Only in my wildest dreams could I have imagined writing an article about the possibility of the Dayton Flyers winning a National Championship. Even after the Flyers made the Elite Eight in 2014, a national title seemed so far fetched. Nevertheless, in the beginning of February, we’re talking about Dayton’s title hopes with all seriousness. Holding a 20-2 overall record, an unblemished 9-0 A-10 resume, and an AP ranking of No. 6 in the nation, the Flyers have officially caught the attention of the entire country. Currently a No. 2 seed in most bracket predictions, Dayton has a legitimate chance to win a national title in 2020. As surreal and insane as that feels to say type, the Dayton Flyers are 100% legit this year. Let’s take a look at what makes the Flyers so dangerous.
1. Star Power
For starters, when trying to win a national title, it helps to have a NBA draft lottery pick on your team. Thankfully for the Flyers, Obi Toppin has become a star unlike any seen before at Dayton. Standing 6’9″ Toppin can quite literally do it all. Averaging 19.7 points, 8 rebounds, shooting 63% from the floor, and 36% from three, Toppin is the ultimate match-up nightmare for opposing teams. In fact, Toppin has been so good that he’s amongst the front-runners for National Player of the Year. After recently doing an interview on the Scott Van Pelt show, I think it’s safe to say every relatively informed college basketball fan knows the name Obi Toppin by now.
2. Offensive Efficiency
To say the Flyers’ offense has been impressive this year would be an understatement. Putting up 82.1 points per game, Dayton has owned the nation’s No. 1 offense for most of the season (now tied for 1st with Gonzaga according to Kenpom). This is largely due to the Flyers’ elite ball movement and transition offense. Sure, it helps to have big time players like Obi Toppin, Jalen Crutcher, etc. but Dayton’s passing is what sets its offense apart from so many others. In its last game against Fordham, Dayton assisted on 21 of its 23 of its made baskets. Throughout the season, the Flyers are averaging 18.8 assists per game and assisting on over 62% of their field goals. Whether a team is facing a man-to-man or zone defense, ball movement is critical for the success of an offense. Either way you chalk it up, analyzing using numbers or judging by the eye test, it’s clear Anthony Grant has his team sharing the ball and running the floor as well as anyone in the country.
3. Improved Defense
Dayton’s defense has come a long way since giving up 81 points in the season opener. Starting off the year ranked around 150th in in total defense, the Flyers now check in at No. 57 according to Kenpom (the did cracked the top 50 momentarily). While Dayton’s defense has certainly improved, I think its the final piece that needs to be put in place for the Flyers to win the national championship. It’s Dayton’s only slightly weak link. No team can go through an entire postseason with its offense always performing to perfection. That’s why defense is key for championship teams to fall back on, especially in a single-elimination format like the NCAA tournament. If Dayton can find a way to crack the top 25 with its defense, there may not be a team in the country who’s able beat the Flyers.
In conclusion, I think it’s more than fair to say Dayton has all the makings of a Final Four team. From a future NBA lottery pick, to a great supporting cast, and the No. 1 offense in the country, winning a national title is entirely possible for the Flyers this year. As long as Dayton’s defense continues to improve, that once far-fetched dream just might become a reality.