Less than one calendar year removed from finishing the season ranked third in the country, the Dayton Flyers find themselves in a unique situation. After losing two of their last three games to the likes of Fordham and La Salle (a feat I never before thought possible), the Flyers are reeling. No need to worry, tough, this is a small setback for a team with last year’s National Coach of the Year at the helm, right? Wrong. One bad game on the road every now and then is expected in college basketball, but Dayton’s issues cut deeper. The Flyers have looked entirely lost on offense for long periods of time in each of their eight games this season. Coming off an abysmal 54 point performance against Fordham, Dayton’s poor play on offense can no longer be excused. Had this been a “rebuilding” year, the cause for concern might not be so substantial; but with four highly regarded seniors and a group of talented freshmen, Flyer fans are left questioning those in charge of leading this team. Rather than continuing to sulk, however, let’s take a look at what Dayton can actually do to turn its season around.
To put it simply: Dayton needs to use a smaller lineup. Playing Mustapha Amzil at the five would allow the Flyers to spread the floor, get out in transition, and play at a faster tempo. Furthermore, going small often creates more easy buckets, reduces turnovers, and enables talented players to reach their full potential on offense. If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because I’m describing the exact offense Dayton ran last year. In my opinion, a return to this style would jump start the Flyers offense as it provides more room for Jalen Crutcher, Ibi Watson, Elijah Weaver, etc. to operate. No disrespect to Jordy Tshimanga or Moulaye Sissoko, but they’re both big, traditional centers who don’t fit well in an offense that needs to be spaced and uptempo. Having a dominant post offense and/or greatly out-rebounding the competition are the only justifications for playing traditional centers in the modern era of basketball. Unfortunately for the Flyers, neither Tshimanga or Sissoko provide either. The two currently combine to average just 8.1 points per game. Furthermore, Dayton has been out-rebounded in four of its eight contests and the numbers looked much worse prior to the Fordham game.
With R.J. Blakney expected to return from injury next game, I believe Dayton’s ideal starting lineup should look like this: Jalen Crutcher, Elijah Weaver, Ibi Watson, R.J. Blakney, and Mustapha Amzil. This would allow the Flyers to ignite their offense without giving much (if anything) up on the glass. Amzil and Blakney have already proven their physicality on the boards and seem more than capable of holding their own against larger opponents. Additionally, substitutions would be simplified as Koby Brea, Zimi Nwokeji, and Rodney Chatman (when he returns from injury) could easily swap-in when someone from starting five needs a breather. I know it goes against Anthony Grant’s philosophy to sit a senior in favor of a freshman, but if the objective is to win as many basketball games as possible, it’s what needs to be done. Don’t get me wrong, Jordy Tshimanga is a joy of a guy who always plays with heart, but Dayton’s offense would be far better off without a traditional center constantly in the game.
Whether you see eye to eye with me or not, I think we can all agree that something has to change for the Flyers offensively. Dayton can not continue to average 64.75 points per game in regulation and expect to win basketball games. Losing to Fordham and La Salle is rock bottom; and with an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament out of the picture, the Flyers quite literally have nothing to lose by making a lineup change. No matter what adjustments Anthony Grant elects to make, however, stay strong Flyer fans. The current concern is warranted, but Dayton basketball is not falling off a cliff, it’s merely stuck in a storm on its way up the mountain. Brighter days are ahead.
Featured Image Via Keegan Gupta (@keegan_gupta on Twitter).