It’s the offseason, and life is boring. Small tidbits of information on schedules are being leaked everyday. Unfortunately, we don’t know the bulk of Dayton’s non-conference schedule other than playing at Nevada in December. The only other part we know is that the Flyers are heading to Myrtle Beach in November to play in a three game invitational. Joining the Flyers in South Carolina are the following:
First, let’s talk for a minute about the goal of these tournaments. Of course, you want to win the whole damn thing. More importantly, you want to play the best teams in the tournament or at least teams that are highest in the NET/KenPom to improve your tournament resume. For teams like Dayton, who get a very limited amount of quality non-conference games, these tournaments are everything to their tournament resume. If you play the best teams in these tournaments, a win would greatly help your resume, and a loss would not hurt that much. The problem for Dayton is because of their scheduling issues, losses in these tournaments can hurt due to the lack of quality opponents in their non-con. Kind of a double edged sword for the Flyers. The worst-case scenario plan should always be the same every year — go at least 2-1 with the loss not hurting your resume. They did that last season in Maui; let’s hope for at least the same in Myrtle Beach next season.
Looking at this list of teams at first glace, it’s very underwhelming. You would think that Dayton is automatically the favorite to win based off of last year’s success and the players that are coming back for this year’s squad. I went through each of these teams to see if they are as unimpressive as they seem, and which teams Dayton should hope to draw.
It’s a reunion of sorts with former A-10 team Charlotte as well as with former Flyer Jhery Matos, who transferred to Charlotte after last season as a grad transfer. The 49ers are in Conference USA now, where they finished in fourth last season with a 16-13 record overall. They are bringing back 4 starters from last years young squad that now all have 1-3 years of starting experience. They finished 164 in KenPom and 176 in the NET. I’m going to end this blurb with a simple statement: Regardless of how much better they might be, they will not improve Dayton’s tourney resume. They will undoubtedly be a Quad 3 team and can only hurt Dayton’s resume with a loss.
Sister Jean will be in town with her rosary beads in hand to cheer on her darling Ramblers. Everyone knows about the miracle draw/Cinderella run that Loyola had two seasons ago to the Final Four. They haven’t really done much since then, but they might make some noise next season. Porter Moser (who somehow does not have a higher program job by now) is still there and led Loyola to a 21-11 record a season ago. They finished second in the Missouri Valley behind Northern Iowa. They also finished at 101 on KenPom and 98 in the NET. One thing to note is that the Ramblers are bringing back everyone from a team that finished 21-11, including Cameron Krutwig, who was a freshman starter during that Final Four run. Their entire starting lineup from last year included 4 juniors and 1 freshman stud at PG. This team is going to make some noise and is probably the favorite to win the Missouri Valley. The Ramblers will be one of the top teams in the entire tournament and could be a potential Quad 1 game. Put them as one of the teams to hope the Flyers play.
The Tigers of Mizzou finished last season just shy of under .500 with a 15-16 record and an 11th place finish in the SEC. They finished at 97 in KenPom and 84 in the NET. The team is bringing back 4 starters from last year’s squad that were 2 sophomores and 2 juniors. A little more experience will make this team better, but how much better is hard to say. They play pretty good defense, but struggled mightily to score, especially from three (326th in the country from three). The Tigers from Columbia, Missouri, should fair much better next season. A Power 5 school always jumps off the page when you see it, so they have a chance to be a Quad 2 game. But, for the Flyers, they want to try and get Quad 1 games first, so Missouri is going to be down on the list a bit.
