2008-09 Dayton Basketball Preview: #42
Overall Rank: #42
Conference Rank: #3 Atlantic 10
2007-08: 23-11, 8-8, 7th
2007-08 postseason: NIT
Dayton’s season can be summed up in a couple numbers…13-2. That was the Flyers record when Chris Wright was playing. In the nine games leading up to the initial injury on December 19th, Wright averaged 13.2 points and 7.1 rebounds. He played a few more games until he fractured his ankle, but was used sparingly. Also keep in mind that these were Wright’s first nine games as a collegiate player. He would have gotten better and he will get better. Despite some major losses elsewhere on the court, Dayton has plenty to look forward to with a healthy Wright on the floor.
Even with Wright, can the Flyers overcome the loss of Brian Roberts? Roberts led the team with 18.4 points and 3.4 assists per game. Despite hitting nearly three long balls per game, Roberts was more than just a shooter. He could drive the lane and either find his teammate for the open look or finish himself. The absence of fellow starter Andres Sandoval raises even more questions on the perimeter. The concerns are not limited to the backcourt. Jimmy Binnie and Thiago Cordeiro are also gone. Binnie was the team’s second best three-point shooter and could stretch out the defense with his shooting ability. Cordeiro never put up big numbers or played that often, but a team can never have too much depth in the paint. Without Roberts and Binnie, and Sandoval for that matter, the Flyers have no long range shooting threats returning.
Hopefully one of the newcomers can fill that role. Paul Williams is the likely candidate. The 6-4 shooting guard can hit the outside shot, but his best asset is his defense. Chris Johnson and Luke Fabrizius will add more depth. Johnson is a versatile athlete who can shoot. Ideally he is a small forward, but he could see some time at the four spot and play a similar role as Binnie did last year, but with fewer minutes. Fabrizius is pretty much a shooter at this point in his career, but at 6-9 he has a lot more size than one would expect from a shooter. Once he fills out the rest of his game, Fabrizius will be very difficult to defend. Power forward Josh Benson is long and athletic. He uses those skills to block shots and grab rebounds quite effectively and should be a good back-up forward when Coach Brian Gregory needs somebody who can hit the glass and battle in the paint more than Fabrizius can. All those players can fill a role this year, most likely off the bench, but Rob Lowery could crack the starting line-up sooner or later. The junior college transfer can break down his opponents off the dribble and hit the open jumper. He is versatile enough to play any position on the perimeter, but his ability to handle the ball, and score, has the Flyer faithful excited. Even if he is not starting, Lowery should see significant playing time at the point.
Who to Watch:
In the meantime London Warren will be handling the point guard duties. Warren is not a scorer like Lowery, but as long as he can keep the turnovers down and create for his teammates, he will be doing his job. Yet, with the lack of shooters on the team, if Lowery can hit the outside shot and do nearly as good of a job running the show as Warren, this will be Lowery’s team by the end of the year. The guy who will take over a majority of the scoring is Marcus Johnson. His shooting got better during his sophomore campaign, but Johnson will still do most of his damage by getting to the basket. For a 6-3 guard he is also a tremendous rebounder and ranked second to only Wright on the team with 5.1 boards per contest. Mickey Perry and Stephen Thomas did not play much last year, but both have the potential to see more minutes this year and provide experienced depth to the backcourt. They will get their chance while the newcomers are still adjusting to life at the this level.
Kurt Huelsman will rarely make the highlight reel, but he is a steady and consistent big man. At 6-10 and 245 pounds he will clog the lane quite effectively and can occasionally be an offensive threat. Charles Little is the better scorer around the basket. Last year he never tallied a start despite ranking fourth on the team with 8.0 points per game. Devin Searcy and the newcomers will have to step up quickly and provide depth in the frontcourt, but the team should not have much of a problem replacing Binnie. It is replacing Roberts and his outside shooting abilities that will be the difference between the NIT and the NCAA.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
London Warren, Junior, Guard, 4.3 points per game
Marcus Johnson, Junior, Guard, 10.1 points per game
Chris Wright, Sophomore, Forward, 10.4 points per game
Charles Little, Senior, Forward, 8.0 points per game
Kurt Huelsman, Junior, Center, 5.9 points per game