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Flyin' High: The Rise of Dayton Basketball

The Flyers at the University of Dayton are soarin’ high right now nearing the end of the regular season. While the Flyers were projected preseason to finish 3rd in the Atlantic 10, they are blowing that estimation out of proportion. Sitting at 23-2, UD has their fans raving over the potential this team has heading into March!

As of right now, Dayton is ranked #5 (yes #5!!!) in the nation. Since the rankings came out on Monday night, there has been much twitter controversy regarding Dayton being ranked ahead of the Duke Blue Devils, who had an insane comeback to beat UNC before knocking off the #8 Florida St. Seminoles. The controversy lies with the fact that people believe Dayton lacks the quality wins. Now, as a Flyers fan myself, I will be hesitant to agree with that…but they may have a point. Dayton’s best wins have come against numerous quadrant two teams such as Virginia Tech, Georgia, St. Mary’s, VCU, Rhode Island. HOWEVER, Dayton has only two losses both of which have come in OT at neutral sites. One being the Kansas Jayhawks, the other being a sneaky good Colorado team.

Tonight, the Flyers may have one of their toughest tests yet against a rowdy VCU squad on the road down in Virginia. Dayton handled the Rams earlier this season at UD, but don’t be surprised if VCU gives Dayton a run for their money tonight.

If you haven’t heard the name ‘Obi Toppin’ then you simply aren’t a college basketball fan. I mean this guy is unreal. After high school, Toppin took a prep year, then an academic redshirt before becoming 1st Team All A-10 last season. Not only is Toppin among the NCAA leaders in FG Percentage, he leads the NATION in dunks. I mean this guy is fun. Last week when the Flyers stomped the Rams of Rhode Island, Obi faced a familiar foe. His brother Jacob is a Freshman at RI. Toppin kindly included his brother on Sportscenter’s ‘Top 10’ after throwing down an ‘and-1’ windmill…over his brother! I mean guys, seriously, look the guy up. He a projected lottery pick. You won’t regret it.

Dayton is loaded with tons of other talent as well. Jalen ‘Clutcher’ Crutcher has carried the work load for UD this season along with Toppin. Crutcher has hit numerous buzzer beating 3’s, including one against Kansas to force OT. He has been receiving NBA interest as of late. Michigan transfer Ibi Watson has been showcasing his shooting ability and has been an anchor for us from behind the arc. UT Chattanooga transfer, Rodney Chatman has taken over the PG duties allowing Crutcher to fit into a more comfortable role at the 2 spot. 5th year Senior Ryan Mikesell has been consistent throughout the year and been a tremendous leader on an already veteran squad. Nebraska transfer Jordy Tshimanga has grown into a role where he can contribute solid minutes. Dwayne Cohill, reigning Dayton Defensive POY is still clamping down anyone who stands in his way, and he is still only a Sophomore.

All of this is possible because of the fantastic coaching job that Dayton Alum Anthony Grant has done. He has harped on player development and it has shown. Grant previously coached under Billy Donovan at both Florida and with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He also spent time as the head man at VCU. As a proud Flyer, I speak for everyone when I express the gratitude I have for this man.

This team has potential to make a serious run in the NCAA Tournament this year. Along with other strong Mid-Majors, San Diego St and perennial powerhouse Gonzaga. March will be an intriguing time! Tune in tonight to see the Flyers take on VCU!


By: Jack Costello

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