Thursday, January 31, 2008

English 101


Exam Number One
January 31, 2008

1) Which of the following sentences is correct?
A. During that losing streak, the Dayton Flyers were a bad team.
B. During that losing streak, the Dayton Flyers played badly.
C. All of the above.
D. None of the above.

If this were an actual English exam, you would have to answer C. Both sentences are gramatically correct, with the correct usage of an adjective (A) and an adverb (B).

But this is a PB&aB English test. I don't give a shit about grammar. In that case, the answer should be B, even though, not too long ago, many of us feared it might be A.

That was my revelation today as I thought about the blowout win over St. Louis. When the sky was falling Saturday night after the loss to Richmond, I was convinced that without Charles Little and without Chris Wright, this was a bad team.

In reality, they just played badly.

In trying to avoid the falling sky, I know I couldn't make that separation. It seemed so black and white -- injuries decimate the team so much that the team suddenly becomes pretty bad. How else to explain a complete debacle at Xavier and an even more surprising debacle at Richmond? The Flyers had lost two key players, and as a result, had turned in their two worst performances of the season. It made sense, and it scared the shit out of me.

Thankfully, it's not really true. The Flyers played terribly in those two games -- and without Wright and Little, they had no margin for error. But, as a team, they are not terrible. They aren't as good, but they still aren't bad.

"Last week was like a Twilight Zone," Brian Gregory said.

And he's right. The Flyers looked like they forgot how to play basketball. Those of us envisioning a doomsday scenario thought it might not matter even if they remembered. But it did. The Flyers played their game against St. Louis and played it extremely well.

Don't get me wrong. I think it's still going to be touch-and-go until the walking wounded make it back. But with my grammar lesson complete, I feel much better.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

All Together Now....

WHEW!

Seriously...

What the hell just happened?

Holy 27-point win.

I don't even know what to say. The sky isn't falling anymore? Reports of Dayton's demise were greatly exaggerated? Someone's going to have to enlighten me. I was fighting with my computer all night, hearing only bits and pieces of Larry and Bucky and seeing the occasional gametracker icon grab a rebound.

But the Flyers won, which is really all that matters.

Random Thoughts

A few things running through my mind as I await tonight's epic showdown between the Flyers and the Billikens...


  • I still have no idea what a billiken is. I've looked it up every year for the last 10 or so, and I can't remember. I don't know that I really care, but come on SLU, that's just annoying. Find a mascot that makes sense to everyone without having to google it.
  • If Rick Majerus and Dana Jacobson were standing at the Pearly Gates, and they had to take one in, who would get in?
  • My Dell laptop crapped out on me after 3.5 years. So as a replacement, I rigged up my 7.5 year old Tangent desktop from UD. It still works fine. I don't have a joke here. I'm actually amazed.
  • Is it possible to put an entire fan base on suicide watch? If UD loses tonight, we might find out.
  • Speaking of St. Louis, wouldn't it be cooler if the Arch actually stretched out over a higway, so when you entered the city, you actually drove through the Arch? I think that is the only true way it could be considered the Gateway to the West. That, and it should actually be a gate.
  • Dinner time

St. Louis Mini Preview

ST. LOUIS BILLIKENS (11-8, 2-3)

Head Coach: Rick Majerus (first season)

Game Time: 7 p.m.

Location: UD Arena

Television: CSTV

All-Time Series: UD leads 20-18

Last Meeting: UD won in overtime just a few weeks ago.

Probable Starting Lineup

G Dwayne Polk – Sr. – 5’9 160 – 2.5 PPG
G Kevin Lisch – Jr. – 6’2 180 – 13.6 PPG
G Tommie Liddell – Jr. – 6’4 200 – 12.0 PPG
F Luke Meyer – Sr. – 6’5 200 – 9.5 PPG
F Barry Eberhardt – Jr. – 6’7 250 – 7.1 PPG

What a Win Would Mean

UD just really, really needs a winm both for their psyche and for their record.

What a Loss Would Mean

The free fall continues heading into the toughest road game yet, aside from the Xavier game. I can't imagine the Flyers would be feeling too good about themselves if they drop to 2-4, knowing they might be headed for 2-5 in Rhode Island.

Breakdown

It was a trap game last time, and UD survived. It can't really be called a trap game now, though, unless the Flyers are the ones doing the trapping.

UD has lost three straight since beating the Billikens. Meanwhile, St. Louis has won two of three, with the only loss coming in overtime against Temple.

From all the pregame quotes I've read, Brian Gregory thinks the Billikens have turned a corner, which is bad news considering how close it was last time. Expect St. Louis to play the same deliberate style, with a big focus on defense. The task will be the same for the Flyers as it's been every one of the last few games -- they have to find a way to execute on offense and score.

But as I said in an earlier post, they also need to just play better, in every aspect of the game, not just shooting. You're going to have to grind it out against St. Louis anyway. You may as well embrace it.

Prediction: I have no idea. Dayton 59, St. Louis 57? Sounds good. I'll take it however it comes.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The perfect storm, etc.

Notes written while noticing eery similiarites between the performance of the PB&aB All-Star Cast the last few days and the performance of the Flyers. I feel we've been a little off our game, all depressed and not prolific and what not. Plus, I'm pretty sure Bearded Flyer, who's got like a 43 inch vertical, forgot this site exists. Super sub Ryan Cabrera is MIA. And I have a sinus infection. So we're pretty much screwed. But we soldier on.


When you consider everything that's gone wrong the last three games, it's kind of astounding. First, Wright's injury sets the stage. Then we wear powder blue. Then Little gets hurt. Then UMass unveiles a defense that can stop Brian Roberts. Then we lose. Then we're a little less confident heading into Xavier. Then Xavier completely demolishes us, further damaging that confidence. Then we have a short rest before going on the road to play Richmond, the kind of team that always kills us. Then they kill us. All the while, the Flyers can't make a shot, Brian Roberts is sick, Kurt Huelsman and Jimmy Binnie are nowhere to be found and we're heading back home to face a team that might be tougher on us than Richmond. Hence the perfect storm.

Somehow, if the Flyers can weather this storm, they'll be better for it. But such things can't be worried about at the moment. UD just needs a win.


The newest bracketology has the Flyers as No. 10 seed. Xavier has rocketed up to a three seed. I can't disagree with either one. Dayton stayed off Lunardi's Last Four In section, so that could be a good sign. I still think the Flyers' struggles have flown under the radar a bit, thanks partially to the lack of TV coverage. So thanks, Linda Bruno, for working that out.


The last time UD and St. Louis met, I did not think that by this time, they'd have the same conference records. The Billikens have been playing extremely well since their loss to the Flyers, with an overtime defeat against Temple the only blemish. Also, Rick Majerus hates Jesus.


So Charles Little apparently practiced on Monday, at least he was supposed to, according to the Dayton Daily News. I have yet to see any sort of post-practice update. Anybody know how it went?


The Flyers were originally scheduled to wear their throwback uniforms tomorrow against St. Louis, but have since changed those plans. No reason is given, but I think it's entirely possible that some superstition is at work. The last time the Flyers wore their regular home uniforms, they shot lights out against Rhode Island. If they can do the same thing tomorrow night, I'm all for forgetting this whole alternate uniform thing ever happened, which would really be a big sacrifice for me, since I have an unhealthy obsession with alternate uniforms.


