What a turn of events.
After losing in their first two weeks of the season to UMass-Lowell, Lipscomb, and Austin Peay, the Dayton Flyers went and beat the likes of Miami, #4 Kansas, and Belmont, all much better teams, to win the ESPN Events Invitational in Orlando.
It is remarkable and improbable that this even happened, but Dayton looks like a completely different team from the moment they took the court on Thursday against Miami. Even better, they topped it off with the upset of the season around college basketball by beating #4 Kansas. There was no other way it could have ended than with a Dayton victory on Sunday against Belmont, who the Flyers looked much better than, although it was a 2 point final.
This was a win that felt like a sigh of relief, as now the season means more now than it did a week ago after three tough losses at home.
Here’s my takeaways from the week that was for the Dayton Flyers:
This Team is Starting to Find Their Roles.
It took three terrible losses, but the players are starting to find their roles on this team. Kobe Elvis has found his role, not as a point guard, but as a shooting guard off the bench. He found some confidence in the Belmont game, scoring 10 points off the bench. Mali Smith is the starting point guard, and he is an absolute killer with unlimited confidence. DaRon Holmes is the sidekick to Smith, as he can change the game on offense and defense. Elijah Weaver is now this team’s spot up three-point shooter, along with Koby Brea. Blakney does a lot of little things, even though I would love to see what more he could provide this team on offense. Mus Amzil can come off the bench and provide a spark from multiple points on the floor. Lynn Greer is Mali’s backup at PG, and has a beautiful jump shot. Even Mou Sissoko has found a role on a game by game basis, being a big body against another team’s big body, as we have seen in a few games this season. What remains to be seen is how Zimi Nwokeji fits into the rotation, who is just getting back from injury, even though he played a little in the Miami game. Altogether, this team has a guy for almost every situation, and it’s finally coming together.
We Have a Ceiling and a Floor.
The floor was clear before we got to Orlando; it’s becoming cold from everywhere on the floor and losing to very bad teams as a result. However, the ceiling for this team is EXTREMELY HIGH, considering they kept up with and beat the number four team in the country in Kansas. Now, that won’t happen every time they play a team as good as Kansas. but we know they can keep up with talented teams and can play with them if they put the effort in. What we need to find is the median for this team, which could be how they played against Belmont. The Bruins are not a bad team at all, ranking #64 on KenPom and are the favorite in the Ohio Valley Conference this season. If that’s the median, then Dayton will be right in the thick of things in the A10 this season. We need to see another performance like that to really trust what we think is the median for this team.
Dayton’s At-Large Hopes Do Not Look Completely Lost
Yes, the three home losses to start the season will absolutely be Quad 4 losses for the entire season. Now that Dayton has won these three games in Orlando, let’s analyze them a bit, even though the NCAA does not have a NET Ranking yet. We will use KenPom for reference until they do. Reminder, for neutral site games, Quad 1 is #1-50, Quad 2 is #51-100, Quad 3 is #101-200, Quad 4 is #201+.
Miami is currently #96 on KenPom, good enough to be a borderline Quad 2 win. Miami is in the ACC, a top-tier college basketball conference. If Miami can pull out some decent games in the ACC conference, this can hopefully remain a Quad 2 win, otherwise, it might be Quad 3 by the end of the season. That’s how bad Miami is.
Kansas is #4 on KenPom. This will absolutely no doubt be a Quad 1 win in March. And even better, Kansas is one of the favorites in the Big 12, also a very good conference. The more Kansas wins, the better this win becomes. As of right now, it erases at least one of the bad losses, but could erase 2 of them if Kansas is really good by season’s end. This win was huge and might get bigger by the end of the season.
Belmont is #64 on KenPom. This would be Quad 2, and should remain Quad 2 as long as Belmont remains good and runs the table in the OVC as expected. This win was also necessary for Dayton to get back in the at-large conversation. It could erase one of the bad losses, but I’m not sure. Dayton might need two Quad 2 wins to erase one bad Quad 4 loss. The committee works in mysterious ways.
Here’s the other things that need to happen to totally eliminate the stink of the three losses:
- Dayton needs big wins against their three remaining good teams on the schedule, which are Virginia Tech, Ole Miss, and SMU. Getting at least 2 of 3 wins would help the resume tremendously.
- No more bad losses…in the Non-con, in the conference slate, NONE. Take care of business. No loss to Saint Joe’s on the road. No losses to Fordham, La Salle, or Duquesne. No more crap. Any more, and we can slow down the at-large talks.
- Win a couple of the big A10 games against good teams. They will get VCU twice, SLU twice, St. Bonaventure at home, Rhode Island twice. Dayton needs a few wins there to convince the committee that the wins in Orlando were the real Dayton Flyers and not a mirage.
Dayton will travel home with the tournament trophy and get ready for a game on Wednesday against Alabama State. They are currently #333 on KenPom, worse than any team they have played so far this season. The Flyers can prove who they are with a dominating win against Alabama State. See you then, Flyer Faithful!
Photo credit to daytonflyers.com