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On the road with the Dayton Flyers to California

Published: Sunday, December 17, 2017 @ 2:23 PM
Updated: Monday, December 18, 2017 @ 10:56 PM


            Dayton Flyers players wait for their flight to California on Sunday morning at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. Larry Hansgen / STAFF
Dayton Flyers players wait for their flight to California on Sunday morning at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. Larry Hansgen / STAFF

After Saturday’s thrilling overtime win over Georgia State at UD Arena, the Dayton Flyers face St. Mary’s on Tuesday night in Moraga, Calif.

The Voice of the Flyers on WHIO Radio, Larry Hansgen, is traveling with the team and providing a behind-the-scenes look at the trip.

7:25 p.m., Monday

Today was a full squad practice day, as the Flyers took the winding roads out of Walnut Creek, Calif. to the campus of Saint Mary’s College in Moraga. I remembered the isolated setting from a Flyer football game vs. the Gaels in 2001 (SMC has since dropped the sport). As Flyer coaches were preparing for that matchup watching tape, they saw deer run across the field during a home game.

»RELATED: What you need to know about Tuesday’s game

»RELATED: Flyers travel across the country for toughest game

The Gaels have been, along with Gonzaga, a force in the West Coast Conference in recent years, and frequently showing up in the Top 25 polls This week they were among teams also receiving votes in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll. A lot of this success has been due to an influx of players from Australia. Notable alums Paddy Mills and Matthew Dellavadova are in the NBA, and the current roster features six players from Down Under, including 6-foot-11 senior center Jock Londale.

The Flyers did not practice “full go” today, but rather did some situational half-court offensive and defensive work. Coach Anthony Grant emphasized moving the ball quickly, before the defense can recover, telling his players to count “one one thousand” in their heads and making a pass in that amount of time.

Xyerius Williams practiced at full speed. After playing 13 minutes against Georgia State, it is hoped he can play between 15 and 20 minutes on Tuesday, provided they are productive ones. Based upon the practice lineups, look for the same starters that we saw on Saturday: Josh Cunningham, Darrell Davis, Jordan Davis, Trey Landers and John Crosby.

The game site will be the second smallest in which the Flyers will play this year. Only LaSalle’s Tom Gola Arena (3,400) seats less than the McKeon Center (3,500). Nevertheless, a cross country trip and a game against a top 40 team on their court stacks the odds against Dayton. A loss could be expected, but a win would be a huge upset and confidence builder.

The team is having a dinner out tonight at an upscale steak house, and then Tuesday will go over the final pieces of game prep.

12:22 a.m., Monday

A bumpy flight from Cincinnati to San Francisco was otherwise uneventful. Players dozed or watched movies on the back-of-the-seat media center on board. Halle Berry’s “Kidnapped” was a popular choice, but got mixed reviews. Coaches were already game planning for Saint Mary’s.

On the bus ride from the airport to the hotel the players went Old School, singing Roger’s, “I Want To Be Your Man.” I don’t even think they know of the Dayton connection. It was good to hear them enjoying themselves. After a disappointing performance in a loss to Penn and then finals week, the win over Georgia State was just what the doctor ordered.

I am sure there are Dayton fans who question the level of exuberance in a win over Georgia State, but I caution them to keep in mind the makeup of this team. Most of these guys, literally, can count the number of college wins in their career on just one hand. Every single one is big at this point.

»RELATED: Cunningham honored by Atlantic 10

As I was doing some prep work on the plane, I looked back at last year’s stats. In every game but one, Dayton was led in scoring by one of the now graduated seniors. The only exception was a win over VMI in which Sam Miller led the team in scoring with 15.

After driving across the Bay Bridge and seeing Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge off to our left, we arrived at our destination north and east of Oakland in Walnut Creek, Calif.. We are staying at the Renaissance Club Sport, which in addition to a pool and workout room, has a full basketball court. Those players who saw no or little action against Georgia State had a workout, and got up some shots. It was a chance for Josh Cunningham and Darrell Davis to get off their feet after playing 43 and 44 minutes respectively.

8:45 a.m., Sunday

Despite the win, it was a quiet bus ride from the UD Arena to the Marriott near the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport on Saturday night. I think the players, coaches and this broadcaster were worn out after the 88-83 win over Georgia State .

Coach Anthony Grant talked after the game how happy he was for his players to get that win and the experience of closing out a victory in a crunch-time situation. He also talked about how that experience for the young guys cannot be replicated in practice. He was at a loss for words in describing the effort of Josh Cunningham, who recorded a career-high 29 points with 18 rebounds in 43 minutes .

