Coming off a 73-46 season-opening win against Lindenwood, the 24th ranked Dayton Flyers have their sights set on a Friday night face-off with the SMU Mustangs. The programs played each other in each of the last two seasons. SMU escaped the first contest in 2020-21 with a 66-64 win in an empty (due to covid) UD Arena. Last year, on their home court, the Mustangs defeated the Flyers 77-69. This time, Dayton is looking for revenge in front of a sold-out home crowd. UD Arena promises to bring the noise for what should be the Flyers’ toughest non-conference home game of the season.
SMU Mustangs (1-0):
This year’s SMU team looks almost entirely different from the one Dayton faced last season. Rob Lainer is the new head coach. He made the jump from Georgia State after Tim Jankovich retired from SMU at the end of last season. The Mustangs also lost four double-digit scorers from last year’s team. With a ton of production to replace, Lainer and his staff turned to the transfer portal to help fill some of the voids. That said, I have doubts about the caliber of players Lainer was able to acquire from the portal. SMU does have some returning talent, however, and will rely heavily upon it throughout the year.
In the Mustangs’ season-opener, sophomore point guard Zhuric Phelps led the way, scoring a team-high 28 points. Two other SMU players also scored in double-figures as fifth-year senior guard Zach Nutall added 12 points, and Louisville transfer Samuell Williamson put up 11. If SMU want to have a shot at leaving UD Arena with a win, it must shoot better form three. The Mustangs went just 3-18 from behind the arc against Texas A&M Commerce. The three-ball will be critical to SMU’s success on Friday night.
No. 24 Dayton Flyers (1-0):
With Malachi Smith and Koby Brea sidelined due to injuries to start the year, Dayton’s point guard duties are currently in the hands of freshman Mike Sharavjamts and sophomore Kobe Elvis. Last season, the Flyers’ offense struggled mightily without Smith in the lineup. Ball movement became stagnant and buckets were tough to come by. In Dayton’s opening night win, however, the ball movement was exceptional. The Flyers assisted on 19 of their 24 made baskets and five players scored in double figures. Elvis and Sharavjamts tied for the team lead in assists, with five apiece in the game. As long as Dayton continues to spread the ball around its offense will be very difficult to guard.
Much like SMU, three point shooting was one of the Flyers’ most obvious struggles on opening night. Dayton went just 5-19 from behind the arc. The Flyers clearly missed their most reliable shooter in Koby Brea, as well as Malachi Smith (who, believe it or not, shot over 40% from three last season). That said, I would not yet worry about Dayton’s shooting… I think the Flyers will be just fine. Plus, when you have DaRon Holmes in the paint, you can afford to suffer from less than impressive shooting nights from time to time.
As aforementioned, this is not the same SMU team Dayton faced in each of the last two seasons. Quite frankly, I expect the Mustangs to take a substantial step back this year. The Flyers, on the other hand, might be the most improved team in the country from a year ago, and I don’t say that lightly. As we know, Dayton lost three buy games last year. Now, the Flyers are a top 25 team and fully capable of living up to that hype. I expect Dayton to be the better defensive team and I don’t believe SMU has the offensive firepower to pull off an upset at UD Arena. I think Dayton takes care of business with a big 76-61 win.