Trivia question: Who leads the nation in effective field goal percentage?
Given that I am writing a game preview it seems pretty obvious, but the answer is Dayton. The Flyers started off with a narrow win over a meh Indiana State team, but have obliterated everyone else they have played, including back-to-back demolitions of Georgia and Virginia Tech in their first two Maui games.
On the surface, the task seems daunting. Dayton takes a lot of threes (43.7 percent of attempts) and is making a solid 36 percent of those attempts. But they’re also shooting 71 percent on twos, which leads the nation by almost 10 percent over the next closest team. If you want to lean on something positive, they’ve played just two top-100 defenses and zero top-50 defenses, so the defense they will see tonight will be a large step up. That said, 71 percent from two is no joke against no matter who you’re playing.
Defensively, the Flyers have gotten bit by the bad luck fairy a bit as they rank 49th in allowing 3-point attempts but 298th in percentage against. We’ll get into this more later, but I suspect Kansas is going to attempt to get it to Azubuike as often as they can tonight anyway, so the lack of threes allowed doesn’t worry me too much.
More worrisome is the fact Dayton forces quite a few turnovers, and Kansas needs to get as many shots up as they can in order to maximize possessions and points (duh). Fortunately for the Jayhawks, Dayton is relatively small down low and while they have done well to keep opponents off the glass, a lot of that has to do with the opponents themselves. If Kansas really goes for it, I think they’ll be able to steal some extra points on the glass.
Players to Watch
Obi Toppin, 6-9 sophomore forward
Dayton may have other players, but none worth worrying about. Toppin is doing his best Zion Williamson impression this year, shooting 78 percent on twos with a usage rate of around 27 percent. He’s also shooting 53 percent on threes, but on only 15 attempts. He took just 21 threes last year, however, so certainly he has made expanding his range part of his game.
He’s also super athletic, but provides Dayton coach Anthony Grant with an interesting conundrum on the other end of the floor: as Dayton’s tallest player, he would be a natural guess to guard Udoka Azubuike. But if he does, he risks getting into early foul trouble and being taken out of the game. He also risks getting tired out on that end and not being as effective on offense. If he doesn’t guard Azubuike, though, that task will likely fall to 6-7 Ryan Mikesell, who gives up about 60 pounds to Doke. That decision will probably decide the game one way or another.
Rodney Chapman, 6-1 junior guard
The UT-Chattanooga transfer is on pace for the best season of his career, as he’s shooting 43 percent from deep so far this season. However, he’s just a career 32 percent shooter from three, so while I wouldn't necessarily leave him alone out there, KU’s attention can mostly be turned elsewhere. Still, Dotson will have to do a better job at getting through screens tonight than he did last night.
Jalen Crutcher, 6-1 junior guard
Crutcher has been one of the best passers in the Atlantic 10 for the first two years of his career, and he’s done so again this year. Dotson might end up on him rather than Chapman when both Crutcher and Chapman are in the game. He hasn’t shot the ball great from behind the arc this year, but has been much better over his career, about 35 percent for his career.
I think Kansas is going to run into a lot of trouble guarding Toppin. Marcus Garrett probably gives up too much size to be able to do so effectively, but I suspect he will get the first crack at it. It’s weird to say we want a 50 percent 3-point shooter on the perimeter, but Kansas might be better served having either McCormack or De Sousa on him so he can’t get many free points down low.
I’ll just say I’m glad Bill Self is in charge of dealing with it rather than me. I do think Kansas will be able to score fairly easily against Dayton when they avoid turnovers, but will they avoid turnovers enough? I’m going to say no and pick the Flyers to narrowly take the Maui Invitational, 84-77.
2019-20 record ATS: 1-4 :(:(:(:(