I will be attending Saturday's game at Rhode Island. I am currently accepting ideas for signs.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Screw Shooting

After the Flyers' loss to George Mason early in the season, their lowest shooting percentage over the next 13 games was 43.6 against High Point. Seven times, they shot 50 percent or better.

Then came the UMass game, when the Flyers shot 37.3 percent, followed by the Xavier game, when the Flyers shot a season-low 30.4 percent. They managed to shoot better yesterday against Richmond, but also ran into a team that shot 61 percent in the first half.

Those shooting percentages, especially the low ones against UMass and Xavier, are perhaps the most telling statistical signs of just how much this team is reeling. And really, it's a product of each of the team's glaring issues, namely the absence of Wright and Little and the "Stop Brian Roberts" defense.

The most disturbing thing, though, isn't that the Flyers haven't shot the ball well. It's that they haven't done much of anything well. You can't try harder to make shots. You can try harder to execute on offense, to rebound and to play defense.

Somewhere along the line, in the midst of the winning streak, I think the Flyers sort of forgot that. They started shooting the ball so well that they assumed, as anyone would, that they would continue to do so.

They were a good shooting team.

At the risk saying something that might not make sense but will in a second if I explain it right, let me say this: shooting is not the best thing to be good at.

Obviously, you want to be a good shooting team. But unless you're a ridiculously good shooting team, you're not going to win solely because of that shooting. You can't be defined by it. The best teams are good in every facet, especially defense. That's why good teams can win even when they have off-nights.

Dayton isn't doing that right now. They're not shooting well, but instead of playing harder at the defensive end to make up for it, they're almost phoning it in. Many of the games they won in the streak, they won pretty. They're apparently not much for winning ugly.

As BG said, "We cannot have difficulties in one aspect affect everything we do. No matter who is out there, we must defend and rebound. It's about how we choose to respond to adversity."

At this point, that response is going to define the season. Shooting may cure a lot of ills, and while I'd love to see the Flyers shoot lights out Wednesday against St. Louis, I'd much rather see them control the game in other ways and grind it out whether they have to or not.

That's what it's going to take the rest of the way. Now would be a good time to embrace it.

It's Official...

I'm discouraged.

There, I said it. I know that makes everyone happy now, since I apparently got taken to task for not being discouraged after the Xavier loss. But I stand by what I said then. A loss to Xavier in Cincinnati is disappointing, but certainly not discouraging. We all know that UD never wins down there, and while yes, I would have liked to see the Flyers play better, I think we all knew that Dayton didn't have a chance in hell of winning that game with two of their top players injured.

And why did I feel so confident that Dayton wasn't going to win at the Cintas Center? Because quite honestly, Xavier is the better team. Even if Dayton was fully healthy, Xavier still is the better team. I know everyone might think that is blasphemy, but facts are facts. Xavier has had a better record for the past few years, they have a deeper bench, and they played a tougher non-conference schedule and did quite well in it. Xavier has developed into an elite program, who no longer has to rebuild, but simply reloads. And I hate them for it, but right now, it's the truth.

So again, because of all the facts mentioned above, I wasn't totally discouraged after the loss to the Musketeers. But now I am...

I am now because for the second straight game, the Flyers played like crap.

I am now because losing to Richmond is not as excusable as losing to the likes of UMass or Xavier.

I am now because if you can't even muster a solid effort against the Spiders, how can you realistically expect to win future games against Xavier, St. Joe's, and at Rhode Island?

I am now because the possibility of getting a 1-4 seed in the A-10 tournament is slipping considerably.

I am now because a 20-win season seems questionable, when just a few days ago it seemed a sure thing.

Maybe we underestimated the importance of Chris Wright and Charles Little. Maybe the Flyers aren't as strong as we once thought (keep in mind, their biggest wins came against U of L and Pitt teams depleted with injuries). Maybe the A-10 has seen so much of Brian Roberts that they can gameplan for him better than a non-conference opponent.

I know the team is still 14-4, which is quite impressive. To be honest, had I said at the beginning of the season that UD would be 14-4 right now, every single one of us would have taken it in a heartbeat. But after the way the season started, we wanted more. Hell, we expected more.

So now the Flyers set about the task of beating SLU again, this time in the cozy confines of UD Arena. I can't think of a time when a game on January 30th would mean so much. A win puts everything back on the right track, and the Flyers can still boast a strong 15-4 record. It rebuilds the team's confidence, showing that they can still beat a decent team without Wright and Little. And maybe most importantly, it shuts up the Chicken Little fans like many of us here who think the sky is falling after a 3-game skid.

However, a loss means a four game losing streak, with a chance for that streak to go to five with a tough game at Rhode Island looming over the weekend. A loss means slipping to 2-4 in conference, and virtually no shot at a top 4 seed in the A-10 tourney. A loss mean a 14-5 record, with tough games still looming (see above). And a loss means that every Flyer fan will be on suicide watch til the team wins again.

Go Flyers! An entire fan base needs you to pull this one out.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Richmond Preview

RICHMOND SPIDERS (9-8, 2-2)

Head Coach: Chris Mooney (third season)

Game Time: 7 p.m.

Location: The Robins Center, Richmond, Va.

Television: None

All-Time Series: UD leads 9-3

Last Meeting: Dayton won 72-54 at UD Arena last January.

Richmond’s Best Win: Jan. 3 – 52-49 over Virginia Tech at home

Common Opponents

None

A-10 So Far

Wins – at La Salle, St. Bonaventure

Losses – at St. Joe’s, La Salle

Probable Starting Lineup

G Kevin Anderson – Fr. – 5’11 165 – 9.1 PPG
G David Gonzalvez– So. – 6’4 200 – 10.5 PPG
F Ryan Butler – So. – 6’6 200 – 6.5 PPG
F Gaston Moliva – Sr. – 6’8 240 – 3.2 PPG
C Dan Geriot – So. – 6’9 235 – 14.5 PPG

What a Win Would Mean

To the outsider, it probably wouldn’t mean much other than the Flyers holding serve. But in reality, they’re in desperate need of a win here just to get some things going in the right direction again.

What a Loss Would Mean

Bad, bad news. The RPI hits free-fall mode and people willing to give the Flyers a pass for the Xavier loss don’t feel like giving a pass anymore. I think it would also be pretty devastating to this team. With injuries and illness, it’s no wonder you lost to two very good teams. Losing to a mediocre team would not do much for their psyche.

Breakdown

Why is Richmond always scary, even when they shouldn’t be? Same reason Miami of Ohio is scary. They play slow, and they make you play slow. They’ve done that for as long as I can remember. With the Princeton offense now in full force in Chris Mooney’s third year, the slow pace is even more pronounced.

It hasn’t translated to consistent success this year, but I’m guessing that’s partly due to youth. Gaston Moliva is the only senior in the starting five, and Oumar Sylla is the only other senior on the team. The Spiders also only have three juniors, so the team is mostly underclassmen.

Their start to A-10 play is about what you’d expect from that kind of team. They won in overtime at La Salle but lost on the road to St. Joe’s. They won at home against St. Bonaventure, but lost at home to La Salle.

