By: Chris Bendel – Sports Editor
Editor’s Note: Page numbers (pg.) indicate where in-depth coverage can be found on the topic in the comprehensive preview located on pgs. 9-16.
Like any coach coming off of a successful season, University of Dayton head men’s basketball coach Archie Miller draws a line in the sand between the past and the present.
Last year, the Flyers finished ranked No. 18 in the final USA Today Coaches Poll, fresh off of an Elite Eight run and a Cinderella story told around the nation. Campus exploded during the historic, postseason run uniting students, alumni and the greater Dayton area. The team’s 26 wins were the third-most in school history (pg. 14).
For Miller and the Flyers, the accolades from last season will not have any bearing on the success of this current group of Flyers. However, Miller hopes for one important thread from last year’s magical run to carry over: student passion.
“We need [the students],” Miller said. “Part of being in college basketball, the best places to play, the best basketball schools, have the best vibe on campus… everyone’s got to fill those seats.
When our students are intact, we may have one of the best home courts in all of college basketball,” Miller said.
Students and the greater Dayton community making the trip to UD Arena may see a different type of “True Team” for the 2014-15 men’s basketball season, one focused more on strategic matchups driven by personnel combinations. The different looks Dayton will use stem from a lack of size and less abundant depth at certain positions versus the hallmark 11-man rotation from a year ago (For full roster see pg. 10).
From last year’s team, gone are forward Devin Oliver, center Matt Kavanaugh, slashing guard Vee Sanford and former starting point guard Khari Price, who transferred out of the program during the offseason.
“As the course of the season goes, the lineups will be unique, but I don’t know necessarily know if people are going to say [UD] throws a lot of bodies at you,” Miller said. “We’re going to be more of a matchup based rotation.”
Miller said foul trouble could develop as a concern on any particular night, especially with an undersized frontcourt after losing the 6-foot-11 frame of Kavanaugh. Only two players on the roster are listed above 6 feet 6 inches (pg. 10).
“We’re going to have to find ways to protect ourselves from getting in foul trouble which may be a little zone,” Miller said. “It may be being very aggressive in terms of getting in scramble situations or trapping.”
In order to capitalize on the team’s strengths, UD will use multiple combinations of players, according to Miller, able to exploit mismatches given by opposing defenses and sometimes employing a four-guard look, with junior forward Dyshawn Pierre playing a hybrid role (pg. 13).
“We’re not a big team right now,” Pierre said. “We’ll have to use quickness in some cases, getting the ball out of the net fast and trying to tire teams out throughout the course of the game.”
UD opened the season with a 96-66 exhibition victory over Division II opponent, the University of Southern Indiana Saturday at UD Arena.
Leading scorer, redshirt senior guard Jordan Sibert, who averaged 12.2 points per game and ranked third in the A-10 in three-point percentage last season, returns with the added responsibility of the role as UD’s consensus go-to scorer.
“We’re tougher than a lot of teams,” Sibert said. “Teams are bigger than us, smaller than us but they won’t out-compete us.”
Junior forward and 2014 NCAA South All-Region selection, Pierre, who ranked third on the team in scoring and second in rebounding last season, also returns after starting all 37 games a year ago.
In the backcourt (pg. 13), sophomore guard Scoochie Smith takes command of the Dayton offense as the team’s starting point guard, bolstered by returning defensive specialist sophomore guard Kyle Davis and highly-rated newcomer, freshman guard Darrell Davis, who showed no hesitation in displaying his smooth jumper Saturday by firing two shots in his first two collegiate possessions.
Redshirt senior guard and transfer from Oakland University, Ryan Bass, will also figure into the rotation. The Dayton native adds a veteran presence and quickness to the UD backcourt (pg. 14).
In the frontcourt (pg. 13), 6-foot-9 junior forwards Devon Scott and Jalen Robinson make up the bulk of the Flyer’s height this season and will work down low. Sophomore forward Kendall Pollard, who is listed at 6 feet 6 inches, also returns, figuring to play a more prominent role for the team, and hoping to build on a career-high performance of 12 points in last year’s Sweet Sixteen victory over Stanford University.
The Flyers will appear on national television a school-record of 21 times, during the season (pgs. 9, 13), highlighted by the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Nov. 21-23, where UD could see a possible second-round matchup with defending national champion, the University of Connecticut, if the team gets past the SEC’s Texas A&M Nov. 20.
Through the team’s 12-game nonconference schedule, Miller plans to toy with the lineups and test multiple personnel combinations.
“Toward the end of December … we will have much more of a good feeling about everyone and what they can do,” Miller said.
Former UD head coach Brian Gregory and Georgia Tech University will make an appearance at UD Arena Dec. 23, a game which will air on CBS Sports Network (For full schedule see pg. 10).
When A-10 play opens Jan. 3 against Duquesne University, the Flyers, who were picked third in the A-10 by league coaches, will begin the team’s slate of 16 conference games (pg. 14).
Miller realizes conference opponents might pay a little extra attention to his team this year, along with Virginia Commonwealth University and George Washington University, the only two teams picked ahead of the Flyers in the preseason conference poll.
“It’s the first time in a long time we have a little bit of buzz around us in conference,” Miller said. “With that comes great accountability. We’ve got to be ready to go.”
For the full UD Basketball Preview, see pgs. 9-16.