In a year of college basketball where no one reigns supreme and No. 1 teams regularly drop like flies, it’s the perfect storm for a mid-major to make a splash in March. The Dayton Flyers are perfectly built to bust brackets on the Road to the Final Four.
Currently ranked No. 15 in the country in both major polls, Anthony Grant’s team has all of the tools he needs to win big in the postseason. It all starts with Obi Toppin.
Toppin is topping all expectations
In an era in where position-less basketball players are coveted by Hall of Fame coaches across the country, Toppin is the best of the best. The 6-foot-9 forward from Brooklyn can score from anywhere on the floor. He’s a bully in the post with nice touch (63% shooting from the field) who can also knock down three-pointers (35.9%) as a trailer in transition. His statistics through 15 games are phenomenal—19.5 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.3 blocks and one steal per game.
GOOD LORD Obi Toppin pic.twitter.com/YGkoy5QL46
— Fredi (@ManfrediNick) December 31, 2019
Dayton is not the first or last mid-major program with a star stealing the show. What makes the Flyers a better pick to make it to the Final Four (+400) than Markus Howard and Marquette is the talent around Toppin.
Dayton’s rotation is deep
Grant has a solid six-man rotation, with each player getting just more than 22 minutes of action. All six shoot 34% or better from behind the three-point arc and Rodney Chatman is the only one who does not average double figures in scoring. A team full of ball handlers, any of the six can lead the break in transition. The Flyers are ranked sixth in the nation with a 1.5-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Maybe it’s just my walk-on bias, but this pass by Camron Greer might be the best pass of the season by the Dayton Flyers. pic.twitter.com/r9BmygXJ5z
— David Jablonski (@DavidPJablonski) December 4, 2019
The Flyers are a juggernaut offensively. If you need more numbers to back it up, Dayton is fourth in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency and seventh overall. At 83.1 points per game, the Flyers are tied for fourth in the country in scoring and boast the best field goal percentage in college basketball (52.5%).
Dayton’s D needs work
If you’re a firm believer that defense wins championships, it might be tough to ride with Dayton in the NCAA Tournament. The Flyers barely make the top 50 in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency rating, and they don’t have a whole lot of size inside.
Farther down the bench you will find 6-foot-11 Jordy Tshimanga, who can keep up with some posts before foul trouble strikes. Toppin and the undersized Ryan Mikesell used an interior mismatch to their advantage offensively against Udoka Azubuike and Kansas in the Maui Invitiational, but lost the battle on the other end of the floor by surrendering 29 points.
Ryan Mikesell gets the bounce for the first basket. He’s playing in his 100th game as a Flyer. pic.twitter.com/UxtnjWR5v9
— David Jablonski (@DavidPJablonski) December 31, 2019
Dayton is not a name brand. Of the mid-majors, they’re due to crack the Final Four for the first time since 1967. They nearly made it with Archie Miller and Scoochie Smith, but fell just short in the 2014 Elite Eight.
Unlike that team, this one has been tested early in the season by talented foes. They lost in overtime to Kansas and Colorado. Some may consider that a knock on the Flyers’ résumé. Others see it as a valuable learning lesson and building block for a deep run in March.