Once again, Dayton had to fight off an end of the game surge from the Northern Kentucky Norse, 66-60. I’m just going to jump right into the takeaways I got from this game.
They are what they are.
It’s game three. In a normal year, we would say “Let’s just wait and see, it’s early.” Well, the non-con is 5 games, so there’s no waiting to see anything else. This is the team Dayton is going with. That is both good and bad.
The good part is that we know what the team looks like, at least for the foreseeable future of this season. The rotation is a mixture of Crutcher, Chatman, Watson, Johnson, Tshimanga, Blakney, Sissoko, Nwokeji, and Wilson. Regardless if you agree with who in this list should or should not be out there, that’s what we have seen on the court in all three games so far. Don’t expect anything different until you see something different.
Now for the bad…there is not a variety of depth. There’s only three main scorers: Crutcher, Watson, and Johnson. Personally, I think Chatman is a capable scorer but does not get enough chances to showcase it. His defense, however, is second to none. Tshimanga is also capable of putting up 10 and 10 any given night. It was crucial going into this season that he improved his game, and so far he has showed that. After the 5 starters, there isn’t much of a contribution other than Blakney, who I will get more into later. Anyway, we know what this team is now. Let’s just hope it’s enough.
The offense and defense showed signs of clicking.
Let’s start with the offense. At first, it looked so boring and confusing, both to the players and viewers. Once they figured out the 2-3 zone that NKU threw at them, the offense started to click together. The other part of that is when they switched the lineup to 4 guards and 1 center on the floor. That is what Anthony Grant put out there last year, and that is what seemed to work the best on Tuesday night.
I mentioned in a tweet during the game that Anthony Grant is at his coaching best when 4 guards are on the floor. The offense works faster, the ball moved around, and there were multiple ways that each player can score and be effective scorers. Looking back at Grant’s first two years at Dayton, the offense was a lot like what we saw in the first few minutes in this game: lots of standing around, passing the ball around the perimeter, occasional turnovers (which happened way too many times in this game), and not enough open shots. With 4 guards, Dayton is a much better offensive team. That is the best lineup they have, and I should expect that to be seen most often on the floor for the Flyers.
Defensively, they are on the verge of becoming a very good defense. Imagine how good they would be on defense with Dwayne Cohill?? Dayton is improving each game on defense, forcing turnovers, and defending shots well. In an age where teams are shooting the ball from three more often, opponents are averaging 29.8% against the Flyers. Even from inside the arc, opponents are shooting 44.1%. The defensive efficiency on KenPom is good for 72 in the country, but it is getting better every game. I can only imagine it will get even better as the season goes on.
RJ Blakney is getting better every game
Each game he has played, freshman combo guard/forward RJ Blakney has contributed more and more off the bench. It might not be much, but it is very clear that the dude has all the makings of being a good college basketball player for the next 4 years at Dayton. This game, he gave the Flyers some hope for future contributions off the bench. He even looked really good when Dayton had 4 guards on the floor at once.
Blakney finished with 6 points, 3-4 from two along with 2 rebounds in 21 minutes played. He also had one assist, one steal, and one block. All of that resulted in an offensive rating of 126. His best play of the game was his pass all the way up the court under the basket that led to an easy Flyer bucket. That was the moment it seemed like we knew he was going to be a great player by the end of his Dayton tenure.
The dude has the smell of glue guy all over him. He’s already being compared to Flyer great Kendall Pollard. I can see that, but also could see him as a Trey Landers-type once he gets some more muscle and grows into his body over the next few years. But it is clear that Blakney is getting better each game, which is what the Flyers desperately need right now.
Dayton heads to Atlanta to face Mississippi State on Saturday. Honestly, this is a must-win game for the Flyers to have any sort of reputable name to their NCAA tournament resume. See you then.
Photo credit to daytonflyers.com