Despite underachieving the past two seasons, Dayton Flyers head coach Brian Gregory found greener pastures this off-season at Georgia Tech. After serving as an assistant under his brother at Arizona the past two seasons, Archie Miller takes over a Flyer team that loses a couple of key contributors from last year.
The strength of this year's Flyer team will be on the wing, where Chris Johnson and Paul Williams return to the starting lineup. Johnson is a versatile, athletic lefty who can stroke it from deep and affect a basketball game in so many ways. Williams is also a threat from downtown and a terrific defender.
With Brandon Spearman transferring, depth is a serious concern on the wing. Ralph Hill only appeared in seven games last season and is the only real option off the bench, even though he is more than a combo forward. Therefore, you can expect to see Johnson and Williams log some heavy minutes.
There should be a healthy battle to see who wins the starting point guard spot since last year's starter, Juwan Staten decided to transfer. Former Southern Illinois Saluki Kevin Dillard is eligible after sitting out last season. He is a former Missouri Valley Freshman of the Year and led that conference in assists during his sophomore season. Josh Parker is the other candidate and served as the Flyers' sixth man last year. Regardless of who wins the job, both players will see significant minutes since Dayton is thin at guard.
Senior Josh Benson took over the starting center spot midway through last season and will try to anchor a frontcourt with limited skill. Senior Luke Fabrizius has been a contributor off the bench during his career at Dayton, but will probably be asked to take on a prominent role this year. He is not much of a threat in the paint, but can stretch defenses with his ability to stroke the ball. Matt Kavanaugh and Devin Oliver saw limited roles off the bench last season and will join freshman Alex Gavrilovic as the backups inside.
With only 10 scholarship players eligible this season (Georgetown transfer Vee Sanford must sit out per NCAA rules), Miller and the Flyers will be somewhat short-handed this season and cannot afford any injuries. A trip to the NCAA Tournament is unlikely, but if Archie can carry over what he learned from big brother Sean, Dayton should be back in the Atlantic-10 title picture in the near future.
Player to Watch: Chris Johnson, G/F
Johnson has somewhat flown under the radar the past couple of seasons with Chris Wright getting most of the press. With Wright gone, Johnson will be the main focus for Dayton and poised for a potential breakout season. His explosiveness at the rim combined with the ability to light it up from deep makes him a tough match-up defensively.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/15 at Miami (FL)
11/24 vs. Wake Forest (Old Spice Classic)
11/25 vs. Arizona State/Fairfield (Old Spice Classic)
11/27 vs. Minnesota/DePaul/Texas Tech/Indiana State (Old Spice Classic)