Another Power 5 school from the Big Ten, the Huskers of Nebraska come into this season after one of the horrific seasons in recent memory for them. Nebraska finished last in the Big Ten with a 7-25 record, finishing 162 in KenPom and 199 in the NET. Coming into this season, Fred Hoiberg’s team has lost one starter to graduation and two starters to the transfer portal. He also lost a reserve to the portal as well. Two of those three transfers were point guards, which Hoiberg replaced with Trey McGowens from Pitt. His play only depends on the transfer sit-out vote in June. Hoiberg has also added a few other JUCO players that can play right away. Regardless, Hoiberg is only in his second year at the helm in Lincoln. When you take on a rebuild, it takes at least three years to get the ball rolling again. Although they are adding on better players and getting older, the Huskers are not expected to be good next year, even if they get better from a 7-25 season. They are most certainly going to be a Quad 3 game for any team, so avoid getting the draw against them if your a Flyer fan. On another note, current Flyer Jordy Tshimanga is a transfer from Nebraska. I’d say that worked out well for Jordy.
The Pennsylvania Quakers from the Ivy League are next. Penn finished last season with a fourth place finish and a 16-11 record overall. They finished on KenPom at 141 and at 149 in the NET. Penn is losing three senior starters to graduation. The other two starters were primarily freshman. Because of that, Penn is most likely going to be worse next year with a very inexperienced lineup. Penn will be no better than a Quad 3 game and could very well be the worst team in this tournament. Do not hope for this draw, Flyer fans.
The Panthers of Pittsburgh are the last Power 5 conference team in this list. Still a rebuilding project ever since Jamie Dixon left years ago, Pittsburgh has had many rough years and is showing signs of turning it around with Jeff Capel. Turning it around doesn’t necessarily mean you are a good team now, though. Pitt finished last season at 16-17 and 13th in the ACC. That is good for 111 in KenPom and 109 in the NET. Capel’s team is still young and growing from last season and should be better this year. The Panthers are bringing back three starters, only losing two starters to graduation and the transfer portal (Trey McGowens). They lost a key reserve player to the portal as well in Ryan Murphy. Although the team is young and should be better, I would not count on the Panthers to be a quality game. They are a team from a powerful basketball conference in the ACC, so out of all the teams in the field that can get significantly better, it’s Pitt. They will most likely be a Quad 2 game, so put them near the top of the list.
Utah State is coming off of a season where they would have made the NCAA tournament after a clutch shot from Sam Merrill in the Mountain West tournament final over San Diego State. The Aggies finished last season 26-8 and second in the Mountain West, which was good for 41 in KenPom and 40 in the NET. This team is going to miss their best player in Merrill to graduation. They are also losing one more senior starter in Diogo Brito, who wasn’t that big of a contributor. However, the Aggies lost their starting junior point guard to the transfer portal in Abel Porter. With that, the teams is not looking so good. Utah State is a good basketball program, no doubt, but last year’s team will be hard to match. It will most likely be a down year for the Aggies compared to last year, but they had a lot of guys who contributed off the bench, so it will be interesting to see where Utah State is headed. They are most likely a borderline Quad 2/3 game.
Who Should Dayton Hope To Play?
Number 1 on the list is Loyola-Chicago. The Ramblers are going to be a very good team next year and should win the Missouri Valley, a very underrated mid-major conference.
After Loyola, it is a toss up among Utah State, Pittsburgh, and Missouri. I would play it safe and hope for at least one of Pittsburgh or Missouri just because the chances of them being a Quad 2 game are better due to them playing in Power 5 conferences. Utah State wouldn’t be a bad team to play either, but they are a hard team to read.
The teams that Dayton should hope to avoid are Charlotte, Nebraska, and Penn. These teams are not going to be good next year. If you have to play any of these teams, pick Nebraska just because they are in a Power 5 conference, and there is no way they can be worse than last year’s team.
If the tournament bracket is seeded beforehand, Dayton and Loyola-Chicago should be ranked as the top two teams, which would place them on opposite ends of the bracket. Dayton should be the favorite in this tournament, and they will have the biggest crowd, no doubt about it. This is surely a disappointing list overall with probably only one chance at a Quad 1 game, which makes the chances of a bad loss greater for the Flyers.
My official goal for Dayton: win the whole thing to avoid worrying about bad losses.
My official team ranking: Dayton, Loyola-Chicago, Pittsburgh, Missouri, Utah State, Nebraska, Charlotte, Penn.
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