Despite dealing with depth issues from December on, the Dayton Flyers managed to make their second consecutive NCAA tournament appearance and nearly made their way to the Sweet 16 after playing in the First Four. Thanks to the addition of some new recruits depth wasn’t expected to be an issue for Archie Miller’s Flyers this season, but on Sunday it was learned that one of the team’s top returnees will miss some time.
Senior forward Dyshawn Pierre, who along with Kendall Pollard is the team’s leading returning scorer, has been suspended for the fall semester. According to the statement released by the school he is not enrolled in classes this semester. No details were provided, with the school citing federal privacy laws as the reason why.
Not only did Pierre average 12.7 points per game last season, but he also led the Flyers in rebounding by pulling down 8.1 caroms per contest. Pierre shot 46.3 percent from the field as a junior and was fourth on the team with 36 made three-pointers. Not having a player such as Pierre who can score on multiple levels and also hold his own as a rebounder and defender will hurt the Flyers as they look to navigate their non-conference schedule.
The earliest Pierre can return to the program is at the end of the fall semester (December 18), meaning that he’ll miss games against the likes of Alabama (November 17), Iowa (November 26 as part of the Advocare Invitational in Orlando), and Vanderbilt (December 9).
With Pierre unavailable, players such as Pollard and James Madison transfer Charles Cooke become of even greater importance for Dayton. The Flyers also add three freshman forwards to the mix in Sam Miller, Xeyrius Williams and Ryan Mikesell among the team’s four newcomers.
Having reached the NCAA tournament in each of the last two seasons, Archie Miller’s Dayton Flyers will not only be expected to do so for a third consecutive year but they’ll also be one of the favorites in strengthened Atlantic 10. Thursday the program released its non-conference schedule for the 2015-16 season, and the Flyers could face as many as six NCAA tournament teams before the start of Atlantic 10 play.
The most noteworthy matchup is their game at Vanderbilt December 9, with the Commodores boasting a team that’s expected to be among the best in the SEC. There’s also an appearance at the AdvoCare Invitational, where it was reported earlier this week that they’ll open against Iowa in the lone quarterfinal matchup of teams that reached the NCAA tournament a season ago.
Also in that field are Notre Dame, Wichita State, Xavier, Monmouth, USC and Alabama, with games being played November 26, 27 and 29 in Orlando.
Dayton opens up its regular season with games against Southeast Missouri (November 13) and Alabama (November 17), and they could face the Crimson Tide twice this season depending upon how the AdvoCare Invitational bracket shakes out (they’re on opposite sides of that bracket). Dayton also has a game against an opponent yet to be determined November 21.
While the Flyers did lose guard Jordan Sibert from last season’s team, contributors such as Scoochie Smith, Dyshawn Pierre and Kendall Pollard all return and they’ll add both size and depth as well. The dismissal of their two biggest players mid-season led to Dayton playing a seven-man rotation in which none of the players were taller than 6-foot-6.
That won’t be an issue in 2015-16, as Dayton adds Steve McElvene (sat out for academic reasons last season) and freshman Sam Miller to the program. In total the Flyers welcome four freshmen, with Bradley transfer Josh Cunningham having to sit out the 2015-16 season per NCAA transfer rules.
Dayton landed one of the top rebounders on the transfer “market” Thursday night, as NBC Sports confirmed that former Bradley forward Josh Cunningham has decided to transfer to the Atlantic 10 program. News of Cunningham’s transfer was first reported by the Joe Henricksen of the City/Suburban Hoops Report.
Cunningham, who will have three years of eligibility remaining after sitting out the 2015-16 campaign, averaged 7.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game last season and earned Missouri Valley All-Freshman Team honors. The 6-foot-7 forward reached double figures in rebounds in nine games a season ago, including a 21-rebound outing (along with 15 points) in a three-point loss at Missouri State in late February.
Cunningham’s a quality pickup for Archie Miller’s Flyers, and they’ll lose two forwards in Dyshawn Pierre and Bobby Wehrli at the end of the 2015-16 season.
Dayton, which once again reached the NCAA tournament (and won two games once there) despite dismissing their two tallest players from the roster, will have more front court options in 2015-16. In addition to Pierre, one of the top players in the Atlantic 10, and Wehrli the Flyers return Kendall Pollard and add five players.
Included in that group are three true freshmen, a transfer in Charles Cooke who sat out last season after arriving from James Madison, and 6-foot-11 redshirt freshman Steve McElvene. McElvene was not cleared to play in games last season.