If performances in these early-season events are any indication of what to expect when conference play rolls around in January, the Atlantic 10 is in for a fun regular season race.
UMass won the Charleston Classic on Sunday (despite two losses in San Juan, VCU will be fine), and Dayton capped a good three days in Maui with a thorough 80-62 beating of California in the third-place game of the Maui Invitational. Dayton (6-1) was the tougher team, and by the end of the game it was clear that they were the better team as well with four players scoring in double figures.
Devin Oliver tallied 21 points to lead the way, with Jalen Robinson added 17 points and five rebounds off the bench. Dayton’s balance has been a strength thus far, and that was once again the case on Wednesday night. Entering Wednesday four players were averaging double figures, with Ohio State transfer Jordan Sibert leading the way with an average of 16.3 points per game. He was kept quiet by Cal, shooting 1-for-7 from the field and finishing with just three points.
But it didn’t matter, with guards Vee Sanford (14 points, three assists) and Kyle Davis (12 points) both stepping up. And despite scoring just two points, freshman Scoochie Smith dished out three assists and grabbed four rebounds on the night. If there are any two stats that illustrates the depth advantage Dayton enjoyed with Cal (5-2) missing starting center Richard Solomon (eye abrasion) it would be points in the paint and bench points.
Dayton outscored Cal 48-26 in the paint, and its reserves outscored Cal’s by a 52-8 margin (Jordan Mathews scored all eight bench points for Cal). The number of options at head coach Archie Miller’s disposal were on full display Wednesday night, and that bodes well down the line for a team that was picked to finish seventh in the Atlantic 10.
“Our bench was a big part of today’s game,” noted Robinson. “Last night Coach told us just to be ready and our depth would take us a long way. Everybody who came in off the bench came in and was very productive and played together as a team.”
Although the fact that Dayton was one made shot against Baylor away from playing in the title game of the Maui Invitational may sting a bit, that shouldn’t take away from the progress made by the Flyers this week in wins over Cal and No. 11 Gonzaga. If Dayton can build on their play against the toughest competition on their schedule to date, they’re more than capable of exceeding those preseason expectations.