▪ Dayton enters the NCAA Tournament on a two-game losing streak, which didn’t receive much attention on Thursday.
I’m not sure how much it deserved. You can make lists of hot teams who flamed out early and struggling teams who found their legs in March.
What should be worrisome to the Flyers is how they lost those two games. Those issues are right in WSU’s strike zone.
George Washington made 13 of 26 three-pointers in an 87-81 win in the regular-season finale. Davidson made 11 of 30 (36.7 percent) in a 73-67 win in the A-10 Tournament.
“We did a lot of scouting and the three-pointer is a challenge for us this game,” Dayton guard Kyle Davis said. “We've worked on it hard all year and defended a lot of teams that had good three-point percentages, and we know what we have to do to get the job done.”
The Shockers make 40.8 percent of their threes with guards Landry Shamet and Conner Frankamp both around 50 percent over the past 21 games.
For the season, Dayton defends the arc well — allowing opponents to make 32.5 percent of their threes. In seven February games, that number rose to 34.4 percent and to 36.6 in three March games.
▪ The Flyers trailed at halftime in both those losses, 50-33 to GW and 37-25 to Davidson.
GW made 10 of 15 threes in the first half. Davidson made half its shots from the field and 5 of 13 threes.
Those are trends that can’t continue for the Flyers.
▪ The first item I will look for is Dayton’s strategy to guard Wichita State’s Shaq Morris. The Flyers don’t start a player taller than 6-foot-8, which doesn’t stop them from blocking shots and presenting a strong defense in most ways.
They’re experienced and athletic, so they should be able to double team and recover adequately.
Dayton juices its defense with steals and forcing turnovers. Opponents commit turnovers on 20.8 percent of possessions, according to kenpom.com, which ranks 43rd nationally.
▪ The Flyers score 21.8 percent of their points at the foul line. For the season, they outscored opponents by 98 points at the line.
Coach Archie Miller nodded to WSU’s depth as a counter to Dayton’s ability to draw fouls. Guard Scoochie Smith, forward Charles Cooke and forward Kendall Pollard each shot 95 or more foul shots this season.
“We're a team that gets fouled a lot,” Miller said. “Being able to get teams in foul trouble is something that's important. They can sort of withstand a lot of that stuff and keep coming with very, very good players and bodies. So their depth is probably something that we haven't seen that type of team in the past, just the ability to keep coming bodies at you.”
▪ This game feels similar to last season’s NCAA game against Miami. The Hurricanes took offense at the hype piled on Wichita State and guards Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet.
That became obvious early in the game and again after, when the Hurricanes talked about how they felt disprespected.
I’m normally hesitant to put significant stock in “disrespect” and “chip on the shoulder” type emotional motivations. Winning is far more about patterns, toughness and habits established over months of practice than it is a short burst of hate.
But, if so many people — including in Vegas — picking the Shockers and griping about their No. 10 seed sharpens the focus for Dayton, maybe it’s a factor. The Flyers don’t need that type of thing to win (nor does Wichita State).
Miller will seize upon any possible prod to give his team a mental edge.
No. 10 Wichita State vs. No. 7 Dayton
- When: 6:10 p.m Friday
- Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis
- Records: WSU 30-4, UD 24-7
- Radio: 103.7-FM
- TV: KWCH