absolute pest on the defensive end. Warren has to be on the court, though, because Dayton’s back-up PG Rob Lowery is out for the year with an injury. I think Warren starts the game on Collins, but if he even sniffs foul trouble or gives up some early buckets, expect Johnson to get the call to try to slow Sherron down.

As for Aldrich, Kurt Huelsman will defend him and I expect to see some double teams. Dayton has not played a team with a true post scorer in a loooong time, so it will be interesting to see how the Flyers react. I expect Aldrich to get his; I just hope he doesn’t go off or UD could be in for a long afternoon. Dayton’s depth will help a little since the Flyers will have plenty of fouls to give.


BR: Collins is going to be chased around all day by London Warren. He is the guy that looks like Whoopi Goldberg only prettier.  If Collins is making Warren look silly, I would expect Gregory to put Marcus Johnson on Collins.  Johnson is not as quick, but has three or four inches on Warren and is an excellent one-on-one defender. 

Aldrich is probably going to see equal parts goofy white guy and scary black man.  White guy is Kurt Huelsman.  Huelsman is the stiffiest stiff you will ever see.  Black man is Big Dog Searcy.  The duo has performed well against the big men they have faced this year, but haven't faced one as tough as Aldrich.  Dayton has 10 fouls to spare between the two of them, and I would expect one of them to foul out before it's all said and done.


6) Dayton will win because:

PBB: Chris Wright will not allow it to lose. It sounds hacky and/or cliché, but Chris Wright can impose his will on a basketball game. The Flyers have never lost a home game in which Wright has played. He is the team’s leader (physically, emotionally, vocally, in vertical leap and in any other way you can think of). If UD wins, it will be because Chris has a huge game, and the rest of the Flyers rise to his level of play.


BR: The defense will stiffle Collins and Aldrich.  Bottom line, if Collins and Aldrich repeat their performance from Friday afternoon it's going to be a long day for the Flyers.  North Dakota State was able to shoot their way into the game against KU--UD does not have the type of outside threats to keep them in the contest.  Ben Woodside is not coming through those doors.  All 3 of Dayton's key players (Wright, Little, Marcus Johnson) have to play well for the Flyers to get to Indianapolis.  I realize I'm stating the obvious, but that's just the way it is.


7) Dayton will lose because:

PBB: There are so many  ways to answer this. Kansas is a more talented team in almost every way. There are so few ways for the Flyers to win and so many for them to lose. I’ll go with this: Dayton will lose because it does not contain Aldrich on the inside, it does not force turnovers and convert them into easy buckets, and it shoots less than 60% from the line.


BR: UD's defense can only carry it so far.  This team struggles to score points.  If one of the Big 3 gets in foul trouble, it's curtains on the season.  Dayton usually doesn't have trouble limiting production from the oppposition's best players.  It seems that someone unexpected always has a career day against the Flyers.  Collins and Aldrich are going to get their points, that's a given.  If someone like Tyshawn Taylor or Morningstar explode, Dayton has no chance.  If UD loses it will be because Wright or Johnson had an off day and someone other than Collins or Aldrich played well on the offensive end.


8) Finally, KenPom gives you an 18% chance of winning the game. Do you think that is too high, too low or just right? Along the same lines, what is your prediction for what will go down on Sunday morning?

PBB: I’d like to ask Ken how he gets this number. Seems a bit absurd if you ask me. However, if you told me UD and KU played five times on a neutral floor and Kansas won four of them, I’d be hard pressed to argue with you.

The pick: Chris Wright goes for 18 and 8, but it’s just not enough. Kansas holds off a game UD team 67-59.


BR: If I can steal a line from my grandma, "Fuck KenPom."  18% is giving Kansas too much credit.  Make no mistake, UD can play.  18% seems like such an arbitrary number, so I'm not going to pay it much mind.  I have seen this KU team a few times, and wasn't overly impressed.  I think Self did an amazing job with the amount of inexperience this team has. Dayton has the abilitiy to make offensively-gifted teams look ordinary.  Aldrich is my biggest concern--he could have a field day inside.  However, I think this UD team will play loose and with nothing to lose on Sunday.  I'm calling the upset, Dayton is this year's cinderella.


Seriously, those blogs are excellent. My pregame reading about the team consists of: reading those two blogs and KenPom's page. That's all.

I'll be back late, late tonight with the KenPom preview.