Obi Toppin (cover photo) has emerged as UD men’s basketball’s star player. Courtesy of Griffin Quinn
No more speculation, no more predictions, no more waiting – Flyer basketball is back. We’re officially done with the first week of the season. The Flyers have taken care of business against inferior competition in the first two games of the season, beating Indiana State 86-81 and beating Charleston Southern 91-61.
Despite having a relatively weak schedule to start the season, there’s still plenty we can learn from the first two games of the season. Here are five of the biggest takeaways from UD’s first two games.
- Obi Toppin is really, really good
We’ve all rewatched the highlight dunks and heard the scouts clamoring during the offseason, but I’m not sure we truly knew he would be this good. Redshirt sophomore forward Obi Toppin came into the season with high expectations, being named to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame’s Karl Malone Award watchlist and the Preseason All-Atlantic 10 First Team, and by all accounts he’s blown them out of the water.
Toppin is averaging 25 points and 11.5 rebounds per-game while shooting 69 percent from the field. He’s been doing it in style, as well, finishing fast breaks with windmill dunks and throwing down alley-oops.
The next evolution in Toppin’s offensive game is to become more of a threat shooting beyond the arc. He’s upped his three-point attempts per-game from last season so far, and he’s made two of his six attempts.
The competition will see a sharp increase this weekend, when Dayton heads to the Maui Jim Maui Invitational, and it will be interesting to see how Toppin adapts to tougher defenders. If he can hit outside shots at a respectable rate, and keep throwing down dunks from everywhere on the court, he can continue to produce at a high level.
2. The offense is cruising
The Flyers are currently averaging 88 points-per-game of 54 percent shooting from the field. These absurd numbers will almost definitely come down, but it’s certainly a good start.
Toppin has been the clear focal point of the offense, serving as the top option and the escape valve. He’s scoring on post-ups, pick-and-rolls, offensive rebounds and lobs. The pick-and-roll connection between Toppin and junior guard Jalen Crutcher has been exciting to watch, leading to several big plays.
The best aspect of Dayton’s offense so far is the ball movement. With assists and points coming from everywhere on the roster, the ball has been flying around the court for the Flyers. Through two games, UD is averaging 22.5 assists-per-game, which is good for third best in the entire country.
Dayton is only hitting 31 percent of their threes this season, with several decent and willing shooters on the roster, fans should expect this to improve. If the Flyers can start hitting threes their offense will be truly terrifying.
3. Defense has been shaky at best
Head coach Anthony Grant has preached that if the Flyers want to reach their goals this season, it starts on the defensive end. Yes, Dayton’s offense has been exceptional, but that’s only half of the game. The Flyers’ defense hasn’t looked very solid early.
The Flyers let Indiana State drop 81 points against them on opening night, and despite holding Charleston Southern to only 61, the defense was lackluster in stretches of that game as well. I think the most telling thing is that opponents have been shooting 42 percent from beyond the arc this season. Some of this is up to luck, but Dayton has not been good at closing out on shooters.
Dayton has been playing a scheme that heavily involves trapping and double-teaming the ball-handler, and maybe there’s a learning curve for some of the new players. However, the defense will need to step it up a notch if they want to continue winning when they come against better competition.
Dayton has several solid defenders on the roster, and maybe getting 6-foot-11-center Jordy Tshimanga back from injury will add another wrinkle for opposing offenses. Fans should be confident that it can improve, but we’ll have to see it.
For a majority of last season, Dayton was extremely shallow. The Flyers were essentially running a seven-man rotation, and the heavy workload may have played a part in the underwhelming NIT performance at the end of the season.
This season, Dayton has turned a weakness into a strength. Nine players have played significant rotation minutes in the first two games of the season, with three of the new transfers stepping into roles right away. This is also without Tshimanga, who projects to play heavy minutes when healthy.
No player is averaging more than 30 minutes-per-game so far. Last year, Dayton had three such players. More rest for the stars, and more contributors for opponents to worry about, will be a huge plus for Dayton this year.
See also- New Faces for UD Men’s Basketball
5. Rodney Chatman has needed no time to get comfortable
After sitting out last season due to the NCAA’s transfer restrictions, redshirt junior guard Rodney Chatman has had an immediate impact on the court this season. Chatman, who started his college career at Chattanooga, has immediately stepped into the starting lineup and produced.
Chatman is averaging 13 points-per-game, 6 assists-per-game and 2.5 steals-per-game. He’s also been UD’s best shooter early, hitting five of his 10 attempted threes so far, including a huge four-point play in the first half against Charleston Southern.
“From a talent standpoint he really helps make the game easier for other guys on the floor,” Grant said.
Where he may bring the biggest value is helping to share ball-handling responsibilities with Crutcher. Crutcher was tasked with a large majority of the playmaking duties last season, and with Chatman on the court, he’s able to take some possessions off the ball.