The 2016 NCAA Tournament marked the Dayton Flyers’ third straight appearance in the Big Dance. Unfortunately for the Flyers, it was the first time in these last three seasons that they failed to win a tournament game. Dayton followed up its magical 2014 NCAA tournament run by winning two tournament games in 2015. In 2016, however, the Flyers fell in the first round to Syracuse. Have no fear though, True Team will be back as strong as ever for the 2016-17 season. Here are the 5 reasons Dayton will make the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight season.
1. Senior Leaders
Dayton returns 4 of their 5 starters from last season, all of whom will be seniors on this year’s roster. Scoochie Smith, Kyle Davis, and Kendall Pollard seem like they have been together forever now. As freshmen on the 2014 Elite Eight team, Smith, Davis, and Pollard have certainly seen a lot of wins. In fact, entering this year, they have a good chance to become Dayton’s all-time winningest class. Redshirt senior Charles Cooke will also be a key leader for the Flyers this season. After transferring from James Madison University, Cooke shined in his first year playing at Dayton. Last season he averaged 15.6 points along with 5.8 rebounds per game. Cooke’s great play earned him a spot on the All A-10 First Team. With the high skill level and toughness of these four senior leaders, the Flyers look to be in pretty good hands.
2. A Coach Who Knows How to Win
Entering his sixth season as Dayton’s head basketball coach, Archie Miller has already achieved great success. He has led the Flyers to three NCAA tournament appearances, including five tournament wins. Despite this success, however, one can be sure Miller is as hungry as ever for more. Dayton started its True Team motto with Miller as the coach and their togetherness has certainly been tested these last few years. In 2015, the Flyers kicked their two big men off the team, leaving them with no player taller than 6’6″ on the roster. Miller somehow helped his guys battle through this, as Dayton made the NCAA tournament round of 32. Even with a roster full of talent ready for this season, challenges have already arose. Just a few weeks ago Dayton center, “Big” Steve McElvene passed away due to an enlarged heart. This tragic loss weighs heavy on the hearts of all of the UD community, but count on Miller to help his team overcome it.
3. Three Point Snipers
While Dayton is not exactly known as a three point shooting team, the Flyers definitely have some guys that can fill it up from deep. Last season Dayton had seven players shoot over 30% from three point range. Two guys in particular, Scoochie Smith and Charles Cooke, stood out. Smith shot 38% from deep while Cooke shot a highly impressive 40%. Another guy that can heat up in a hurry from behind the arc is junior guard Darrell Davis. In his freshman year, Davis shot an incredible 45% from three. Last season, however, he shot just 29%. If Baby D can come off the bench and light it up, Dayton will have a full arsenal of three point snipers.
4. Deep Bench
For the first time since the 2014 Elite Eight team, it looks like the Flyers will be able to play a lot of guys this year. With such a solid starting lineup, it’s unclear how much Dayton will rely on its bench. When Miller does need to go to it, which he likes to do, the Flyers should have no shortage of talent. Dayton had four freshman coming off their bench last season who are all expected to contribute in a big way now as sophomores. One of these guys is Ryan Mikesell. In his first game as a Flyer the 6’6″ forward from Saint Henry, Ohio dropped 21 points to go along with 8 rebounds and 4 assists. Another player to watch for is incoming freshman from Wayne High School, Trey Landers. The athletic 6’5″ guard could bring a lot to Dayton as he gets to reunite with former high school teammate Xeyrius Williams. With Landers, junior guard Darrell Davis, and the four Flyer sophomores, Dayton will have a deep and talented bench this season.
5. Preseason Projections
Coming into the 2016-17 season the Dayton Flyers have high expectations. The buzz around this True Team locally and nationally continues to grow bigger and bigger. The Flyers will most likely be picked to finish 1st in the Atlantic 10 this year, unless Rhode Island manages to beat them out for the #1 preseason spot. Dayton will also have a good chance to start the year in the AP top 25 poll. While some Flyer fans think it’s a curse to be nationally ranked, it can only gain Dayton publicity and be a sign of good things. If Archie Miller can help his team manage expectations this year, the Flyers should find themselves right back in the NCAA tournament with a good chance to make another deep run.