»RELATED: 5 takeaways from Dayton’s win over Georgia State

Josh told me when we got off the bus and checked into the hotel that he had never been this tired. He had his first shot attempt in the game blocked, ending a school record streak of 22 in a row, but then began a new streak hitting his next eight shots. He made 13 of 17 free throws. He also took three charges. He had to be sore!

»PHOTOS: Dayton vs. Georgia State

This morning, Josh was the first player to show up at breakfast. The short trip to the airport terminal was uneventful. I spent time in the TSA line talking to freshman walk-on Cameron Greer, from suburban Chicago. He raved about his experience as a Flyer to date.

The coaching staff has already moved on from the win over Georgia State and is prepping hard to put together a scouting report on Saint Mary’s. Josh Cunningham will face his biggest challenge to date, literally, in 6-foot-11 Jock Londale of the Gaels.

Clemson basketball gets horrible news that Donte Grantham tore ACL

Published: Sunday, January 21, 2018 @ 8:12 AM

Clemson basketball’s dream season continued on Saturday with their first ever win over Notre Dame, but they lost Donte Grantham in the process and got some extremely disheartening news on Sunday.

According to a report from Grace Raynor of The Post and Courier, Grantham tore an ACL and will miss the remainder of the season.

Grantham has been a four-year contributor for Clemson and has been a major piece of the team’s success in 2017-18, averaging 14.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. He was the second-leading scorer on the team behind Marcquise Reed at the time of his injury.

Stay tuned for further updates to DieHards.com.

Bracketology: SEC hoops still much improved, but Kentucky needs to turn things around

Published: Sunday, January 21, 2018 @ 8:05 AM

LEXINGTON, Ky. — John Calipari spent most of his postgame press conference Saturday night telling Kentucky basketball fans not to panic after a second straight loss, and he’s correct that there is not cause for a full freak-out.

But in terms of the Wildcats’ NCAA Tournament prospects, maybe a minor meltdown is in order.

The Wildcats (14-5, 4-3 SEC) are still No. 19 in the RPI and they do have three top-50 wins with zero sub-100 losses. But all of their quality wins are at home — a rout of rudderless Louisville being the best of those — and they’re 2-2 on the road.

Depending on your view of this freshman-heavy Kentucky team’s potential, the final 12 regular-season games offer a terrific set of opportunities to improve its postseason positioning — or a gauntlet that might threaten the idea of these Cats even making the NCAA Tournament field.

Alabama’s Jalen Hurts explains his reason for shaving off trademark dreadlocks

Published: Sunday, January 21, 2018 @ 8:00 AM

Alabama football-Nick Saban-Jalen Hurts-national championship-Georgia

It turns out the starting quarterback job is not the only thing Alabama’s Jalen Hurts lost as a result of the Crimson Tide’s national championship victory over Georgia.

You see, Hurts recently shaved off his signature dreadlocks, and he took to Twitter on Sunday to tell the world that it was a direct result of Alabama’s win in the title game:

Though Hurts is inarguably the most visible player on Alabama’s roster, it would likely be an upset if he were the Crimson Tide’s starting quarterback in 2018. That honor, of course, is likely to go to national championship game hero Tua Tagovailoa.

However, there’s no doubt that Hurts — the ultimate team player — will continue to provide a huge benefit to his team, both in his play should he be called upon, and in support of his teammates, mostly notably Tagovailoa.

The post Alabama’s Jalen Hurts explains his reason for shaving off trademark dreadlocks appeared first on SEC Country.

NCAA Tournament Bracketology: SEC basketball still solid, but Kentucky increasingly shaky

Published: Sunday, January 21, 2018 @ 8:00 AM

Kentucky basketball-UK basketball-Kentucky-SEC-NCAA Tournament-bracketology-seeding-seed-resume-Auburn-Florida-Alabama-Texas
            A&M

LEXINGTON, Ky. — John Calipari spent most of his postgame press conference Saturday night telling Kentucky basketball fans not to panic after a second straight loss, and he’s correct that there is not cause for a full freak-out.

But in terms of the Wildcats’ NCAA Tournament prospects, maybe a minor meltdown is in order.

The Wildcats (14-5, 4-3 SEC) are still No. 19 in the RPI and they do have three top-50 wins with zero sub-100 losses. But all of their quality wins are at home — a rout of rudderless Louisville being the best of those — and they’re 2-2 on the road.

Depending on your view of this freshman-heavy Kentucky team’s potential, the final 12 regular-season games offer a terrific set of opportunities to improve its postseason positioning — or a gauntlet that might threaten the idea of these Cats even making the NCAA Tournament field.

