Winner of Monday’s game gets Michigan State or Virginia Tech in semifinals
Dayton Flyers head coach Anthony Grant first experienced the Maui Invitational 20 years ago as an assistant coach with the Florida Gators. For UD forward Ibi Watson, the memories are clearer because they are more recent. He was there two years ago as a sophomore at Michigan.
Watson and Michigan lost to LSU in the first round before beating Chaminade and Virginia Commonwealth in 2017. Grant and Florida, which would lose to Michigan State in the national championship game four months later, beat Utah State, lost to Purdue and then beat Georgetown in the third-place game in 1999.
Grant will appear in the tournament for the first time as a head coach at 2:30 p.m. Monday (9:30 a.m. Hawaii time) when Dayton (3-0) plays Georgia (4-0) in the first round.
“I think they’ve got air conditioning there now,” Grant said. “That’ll be a little different. With the competition there, I’m sure it’ll be a great atmosphere for college basketball.”
Air conditioning was installed in the Lahaina Civic Center in 2005, so Dayton and Georgia will feel comfortable with the climate. The early start time could be a challenge. At least, coming from the same time zone, the Flyers and Bulldogs will be on equal footing. The analytics also suggest this game is a toss-up with Dayton having a 54 percent chance of winning, according to KenPom.com.
Here are five storylines entering the game:
1. Both offenses have thrived early in the season: Georgia ranks fifth in the country with 92.0 points per game. Dayton ranks 11th (89.7). Dayton leads the nation in 2-point field-goal percentage (72.0). It's the only shooting above 70 percent. Georgia ranks 24th (57.9).
2. Both teams have potential first-round NBA Draft picks on the roster: Dayton redshirt sophomore forward Obi Toppin ranks 12th in the nation in scoring (23.7). ESPN's Jonathan Givony projected him to be the 24th overall pick next June.
In the same mock draft, Givony predicted Georgia freshman guard Anthony Edwards, who leads the team with 19.3 points per game, would be picked second.
“Certainly, he’s projected to be where he’s going to be,” said Georgia coach Tom Crean on Wednesday after Edwards scored 18 points on 5-of-15 shooting in an 82-78 victory against Georgia Tech. “There’s notoriety (with) him. But what I leave every day with is he’s a very young 18-year-old — should be a high school senior, in all honesty — and he’s got a lot to learn about what it takes on a daily basis when you’re getting the other team’s best shot, like he’s going to get. And he’ll learn.”
3. Both defenses have room for improvement: Dayton ranks among the worst teams in the nation in opponents' 3-point shooting percentage (42.9, 343rd out of 353 teams). Georgia ranks 265th (36.3 percent) in the same category.
Dayton did show overall defensive improvement in its last game, a 93-68 victory against Omaha on Tuesday, though the Mavericks still managed to make 8 of 18 3-pointers (44.4 percent).
“We were very active on the ball and off the ball,” Dayton guard Jalen Crutcher said. “The second half, we kind of slipped up a little bit, but in the first half, we showed we can play defense.”
4. Crean knows the Maui Invitational well: He coached in back-to-back tournaments in 2007 and 2008, first with Marquette and then with Indiana, and returned to the event in 2015 with the Hoosiers. He becomes the second coach to take three different teams to Maui. Rick Barnes, who coached Texas, Providence and Tennessee in Maui, is the other.
“I love it,” Crean said. “Hawaii is incredible. It doesn’t ever get old, I don’t know how anyone could ever think it could get old. But the level of basketball that you have to be at in this, that urgency that you have to have in this is unlike anything these guys have ever been a witness to in this point in their career.”
5. This will be Dayton's first big test: Dayton's first three opponents have a combined record of 4-11.
Indiana State, which scared Dayton in the opener before losing 86-81, fell to 0-4 with a 74-71 loss to Duquesne on Thursday. Charleston Southern (1-4) has beaten only Columbia International, a NAIA program. Omaha improved to 3-3 with an 85-77 victory at Washington State on Thursday.