Ask the Opponent: A Preview of the Dayton Flyers with Sully

Today we’re taking the groundbreaking step of asking an opposing team’s writer to answer some questions about his team before Mason plays them. This is the kind of innovative blogging technique you can only find at GiantKiller, folks. Big thanks to Sully from Blackburn Review for taking the time to answer these questions and get us ready for the Dayton game tomorrow. Throw him a follow on twitter @sullymygoodname or tell him how handsome he is in the comments. I answered questions about Mason for the Dayton blog’s preview – if you’re interested you can check it out here: http://www.blackburnreview.com/qa-with-petey-buckets-the-mason-guru/


Introduce yourself to our Giant Killer readers. What’s your affiliation with Dayton?


I’m your average, run-of-the-mill Flyers fan who just happens to write things from time to time on Blackburnreview.com about the team. I graduated in 2012 from UD, although my dad graduated in 1977, so I’m a second generation Flyer and been watching games in The Arena since before I can remember. That makes me qualified, I think. 


You’re certainly as qualified as any of us. The biggest question I have about Dayton is the home/road splits. You’ve got one true road win all year (at Richmond, before they figured out how to play ball) and one neutral site win back in November. You’ve lost your other 9 road/neutral games. At home you beat Davidson and lit VCU on fire. I guess my question is what the hell is up with that?


Dayton has been shit on the road my whole life with the exception of a few years we made the tournament. For the sake of this piece I went back and looked at our last 20 seasons. In the last 5 seasons (including this one), UD is 29-29 on the road. In the 15 season prior to that, we were 75-106. The last four seasons before this one (all NCAAT appearances) where we went 28-22 has to be our most successful four years on the road since our dominant years in the 60s, Idk there’s only so far back I’ll research for a Q&A. I have always attributed this to the strength of UD Arena, like a good homer, but it really isn’t a hard parallel to draw. For as long as UD has been in this conference (1995), they have been traveling to road sites smaller (and mostly quieter) than their own. 


From an outsider’s perspective it seems like the team is underachieving relative to its talent level. You’ve got three point shooters, a solid senior guard in Darrell Davis, and an All-A10 big man in Josh Cunningham. Do you think “underachieving” is a fair assessment?


Many in our fanbase will be quick to argue with me right now, but I do feel like this team is underachieving this season. Going into the year, expectations were VERY tempered with the departure of 4 senior starters, and UD hasn’t even lived up to the adjusted billing. Darrell has shined brighter than anyone ever expected, and Josh Cunningham has turned into one of the two best big men in the A10 with Tillman. With the rise of freshman Jalen Crutcher, that should’ve been enough to go above 500…you would think. Many will be quick to blame Anthony Grant to this point, but that’s a conversation for another day. 


Along those same lines, I’m an advanced stats guy and I love Josh Cunningham’s game. He reminds me a lot of former Mason great Ryan Pearson. One thing I notice is that his usage rate is a little low at 23.9%. That’s pretty good, but elite bigs are generally a tick higher (Justin Tillman is at 27.3% and Grant Golden is at 29.6%, for instance). Do you think he’s properly utilized?


No. I wrote a long ass article about them not using Josh enough when conference play started, and I’ll take this time to shamelessly self-promote and link the article. Nothing has changed. The talking points as to why fans are slightly frustrated with Anthony Grant will begin to poke up in this conversation, I’m now realizing.  The most frustrating part about watching UD this year is counting the crucial possessions in each game where Cunningham doesn’t even touch the ball and we fire up some half-assed three-pointer. 


Doesn’t sound like you’re terribly impressed with the product Dayton puts on the floor. What’s the general sense among the fanbase of Coach Grant and the job he’s doing in year one?  


