Maybe now we can all put Dayton’s one loss this season far in the rear-view mirror and start calling the Flyers for what they are: a legitimate top 20 team right now.
Undoubtedly, the Flyers themselves weren’t so short-sighted as to define themselves by a 29-point loss to rival Xavier in the finals of the AdvoCare Invitational over Thanksgiving weekend, but there certainly were some who were a bit skeptical after their 90-61 ‘L’ in such a showcase game. Dayton already had a nice collection of wins even before that, though, and now has done more than enough to offset that single loss after an impressive 72-67 win at Vanderbilt Wednesday night in Nashville.
The Flyers fought back on the road from a 16-point first-half deficit, using a 35-12 run to take control and then hanging on late. Kendall Pollard scored 21 points against the Commodores’ big front line, including stepping out for a three-point dagger in the final minute to give UD a seven-point lead. Dayton also outrebounded Vandy 41-31 and improved to 12-3 in its last 15 games against SEC teams.
The Flyers were hosed by the selection committee last year, given a seed that indicated they were an AAC tourney final upset by Connecticut away from being left out of the NCAA Tournament, but early on they are building a resume that already is making the RPI computers fall madly in love with them. Dayton now has wins over likely NCAA teams Vanderbilt and Iowa, a blowout of improving Alabama, plus victories over the likes of Monmouth, North Florida and William & Mary-all teams whose power ratings could easily reach the top 75-100 range as the season goes on. They’re second in the RPI this morning according to CBSSports.com, and that may not drop off much if teams such as the aforementioned are near the top of their conferences as expected.
There’s a lot to like about Dayton. Scoochie Smith has been one of the most valuable players in the country. James Madison transfer Charles Cooke has stepped right in and provided scoring in a variety of ways from outside. Kyle Davis is one of the premier perimeter defenders in the country. Steve McElvene and fellow frosh Sam Miller and Xeyrius Williams have given the team an infusion of quality size inside to complement Pollard.
In fact, early in the season it has been easy to forget the team is playing a man down. Dyshawn Pierre is finishing a first semester suspension for a sexual assault allegation, but the team hasn’t looked hamstrung in the slightest without him. Bringing him back will add another tool to this team’s arsenal, making them even more dangerous the rest of the season.
For Vandy, this has been a rough week. The Commodores lost a tough one at Baylor Sunday night and then lost Luke Kornet for 4-6 weeks after a knee injury in practice Monday. A 10-day break before its next game (Dec. 19 against Wofford) couldn’t come soon enough for a quality squad that still is in position for a very nice season.
- A big salute goes to Wisconsin-Milwaukee after the Panthers defeated Wisconsin 68-67 for their first win over the Badgers in 23 years. Point guard Jordan Johnson was sensational (22 points) and Milwaukee fought back time and again after going down by 15 points early, finally taking its first lead with less than three minutes left and withstanding a final shot by the hosts. By the way: Nigel Hayes was also outstanding for the Badgers-32 points and eight rebounds.
- Arizona got all it could handle from Fresno State, but the Wildcats pulled away in the final minutes for an 85-72 win. Allonzo Trier continues to grow up before our eyes-27 points in this one for the Zona freshman against the stubborn Bulldogs.
- Declaring Wichita State’s season practically on life support after an injury-riddled tough tournament in Orlando-as it seemed many did-was foolish. The Shockers are starting to get their pieces back, and they picked up a clutch win by out-grinding UNLV 56-50. Good news before the game as WSU got Kansas transfer Connor Frankamp eligible a bit sooner than expected. Also, can’t let this game go without calling out ESPN’s continued bush practice of broadcasting games with announcers not on site. The audio on this game was pitiful, making the game sound like it was played in a library. It’s an insult to two excellent programs, a low-quality treatment for a high-quality matchup.
- Providence eased by Boston College 66-51 in a tussle between former Big East rivals. The Friars did have some adversity as Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil both missed the second half, with Dunn out due to illness and Bentil with a tweaked ankle.
- Jack Gibbs was at it again for Davidson, scoring 37 in the Wildcats’ 96-86 win over Eastern Washington. EWU’s Austin McBroom was on fire himself, scoring 33 in defeat.
- Also a call to Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell, who went for a career-high 38 in the Hoosiers’ 90-65 win over Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne. First-ever meeting between IU and IPFW.
- Creighton took care of Nebraska 83-67 in the battle for state supremacy. That makes it five straight and 14 of the last 17 in the series for the Bluejays over the Cornhuskers. In another state rivalry, BYU pounced on Utah State 80-68.
- We’re starting to get deep into guarantee games time. That means results like Michigan State winning 78-35 over Maryland-Eastern Shore, Purdue 93-55 over Howard and Kansas 92-59 over Holy Cross. Score only.
- At least Kentucky’s 88-67 win over Eastern Kentucky had some state interest. It also was much more competitive until the Wildcats pulled away late against a solid OVC program. Alex Poythress notched a meaty double-double: 21 points and 13 boards.
Today’s menu: It’s a light one…
- The big one takes place in Ames, as Iowa travels across I-80 and up I-35 to take on Iowa State (7:30 p.m. EST, ESPN2) in the Cy-Hawk series. Always a superb atmosphere for this game on a December night.
- The rest of the night’s offerings are fairly light. Canisius could give Penn State a rough time in Happy Valley, while busy Boston University plays its second game in three nights, this one against a Massachusetts-Lowell team coming off a stunning win over Boston College on the weekend.
- Troy is at Seton Hall in a TV game (8 p.m., FS1). Rare chance to check out the Trojans’ Wesley Person, a really good player who is the son of the former Auburn and NBA player of the same name.
- Out west, the Battle of the Palouse rivalry between two schools less than eight miles apart resumes with Washington State at Idaho, as these two square off for the 271st time.
- Keep an eye out for another SWAC road upset if Southern can weather the altitude when it plays Wyoming.
Enjoy your Thursday…