With four seniors, the program’s all-time winningest class, and former head coach Archie Miller gone, plenty of questions surround Dayton basketball. Personnel wise, the Flyers look to be as talented as ever. That talent, however, is some of the youngest in the conference. While new head coach Anthony Grant has done a great job of taking over the program so far, plenty of uncertainties remain. In order for Dayton to continue its recent success and make the NCAA tournament for a fifth consecutive time, the Flyers will need all hands on deck this year. Lets take a look at the three biggest questions for Dayton heading into the 2017-18 season.
1. Upperclassmen ready to take charge?
Trying to replace four starters is never easy, especially when those four starters have their names written in the history books as Dayton’s all-time winningest class. With Scoochie Smith, Kendall Pollard, Kyle Davis, and Charles Cooke all graduated, Anthony Grant and the Flyers must find a way to fill their void. Looking at Dayton’s current roster, four players stand out who need to take the reigns in 2017-18: Darrell Davis, Xeyrius Williams, Josh Cunningham, and John Crosby. Both Davis and Williams showed tremendous improvement from last season. Davis regained his confidence as a sharp shooter and Williams found his groove in the offense as an athletic 6’8″ stretch-four who can light it up from deep.
While both Davis and Williams appear ready to take the next step and lead the team this year, plenty of questions still surround Cunningham and Crosby. For Cunningham it remains a matter of health. There’s no doubt the former top 100 recruit has a lot of talent, the problem is staying on the floor. Battling injuries his whole career, lets hope this is the year the 6’7″ forward stays healthy and becomes a force. As for Crosby, it’s finally his turn to take charge at the point after spending the last two years backing up Scoochie Smith. Seeming quite indecisive and overactive at times, though, some Flyer fans are still questioning his ability to take over at point guard. In order for Dayton to reach its goals this season, the Flyers will need Crosby to become less sporadic and more consistent with the ball in his hands.
2. Which freshmen will step up?
With five scholarship freshmen on this year’s roster, Dayton will be relying on some young talent to play meaningful minutes. Obviously when looking at the five freshmen, the name that sticks out most is Kostas Antetokounmpo. Yes, that’s right, the younger brother of NBA superstar Giannis “The Greek Freak” Antetokoumpo will be suiting up for the Flyers this year. While most expect Antetokounmpo to make a big impact right from the start, Dayton has a few other freshmen who could see big playing time. Matej Svoboda from the Czech Republic and Jordan Davis out of South Carolina are both three point snipers who could really help the offense this year.
Back-up freshman point guard Jalen Crutcher could also see plenty of minutes this season considering the uncertainties regarding Crosby. Crutcher is a 6’3″ three-star prospect with a lot of potential. The fifth and final freshman on Dayton’s roster for the 2017-18 season is physically imposing 6’11” center Jordan Pierce. While it remains unclear as to how much Pierce will play this season, he could turn into a dominant force for the Flyers down the road. It should be noted that Dayton does have one other scholarship player practicing with the team this year. Obadiah Toppin is a highly athletic big man who is redshirting this season due to a NCAA ruling.
3. Can Dayton keep its dominant defensive mindset?
Under Archie Miller, Dayton always seemed to out tough its opponents. Winning some games simply by grit, the Flyers put defense first. With two all Atlantic 10 defenders like Kyle Davis and Charles Cooke, Dayton shut down quite a few elite scores. Now, with the departure of Davis and Cooke, it’s other players’ turns to step up. Last season Darrell Davis transformed himself into a near elite defender. To compliment Davis, the Flyers will need other starters like John Crosby and Xeyrius Williams to step up on the defensive end. If Dayton wants to keep winning, it must keep its focus on dominating defensively. Grit can be the difference in tightly contested games.