By: Connor Hanson – Staff Writer
The Dayton men’s basketball team enters an interesting stretch of its season as it will play three games in four days during the Wooden Legacy in Anaheim, Calif. This comes after a tough loss to No. 17 Saint Mary’s that featured a near 20-point comeback by the Flyers. However, always being a resilient team, UD is ready for the week ahead.
Dayton (2-1) is preparing for its first Wooden Legacy matchup against BIG 10 foe Nebraska (3-0) on Thanksgiving Day at 8:30 p.m. Although Nebraska is not ranked, the Cornhuskers still pose a threat to Dayton’s shorthanded roster.
Dayton has held its own against power conferences, especially the BIG 10, hoisting a 31-12 record against power five teams in the past ten years. The Flyers have also won four of the last five of its matchups against BIG 10 opponents, with the most recent win against Iowa in Dayton’s Thanksgiving tournament in 2015.
“I kind of play with a chip on my shoulder when we play these bigger schools,” said Flyer forward Ryan Mikesell, “I didn’t get recruited by these BIG 10 schools or power five teams, so personally I play with a chip on my shoulder and I think as a team, we all play with that bulldog mentality and just play as hard as we can.”
The Flyers will then move on to play either UCLA or Portland the following day and then a third opponent two days later. Being short on numbers and interior depth especially, this will prove to be a tough but motivating stretch as the Flyers will have a chance to see what their squad is truly made of.
Being shorthanded is nothing new for the Flyers, who have had some bouts of tough luck over the past few years. However, per Mikesell, they’re not going to make any excuses.
“We’re gonna have the motto ‘next guy up’ and just go from there,” he said.
Sam Miller, fellow sophomore forward, reiterates that “next guy up” mentality.
“Us young big guys who might not necessarily have a ton of experience have a chance to step up,” said Miller. “Similarly to the way the guys a couple of years ago stepped up and made a name for themselves.”
And step up they must, as playing three games in a four day stretch is tough for any team, but when you add a shallow frontcourt, it amplifies the difficulty and demands the absolute best from anyone getting minutes.
UD typically fairs well in the early season tournaments, placing in second behind a powerful Xavier team last year and winning three of its seven early season tournaments in which they have participated since 2003.
For head coach Archie Miller, it’s the same as usual to him.
“It’s a business trip, you hope the guys can enjoy Thanksgiving, but in most cases the games are on your mind, as well as the preparation and just the overall demand that having three games in four days brings,” he said.
As always, these tournaments prove to be learning points for the Flyers, as it is so early in the year and usually one of the first times they are on a public spotlight and so far away from home. However, no matter what the challenge, this Dayton basketball team will be sure not to shy from the fight.
The Dayton versus Nebraska game will be broadcast on ESPNU at 8:30 pm on Thursday, Nov. 24. Depending on the result, UD will face either UCLA or Portland on Friday, Nov. 25. The championship game of the Wooden Legacy will be on Sunday, Nov. 27 at 8:30 p.m.
Photo by Christian Cubacub/Staff Photographer