2008-2009 Record: 27-8, 11-5 A-10 (t-2nd)
Key Losses: Charles Little (8.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg)
Key Returners: Chris Wright (13.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg), Marcus Johnson (11.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg), London Warren (4.1 ppg, 4.4 apg), Rob Lowery (7.5 ppg, 3.4 apg)
Newcomers: Matt Kavanaugh, Josh Benson
(photo credit: Kansan)
Dayton may have been the deepest team in the country last season, as 12 guys averaged between 8.8 and 28.3 minutes per game. It should be more of the same next year, as 10 of those 12 return.
Dayton hangs their hat on defensive toughness and the ability to rebound, especially on the offensive end (the stats say it all - they averaged almost 14 offensive boards per game while holding their opponents the 39.7% shooting and 61.4 ppg). Its their system, its how they win, and there are few teams in the country that are tougher than this team.
It is difficult to name a leader for this team. Junior Chris Wright is clearly the kid with the most potential. At 6'8", 226 lb, Wright has earned the moniker "Top Flyght" because of the thuderous dunks his 39.5" vertical allows him to throw down. He probably made the right decision returning to school as he still relies too much on his tools, but as his mid-range game and his passing ability (he had 33 assists and 84 turnovers last year) continue to improve, don't be surprised if Wright wins the A-10 player of the year award.
But he may not even be the most valuable player on this team. Marcus Johnson, the second leading scorer and team leader in minutes and threes last season, is also the teams best defender. He would routinely guard an opponent's best scorer last season. What about London Warren? While he won't score all that much, Warren is the guy that makes this team go on both ends. He harasses the opposing point guard of the defensive end, but his passing and decision making (4.4 apg, 1.9 t/o's) helps keep the Dayton offense running smoothly. Then there is Rob Lowery. Lowery was Dayton's sixth man and spark plug off the bench last season, playing the role of back up point guard. But Lowery tore his patellar tendon with 10 games left in the year (he should be ready to go by January). With Lowery, Dayton was 23-2. Without him, they went 5-5.
There are two other back court players on the Flyers that should see time. One is Mickey Perry. A 6'2" senior, Perry was another guy that provided offense off the bench for Brian Gregory. The other is 6'4" sophomore Paul Williams. Williams played limited minutes as a freshman, but showed some promise as a player in this system.
The point you should take regarding the Flyers are truly a team - they are balanced, they are deep, they play together, and they each play the role they are assigned. If there is a question mark this year, it is who is going to take the place of Charles Little up front. There are quite a few options as well. For starters, Gregory could go smaller, sliding Wright to the four spot and putting 6'6" sophomore Chris Johnson in the starting line-up. Johnson is more of a perimeter player than a post due to his slender frame and shooting ability, but he was second on the team in rebounding last year at 5.2 per (2.1 on the offensive end).
But the Flyers also have the personnel to go big this year. Starting at center is 6'10" Kurt Huelsman. Huelsman isn't a great scorer, but he will get you some rebounds, block some shots, and basically just take up a lot of space on the interior. There are a myriad of options to play the four. Luke Fabrizius is a 6'9" sophomore forward who can shoot the lights out from three, but is not as big inside as some of the other guys on the team. Devin Searcy, a 6'10" junior, is a stronger presence defensively and on the glass, but he doesn't bring much to the table offensively. 6'9" Josh Benson was a highly touted freshman last season, but he is coming off of a torn rotator cuff that forced him to redshirt last year. Matt Kavanaugh is this season's talented freshman, a 6'9" monster that is physically ready to play at this level.
Outlook: This is Dayton's year. They lose seven seniors after the season, and likely will see Wright bolt for the league. With Xavier down this season, Dayton is the favorite to win the A-10, and should have the horses to make a run to the Sweet 16. They get a good early test with Georgia Tech and Derrick Favors in Puerto Rico, and if Rob Lowery comes back at 100%, I don't think 30 wins and a top four seed is out of the question.