Dayton did not do what it needed to do in November and December in terms of building a NCAA tournament resume, but it did not hurt itself in regard to the Atlantic 10 Conference championship. The race for the regular-season title starts next week. The conference tournament that follows may be more important than ever with no A-10 team in solid position to make the NCAA tournament without winning the automatic bid that comes with being the A-10 tournament champion.
Dayton plays Duquesne at 7 p.m. Wednesday and then goes on the road to play Davidson on New Year’s Eve as it begins the pursuit of its first A-10 championship since the 18-0 season of 2019-20.
“Regardless of where we are, we’re just going to continue to stay focused and keep working,” said Dayton forward DaRon Holmes II after an 88-46 victory against Alcorn State on Tuesday. “Anything can happen, like we’ve seen with injuries. That’s just part of the game of basketball. We’re just going to continue to stay the course.”
As Dayton’s course takes it into the new year, it’s a good time to review what happened in the first 13 games:
MVP: Holmes leads the team with 17.7 points per game after averaging 12.8 as a freshman. His 2-point shooting percentage has declined from 66.2 to 56.7 as he has taken more shots (7.9 to 10.8 per game). He has 28 blocks this season and already ranks fifth in school history with 109 career blocks.
Best newcomer: There is only one candidate in this category: freshman guard Mike Sharavjamts. The only other newcomer, Tyrone Baker, entered the transfer portal on Monday. Sharavjamts has had ups and downs of a typical freshman but deserves credit for taking on a bigger role with Smith injured early in the season and then both Smith and Elvis sidelined for all of December. Sharavjamts has averaged 6.7 points per game and leads the team with 3.2 assists per game.
Most improved: Third-year forwardMustapha Amzil is averaging 10.3 points after averaging 5.6 points last season. He leads the team in 3-point shooting (19 of 54, 35.2%) after shooting 29.5% last season (28 of 95).
Top rebounder: Fourth-year forward Toumani Camara averages 9.4 rebounds per game. He ranks second in the A-10. If he maintains that average, it would be the highest number for a Dayton player since Keith Waleskowski averaged 9.9 in 2003-04.
Best defender: Camara leads the team with 19 steals and ranks second behind Holmes with 16 blocks. He often defends much smaller guards and has been singled out by Grant for his versatility on defense and ability to guard every position.
“That’s a very underrated skill,” Holmes said. “A lot of people don’t really see all the time how big of an impact he has on the floor with how good he can guard one to five. He just all around is amazing.”
Best victory: This depends on what rankings you want to use. Dayton beat UNC Asheville 79-56 on Dec. 10 at UD Arena. Asheville ranks 192nd, through Tuesday, in the NCAA Evaluation Tool but 209th in the Ken Pomeroy ratings. Dayton’s other comparable victory came against Wyoming on Dec. 17: 66-49 at the United Center in Chicago. Wyoming ranks 229th in the NET and 129th in the Pomeroy ratings.
Worst loss: This is an easier choice. Dayton lost 77-49 at Virginia Tech on Dec. 7. It was UD’s most lopsided loss since the 2015-16 season (90-61 to Xavier) and the most lopsided loss of Anthony Grant’s head coaching career.
Best stat: Dayton’s defense ranks 30th in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com. That’s it’s best ranking since it was 15th in the 2015-16 season.
“I think we’ve been pretty good most of the year defensively,” Grant said. “The numbers show. We’ve been pretty consistent outside of maybe a couple of games here and there.”
Worst stat: Dayton ranks 336th in the country in 3-point shooting percentage (28.8). The national average is 33.5. UD shot 36.1% last season and has never shot worse than 30% in a season.