It’s been a lackluster season for the Flyers to say the least; a 77-72 loss to VCU in the 8-9 game of the A-10 Tournament reaffirmed that sentiment. Holding a 5 point lead after the last media timeout, it looked like the Flyers might hang on and see another day. Then, their offense crumbled.
UD suffered from 2 straight shot clock violations in the final minutes, and VCU capitalized on the other end, most notably with a tough bank shot from Jonathan Williams in the lane. With the game on the line, Josh Cunningham of the Flyers was forced to go way up and try to get an errant pass, leading to a turnover. The Flyers didn’t go 2 for 1 in the final minute, and that costly turnover would be the nail in the coffin for the Flyers’ season.
It’s not necessarily a new occurrence for the Dayton Flyers: unable to close tight games has been an issue for this team all year long. However, the way this one went down may have stung more than any of the others.
The Flyers have choked countless times this season, but it’s not just bad luck. At a certain point, Anthony Grant has to be held accountable, even though this is his first season with UD. Sure, he has a lot of freshmen in his lineup, but arguably, his freshman were the reason UD didn’t lose more games. Jalen Crutcher had a tendency to bail out his coach with late three pointers when the offense wasn’t moving anywhere.
Even more so, Dayton failed to feed its post player, Josh Cunningham, effectively, and when the Flyers did, they’d inexplicably go away from what was working countless times throughout the season. Anthony Grant would experiment with some odd lineups, and most UD fans never knew what their coach was thinking.
Anthony Grant: “One of the shot clock violations, we were disjointed. A few of them were good defense by VCU. That’s basketball. We didn’t make some rotations that we needed to make on defense.”
— A10Talk (@A10Talk) March 8, 2018
Grant knew that his team made some mistakes, and it seems he understands a lot of that weight is on him, but the excuse “that’s basketball” isn’t going to fly with a program that has lofty expectations. This will be the first time in 4 years that Dayton misses the NCAA Tournament, and while that was expected heading into the season, more or less, the Flyers surely were hoping for better than a 9th place finish and a first round A-10 Tournament exit in Washington D.C.
Will the Flyers get better? Probably. Will they get better ay finishing games? I’m not so sure. Unless Anthony Grant can draw up some winning plays down the stretch, this team will continue to struggle. Turning it over in the final few minutes of the game is usually on the players who lack experience, but when the offense has no clear direction, you have to point to the coach.
So while we normally look at the players to get better during the offseason, there’s a need for Anthony Grant to get better too. He needs to go back and analyze what he did wrong at the end of games all season long. And even more importantly, I think Josh Cunningham has to take over the end of ball games, even if his coach does not. Cunningham has already established himself as the leader of this ball club, and that will hold true even more so in the 2018-19 season. Cunningham needs to demand the rock even if that’s not the play.