What is Dispatches from Blogfrica? Pretty simple: I ask questions of an blogger for an opposing team; he (or she) answers. A truly revolutionary idea, no? Today: Don from The Blackburn Review, the internet's finest blog for all things Dayton.
1) Like Iowa, Dayton is 3-0 and that record hasn't been padded with all cupcakes. The most impressive win so far looks like their 80-48 shredding of Alabama last week. Bama may not be great, but that was still an impressive beatdown. What went so well for the Flyers in that game and how impressive has their start to the season been for you?
DON: Dayton has finally started out a season up to expectations after struggling the last few seasons to start the season. SE Missouri State was a beatdown, as it should be. I don't think any nomal/non ham-and-egger Dayton fan thought the Flyers would destroy Alabama like they did. Dayton started out hot that game, kept the foot on the gas, and played relentless defense. They also used their home court advantage (12,000+ people at a 1:00pm game on a Tuesday???) to help keep the Crimson Tide at bay. Alabama is not going to finish anywhere near the top of the SEC and most likely won't even be a top 100 RPI win, so I am not reading too much into it. The close win against William and Mary will mean more in the long run. Dayton was down for the first time all year and struggled shooting most of the game. They locked up their defense, jumped out ahead by a few points with about 6 minutes to go, and held on for a much needed victory going into the Advocare Tournament. It has been pretty impressive watching how deep this team could be. There have been several freshmen that have seen valuable minutes throughout the games and that takes the burden off some of the starters, especially if there is some foul trouble.
As for as what has impressed me so far this year, that is simple. Big Steve McElvene. Steve didn't play last year because of grades and everyone wondered what he would bring to the team. What do you expect from a 6'11" 270lb dude at Dayton? Not much, that's for sure. But he has been an incredible surprise in this early season. He runs the floor quickly, has good hands, is a great rebounder, and he is good at blocking shots. And he isn't that bad at the offensive end either! I would have never thought he would average almost a double-double. If he keeps that up all year, look out!
2) Dayton's without their top two scorers from a season ago, Jordan Sibert and Dyshawn Pierre. Pierre was also the Flyers' leading rebounder a season ago. How have the Flyers adjusted to life without them? What can you tell us about Charles Cooke, who's stepped up as Dayton's leading scorer so far this season?
DON: Losing Sibert was going to be tough for a variety of reasons. He was the emotional leader of the team last year. Coming to the program from Ohio State, he contributed more in his 2 years than I can remember any other Dayton player in my life time. He hit clutch shot after clutch shot. He hit a 3 pointer at the buzzer to win the first game of the year last year and then hit a HUGE 3 in the NCAA Play-In game to send the Flyers to the main tournament. Losing him, no matter how many guys are next in line, will hurt. As for Pierre, he might be back in December, he might not. It's an ongoing drama that I'm sure you all read about. He was accused of possibly raping a student and was dismissed from school/the team until mid-December. The police did their interviews and the courts determined there was no evidence go to forward with a trial. Pierre hired at attorney (the same one that Ray Rice and Dez Wells had) to get him back in school. The University held firm and it's still going on in court. Most fans don't think Pierre will be back and will transfer somewhere else. But then he posts pictures of himself working out in Dayton attire. And the coach is tweeting him Happy Birthday. Obviously the team would welcome him back 100% right away but I am not sure he wants to come back to a school that turned it's back on him and dragged his name through the mud.
Charles Cooke is a transfer from James Madison and we at the blog predicted that he would take over where Sibert left off. After a sluggish start in the first game, Cooke has come to play and tore shit up against Alabama and Billy and Mary. He practiced all year with the team last year, so he has been acclimated in the offense and he shown that he is most likely going to be the go-to guy if this team needs a bucket to stop a run or potentially win a game. I unfortunately don't know much about him as I didn't watch any James Madison games and he has only played 3 games this year. But from what I've seen, he's a strong player for sure.
3) Scoochie Smith: is he as amazing as his name? Please tell me he is.
DON: Scooch is by far my favorite player on the team and right now, would get my vote for most improved. Again, it's a small sample size this year, but he has improved his shooting percentage and is being more selective on his shots this year. He is a guard that has no fear and has played some big time minutes since coming to Dayton. He's from New York and played against really good high school competition. He is not afraid to drive into the lane and take a hard foul. He hustles and plays great defense. An all around great player and fun to watch.
4) Through three games Dayton has played very well on the defensive end and ranks highly in several defensive categories, per KenPom. What's been so effective for Dayton's defense so far and what will they likely do to try and slow down Iowa's offense?
DON: Defense defense defense. That is what Archie Miller has preached since he took over the program. This team is small, except for Big Steve, so they have to make up for that by playing pressure defense and forcing bad shots. Last year the team was wrecked with injuries and 2 players being kicked off the team for connections to some on-campus robberies. Despite only playing 6 players in the rotation, they never gave up. The #1 defender on the team is Kyle Davis. Kyle is a maniac when it comes to hounding players, just ask Kris Dunn about last year's NCAA tournament. Dayton will try to mix up various defenses against Iowa and make sure that they don't hit from outside.
5) What are the expectations for Dayton this year? They've had two straight pretty nice appearances in the NCAA Tournament (including an Elite 8 appearance two years ago). Are they in good shape to make that streak three years in a row? Can they contend for an Atlantic 10 championship this year?
DON: We've officially hit the "NCAA Tournament or bust" stage with this program. Oliver Purnell brought this program back from the dead in the mid 90s to early 2000s by taking them to a few NITs and NCAA Tournament bids. Brian Gregory stepped in nicely after OP left from Clemson and Dayton got their first NCAA Tourney win in 25+ years with him at the helm. The program hit a little bit of a road block and it felt like they were settling for mediocrity. Thankfully, BG took the job at Georgia Tech and Archie Miller has made this program into one of the best mid-major schools around. This team showed it's potential by making the Elite 8 a few years ago. Last year, despite a great record, they got royally screwed and put into the First Four. On one hand, they got to play at home and then in Columbus. On the other hand, a lot of people said the only reason they won was because they played at home and then close by in Columbus. While some of that might be true, this was a really good program the last 2 years. Failing to make the NCAA Tournament this year after making it last year with 6 players would be quite a disgusting season. If this team stays healthy, they should have no problems winning over 25 games and contending for both the season and postseason A10 titles. Prediction, 24-6, and a solid 7 seed in the NCAA.
6) OK, prediction time -- who ya got?
DON: My heart wants to pick a Flyers upset win. They need this win to move onto what will assuredly be a great winner's bracket. But my mind says this will be one of their 6 losses. Hawkeyes win 68-64.
Thanks for being a good sport, Don, but I still hope your team gets mollywhopped tomorrow. You can check out the BR crew at The Blackburn Review. You can also follow Don on Twitter at @5ForFlying and BR on Twitter at @BlackburnReview. The Iowa-Dayton game is in Orlando, FL on Thursday, November 26, and is scheduled to start at approximately 8:00 pm CT, with TV coverage from ESPN2.