Thursday, March 13, 2014

Fordham/Dayton Preview, Part II

Bryan Smith may need another big game in his arsenal this afternoon to keep Fordham's season alive. (Photo courtesy of Donnie Dwyer via The Sports Cycle)

Thanks to a determined veteran core, coupled with a George Mason team that could not get over the hump despite a valiant effort, Fordham's season lives to fight another day after what can arguably be considered the Rams' most impressive win of the year, a 70-67 victory over Paul Hewitt's Patriots in the play-in game of the Atlantic 10 tournament.

Next on the Fordham ledger is Dayton, a 22-9 team who enters the Barclays Center with serious NCAA Tournament aspirations under head coach Archie Miller and a solid cast of role players that includes Devin Oliver and Ohio State castoff Jordan Sibert among others. The Flyers defeated the Rams in the only previous meeting this season between the two schools, an 80-68 contest on January 15th that was marked by a 9 p.m. tipoff at Rose Hill Gym and a Dayton team which thoroughly dominated Fordham in all facets of the game.

The winner of this one advances into the quarterfinals tomorrow, where Saint Joseph's will be awaiting them, but in the interim, we welcome back Tom Blackburn of Blackburn Review, the portal for all things Dayton, to get us caught up to speed on the Flyers and what has changed and improved about them as Fordham puts their season on the line once more:

Jaden Daly: For starters, how much has changed for Dayton since they defeated Fordham in January?

Tom Blackburn: After leaving Rose Hill with a victory, the Flyers ran into a scheduling buzzsaw, losing four straight -- at Richmond, at home against VCU, on the road against perennial Dayton-killer Rhode Island and at the Arena vs. St. Joe's. When Martelli's club left town, UD was 1-5 in league play and on the verge of complete implosion. Luckily the schedule loosened up significantly and Dayton was able to pull a couple of key wins out of their hat against Saint Louis and UMass to close out the season. The Flyers are essentially where we thought they would be after winning two games in the Maui Invitational -- battling for a tournament slot at the wire. Maybe the road wasn't as smooth as Dayton fans would have liked, but hopefully the end result will more than make up for that.

JD: Having won nine of their last ten, are the Flyers the hottest team in the conference entering the A-10 tournament? What has been the most integral part of their run?

TB: A sense of urgency. After starting their conference slate with a 1-5 record, UD was able to chip away and rack up some victories over the also-rans of the league.  They got a huge confidence building win at GW and proceeded to win six in a row. All of a sudden, the Flyers were 7-5 in the league and a win away from 20 victories on the season. I'm not much for psychological insight, but I'm not sure what else to chalk it up to. Dayton put together a few games, built their confidence and won a couple of key games to close out the season. Now they are likely two wins away from a tournament bid. 

JD: Three-point shooting was a major player in Dayton's win over Fordham in the regular season. How often should we expect to see Archie Miller's players taking long-range shots this afternoon?

TB: UD is very reliant on its three-point shooting, it's a vital component of their success this season. The Flyers come in shooting 37.5% from behind the arc, good enough for second in the league. I'd expect the Flyers to shoot anywhere from 12-15 threes tomorrow. Anything more than that means the game is probably a lot tighter than most Flyer fans would like. 

JD: Looking ahead for a moment, how well do the Flyers match up with Saint Joseph's if they are to defeat Fordham once more and advance into the quarterfinals?

TB: Not all that well, which is why the Hawks swept the season series with the Flyers this season. For what SJU lacks it depth it more than makes it up with balance. Their guards, Wilson and Galloway, are tough matchups for UD, steady prensces on both sides of the floor. Their frontcourt is an absolute matchup nightmare for the Flyers. Kanacevic and Roberts are two of the toughest bigs to guard in the league and both have had great success against Dayton this season. The Hawks don't need to be clicking on offense to beat Dayton. They held the Flyers to under 60 points in both matchups this season, Dayton won't win any defensive battles -- especially against a well-coached and experience club like St. Joe's. 

The cliche goes -- it's hard to beat the same team three times in one season. We shall, hopefully, see how true that is. 

JD: Finally, what exactly does Dayton need in order to make the NCAA Tournament? Can they get into the field without a run to the championship game, or is their standing on the bubble precarious enough to where they need a victory on Saturday or Sunday to guarantee their chances?

TB: I think it breaks down fairly simply for UD -- the winner of the SJU/UD quarterfinal (should Dayton beat Fordham) locks up a tournament bid. The loser is probably getting ready to host a NIT game. 

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