Head coach Anthony Grant (left), redshirt sophomore Obi Toppin (center) and junior Jalen Crutcher (right) have all received national praise for their roles in Dayton’s successes this season. Cover photo taken by Griffin Quinn
Sports Staff Writer
At a glance, Dayton’s incredible season isn’t too complicated. With the help of one of the best players in the nation in redshirt sophomore and national player of the year candidate Obi Toppin, the classic mid-major program has been able to sustain success deep into the season.
The 20-2 Flyers are undefeated in conference and on their home floor, with their only losses coming in overtime. It is also worth mentioning that the losses also came to ranked teams, No. 24 Colorado and No. 3 Kansas, at neutral sites. There are unseen facets that have made an impact on this year’s run.
As a team, the Flyers have been steadily exceptional in scoring efficiency. They currently rank second in offensive rating among all teams in the NCAA. The team is also the sixth highest scoring team in the nation. These two statistics combined define the potent nature of coach Anthony Grant’s offense.
Dayton leads the nation in field goal percentage at 52.5%. Dayton is currently shooting 62.7% inside the 3-point line. That is the second best percentage in the history of college basketball. The only NCAA team that has shot 2-pointers more efficiently since conception of the sport is Princeton in 1967.
Although it’s not a flashy stat, Dayton’s ability to score inside has been one of the main causes for the team’s continued prosperity. While it may seem simple, the team has multiple ways of getting the ball to the interior and eventually into the basket.
Of course, one of the ways the Flyers attack inside the arc is through Obi Toppin in the post. Everytime he catches the ball around the basketball, a flock of defensive help latches onto him. Because Toppin is so athletic, he is often able to muscle, jump or maneuver his way to the rim. Besides that, the defensive attention he draws opens up kick-out threes and slashing cuts for other players.
Dayton’s pace is what allows them to make interminable runs at times. Since everyone on the floor can push the pace and handle the ball, the team is able to break out quickly to catch defences on their heels. This leads to highlight dunks and transition threes that seem to come in bunches.
The unselfish nature of Dayton’s offense is one thing, but this only works if everyone on the court is capable of multiple actions. This is something that sets Dayton apart from not only NCAA opponents this year, but in college basketball’s history. The Flyers have four players averaging over 11.3 points per game, three averaging over 4.8 rebounds per game and three averaging over 2.5 assists per game.
Looking at player-specific stats on Dayton’s squad is another indicator of the incredible season the team is having. Toppin is on pace for a historic season.
Toppin was recently put on the late-season watchlist for the John R. Wooden award- college basketball’s MVP. He has also been a constant name on mid-season and late-season All-American teams.
Toppin, who is currently averaging 19.7 points, eight rebounds and 2.2 assists on 63% shooting(!), will go down as one of the Flyer’s best players in the school’s history. He is closing in on the 1,000 club with 909 total points in only two seasons. If the season were to end today, he would be 6th on Dayton’s all-time career points per game list with 16.5 per game.
The systematic nature of Dayton’s offense can be seen in Toppin’s player efficiency rating, or PER. With a 33.05 PER, Toppin is the NCAA’s 6th most efficient player. For scale, the league average PER is 15.
Toppin’s pick-and-roll counterpart Jalen Crutcher is another one of Dayton’s many dependable assets. Crutcher is putting up 14.3 points and 5.3 assists per game. He just entered the exclusive 1,000 point club in Dayton’s recent game against Duquesne. Crutcher, a serial dime-dropper, has 433 career assists and has averaged an incredible 5.1 assists per game during his time in Dayton.
Crutcher’s form has been unwavering in recent games. He is coming off a run of four games in a row scoring 20 points or more. The point guard has also played five games where he has averaged over 21 points and six assists.
If college basketball had a sixth-man of the year award, junior transfer guard Ibi Watson would undoubtedly be on the shortlist. Watson, although coming off the bench, is the Flyer’s third leading scorer on the year at 11.5 points per game. He has a flamethrower for a right arm, shooting 44.1% from the three point line. Crutcher is right alongside him at 42.1% three point shooting. Both deadeyes shoot 10.5 threes per 100 possessions.
UD has had widespread contribution all season long. Senior forward Trey Landers is another notable provider for the team. He puts up over 11 points per game and snags about six rebounds. Landers’ contributions go beyond stats, though, as he acts as the team’s leader. His ability to fill in at any role and to direct from anywhere on the court is an enormous advantage.
Other players like graduate forward Ryan Mikesell and junior transfer guard Rodney Chatman are two of the team’s unsung heroes. Mikesell puts up a sneaky 9.3 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. He can be a nuisance to opposing teams, as he is able to switch off to cover guards effectively on defense but post them up on offense. Acting as Dayton’s “glue guy,” Mikesell isn’t going to be the player to put up crazy numbers, but his flexibility on both ends of the floor paired with his steady demeanor help the team in every game.
Chatman, another unheralded teammate, is able to lock down opposing point guards. His ball handling takes some pressure off Crutcher, and his eight points-per-game are discreet yet valuable.
Heading into the final stretch of the 2019-2020 season, the Flyers are ranked #6 in the AP poll, #5 in the NET rankings and #5 in KenPom rankings. Many analysts have them currently down as a projected two-seed for the NCAA tournament.
There are so many moving pieces that have propelled Dayton to the success they have had thus far, and the team has the A10 regular season title, A10 tournament title, and eventually the big dance in their sights. Maybe their landmark season will end with a banner in the rafters.