I actually inserted the link above before reading this question, but honestly, if you want a good barometer for how the fan base feels about AG, just go on up there and click the link. If you don’t want to spend more time reading things by me than you already are, I’ll summarize: 
Many feel he does not utilize our strengths properly. 
One game he didn’t call a timeout for the first 37 minutes. (SLU)
One game he didn’t make a substitution for over 30 minutes. (VCU)
No one ever knows what kind of offense were running
We’re absolutely terrible on defense and it has barely improved since the season started. 
We have some talented freshman to build on. 
So all of this to say: half the fan base feels like this team doesn’t have a lot of talent and is interested in giving AG time, half is very concerned with the direction of the program given the talking points above. 


Talk to me about Kostas Antetoukounmpo’s development and what you’ve seen from him this year. He’s more of a role player so far but he’s flashed some tremendous potential, yes? Is there hope for next year with sophomore Baby Freak playing next to senior Cunningham?


Saying he’s shown “tremendous” potential would be a stretch, I prefer saying he has shown “flashes of brilliance” with very little substance. Going into this year, I really felt Kostas was going to be a key contributor to this team, instead all I am hearing out of the UD practice building is that Grant isn’t crazy about him, he’s really entitled and isn’t developing at the pace many expected…which has translated into lots of minutes on the pine. The tricky thing with Kostas is that he was never going to be at UD for four years, so his early departure was always a “when” not an “if”. With that in mind, he isn’t going to the NBA any time soon considering he’s only scored double digits in 3 games this season, so many are still hopeful the development is coming. He’s only a freshman, after all. 


Many people, including me, were looking forward to big things from Xeyrius Williams this year. Instead he’s basically Dayton’s eighth man. He’s a 6’8″ stretch four that can hit threes and was really efficient in limited minutes last year. What happened?


That’s a damn good question honestly. In November it was reported he had a lingering back injury, and he has not been the same since. In conference play, he went over 20 minutes and 10 points once (same game) and hasn’t even seen the floor in the last two. If you had asked any UD fan before the season who was our strongest player coming into the year, I can almost guarantee everyone would’ve told you Xeyrius. Now? Fans are bitching about how frequently he puts things on social media about playing video games. I just honestly have no answers about what happened, I joke on the blog that the Monstars paid him a visit before Thanksgiving. 


One of the things Mason does really well is let some random asshole role player come off the bench and light us on fire. Nelson Kaputo from the Bonnies scored 20, Bo Zeigler scored 18, even Cavit Havsa scored 9 (all in the second half) during our embarrassing Fordham loss. There are plenty of other examples. Who’s the Dayton role player that triples his season average on Wednesday night?


O that’s easy, the same guy who did it last year: John Crosby. If Mason fans were not aware, John Crosby is the backup PG who UD can count on for 8-10 minutes and 2 turnovers a game. Last season he had the best game of his first two years against Mason, scoring a then-career-high, 12 points. Considering he has been mostly relegated to the bench in conference play and hasn’t eclipsed 10 points since December 16th, I would say he’s your guy.


He certainly fits the profile. Can you give us a quick primer on how Dayton plays? What are you running on offense, and how much do you mix zone and man on defense? Do you press or trap at all?


You’re going to see lots of empty offensive possessions where we settle for 3s late in the shot clock, if they start falling you’re screwed. UD will pass around the perimeter more than any team you’ve ever watched, and will have at least 13 turnovers when all is said and done. Josh Cunningham won’t touch the ball nearly enough but he’ll still end up around 20 points. Besides that? It’s anyone’s guess what else you see from Dayton, there has been absolutely no consistency from this team beyond the points I just mentioned. If we press, it’ll be for the first time this year. 
Defensively we’ll do our best to play zone, although the match-ups for this particular game could call for a little man-to-man. Again, we do nothing consistently except give up lots of easy buckets, so I’m just guessing.  


Give me a final score prediction for Wednesday’s game.


To me, this game just comes down to UD’s ability to hit three-point shots, as most of their games have this year. I honestly refuse to pick this team on the road anymore. UD looks more talented on paper but finds a way to lose 77-75. At 11-13, I’m done getting my hopes up, I would rather just be surprised.


Bonus question: How did y’all get swept by UMass?


Because we had nice things for four years and that time is over.  


Thanks again to Sully for taking the time to answer our questions. Happy Valentine’s Day and Go Mason!

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