That second game was their most recent one. They lost by nine, and two things stood out. Center Dan Geriot, who had 31 in the first meeting, was limited to just 11. And in the post-game quotes, Mooney said the Spiders’ biggest problem was defense.

They had a week off to think about both those things. If they follow in the path of the Flyers, a week off will do them absolutely no good. But I’m thinking they’ll be pretty geared up to be out there against a Top 25 team (we still are), and after they watch some film, pretty geared up to play defense.

Bottom line, though, Richmond will do what they do, and barring a hot shooting night or an explosion from Geriot or freshman Kevin Anderson, this game hinges on what the Flyers do. Richmond will play tough defense, but it won’t be any tougher than UMass or Xavier. UD simply has to fix things on offense, and I don’t mean making shots. Certainly, the shots have to go down, but they can’t really “fix” that. They can just hope for that.

What they can fix is the offensive flow. The double-teams on the high ball screens were handled so poorly the last few games that I thought I was watching myself in fifth grade basketball (I handled single-teams that way, but same difference). Somehow, this has to be figured out. Whether it’s setting fewer screens for Roberts or finding a way for Roberts to get the ball to somebody else without jumping wildly and throwing a cross-court pass, things have to change. Because not only does the double-team kill Roberts, it kills the entire offense. I don’t think Dayton had a single possession in the Xavier game where they moved the ball easily. Every pass was a dramatic one.

I don’t know if Richmond is athletic enough to adopt the double team defense, but they’d be stupid if they didn’t try. If they don’t, their defense is still going to be solid. It’s a trademark for them, and the Flyers will have to execute at the offensive end to win this game.

Also, Jimmy Binnie needs to wake up.

Prediction

Dayton 61, Richmond 54 – The Spiders are always tough, but with Little and Wright, I think UD wins this game by 20. Without them, I think – and I really, really hope – that the Flyers can escape with a win.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Missed Dunks

Thoughts while sticking my hand in a blender watching the Dayton-Xavier game:

- Before the opening tip, I knew the Dayton Flyers weren't going to win the game. How you ask? Simple: Tom McCarthy was doing the play-by-play for CSTV. Tom McCarthy single handedly jinxed the Mets this season as the 2nd radio broadcaster and what happens in the off-season..he leaves the Mets to take a job with the Phillies. Better put, he was a NARC for the Phillies.

-Is anyone glad that the Flyers face Richmond without Mike Skrocki? You remember him, lanky white guy who seemingly gave the Flyers fits back in 2002 and 2003.

- Can we find 4 more years of eligibility for Kevin Frey and substitute him for Drew Lavendar the next time Dayton plays Xavier?

- Does anyone else want to either (ram/bomb/throw tomatoes) at Cintas vans when you see them driving around?

- Is it bad that when they mention Thiago Cordiero as simply "Cordiero" on broadcasts, I can't help but think about Wil Cordero the former wife-beating Expo and Red Sox second-baseman.

-Proud of myself that I somehow worked a "Wil Cordero" reference in. Chances of a "Rex Hudler" reference..likely

- I saw this on a milk carton the other day: MISSING : Dayton Flyers Perimiter Shooting.

- Along the lines of inflicting damage on Cintas vans, I've found myself hating 3 Musketeers bars. On a completely related note, I'm still single.

- Show of hands, who thought the 4 guard lineup worked. Ok, how about only hands that did not get an offensive rebound against the Flyers?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Disappointing or Discouraging?

That’s my question. Disappointing, as in “Shit. We lost to Xavier again.” Or discouraging, as in “Shit. The sky is falling.”

I hope it’s not both.

It might be both.

The team that showed up to the Cintas Center tonight looked very different than the one that beat Louisville, beat Pittsburgh and beat Rhode Island. Different, even, than the one that lost to UMass.

The injuries – and all the ensuing shuffling – certainly has something to do with it.

But it feels bigger.

The Flyers looked scared, the same way they always used to look scared when they played Xavier. I thought they were past that. I thought this was the year that they finally wouldn’t be.

Being without Wright and Little – that’s reason to be a little scared. But not a reason for this kind of disaster.

The Flyers looked tentative, timid, uninspired, lost and a thousand other bad adjectives. They started slow and instead of responding, they pretty quickly folded. I know part of it was the fact that they just weren’t making shots and that it’s pretty hard to respond in that case, but they could have done other things. They could have played defense and not let every Xavier shot be a wide open one. They could have rebounded. They could have done a lot of things.

I’m not saying they gave up. They fought until the end. It was good to see.

But clearly, their confidence is shaken, with a number of factors probably contributing. The injuries are an obvious one. Not only are two guys out, but everybody else is playing different roles. The loss to UMass is the other big reason. When things go so well for so long, it’s hard not to feel a little less confident when they stop going well.

So. Where are we?

The optimistic part of me wants to say that this was simply a bad recipe. Road game at Xavier. Eight days off. Your last loss revealed weaknesses. You have no knowledge of what a game will be like without both Little and Wright. You get off to a slow start. Xavier is probably the best team in the A-10. UD doesn’t match up with them well. And on top of all that, it was just one of those bad nights.

And there you have a disaster.

That’s the optimistic part.

The other part has me a little afraid. The A-10 is good. If the Flyers play like they did tonight, they’re just not going to win many games. They have to regroup and figure some things out.

Saturday’s game at Richmond looms extremely large, like biggest game of the year large. I think it’ll tell us where this team is headed.

As for the original question, somebody tell me this was just disappointing. Please.

Dayton-Xavier Game Thread


Never in the course of the 27-year streak has there been a thread about the game on a little-known Dayton Flyers blog named after a player who got kidnapped. That changes tonight.

Let's hope other things change, too.

Dayton's Best Chance?

In talking to a lot of Xavier fans over the past few weeks (primarily b/c I'm freaking surrounded by them), they all have said the same thing to me, and it goes something like this:

"Stanley Burrell is the best defender in the history of the world. He will shut down Brian Roberts and that's enough to beat Dayton."

Okay, so maybe they didn't use the phrase "history of the world", but you get the point. They all think Burrell will stop Roberts, and nothing else matters.

Well a few weeks ago, I tried to bring up the name Chris Wright as a counterpoint to that argument, but obviously that fell apart the same day his ankle fell apart. So for the last few weeks, I've just kept my mouth shut, letting Xavier fans think that Dayton is a one-man team.

And while we all agree UD needs Roberts to have a big game in order to win, I think it's just as important for the role players to all step up their game quite a bit. Binnie needs to be hitting his shots, Warren needs to control the tempo, and Huelsman needs to become a man in the paint. If these guys all step up, I think UD certainly has a chance without Roberts going off for 40 points or something (of course, I'd take that as well).

Anyhow, just wanted to throw that out there as to what Xavier fans have been saying. I won't be making a prediction, because quite honestly, I don't know what's going to happen tonight. Trying to predict the outcome of a UD/XU game is like trying to convince federal agents that you were kidnapped and forced to bring along peanut butter and a blanket. It just doesn't make sense.

D'Artagnan's Paternity Test

While Uncreative Commuter did a great job unearthing the true evils of D'Artagnan..hell I didn't even know he was responsible for the Hindenberg, I did a little investigative reporting of my own. It seems through several undisclosed sources I was able to find the father of D'Artagnan.


None other than Pitt Panthers Head Football Coach Dave Wannstedt!!


