Thursday, February 20, 2020 1:25 PM | CBN
By: Liam Blutman
The date is February 19th and we are so, so close to the NCAA Tournament. We are nearing that wonderful moment where we see the bracket for the first time, a moment all of us look forward to, whether a big college fan or simply a casual observer. Usually I’d wait to make my National Champion pick, I want to see the draws, how it sets up for Team A compared to Team B, etc. But I think I’m ready to make my pick now and just lock it in, no looking back. The pick for me... Dayton. Yes, I’m taking a mid-major, I’m taking one of the most fun teams in the country, I’m taking who I think the best team in the country is. In the preseason I picked an A-10 team to make the Final Four, VCU. I quickly realized I had picked the wrong A-10 school representative!
Dayton’s recent dominant win over Rhode Island was what really confirmed the pick for me. The Flyers led by 25 at one point and embarrassed a red hot Rhode Island team. Dayton held the Rams to just 28.8% from the field and an abysmal 3-15 mark from three. I first fell in love with this team in Maui, against Georgia. I had high hopes for Dayton, expected them to be a top 25 and knew Obi Toppin was a superstar. It was in Maui that I quickly realized this team was so much more than just Obi. They had a supporting cast that can compete with anybody in the country and heck we saw that was true when the Flyers took Kansas to OT.
Let’s meet this Flyers team. They are led by Obi Toppin, a rare talent who is competing for the National Player of the Year and he is simply electric. The redshirt sophomore is averaging 19.4 PPG, 7.7 RPG, shooting 62.4% from the field, and 36.2% from deep. Obi is a highlight reel machine, the best dunker in the country as his vertical is nuts and he’ll showcase that on the defensive end as he consistently gets up for punishing blocks. Toppin is a star and I want my National Champion pick to have a star! But I also want them to have a strong supporting cast and that starts with Jalen Crutcher. The junior guard is averaging 15.0 PPG, 4.9 APG, is 46.4% from the field, and boasts a 42.4% clip from three. They call this man Jalen Clutcher, maybe it’s the three that forced OT vs Kansas and the game winning three to beat Saint Louis on the road that earned him this nickname. Toppin and Crutcher form one of the best duos in the country, more on that later. Next we have Trey Landers who is averaging 10.8 PPG and 6.3 RPG, the 6’5” guard/forward from Dayton does a lot for his hometown school. He’s shooting 57.8% from the field, gets 1.2 Steals per game. He’s always making positive things happen and you have to love his effort. We talked about Obi but we didn’t talk about Ibi! Ibi Watson is a transfer from Michigan playing in his first season for the Flyers. Ibi played in the National Championship as his Wolverines lost to Villanova so Ibi brings that experience and leadership that you want. Watson is averaging 10.5 PPG, shoots 49.7% from the field and 40.6% from deep. Next up, Ryan Mikesell the ultimate glue guy. Ryan has taken a decreased role on this years team and he’s not complaining about it. On the contrary he's embracing the role of glue guy as he puts up 9.2 PPG, 4.7 RPG, and shoots 49.2% from the field. He’s giving max effort every play, the non-stop hustle is showcased every game as you’ll see him diving for loose balls time and time again. He plays a quietly impressive game and is a really smart player. Now how about Rodney Chatman. The 6’1” guard transferred from UT-Chattanooga and this is his first season playing for Dayton. Sure he averages just 7.7 PPG, 3.3 APG, 2.5 RPG, and shoots just 38.8% from the field. But he’s extremely important to this team. Rodney is always defending the oppositions best guard and getting in their face as he is always in a defensive stance and makes the guy he’s guarding work extra hard for 40 minutes as he simply tires these guys out. Chatman can hit the occasional three as well so don’t leave him open. You’ll also see Jordy Tshimanga get minutes as he’s their tallest player and is used strategically when the other team has a good big man or two.
Now that we’ve met the Flyers, I’d love to talk about their numbers. This offense ranks 3rd in efficiency as they boast a 118.5 rating through 26 games. They are first in effective FG % as they hold a clip of 59.4%. Flyers are 27th in 3-point percentage, 37.1% from beyond the arc, pretty much everybody on this team can and will shoot the three. The Flyers rank first in 2-point FG%, they shoot 61.9% inside the arc. I’d prefer the free throw shooting to be a tad bit better, Flyers shoot 72.6% from the line, I’d love to see that number at 75%. Dayton is a superb passing team hence the fact that 60.8% of their baskets come off an assist. Defensively they have the 32nd most efficient defense, opponents offenses combine for an O-Rating of 92.3 vs Dayton. Opponents effective FG% is at 46.7% against the Flyers. Opponents also struggle inside against Dayton as they shoot just 45% on 2’s. Dayton is currently 3-2 in Quadrant 1 games and they have another opportunity coming up when they meet Rhode Island on March 4th. Dayton ranks 5th in NET, 3rd in RPI, 35th In Strength of Schedule, and the played the 31st toughest non conference schedule. The numbers back up this Dayton team, they really do.
I’d like to talk about that Toppin/Crutcher duo again as I stated above. This duo is simply phenomenal and extremely efficient. Obi has an O-Rating of 119.8 on a usage rate of just 25.7! Crutcher has an O-Rating of 121.2 on a usage rate of just 22! These are two of the best efficiency rates in the country and when you see these guys play you’ll realize why. The team, not just these two, but the team is unbelievably unselfish. They couldn’t care who is scoring points, something I highlighted back in April was Obi Toppin’s passing ability. Ignore the number of just 2.0 assists per game, just ignore that. Obi attracts so much attention, he draws double teams and he’s able to throw high quality passes to open players with ease. Now the Flyers have somebody open because you just doubled Obi and this team swings it around the perimeter until they find they best shot available. In addition to Obi and Jalen’s efficiency numbers, I’ll list some others below.Ibi Watson - 120.8 O-Rating / 20.0 Usage Rate
Trey Landers - 123.3 O-Rating / 18.7 Usage RateRyan Mikesell - 115.4 O-Rating / 17.1 Usage Rate
This Dayton Flyers team is outstanding and really fun to watch. They play an exciting brand of basketball. They’ve been tested, they’ve played a good schedule, they are prepared for the NCAA Tournament. They have a superstar. They have a supporting cast. The efficiency numbers speak for themselves. I love this team. The NCAA Tournament starts in Dayton with the First Four and ends in Atlanta with Dayton cutting down the nets as National Champions.