By: Daniel Massa – Staff Writer
Writers Note: The majority of this column was written Friday. If the rest of the season goes completely up in smoke (e.g., a loss at Duquesne), it is not my fault.
As my note suggests, I may be tempting the basketball gods to throw a stake straight through the heart of the rest of the Dayton men’s basketball season. But at the moment the Flyers are 20-6 and atop the Atlantic 10 conference, and the job head coach Archie Miller has done deserves recognition, even if it’s just from me.
Miller should, and in all likelihood will, be named the Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year by his fellow conference coaches at season’s end. Dan Hurley and Bob McKillop, leaders of Rhode Island and Davidson, respectively, may have something to say about that as the season winds down.
Rhode Island was picked to finish sixth in the conference during the preseason and is currently tied for first with VCU. March 3 at UD Arena, the Flyers will face Rhode Island in the last home game.
Davidson was picked to finish 12th during the preseason, and is currently tied for second with Dayton, both at 10-4.
Both Hurley and McKillop should be acknowledged for the jobs they have done, and I would be shocked if Miller, Hurley and McKillop were not the top three vote recipients for coach of the year at the end of the season; all that needs to be decided is the order.
By my estimation, the final vote will see Miller win the award, with McKillop garnering the second-most votes and Hurley trailing close behind to come in third.
What Miller has done this season has been nothing short of remarkable and should qualify as one of the best-coached seasons in the last few years of college basketball. If that sounds a little far-fetched, it’s because it probably is.
But so is the state of the roster. Miller, his staff, and the seven remaining players have not let difficult situations ruin their season, and Miller should get the ultimate recognition for that.
Miller satisfies most, if not all, of what it takes to be a successful college coach in this era. Recruiting ability, strong basketball mind, making effective decisions in the heat of competition: he can do all of that. But what has always impressed me about him is his ability to squeeze every last ounce of effort out of his players.
That ability was evident last year, embodied by the tournament run, but it has best been on display this season since the removal of Devon Scott and Jalen Robinson from the team, along with the injuries that ended Ryan Bass’s college career and up to this point have not let Detwon Rogers begin his Flyers career.
Not that I wasn’t on it before, but count me fully in on the Archie Miller bandwagon. We are probably due for another rumor-filled spring as bigger schools will have job openings and will surely come after Miller, just as Wake Forest University and Marquette University were rumored to have done last year. I know I will be on the edge of my seat hoping he decides to stay in Dayton.
It is a testament to the effectiveness of the True Team mentality that I almost feel wrong for wanting to single one player out for his play this season.
But sophomore guard Kyle Davis should be considered for Atlantic 10 Defensive Player-of-the-Year and should, without a doubt, have a spot on the Defensive All-Conference Team.
VCU stalwart defender and two-time defending defensive player-of-the-year Briante Weber unfortunately suffered a season-ending knee injury at the end of January, leaving the award potentially up for grabs.
Davis’ stats may not necessarily jump out at you—he is averaging 1.3 steals per game and 0.6 blocks per game this season—but he does so many things that do not show up in a box score, at least not associated with his name.
Consider the Flyers 63-60 Jan. 24 victory over Richmond at UD Arena.
Richmond’s Kendall Anthony, the team’s leading scorer, was coming off a game in which he made seven three-pointers in an 89-63 thrashing of Davidson.
Davis guarded Anthony almost exclusively for the entire game, and held him to a mere five field goal attempts.
He completely took Anthony out of his game, forcing him to take fewer shots than 3-pointers he made against Davidson. That is not a very common occurrence from game-to-game in college basketball. It did not show up next to Davis’ name in the box score, but it sure did next to Anthony’s.
While Miller and Davis are surely more worried about the team’s success, their individual contributions, along with everyone else on the team and coaching staff, should not go unnoticed.