(Notice the mustache resemblance)


Gameday Reading

Dayton Daily News
UD vs. Xavier game preview
Tom Archdeacon: UD frosh Searcy a treat, but he'll be tested today
Old teammates Raymond, Roberts pull for each other

Cincinnati Enquirer
XU has plans for Roberts
Paul Daugherty: Defense balances his game
Big game by any name

Columbus Dispatch
All-America within reach for Dayton's Roberts


*Random Note: If you don't have CSTV, the website channlesurfing.net is streaming the game.

Xavier Preview

XAVIER MUSKETEERS (15-4, 3-1)

Head Coach: Sean Miller (fourth season)

Game Time: 8 p.m.

Location: Cintas Center

Television: CSTV

All-Time Series: UD leads 80-64

Last Meeting: Xavier eliminated Dayton from the A-10 tournament last March.

Xavier’s Best Win: Nov. 24 – Xavier 80, Indiana 65

It was early and everything, but that’s kind of a huge win, easily in the same class as Dayton’s victory over Pittsburgh.

Common Opponents

MIAMI (OH)

Dayton 63, Miami 62
Miami 59, Xavier 57

COPPIN STATE

Dayton 66, Coppin State 34
Xavier 98, Coppin State 49

Probable Starting Lineup

G Drew Lavender – Sr. – 5’7 153 – 12.4 PPG
G Stanley Burrell – Sr. – 6’4 190 – 10.0 PPG
F C.J. Anderson – Jr. – 6’6 220 – 11.2 PPG
F Derrick Brown – So. – 6’8 225 – 11.1 PPG
C Jason Love – So. – 6’9 255 – 5.5 PPG

What a Win Would Mean

It doesn’t need to be explained. Both in terms of this season and in terms of making history, it would be gigantic.

What a Loss Would Mean

Other than being another downer in a rough couple of days, it wouldn’t hurt much. This was one that I pretty much penciled in as a loss even before Wright and Little got hurt. I figured maybe the Flyers could steal one, but a split with Xavier always seems like the stronger possibility.

Fuck Xavier

Seriously.

Breakdown

Lose to Miami of Ohio. Beat Indiana. Lose badly to Arizona State. Beat Virginia by 38. Lose to Temple. Those are the defining moments of Xavier’s season. Not surprisingly, frustration has been a theme.

One game the Musketeers look like world-beaters. The next, they look lost. Undoubtedly, they’re talented. But clearly, they haven’t quite figured it all out. The loss to Temple proved that.

But frustration hasn’t equaled a lack of success. The Musketeers sit at 15-4 and are still holding on to a spot in the Top 25. Ask just about any pundit, and they’ll tell you that Xavier is a team to be reckoned with.

Depth is one of the biggest reasons. The Musketeers have six players averaging double figures.

It starts in the backcourt, with senior guards Drew Lavender and Stanley Burrell. The diminutive but relentlessly annoying Lavender leads the team in scoring at 12.4 points per game. He also leads the A-10 in assists with 93, and just as impressive, leads in assist-to-turnover ratio. He’s as good a point guard as the Flyers will face all year, and stopping his penetration will be a key. As for Burrell, he’s not scoring as much as he has in years past, but he too is making his presence felt in the assist column.

At this point, it becomes difficult to decide who to mention next. There’s B.J. Raymond, who shoots 47 percent from three and is second on the team in scoring. Then you have C.J. Anderson, who’s the team’s third-leading scorer and a force inside. You’ve also got Dayton native Derrick Brown, who leads the team in rebounding and scores 11.1 per game. Then there’s veteran Josh Duncan, who chips in with 10.5 points per game, and big man Jason Love, who provides a presence in the paint. Not to mention Adrion Graves, Dante Jackson and Charles Bronson, who just has to be awesome.

So there. I just mentioned everybody. And yes, the Musketeers are deep.

But what can that depth do? That’s the question. I get the feeling that Xavier really hasn’t jelled yet, probably a product of youth. In that deep rotation, only Burrell, Lavender and Duncan are seniors.

When I think back to Xavier games past, I remember a lot of players who seemed like they were there entirely too long (the Justin’s come to mind). And those were always the players defining Xavier’s attitude toward the rivalry. They were better than Dayton. They had shown it. They would show it again.

But that’s not the case this year. Burrell is really the only guy who’s been around that long. Duncan was mostly an enigma in the early years of his career and Lavender is an Oklahoma transfer.

That’s why this feels different, and why I think Dayton has a chance. There’s just that special something that Xavier might be missing this season. Or at least, they haven’t found it yet.

That’s very intangible, though, and the Flyers have a long list of tangibles they need to win this game. Brian Roberts will have to be able to get his points, even if he faces double teams. The supporting cast will have to step up more than they did against UMass. Somehow, UD will have to make up for its sudden lack of size. And Dayton, as always, will have to shoot the ball well.

Prediction

Dayton 73, Xavier 72 – Do I actually think this can happen? Yes. The Flyers have had eight days off to think about this, to get past the fact that they’re without two great players and to formulate a plan. They didn’t waste that time and I expect them to do something in the early going to throw Xavier off, whether it’s a very small lineup or a tricky defense or something. Whatever it is, it’ll send a slightly fragile Xavier team into panic mode, which will allow the Flyers to build a lead. The Musketeers will eventually get their legs under them, but UD will hold on down the stretch. Brian Roberts will win the MVP award. He’s too classy to say, “Fuck Xavier,” but we will gladly say it for him.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Seriously, Fuck Xavier


If you're not ready for tomorrow's game, I don't know what to tell you. Here, I'll try to help you get in the mood.

• Doesn't it make you angry that UD hasn't beaten Xavier on the road since 1981? I was born in 1981! And not until August, after UD's 74-72 victory at the Riverfront Coliseum (now U.S. Bank Arena) on Jan. 10, 1981. The Flyers have never beaten Xavier at Xavier in my lifetime.

• Doesn't the very sight of David West with the New Orleans Hornets make you angry because he's probably still a whiny bastard?

• Doesn't the Xavier blob look like the lovechild of Grover from Sesame Street and an eggplant? He also looks like he rides the short bus.















• Here is a picture of D'Artagnan, Xavier's mascot. He is also the purest of all evils. Don't believe me?


Where there's trouble – there's D'Artagnan.


He's responsible for Caddyshack II.


He caused the Hindenburg disaster.


Remember when Britney Spears wasn't crazy and still had her fastball? She's screwed up because of D'Artagnan.


The current stock market troubles? Yup, D'Artagnan again.


Oh, and he killed Barbaro. There, I said it.

Now are you ready for the game? I can't wait. Do it for Sammy!

Queen City Stumbles: A Not Comprehensive Retrospective

The Tenth of January, 1981.

That was the last time Dayton beat Xavier in Cincinnati. The Flyers won 74-72. Mike Kanieski was the MVP. He would win it again a month later when the Flyers capped a sweep of the Musketeers with a 73-64 victory at UD Arena.

Those were the days. Probably. I wouldn't know. I was but a twinkle in my father's eye. In my lifetime, Dayton has not beaten Xavier in Cincinnati. I believe that for the first 18 years of my life, I cared little about this. I was not a Dayton fan by birth and probably would have been preoccupied anyway with hot wheels and baseball cards and legos. But I left those things behind me once I graduated high school got out of kindergarten, and soon enough, I was set for my college years at the University of Dayton.

