Dayton Flyers: Breaking down the field in season-opening South Dakota tournament

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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UD’s new tournament doesn’t yet have a name or a bracket

Sioux Falls, S.D., is 857 miles from Dayton. That’s 235 miles farther than Myrtle Beach, S.C., where the Dayton Flyers were supposed to play in November before the coronavirus pandemic upended plans for college basketball teams around the country, and 94 miles closer than Orlando, Fla., where the Myrtle Beach Invitational moved.

Dayton won’t play in Myrtle Beach or Orlando but will fly to South Dakota, one of the nine states the program has never visited, in November for a tournament that does not have a name as of yet or a bracket. There have been no official announcements about the tournament, but according to a source, the event will begin Nov. 25, the first day teams can play this season, and end Nov. 27, the day after Thanksgiving with teams playing three games in three days.

The Flyers will be in a field that was orginally scheduled to play in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. That tournament was cancelled, but the same group of teams, minus Duke, will play at the Sanford Pentagon, a 3,500-seat arena in Sioux Falls.

Dayton joins a field that includes Creighton, Memphis, Ohio State, Texas A&M, Utah, West Virginia and Wichita State. If Dayton had stayed in the Myrtle Beach event, it would have been part of a group that includes Charlotte, Loyola, Missouri, Penn, Pittsburgh and Utah State. Nebraska also withdrew from that event, and according to a report by Jeff Goodman, Pittsburgh is also leaning toward withdrawing.

At a quick glance, it’s obvious Dayton upgraded its schedule by moving to the tournament in Sioux Falls. Here’s a breakdown of the eight teams in the field:

Creighton: While no team in the field ranked higher than Dayton, which finished third in the NCAA Evaluation Tool, last season or finished with a better record (29-2), the likely favorite in this event will be Creighton. It ranked 11th in the NET, finishing 24-7.

In Andy Katz’s ranking of the top 36 teams in the 2020-21 season for NCAA.com, he ranked Creighton 16 and wrote: “The Bluejays have a potential Big East Player of the Year in Marcus Zegarowski and Mitch Ballock is a big-time shooter. This squad will be pushing the ball, ripping and running. Creighton should be an offensive threat hard to diffuse.”

Dayton and Creighton last played in 2009 at UD Arena. It was the last matchup in a four-game series that started in 2005.

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Dayton: The Flyers have one of the most experienced backcourts in the country with four-year starter Jalen Crutcher, two fifth-year seniors Rodney Chatman and Ibi Watson and junior Dwayne Cohill, one of the top reserves last season. The questions are in the front court, where Dayton lacks experience, outside of fifth-year senior center Jordy Tshimanga.

Memphis: One of the newcomers for coach Anfernee Hardaway in his third season is Virginia Tech guard Landers Nolley II, who played for Virginia Tech last season and against Dayton in the Maui Invitational. He was granted a waiver by the NCAA and is eligible to play this season. He averaged 15.5 points last season as a freshman. Memphis was 21-10 last season and ranked 59th in the NET.

Dayton and Memphis haven’t played since 1995 when they were both members of the Great Midwest Conference.

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Ohio State: The Buckeyes averaged 22 victories in coach Chris Holtmann’s first three seasons. They finished 21-10 last season and ranked 16th in the NET. Three of the team’s top-six scorers return: guards Duane Washington Jr. (11.5 points per game) and CJ Walker (8.7); and forward Kyle Young (7.5).

Dayton and Ohio State last played in the NCAA tournament in 2014. The Flyers won 60-59. They would have met in the second round of the Maui Invitational in 2003, but Ohio State was upset in the first round.

Texas A&M: The Aggies finished 16-14 last season, the first for coach Buzz Williams. They return three of their top four scorers, including sophomore guard Andre Gordon of Sidney. Gordon averaged 6.3 points per game and made 18 starts as a freshman. The Aggies had the nation’s 19th-ranked recruiting class in 2020, according to 247Sports.com, with a group that includes two top-100 recruits: forward Jaxson Robinson and guard Hassan Diarra.

Dayton beat Texas A&M 55-53 in the first round of the Puerto Rico Tipoff in 2014.

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Utah: The Utes have seen their win total decline three straight years: from 23-12 to 17-14 and then 16-15. They return leading scorer Timmy Allen, a forward who has scored 892 points in his first two seasons. They ranked 85th in the NET last season.

Dayton and Utah last played in 1958.

West Virginia: The Mountaineers ranked 23rd on Katz’s list of the top-26 teams. He called their backcourt of Oscar Tshiebwe and Derek Culver one of the best in the country. Those players combined to average 21.6 points for a team that finished 21-10 and ranked 17th in the NET.

Dayton and West Virginia last played in 2009 in the first round the NCAA tournament. The Flyers won 69-60.

Wichita State: The Shockers finished 23-8 last season and ranked 41st in the NET. Their leading scorer was a senior last season, and three other players who ranked among their top six scorers transferred. The top returner is sophomore guard Tyson Etienne (9.4).

Dayton and Wichita State last played in the NCAA tournament in 2017. Dayton lost 64-58.

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