Newsletter: Dayton’s season hits another low point

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Dayton’s season hits another low point

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

I crossed paths with Dayton Flyers coach Anthony Grant on Virginia Tech’s campus Wednesday afternoon in Blacksburg, Va. I was out for a short run. He was out for a walk. This was one of the rare trips where I stayed at the same hotel as the team: the Inn at Virginia Tech.

After exchanging pleasantries, Grant started coaching me up, telling me, “Get ‘em in.”

“I’m getting them in,” I said as I resumed running.

It seems motivating a 45-year-old man who had been stuck in a car for the last five hours is an easier task than figuring out what to do with a somewhat broken team. The Flyers lost 77-49 to the Hokies later that night. I had to quickly scour scores from recents seasons to figure out if this was the most-lopsided defeat of the Grant years — it was.

Then I had to go back further to see when Dayton last lost by more points. That led me to have to bring up the Xavier game from 2015 again. Dayton lost 90-61 to the Musketeers in the championship game of the Advocare Invitational. That was a bad day, but this Wednesday was worse because it didn’t come after two strong victories. That loss to Xavier followed victories against Iowa and Monmouth.

» MORE ON LOSS: ‘They just played harder than us’

This Dayton loss at Virginia Tech adds to what has become a theme in the Grant years: an inability to win non-conference games in a true road environment. Dayton is 9-10 on neutral courts in non-conference play in the last six seasons, and it won plenty of Atlantic 10 Conference road games in Grant’s first five seasons. It now 0-7, however, in true road games in non-conference play.

This was Dayton’s last good chance to build a resume worthy of the NCAA tournament. Now it’s going to have to depend on dominating the A-10, stacking up wins in that 18-game schedule, or winning the A-10 tournament, which it has never done outside UD Arena. Grant has a tough task in front of him.

But it probably won’t get any worse than a 28-point loss. Not only is it the worse loss for Dayton since 2015, it’s the most-lopsided loss in Grant’s 15 seasons as a head coach. I had to look at all his scores from three seasons at Virginia Commonwealth and six seasons at Alabama to confirm that.

‘One of the hardest years of my life’

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

I talked to Koby Brea in September after he threw out a first pitch against the New York Mets. He didn’t mention then — and I had no reason to suspect — he was dealing with an injury he suffered in the summer. I talked to his dad Stephan Brea that week, too, and nothing was said about his injury. It didn’t come to light until Dayton started official practices in October.

We still don’t exactly what that injury was. I talked to Brea for the first time since the season started on Wednesday after the game against Virginia Tech, and he’s still following Grant’s lead in describing it as a lower-body injury. He did reveal for the first time he was out for not only the entire preseason but for four months in all. Then when he did return, an illness cost him another four games.

» GAME PREVIEW: What to know about Dayton vs. UNC Asheville

“It’s been really difficult,” Brea said Wednesday. “This has been probably one of the hardest years of my life. Being out four months, I’ve never been out that long, and then being hit with a sickness once I started to get back into it. I’m the type of person who’s going to be able to get through all of this, but it’s going to take time.”

Brea has not been the same player he was last year since his return. Dayton has to hope he can regain his form as he spends more time on the court after so much lost time. Meanwhile, injured guards Malachi Smith and Kobe Elvis are still getting around on crutches. If Dayton is ever whole again, it won’t be anytime soon.

Looking back on 2003 A-10 champion Flyers

We run a special section about the Flyers every two weeks during the season. I have to turn in the stories about 12 days before they run. That makes it difficult to write anything timely about the current team. That’s why I wrote a long story about the people behind the Rudy Flyer mascot, and it’s why I did another long piece Sunday on the 20th anniversary of the 2002-03 Dayton Flyers. The Dec. 18 section will feature Dayton’s complete all-time rebounding list, a follow-up of sorts to the all-time scoring list I put together last season.

I could have written much more about the 2003 team than I did write and talked to even more of the players on that team, but got great stuff from Brooks Hall, Keith Waleskowski, Mark Jones, Nate Green, assistant coach Josh Postorino and student manager Dan Helm. I ran out of time and wasn’t able to get Sean Finn and Ramod Marshall on the phone.

The team’s main claim to fame is being the only Dayton team to win the A-10 tournament. They won the championship at UD Arena, just as the 1990 Flyers did in the MCC tournament.

Another legacy of the team is how close some members of the team are to the current program. Hall and Waleskowski call games on WHIO Radio with Larry Hansgen. Green is a frequent co-host on Flyer Feedback, the WHIO postgame show.

The 2002-03 coaching staff had some big names. It was Oliver Purnell’s last season. Shaka Smart, who’s now the head coach at Marquette, was the director of basketball operations. Kyle Getter, who’s now an assistant coach at Virginia, was a graduate assistant.

Getter saw my story shared on Twitter and wrote this in response: “Hard to believe it’s been 20 years. Blessed to have such a great experience being part of @CoachPurnell’s staff and working with a phenomenal group of people! @JoshPostorino @CoachShakaSmart”

Dayton seventh-best A-10 team in first NET ranking

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Dayton has never ranked lower in the NCAA Evaluation Tool, which debuted in the 2018-19 season, than where it is right now. It’s No. 189.

The rest of the A-10 hasn’t fared much better. Saint Louis is the highest-ranked team at No. 81. No. 97 Massachusetts and No. 99 Fordham are the only other programs in the top 100. Then there’s No. 131 Duquesne, No. 142 Virginia Commonwealth, No. 145 George Mason, No. 147 St. Bonaventure, No. 179 Davidson, No. 208 George Washington, No. 239 La Salle, No. 269 Loyola Chicago, No. 303 Saint Joseph’s and No. 307 Rhode Island.

The A-10 always finds a way to get at least two teams into the NCAA tournament: one as an at-large team; and one with the automatic berth that comes with winning the A-10 tournament. That’s going to be a challenge this season. Dayton, the preseason favorite, is now projected to finish 11-7 in A-10 play, by, while Saint Louis is projected to win the regular-season championship with a 13-5 mark.

Fast Break

Each week, I’ll spotlight news from around the A-10 or other news that might interest Flyer fans.

🏀 Former Dayton guard Dwayne Cohill scored a career-high 43 points Sunday against Wright State at the Nutter Center. He made 16 of 19 field-goal attempts.

🏀 Archie Miller is off to a 2-7 start in his first season at Rhode Island. The Rams blew a 10-point lead in the last 5:49 on Wednesday in a 59-58 loss to Brown.

🏀 One year after beating the Flyers at UD Arena, UMass Lowell beat another A-10 team, UMass, 85-80 on Thursday, ending a six-game winning streak for the Minutemen.

What do you want to know about the Flyers?

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