It’s that time of year again. With the official bracket out, everyone anxiously awaits the start of tournament games. For the Dayton Flyers, an NCAA tournament bid is nothing new. This year marks Dayton’s third straight appearance in the Big Dance. In 2014 they made a magical run to the Elite 8 and followed it up with a round of 32 showing last year. Each of the previous two seasons the committee placed Dayton as an 11 seed. As a 7 seed playing 10 seed Syracuse in the first round this year, roles have flipped. The Flyers have deservedly gone from the underdog to favorite. While this might affect some team’s mindsets, I don’t expect it to impact Dayton’s. The Flyer’s True Team motto and hungry attitude will continue to serve them well in March. The winner of Friday’s 12:15 game in St. Louis, Missouri will most likely face a difficult test against 2 seed and Big Ten champ Michigan State. Although the Flyers have a tough road ahead of them, they are certainly capable of making more noise in the Dance. If Dayton wants to make another tournament run, the Flyers will need to do three things well.
1. Make Threes
Dayton has struggled with consistency from behind the arc all year. The Flyers are currently shooting 34% from three as a team this season. With players like Charles Cooke, Scoochie Smith, Darrell Davis, and others, Dayton possesses the capability to explode when they start rolling. The inconsistent struggles, however, seem to be contagious. In their latest loss to St. Joe’s in the A-10 semifinals, Dayton shot just 6-21 (28%) as a team form three. Despite not always shooting the ball well, the Flyers still find ways to win. The gritty toughness this team displays enables them to control games they otherwise shouldn’t. In order to grab tournament wins against teams like Syracuse and possibly Michigan State, Dayton will need to step up their three point shooting. Although the Flyers appear capable of winning games without shooting well, they will need the three ball to go down in hopes of making another March run.
2. Defend the Perimeter
After a great defensive start to the season, Dayton appears to have fallen into a bit of a slump. The Flyers gave up 10 threes to St. Joe’s, a number much too high to satisfy Archie Miller. Dayton also did a poor job defending the perimeter in recent February losses to St. Bonaventure and Rhode Island. The Bonnies made 10 threes shooting 50% from behind the arc while URI hit nine threes and shot 53%. The Flyers did show signs of hope against Richmond. They held the spiders to just 54 points with only 5 threes on 25% shooting from behind the arc. If Dayton wants to pick up some more big wins in this year’s tournament, they must return to their midseason defensive form.
3. Rebound and Transition
Ever since Kendall Pollard’s off and on knee injury, Dayton’s rebounding abilities have taken a hit. With Pollard sidelined for a few games, freshmen bigs Steve McElvene and Sam Miller found themselves called upon to play even more valuable roles. Factor inexperience with foul trouble and one can see why the Flyers started to struggle. With Pollard back, however, Dayton looks to dominate the glass once again. Pulling down all defensive rebounds enables the Flyers to do what they do best. Get out in transition. With a combination of fast players and great athletes, Dayton can prove themselves deadly in the open court. Add in some offensive rebounds and the Flyers are tough to beat. In the quest for more tournament magic Dayton will rely on not only Kendall Pollard and Steve McElvene to control the boards, but also Charles Cooke and Dyshawn Pierre. Pierre actually leads the team right now with 8.6 rebounds per game. If the Flyers can control the glass and get out in transition, their chances of beating anyone increase dramatically.