UD coach enters his fourth season after one of the great seasons in school history
Don Donoher coached the Dayton Flyers to the national championship game in his third season. Archie Miller took the program to the Elite Eight in his third season.
Anthony Grant topped both of those coaching performances in some ways by guiding UD to 29 victories last season and a number of other feats — a No. 3 national ranking, a 20-game winning streak and an 18-0 conference mark to name a few — in his third season. He became the first Dayton coach to be named national coach of the year.
What will happen in year four and beyond for Grant? History doesn’t provide much of a guide for what to expect.
Donoher’s fourth team did not make the NCAA tournament but won the program’s second NIT championship in 1968. Miller’s fourth team won two NCAA tournament games and nearly reached the Sweet 16 for the second straight season.
It took Oliver Purnell six seasons until he started to build a consistent 20-game winner. Brian Gregory peaked in his sixth season with a 27-win team that reached the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Grant may be in a better position than any of his predecessors to build a program capable of staying nationally relevant year after year because he’s more likely to stick around for the long haul. The recent success on the recruiting trail should also provide some stability. His fourth team has some question marks, but that has been true of each team in the Grant era. Here’s how the four teams compare:
2017-18: The Flyers returned four players who received significant playing time the previous season on a senior-dominated team: redshirt junior Josh Cunningham; senior Darrell Davis; and juniors John Crosby and Xeyrius Williams. They had one sophomore with little experience: Trey Landers.
They had four true freshman who were eligible to play and one redshirt freshman (Kostas Antetokounmpo) who sat out the previous season. They had two players who couldn’t play: the injured Ryan Mikesell and the academic redshirt Toppin. Dayton used 12 of its 13 scholarships that season.
2018-19: The Flyers returned five players with significant experience. They added two newcomers to the mix in Toppin and junior college transfer Jhery Matos. They also had two freshmen: Dwayne Cohill and Frankie Policelli. Four of the 13 roster spots were taken by transfers who sat out the season: Ibi Watson; Rodney Chatman; Jordy Tshimanga; and Chase Johnson.
2019-20: The Flyers again returned five players who received major minutes the previous season — six if you count Matos, who played a big role before suffering a season-ending injury in the sixth game a year earlier. Two of the four transfers, Chatman and Tshimanga, had extensive experience at their previous schools.
Dayton added one freshman, Moulaye Sissoko, but decided to redshirt him. Dayton used 12 of its 13 roster spots, filling one of them in December when another freshman, Zimi Nwokeji, joined the roster.
2020-21: Dayton again returns five players who played major roles the previous season: Crutcher; Watson; Chatman; Tshimanga; and Johnson, who appeared in only eight games. The number would have been six, but Cohill will miss the season after suffering an ACL tear in the fall.
Dayton has two redshirt freshmen who will debut: Sissoko and Nwokeji. It has three true freshmen: Koby Brea; Lukas Frazier; and R.J. Blakney. A fourth, Mustafa Amzil, will join the mix in December or January. He became Dayton’s 13th scholarship player.
Dayton also has one transfer, Elijah Weaver, who could end up playing if Dayton requests and receives a waiver from the NCAA.
2017-18: Cunningham was named the team MVP after the season. He led the team with 15.6 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.
2018-19: Crutcher beat out Toppin for the award. Crutcher averaged 13.2 points and 5.7 assists.
2019-20: Toppin and Crutcher shared the award, combining to average 35.1 points.
2020-21: Crutcher likely will compete for his third MVP award with the two other returning guards: Chatman and Watson.
2017-18: Dayton was picked to finish fifth in the Atlantic 10 Conference preseason poll and finished ninth. It ranked 103rd in the Ken Pomeroy ratings at the beginning of the season and ended at 172nd.
2018-19: Dayton was picked to finish sixth in the A-10 and placed third. It climbed from 99th to 62nd on KenPom.com.
2019-20: Dayton was picked to finish third n the A-10 and placed first. It climbed from 55th to No. 4 on KenPom.com.
2020-21: Dayton was again picked third in the A-10. Pomeroy ranked Dayton 49th in his preseason ratings.