Off to a 3-0 start, the Dayton Flyers are flying high as they prepare for takeoff to Maui. Led by, arguably (although I don’t think this is very arguable) the best player in the A-10, Obi Toppin, the Flyers have a veteran lineup with a ton of depth. If Dayton wants to return to the NCAA tournament, however, the Flyers need to take advantage of their trip to Maui next week. So without further ado, let’s take a look at three factors that will ultimately determine Dayton’s success at the Maui Invitational.
1. Explosive Offense
Putting up 86, 90, and 93 points in its first three games, I think it’s safe to call Dayton’s offense explosive. With four different players scoring in double digits, the Flyers’ offensive attack has been balanced and efficient. This is largely due to Dayton’s quick ball movement, something head coach Anthony Grant always likes to see. Following the Flyers’ win over Charleston Southern, Grant made note of his team’s 27 assists on 37 made shots. Dayton, like any team, is at its best when the ball is moving fluidly.
Leading the charge of Dayton’s balanced offensive attack has been (you guessed it) Obi Toppin. Averaging 23.7 points per game and shooting an astonishing 70% from the floor (75% from two, 43% from three), Toppin is living up to each and every preseason expectation. His consistency has also helped open up better scoring opportunities for Dayton’s other weapons. Rodney Chatman, Ibi Watson, Ryan Mikesell, and multiple other Flyers have all looked impressive so far this season.
If there is one thing Dayton could improve on offense, it would be three point shooting. The Flyers shot an abysmal 7-27 (26%) from deep in the season opener. Since then, however, Dayton has improved from behind the arc; shooting over 37% the last two games. If the Flyers begin to knock down threes on a consistent basis, their already lethal offense will only become harder to stop.
2. Defense Needs Improvement
Defense continues to be a common theme repeated through every post-game press conference. After surrendering 81 points to Indiana State in the season opener, the Flyers knew their defense had to improve. While it is still a work in progress, Dayton showed promising signs of defensive improvement in its win over Omaha last Tuesday night. The Flyers held Omaha scoreless for nearly eight straight minutes during the first half. After the game, Obi Toppin said, “Everybody was locked in defensively and it showed in the first half. In the second half we started to slow down a little, but we picked it up towards the end.” Toppin also discussed how the Flyers will need to lock in for a full 40 minutes against teams like Georgia and whoever else they face in Maui. Clearly, offense will be Dayton’s strength this year, but defense will ultimately determine just how far this UD team can go.
3. Lineups Continue to Shuffle
With nine guys playing over 10 minutes per game, Dayton has the most depth its seen since the 2014 Elite Eight run. Obviously depth is a good problem to have, but it can create lineup confusion early in a season. With so many weapons at his disposal, Anthony Grant has tried countless different lineup combinations through the first three games. As Dayton heads to Maui, however, Grant will likely cut down on the number of lineups he uses. In games with minimal margin for error, expect Grant to roll with the players he trusts the most. It will still take time for the Flyers to figure out their best possible lineups and rotations, but that process should be put on hold until Dayton returns from Maui.
In summary, Dayton has an unlimited amount of potential this season. With talent and depth at every position, the offense is already performing at a high rate. The Flyers will only continue to get better as Anthony Grant has more time to figure out the best lineup combinations. All of that said, Dayton’s success will come down to the defensive side of the ball. If the Flyers begin playing at an elite level defensively, this team truly could make a Final Four type run. On the other hand, if, they struggle defensively, they could miss the NCAA tournament entirely. As Obi Toppin said after the win over Omaha, “Defense wins championships.” Let’s hope Dayton brings its best defensive effort to Maui and returns home with wins over highly talented competition.
Featured Image Via David Jablonski – Dayton Daily News