Suddenly, I cared, but with the way things continued to go in Cincinnati, it would have been easy to regret the decision to care. The four trips to Xavier in my four years at Dayton were marked by sadness and a burning hatred for David West. It hasn't gotten any better since I've graduated.

So here we are again, a day away from another trip to Cincinnati. Perhaps it is best not to dwell on the past. The players probably won't. But for some deep philosophical reason other than the fact that I wanted to post something today but had no ideas, we must remember. We must remember and we must learn.

So, the learning:

The Best Player in the Game May Strap His Team to His Back
Xavier 85, Dayton 77
Feb. 8, 2003

The Proof: David West was simply ridiculous. He finished the game with 47 points and 18 rebounds, spoiling a big effort from a Dayton team that was 16-3 coming into the game. The Flyers opened the game by jumping to a 26-11 first-half lead. It looked for sure like it would finally be the year. But West put the Musketeers on his back. Nobody could guard him, and it didn't much matter if they tried. “It was a whale of an effort by West,” said Dayton head coach Oliver Purnell.

The Lesson: The Dayton-Xavier game has always been ripe for a player in relative obscurity to step up, but just as often, the great players will deliver, especially when they're head and shoulders above the rest. West was, and this year, Brian Roberts assumes that role. If he wants to score 47 points, I would be fine with that.


Things Can Get Out of Hand Quickly
Xavier 67, Dayton 60
Feb. 21, 2004

The Proof: Dayton managed to keep this game close down the stretch, but if they hadn't let things get so out of control, they might have done more than keep it close. In one second-half stretch, Xavier scored on 10 of 11 trips, pushing its lead to 17. Keith Waleskowski sparked a late comeback but it wasn't enough.

The Lesson: The stretch that doomed the Flyers was typical of that particular group's trips to Xavier. As confident as they were, as much as they believed they could do it, they couldn't avoid one mini-collapse per game. And with the Cintas Center crowd going wild, those mini-collapses always seemed to turn into something bigger.


An Awkward Big Man Who Sometimes Sucks May Suddenly Become Awesome
Xavier 74, Dayton 65
March 5, 2005

The Proof: Will Caudle. Do you remember him? No offense to him, but he was not a great player. One day in March 2005, though, he practically became David West Lite, dominating the paint against a young Dayton team. Also, at one point, Caudle scored inside and did the most ridiculous celebration dance I had ever seen, full of shaking arms and a shaking head. Will Caudle. He will coddle you. It's a play on words.

The Lesson: I could totally see this happening this year. Paging Thiago Cordeiro.


Brian Roberts Cannot Do It All By Himself
Xavier 60, Dayton 55
January 28, 2006

The Proof: Brian Roberts led all scorers with 20 points and also took 14 more shots than anybody on the team. If not for three three-pointers in the final minute from Jimmy Binnie, Roberts would have been the only Flyer in double figures. Either way, it wasn't a good recipe. UD was never really in this game.

The Lesson: Yes, I hinted at a BRob explosion above and I mentioned a few posts back that he can carry this team, but the fact of the matter is, if nobody else steps up, the Flyers will be facing a serious uphill battle. I think Roberts will still set the tone and pave the way with his confidence, but somebody has to help.


What The Hell Happened?
Xavier 83, Dayton 67
January 27, 2007

The Proof: Sometimes, it just doesn't work. The Flyers led this game by a point at halftime but it didn't really feel like their game. Xavier's 12-0 run to start the second half made the score reflect that. Dayton barely mounted a charge from there.

The Lesson: Plenty of games take on that "What The Hell Happened?" quality, but for whatever reason, it seems like Xavier games really bring it out. Things start going wrong before you can pinpoint why, and pretty soon, it's over.



So that's it. The memories should be fresher now. The lessons are most likely worthless. Something different is bound to happen.

But at least you've been reminded of Will Caudle. If the Flyers win, I ask all of you to do his dance.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Mike Kelly Retires...

Football Coach Led Flyers For 27 Seasons

I know that this blog is almost universally about men's basketball, but I felt this was worth mentioning. It replaces what should have been a post about how great it is to be playing Xavier and how making fun of them is about the best thing I can think to do with my time on any given day.

I know that football is definitely off the radar at UD and, honestly, it probably deserves to be. There's nothing more depressing than attempting to get excited by the phrase, "We're in first place of the Pioneer League." Then again, for those of us that were in the stands when Yale came to town a few years ago, who wasn't as excited as hell that we found a way into that game during the fourth quarter? And who, when standing in line for basketball tickets in Frericks didn't look at the poster for the 1952 Salad Bowl and think, "Yeah, I'm all about heading to the Salad Bowl." Of course, the Flyers lost the 1952 Salad Bowl and waited almost 30 years for their dominance of Division III, resulting in three national titles.

Now, as the Flyers play in relative obscurity, the coach connecting the current era of Division I-AA, non-scholarship, non-playoff, no-fun league games to the glory of D-III national titles is gone. Enjoy your retirement, coach.

We Are . . . Villanova?

Doug Harris writes in today's Dayton Daily News that the Flyers could go with a very small lineup at times in the Xavier game. He doesn't go into much detail, of course, because it's the Dayton Daily News, but he references the fact that Jimmy Binnie, at 6'7, could end up being the tallest player on the floor in the small lineup.

I don't know what to think about this. On the one hand, it seems like xavier could easily take advantage by going big. But on the other hand, Dayton could force Xavier to play small.

Remember Villanova two years ago? Four guards and a 6'8 guy at center? They were a national championship contender because they embraced that style and made everybody match up with them.

In a way, they were the anti-Dayton Flyers. UD always seems to play their opponent's style. They don't impose their own will.

Maybe that's because they've never had a will. This could be their will, their style. I'm not sure they can truly impose it the first time out, but there could be definitely be something to it. I'm intrigued.

I wish we had Randy Foye, though.

Monday, January 21, 2008

We Were Somewhere Outside Middletown on the Edge of Cincinnati When the Kool-Aid Began to Take Hold


Our patron saint is an optimist. A delusional optimist, perhaps, but an optimist nonetheless.

All this “reality” in the form of a loss and foot injuries and powder blue is nothing but depressing.

With the biggest game of the year just two days away, this cannot stand. I refuse to be depressed. Sammy refuses, too.

We would like to extend an invitation for a little trip down what we like to call “Eleven Reasons Dayton Beats Xavier on Thursday Boulevard.” It will be fun or stupid. I’m not really sure.

But the journey begins now. Brew up some Dayton Flyers Kool-Aid, grab a jar of Jif (choosy crazies choose jif), hop in the car with us, curl up in a blanket and get ready to fly away. We might go to Texas. I don’t know if we’ll have time.


11. Devin Searcy looks like a fucking beast in his official headshot

Nevermind that it doesn’t necessarily apply when you see him in person. Nobody’s seen him in person. Xavier has no film of him. They showed their players his official headshot. They were terrified. Drew Lavender spent the rest of the team meeting on Stanley Burrell’s lap.


