As we count down the days to the start of the 2018-19 season, A10 Talk will be brining you its preseason power rankings, as voted on by its team of writers. We continue the countdown with #9 VCU Rams.
Returnees to Watch
Losing just one player from its 2017-18 starting lineup (Darrell Davis), Dayton has its core group back and hungry for a big year. For the Flyers, it all starts with senior big man Josh Cunningham. A preseason All-Conference First Team selection, Cunningham is a serious contender for 2018-19 A-10 Player of the Year. Last season the 6’7″ forward averaged an efficient 15.6 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. As for his counterpart, Trey Landers is looking to take another step up in his game. As a sophomore last season, Landers had himself a breakout year. He averaged 11.3 points and 5.6 rebounds per game in addition to four double-doubles throughout the season. Despite being undersized for a big man at 6’5″, Landers’ bulldog mentality enabled him to put up productive numbers alongside Cunningham. A key piece to the 2018-19 Flyers will be Landers’ continued improvement and ability to alternate between the three and four spots.
The final two returning starters are promising guards Jalen Crutcher and Jordan Davis. As freshmen last season, the duo displayed impressive poise and productivity. Running the point for Dayton, Crutcher put up 9.2 points to go along with 4.4 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game. Davis, who played the two spot much of the time, proved himself to be a three point sniper. Although he averaged only eight points per game, Davis shot nearly 40% from behind the three point line. As he becomes more comfortable in the offense, however, expect Davis to gain confidence and start taking more shots. If Dayton wants to compete in the A-10 this year, Crutcher and Davis must have big sophomore seasons.
Newcomers to Watch
While Dayton does return four starters from last year’s team, the Flyers’ bench looks almost completely different. Considering how poor Dayton’s bench played last year, the newcomers bring hope to the Flyer faithful. Dwayne Cohill, a top 100 player coming out of high school, is at the top of the newcomer list. A 6’3″ four-star guard out of Cleveland, Ohio, Cohill should see some quality playing time behind Crutcher and Davis. Another Flyer freshman with a lot of hype is 6’10” forward Obadiah Toppin. An athletic freak, Toppin redshirted last year after committing to Dayton over Georgia.
The third Flyer freshman is 6’9″ Frankie Policelli. A three-star recruit, Policelli played mostly wing in high school. That said, his height gives him unique versatility. While it’s unclear how much of an impact Policelli will make right away, he certainly has upside. Dayton’s fourth and final newcomer is JUCO transfer Jhery Matos. Originally from the Dominican Republic, Matos played his sophomore year of JUCO ball at Monroe College in the Bronx, New York. He averaged 17.8 points and 6.3 rebounds to go along with 36% three point shooting. Standing six feet, six inches tall, Matos is a versatile small forward who could help the Flyers coming off the bench. (It should also be noted that 6’7″ junior forward Ryan Mikesell will make his return after missing all of last season following hip surgery).
Games to Watch
Dayton’s 2018-19 non-conference will certainly provide the Flyers with some challenges and opportunities to pick up quality wins. The first real test for Dayton will come on Thanksgiving Day (November 21st) against Butler. This game is apart of the Battle 4 Atlantis, a holiday tournament with a very talented field this year. Based on what happens in the first round, the Flyers could find themselves matched up against No. 5 Virginia in the second round. Dayton will return home from that trip to take on No. 18 Mississippi State at UD Arena on November 30th. Just over a week later, on December 8th, the Flyers will travel to Auburn to take on the 11th ranked Tigers. The last notable non-conference game on Dayton’s schedule will take place against Tulsa at a neutral site on December 16th. As for A-10 play, it promises to be wild as always.
After missing the NCAA tournament for the first time in four years, Dayton should be much improved in 2018-19. Returning four starters, the Flyers keep their productive core in tact. Just how much Dayton improves will depend on its bench productivity. While the newcomers’ impact remains to be seen, the Flyers’ bench can only improve after last year’s debacle. If Cohill and Toppin live up to the hype, Dayton should see much more success than it did a year ago. Watch out for the Flyers to catch some by surprise and compete for a double-bye in the A-10 tournament.