With three regular season games under their belt, the Dayton Flyers travel out to California to compete in the Wooden Legacy tournament. While the Flyers enter the tournament with high expectations, injuries will force them to play shorthanded. After suffering a gruesome fall in the final seconds against Alabama, Josh Cunningham needs surgery to repair torn ligaments in his ankle. Archie Miller said he is thankful that Cunningham’s knee was not hurt, but the 6’7″ forward will still be sidelined for at least 3 months. Fellow starting big man, Kendall Pollard, will also not play in California. Pollard continues to deal with a thigh injury, but the senior is expected back following the Wooden Legacy tournament.
With two starting big men out due to injury, Dayton must rely on role players to step up. Sophomores Sam Miller, Ryan Mikesell, and Xeyrius Williams all need to rebound well in order for the Flyers to accomplish what they want to in California. So far this season, Miller is averaging just four rebounds per game. As Dayton’s tallest player, the Flyers desperately need Miller to step up and control the glass. In order to crash the boards at a more effective rate, Miller and Williams may be forced to stay inside the three point line. Both stretch-fours enjoy stepping behind the arc and trying to knock down triples from time to time. Due to the Flyer’s current size discrepancy, however, Miller and Williams must focus their efforts down low.
Another key to Dayton’s success in the Wooden Legacy tournament depends on the Flyer’s ability to knock down the long ball. Through three games this season Dayton is shooting very efficiently from behind the arc. As a team, the Flyers are hitting threes at a 39% clip and averaging over nine makes per game. Starters Scoochie Smith, Charles Cooke, and Ryan Mikesell have led Dayton’s three point barrage. If the Flyers want to succeed in California, they will need the starters along with guys coming off the bench like Darrell Davis to all catch fire from deep. As long as Pollard and Cunningham are out, Dayton must shoot a high percentage to offset the battles lost down low.
Finally, in order for the Flyers to compete for the Wooden Legacy tournament championship, they must take care of the basketball. Dayton seems to get off to sluggish starts in games when it comes to ball protection. In the game at Alabama, the Flyers turned the ball over eight times in the first half. Last time out against St. Mary’s, Dayton committed 12 total turnovers. Losing by just four points, those turnovers certainly game back to bite the Flyers against the nation’s #15 team. Following the game, Archie Miller pointed to turnovers (along with rebounding) as a primary area the team must improve. If Dayton can rebound well, knock down shots from the perimeter, and take care of the basketball, the Flyers should hold their own just fine out in California.
Dayton kicks off the tournament Thursday night at 8:30 ET against undefeated Nebraska. If the Flyers win, they most likely will face #14 UCLA in a huge semifinal match-up.