10. Kurt Huelsman and Jimmy Binnie are by far the best white duo in this game

It’s fact. They combine to average 12.1 points per game. Xavier’s Joe Hughes averages .5 points per game and Andrew Taylor doesn’t even play because he’s so bad or because he’s a transfer or something.


9. No more David West

I don’t care that he’s been gone for five years or so. This is a legitimate reason for optimism.






[sammy opens the jar of peanut butter]

This one time, when neither of us could fall asleep, Sean Finn told me he has nightmares where he gets in a car and he can only drive West and every few minutes he shoots a basketball and it comes back and hits him in the face. It’s probably why he didn’t want to go to Texas with me.


8. Stanley Burrell’s parachute pants have been known to deploy spontaneously

But as we know, he’s too legit to quit.



7. This fucking guy


He has to hurt their chances, doesn’t he?




6. No more Justins

Now that the Justins Cage and Doellman have gotten their PhD.’s, they can’t milk any more years of eligibility out of the NCAA. They were so annoyingly solid that Xavier can’t not be worse without them.


5. Charles Bronson plays for them

He does. Look it up.




[sammy emerges from under the blanket]

You know, you’re really running out of gas here. I’m not sure I want my name associated with this. Are we there yet?



4. Brian Gregory knows he looks like Michael J. Fox/Michael Douglas

They did this little feature on the halftime show of the Duquesne-Fordham game last weekend talking to A-10 coaches about what celebrities they looked like. Gregory is fully aware of the J. Fox/Douglas comparisons and seems to fully embrace them. Sean Miller, on the other hand, didn’t even participate, and, if he had, likely would have made some stupid joke and said “I’ve been told I look like Brad Pitt, hahahaha. My wife wishes! Hahahahaha.”


3. Thad Matta doesn’t look like a celebrity, he looks like he’s constipitated


If it ever comes out, it could coach better than Sean Miller.




[sammy adds water to the kool-aid]

I hate it when you try too hard to be funny. It’s not working. Shut up and drive.


2. We love Brian Roberts

All of us do. There’s no reason to hide it. This love – it has to count for something. If all we need is love, then we don’t need anything else.


1. Just drink the kool-aid

It’s better that way.

We Still Have Brian Roberts


There has been much doom and gloom in Dayton Flyer Land these last few days. Much doom and gloom, indeed. It's certainly justifiable. A week ago, the slightly-more delusional among us were thinking, "Hey, if we beat UMass then steal one at Xavier and win a few more . . . could we be a No. 1 seed?" Of course, much has changed in the last week. A back-to-earth loss to UMass, followed soon after by yet another injury, this one to the one player that, with Chris Wright already out, you really don't want to lose. Couple that with eight days off and a Xavier game on the horizon that looks significantly less winnable than it did a week ago, and you have doom and gloom.

But. One thing has not changed.

Brian Roberts is still playing for the Dayton Flyers. When I feel down, I think about this. The foot injury bug has not bitten him. The curse of the powder blue did not touch him. He is fine. He got triple-teamed and everything last game, but he is fine.

Remind yourself of this. I know he can't do it all. To be sure, the UMAss game showed that. Other people have to step up, even moreso with Little and Wright out. Without them, Marcus Johnson is the only player other than Roberts averaging more than 6.2 points per game.

But for some reason, I believe in Brian Roberts. I believe this team will go as far as he can take them. And I believe that's pretty far.

It's hard to explain. I was thinking the other day about penning an epic post about the difference between this year and last, with every possible explanation laid out. All of them play a part, from the general increase in depth and talent to the emergence of Kurt Huelsman to the fact that somewhere along the line, this group bought what Brian Gregory was selling.

But all of those are secondary. If I posed the question, "What's the real difference?," the post would contain just two words: Brian Roberts.

Sure, he's putting up numbers similar to those he put up last year and even the year before. He's hitting big shots. He's coming through in the clutch. This is nothing new.

But more important than all of that is his presence. At some point, maybe after quiet-leader veterans graduated, maybe after a few problem players hit the road, this became Brian Roberts' team and Brian Roberts' year. There is a feeling of destiny surrounding it. He doesn't want to lose anymore. Every big game the Flyers have won, they've won because of him.

Think they walk into Freedom Hall and play with confidence if Brian Roberts doesn't walk in with them? Think they attack Pittburgh if Brian Roberts isn't firing the first shot? Think they run with Rhode Island if Brian Roberts doesn't line up on the starting line?

I don't think they do. Without Brian Roberts, I don't know what this team is. With him, they believe in themselves more than they ever normally would. Roberts is that type of player. He doesn't just make everyone better. He makes them believe they're better. For this team, this team that hasn't really done anything yet, the impact of that can't be overstated. Different players have stepped up in different games, but without Roberts laying the foundation, I'm not sure they would step up.

And so here we sit, at 14-2, still hanging on to a spot in the Top 25, still on the right lines in bracketology. But there is that feeling that the sky is falling, that things colud slip very easily. First Xavier then a tough road game at Richmond, then the St. Louis team that gave us fits, followed by a trip to Rhode Island.

Scary.

But I don't think Brian Roberts is worried. Can he take a banged up team into the Cintas Center and accomplish something no Dayton team has accomplished in 22 years? Can he still take over games when there's a blueprint that says, "Stop him and you stop Dayton?" Can he somehow hold down the fort for a month and keep a dream season on track?

I don't know.

But if anybody can do it, it's Brian Roberts.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Down About Charles Little..This will cheer you up



Who would your rather have guide the Flyers for the next 4-8 weeks without Charles Little and Chris Wright?




Brian Gregory?

or....



Shooter from Hoosiers?







Charles Little Out 4-6 Weeks

DDN Reports Little Has Ankle Fracture

I'm not going to lie; I'm starting to get a little depressed. We're going to be without our stud freshman and now without last season's A-10 Sixth Man of the year. Going into the Xavier game, this is not what I wanted to see. Little is a firebrand and was 100 percent certain to be one of the guys getting the team fired up during a tough road trip. Get well soon, Charles.

It's likely that Devin Searcy will now see some noticeable minutes during the Eggsavier game and for several weeks to follow. Personally, I didn't think he was ready when I saw him for the limited minutes he's played this year. We're going to need some really big play from some guys that just aren't accustomed (or even able) to put out that kind of production.

Suffice it to say that our inside presence and our ability to get to the hoop has been greatly diminished over the last few weeks with the injuries to Wright and now Little. If we don't shoot considerably better than we did against UMass from outside, we will not beat X.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

St. Louis Tops Rhode Island

We're even less alone now.

St. Louis just beat visiting Rhode Island 68-61. That means, in the span of two nights, the A-10's three Top 25 teams have all been upset.

Kind of incredible. I'll be interested to see what the national reaction to this is. If it continues, and teams keep beating each other up, we could have a little problem on our hands. I'm not sure the A-10 has enough equity built up for people to view that kind of balance as a good thing. If the Big East's top teams take a few lumps, the natural inclination is to view the teams dishing out the lumps in a better light. If the same happens in the A-10, the tendency might be to view the team that's taking the lumps in a worse light, and that could certainly have an impact on Selection Sunday.

But that's all hypothetical anyway. I'm just kind of excited about the rest of conference play. I think it's going to be insane.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

So Long, Blue Unis

Stonemill already broke up with you (see post below) – which was kinda creepy in a way – but his message is right. So we bid adieu to the sweet, sweet blue uniforms and welcome back the home whites.

