Dayton Basketball Preview: #16
Overall Rank: #16
Conference Rank: #1 Atlantic 10 Conference
2008-09: 27-8, 11-5
2008-09 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Brian Gregory (125-68 at Dayton, 125-68 overall)
In the 2009 NCAA Tournament Coach Brian Gregory and his Dayton squad knocked off West Virginia in the first round before running into a tough Kansas team. With just one impact player gone, the Flyers will look towards the Sweet Sixteen or even better this time around. And they certainly have the weapons to make such a deep run in March.
Key Losses: F Charles Little
The now departed Charles Little averaged 8.2 points and 4.1 rebounds during his senior season. He is the only player that the Flyers need to replace. A few returning players will be in the mix, but so will a couple newcomers. Josh Benson was a very highly touted recruit coming out of high school, but missed all of last season with an injury. Benson is healthy now after a relatively long rehab process and should turn into the player everybody expected as long as he can stay healthy. The lone incoming freshman is another big man. Matt Kavanaugh is physically ready to play against anybody which is rare for a young player. If he can remain poised, he should be in regular rotation.
This is a backcourt that has an amazing amount of weapons. Marcus Johnson is the most consistent scorer who can do damage inside and out. Chris Johnson lacked consistency during his freshman campaign, but the 6-6 wing is a great rebounder and should turn into a better scorer as his career progresses. Like Chris Johnson, Rob Lowery also spent much of the year coming in off the bench. Lowery was fourth on the team in scoring, but it is his ability to find his teammates that makes him so dangerous. Add the versatile Mickey Perry and Paul Williams, who struggled with injuries as a freshman, to the mix and Dayton will never be lacking in weapons on the perimeter.
But despite all those talented weapons on the perimeter, it is forward Chris Wright who makes this team so special. The 6-8 junior led the squad with 13.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. Wright started at the small forward position last year, but he certainly has the size and skill to run the floor at the four spot if replacing Little becomes a problem. However, Dayton hopes the newcomers and promising sophomore Luke Fabrizius and the more experienced Devin Searcy can handle most of the minutes at the four spot. There are no questions about the center position. Kurt Huelsman rarely puts up big numbers, but the 6-10 senior has spent the last three years doing the dirty work under the basket for this team and his importance may go unappreciated, but he is the glue guy on this team.
Who to Watch:
And it is London Warren who is the guy who makes this team go. Warren will not score very much, but he does not need to on this team. He needs to find his teammates and play great defense and that is exactly what he has done and will continue to do. Last year he dished out 4.4 assists per game and only turned the ball over 1.9 times. He was also named to the conferences All-Defensive Team.
If there is a year that Dayton is going to beat out Xavier for the A-10 crown, this is it. The conference is good enough for both teams to make the NCAA Tournament, but the Flyers are the most experienced and deepest team in the conference and they want to show the nation that they are here to stay. A conference title and a run to the Sweet Sixteen should prove it.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
London Warren, Senior, Guard, 4.1 points per game
Marcus Johnson, Senior, Guard, 11.8 points per game
Chris Wright, Junior, Forward, 13.3 points per game
Josh Benson, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
Kurt Huelsman, Senior, Center, 3.6 points per game
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