I went to the game, and here are some random and disjointed thoughts after being in UD Arena tonight.

  • I used my vast media connections to obtain a media credential for the game. That is to say, I called Doug Hauschild the day before the game, and he said, “Media credential? Sure, we’ll have one for ya.” Big time program they’re running here.

    Unfortunately, they stuck me up in the shitty press row. You know, the one in Section 301 right behind the Flyer Radio guys. I half-expected Mike Giangreco to show up and broadcast the game. Mercifully, he did not.
  • In the media room, I sat at the same table as a guy named Mel Daniels. Later, I found out from Mel Daniels’ wikipedia page* that he is a former ABA MVP and Rookie of the Year. He spent some time playing for the Cincinnati Royals and is now the director of player personnel for the Indiana Pacers. If I’d know any of this, I’m not sure what I would have done. Maybe asked him if he was there to scout B-Rob, or probably sat in semi-awkward silence … which I did anyway.
  • Speaking of the media room, they are no longer serving delicious Papa John’s pizza like they did while we were in school. They instead provided a selection of lunchmeat sandwiches. Weak. Needless to say, I was disappointed. Needless to say, I ate the sandwiches anyway.
  • I’m shocked it took until the 16th game of the season for a team to defend B-Rob like this. They ran two defenders at him on almost every single possession. They trapped him, doubled him, denied him the ball and did basically everything to get the ball out of his hands. The worst news: now every team we play from here on out has a blueprint to work off of.

    That’s a message for you, BG. Start drawing up plays for what to do when teams attack Roberts like UMass did tonight.
  • In a related note, Travis Ford is going to be a coaching star. The good news for everyone in the A10 except UMass is that he’s not gonna be there too much longer. He is going to do some big things.

    That team was so well-prepared and disciplined tonight. To play as fast as they do on offense and only turn the ball over six times all night speaks volumes. Plus, you factor in the great job they did on Roberts, especially in the first half. PLUS, they had all of other guys so well-scouted. They played waaaaaay off London Warren all night long, practically daring him to shoot. They let Sandoval get open looks too, knowing of his cancerous nature. But they knew to get out on Binnie and Perry, our better shooters. Great coaching job, and you know I hate complimenting anyone who has anything to do with Kentucky.
  • Milligan was getting any shot he wanted all night. I’m surprised they didn’t go inside to him more often (6-8 from the field, 13 points). Not Kurt’s best game, especially on the defensive end, but I suppose he’s entitled to an off night.
  • We looked like the Flyers of the last two or three seasons at times tonight, and that isn’t a compliment. We were struggling to get the ball inbounds, playing poor transition D and looking absolutely lost on offense any time the ball wasn’t in B-Rob’s hands.
  • When you start out so slow – down 15-3 and 21-7 at the beginning of the game – sometimes you expend all your effort and energy getting back into the game. Then, when you finally come all the way back, you don’t have anything left to push you over the top and throw a knockout punch. Maybe that’s what happened tonight. Or maybe you just have to tip your hat to UMass for withstanding all of our runs and surges and, instead of getting rattled or folding, punching back and hanging on for the W.
  • If you told me B-Rob would have exactly zero field goals and just two points in the first half, I’d have said we’d be down way more than five at the break.
  • Their modified box-and-one defense gave us fits all night. We looked clueless as to what offense we were supposed to run. Man-to-man sets or zone O? The coaching staff needs to learn from this and develop a game plan for the other guys to score.
  • When we went on an 8-0 run to go up 57-56, I thought UMass would feel the heat and let the Flyers pull away. They didn’t … but it’s like Stonemill said below. If we have an average shooting night, we probably sneak out with a win. To go 4-of-25 from three (Binnie 0-6, Perry 1-7) is the exception, not the rule.
  • UD did do some good things in this game. When you outrebound a team by 15 (and by 11 on the offensive glass) and outscore a team 40-20 in the paint, you’re going to win a lot of ball games. Like I said above, I thought we lost their good shooters too often in transition. Harris, Brower and Lowe combined to shoot 10-18 from three-point range. I’m sure that’s well above their average.
  • I went to the post-game stuff. Why? Not sure, I’m a glutton for punishment I guess. Quote from Travis Ford: “We tried to focus on Roberts as much as we could.” That’s the early frontrunner for understatement of the year.

    UMass also changed its starting line-up for this game and didn’t press the full 40 minutes for the first time all year.
  • Tough loss for sure, but it's hard for me to get way down on the Flyers. If you told me we'd be 14-3 in late January, I would have been positively giddy. The fact that we have a decent shot at starting out 15-2 and winning at Xavier for the first time in a billion years is great. But it's not a must-win game by any means.

*which means any or all of this may be false.

Paula Abdul Was Wrong

Opposites don't attract. For instance a team that's thriving and a new uniform introduced just as they have acheived their highest ranking in 40 years. Paula was quite the lyricist in Dayton Flyers irony, if we continue in her song

"I take 2 steps forward, I take 2 steps back."

Ok, ok I know a little over the top because the Flyers have taken 2 steps forward and maybe a half-step back. Now that the game is almost 2 hours since it's completion, I've been able to gain a level head. Yes, Dayton lost to UMass at UD Arena. Yes, they couldn't make a 3 point shot or a free-throw necessary to save us from calling this "Crap the Bed Wednesday" (this by the way was the alternate title for this post).

COMPLETE SIDE NOTE (skip if you would like to keep reading about the Dayton Flyers)
Wouldn't "Crap the Bed Wednesday" be a better title for ESPN's college basketball coverage? First Big Monday, than Super Tuesday followed by Crap the Bed Wednesday. ESPN can take matchups of teams either playing so well, or playing an inferior opponent after a huge win and highlight them. You can take a team like Butler after they win let's say their Bracketbuster game whomever that may be, and feature them on "Crap the Bed Wednesday" when they play Illinois-Chicago. I'd have the broadcast team revolve their storyline in trying to jinx the favorite. I could elaborate, but I'll move on..

This is still a good team and Brian Roberts had an off night but he's still my quarterback (Sorry, my inner Terrell Owens was coming out..I didn't even know I had an inner Terrell Owens). We knew that the Atlantic-10 would be a scratch and claw kind of league this year..maybe we just weren't ready to cope with it.

Now that we've come back to reality, there are some positives from this game. The Fighting Gregory's were able to come back twice, one of them from a rather large deficit in the 1st half. Teams of the past would have rolled over and died at that point (ie. most Xavier blowouts). This team has moxie, even with their fearless leader (yes a Rocky & Bulwinkle reference too!) being tied up offensively. UD had a chance and even had the lead twice but could not find that killer instinct they've had for most of the season thus far.

Xavier is next, on the road. Sure this may be thought as an automatic loss, seeing Dayton hasn't won at Xavier in roughly 20 years. But this is a different team, and eventually Xavier has to lose to Dayton at home, so why not this year? Plus Xavier was a full fledged participant in "Crap the Bed Wednesday" with their loss to Temple. Let's hope the Flyers focus for next Thursday.

Let's hope they burn the powder blue uni's as well.

I urge everyone to bid on the alternate jersey's when they're up on auction, this way we KNOW they won't somehow end up on our Flyers.

UMass 82, Dayton 71

37.3

That'll be the bottom line for this one. Only twice this season have the Dayton Flyers shot below 43 percent from the field. Both times, they've lost. Against George Mason, they shot 36.4 percent. Tonight, it was 37.3.

And with that, we come back to earth.

It's funny how expectations change perceptions. Any other year, this loss would sting, sure, but you'd chalk it up to a bad night and move on. Now it feels different. With things going so well so many times, it became harder and harder to imagine the Flyers taking a step back.

In reality, this isn't a step back. It's just one of those nights. I guess that makes it a little easier to take. There's nothing to be overly concerned about. If the Flyers shoot like they normally do, they win this game.

But still.

I said in the preview that this might be a bigger game than the Xavier game, that the Flyers didn't want to be heading into Cincy knowing that a loss could send them to .500. But that's where they are.

Interestingly enough, the events of tonight may have further proved that no one will stroll through the A-10 and that a 2-2 record won't be a death knell. Xavier also threw in a clunker tonight, losing on the road by 19 to Temple. It's not very good for the A-10 to have two top 25 teams lose on the same night, but at least the Flyers aren't alone.

Finally, a message to the powder blue uniforms: You looked great. Really you did. I loved hanging out with you tonight. You were fun. You were exotic. You were so different than all the other uniforms. But I'm sorry. I just don't think it's going to work out between us right now. It's not you, it's me. I just . . . I don't know. I guess I've just got some things I need to sort out. That's all. Maybe some time down the line, we can hang out again and see where it goes. I'd really like that.

My mother told me...

"Never write when you're angry."

Hell with it.

3-point field goals
UMass: 13-30
Dayton: 4-25

Hey, that's the most pointedly effective post I've ever written. It sums up a game in almost no words.

Well mom, at least I didn't write much.

Happy Powder Blue Uniform Day

Damn right I changed our background color in celebration. If it makes things hard to read, I do not apologize. You're just going to have to deal with it for a day, or forever if the Flyers win by 40 tonight.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

UMass Preview

UMASS MINUTEMEN (11-4, 0-1)

Head Coach: Travis Ford (second season)

Game Time: 7 p.m.

Location: UD ARENA

Television: Streaming video on daytonflyers.com

All-Time Series: UD leads 7-6

Last Meeting: UMass won on Feb. 18 last year, which ended Dayton’s 14-game home winning streak.

UMass’ Best Win(s): Nov. 28 – 107-100 at Syracuse, Dec. 12 – 83-80 at Boston College.

Those teams may not be having outstanding years, but those are outstanding road wins.

Common Opponents

TOLEDO

Dayton 76, Toledo 70
UMass 68, Toledo 61

Probable Starting Lineup

G Ricky Harris – So. – 6’2 175 – 19.7 PPG
G Chris Lowe – Jr. – 6’0 160 – 12.5 PPG
F Gary Forbes – Sr. – 6’7 220 – 20.9 PPG
F Etienne Brower – Sr. – 6’7 215 – 11.1 PPG
C Luke Bonner – Jr. – 7’1 245 – 4.7 PPG

What a Win Would Mean

UMass may not be ranked but I see this as just as big a game as the opener against Rhode Island. The Minutemen are clearly in the upper echelon of the A-10, and if there’s a fourth team in the NCAA tournament, they are a likely choice. Beating them would further solidify Dayton’s standing as a Top 25 team and would also guarantee at least a 3-1 record in the crucial four-game stretch that is now halfway done.

What a Loss Would Mean

It would hurt, especially heading into Xavier. A loss here and a possible loss to Xavier would be a rough 1-2 punch. Suddenly, the Flyers would be 2-2 in the A-10 and possibly out of the Top 25. Arguably, this is a bigger game than Xavier, at least in the sense that a loss on the road at a ranked Xavier team that drops you to 3-1 wouldn’t hurt much. Heading in at 2-1 would be a much different story. There’s no shame in losing to this team, certainly, but on your home court, with so much going right, you need the win.

You Know Who Was Good?

Dana Dingle. From the Calipari years. I loved him. No idea why.

Powder Blue Uniforms

So excited.

Breakdown

There’s one team on the Flyers’ schedule playing “Pitino-Ball” and it isn’t Pitino’s Louisville Cardinals. It’s his former point guard’s squad at UMass.

Travis Ford, Kentucky Wildcats hero, has his Minutemen playing at the frenetic pace that made the teams he played on famous. They press full court almost constantly and force more than 17 turnovers a game. They run at every opportunity and average 85.6 points per game. And they shoot a lot of threes, 386 to be exact, which is 31st in the country. By comparison, the Flyers have shot 223 three-pointers. UMass makes them at a 35.5 percent clip. (It should be noted that Dayton shoots 42.2 percent from three-point land, eighth in the country. That’s Brian Roberts’ efficiency talking.)

Anyway, the Minutemen run and run a lot. And despite the loss of A-10 Player of the Year Stephane Lasme and first-team all-conference pick Rashaun Freeman, they have the horses to do it, even if they’re isn’t a ton of depth. They go eight deep, but that doesn’t stop them from flying around.

Gary Forbes leads the charge. The senior transferred from Virginia three years ago and in his first season in Amherst last year, he made a splash, turning in several big games. This season, he’s put it all together and is averaging 20.9 points per game. He’s making a strong case to be a first-team all-conference pick. Despite being 6’7, he handles the ball like a point guard and shoots the second-most three-pointers on the team. That makes him a tough match-up, especially for a Dayton team that’s playing three guards for long stretches.

Behind Forbes, sophomore Ricky Harris has assumed a much bigger role after a freshman season where he scored 4.5 points per game. Now the starting two-guard, he averages 19.7 per game and hits on 38 percent of his three-point tries.

Point guard Chris Lowe and forward Etienne Brower also average double digits. Starting center Luke Bonner may be in a “Hey, Sean Finn, go out and win the tip, then go to the bench for awhile,” situation since big men Dante Milligan and Tony Gaffney both average more minutes than him.

That’s the nucleus of the team, and it’s a nucleus that has delivered some surprises, namely the wins over Syracuse and Boston College. After all, this was a team that some publications picked to finish near the bottom of the conference.

Somehow, though, the loss of Lasme and Freeman hasn’t hurt as much as everyone thought. To be honest, I haven’t seen much of the Minutemen, but I’m wondering if it’s a situation where Lasme and Freeman, both big guys, slowed the team down a bit. Now, with the team buying into Ford’s philosophy in this is his second year, they’re running wild.

But the Minutemen did hit a bump in the road in their conference opener, losing on the road to St. Joe’s, a scary team in its own right. The Hawks didn’t slow them down much – they won 98-92 – but they found a way to out-gun them.

Dayton may be faced with the same task. Facing a similar in run-and-gun team in Rhode Island, the Flyers didn’t slow it down and instead matched that pace. In that game, though, ridiculous shooting kept them in front. If they don’t shoot as well against Minutemen, they’ll need to ease off the throttle a bit.

Prediction

Dayton 81, UMass 76 – The Flyers continue to make the plays down the stretch and find a way to win. Brian Gregory loves the karma of the powder blue uniforms so much that he decides the team will wear them the rest of the season. A party ensues at PB&aB headquarters. You’re invited. Wear powder blue.