RELATED: Calipari says fans can ‘be panicked,’ but he isn’t

Kentucky was a No. 5 seed in ESPN’s latest bracket projection, before Saturday’s loss to Florida. And now, nine of its 12 remaining games are against RPI top-40 teams, six of those on the road: at West Virginia, Missouri, Texas A&M, Auburn, Arkansas and Florida. Projected tournament teams all.

While it still seems unlikely the Wildcats will miss the Big Dance altogether, that schedule paired with their continued struggles could easily add up to a No. 8 seed (worse?) and another brutal path through the bracket. On the bright side: That happened in 2014 and UK delivered a series of upsets all the way to the national championship game.

Calipari and Cats fans are no doubt praying this group can pull a last-minute turnaround like that one.

A much-improved SEC, top to bottom, will make that more difficult. ESPN’s bracketology had eight of the league’s teams in the field before Saturday’s games: Auburn as a 4 seed, Kentucky and Tennessee as 5 seeds, Florida as a 6, Arkansas an 8, Texas A&M a 9, Missouri and Alabama as 10 seeds.

The Gators, Aggies and Crimson Tide all had huge weeks. Florida trounced Arkansas and won at Kentucky. A&M, which roared in nonconference play and then started 0-5 in the SEC, swept Missouri and Ole Miss. Bama ended rival Auburn’s 14-game winning streak and beat Mississippi State without star Collin Sexton.

(The Bulldogs have been exposed as a fraud, by the way. Mississippi State, which plays at UK on Tuesday, started 12-1 thanks to a strength of schedule ranked 144th nationally. But it has now lost four of five games in conference play.)

All told, the SEC still has 10 teams within striking distance of an NCAA Tournament invitation, and here are their updated credentials:

Auburn (17-2, 5-1 SEC)

  • RPI: 8
  • Top-50 wins (4): at No. 12 Tennessee, No. 29 Arkansas, No. 33 Middle Tennessee, No. 49 Georgia.
  • Sub-100 losses (0): No sub-50 either
  • Road record: 4-1
  • SOS: 49

Tennessee (13-5, 4-3 SEC)

  • RPI: 12
  • Top-50 wins (3): No. 9 Purdue, No. 19 Kentucky, No. 30 Texas A&M
  • Sub-100 losses (0): No sub-50 either
  • Road record: 4-2
  • SOS: 5

Kentucky (14-5, 4-3 SEC)

  • RPI: 19
  • Top-50 wins (3): No. 16 Louisville, No. 30 Texas A&M, No. 49 Georgia
  • Sub-100 losses (0): Worst loss is No. 61 UCLA
  • Road record: 2-2
  • SOS: 12

Alabama (13-6, 5-2 SEC)

  • RPI: 23
  • Top-50 wins (3): No. 8 Auburn, No. 11 Rhode Island, No. 30 Texas A&M
  • Sub-100 losses (1): at No. 138 Vanderbilt
  • Road record: 1-3
  • SOS: 7

Florida (14-5, 6-1 SEC)

  • RPI: 24
  • Top-50 wins (5): at No. 19 Kentucky, No. 25 Cincinnati, No. 29 Arkansas, at No. 30 Texas A&M, at No. 36 Missouri
  • Sub-100 losses (0): Worst loss is at No. 90 Ole Miss
  • Road record: 3-1
  • SOS: 25

Arkansas (13-6, 3-4 SEC)

  • RPI: 29
  • Top-50 wins (3): No. 10 Oklahoma, No. 12 Tennessee, No. 36 Missouri
  • Sub-100 losses (0): Worst loss is No. 92 LSU
  • Road record: 0-4
  • SOS: 17

Texas A&M (13-6, 2-5 SEC)

  • RPI: 30
  • Top-50 wins (4): No. 17 West Virginia, No. 32 Buffalo, No. 36 Missouri, at No. 40 Southern California
  • Sub-100 losses (0): Worst loss is No. 92 LSU
  • Road record: 1-3
  • SOS: 15

Missouri (12-6, 3-3 SEC)

  • RPI: 36
  • Top-50 wins (2): No. 12 Tennessee, No. 49 Georgia (also beat top-75 teams Iowa State, St. John’s and Central Florida)
  • Sub-100 losses (1): No. 159 Illinois
  • Road record: 2-3
  • SOS: 26

Georgia (12-6, 3-4 SEC)

  • RPI: 49
  • Top-50 wins (4): No. 23 Alabama, No. 42 Saint Mary’s, at No. 44 Marquette, No. 45 Temple
  • Sub-100 losses (2): No. 123 San Diego State, at No. 181 Massachusetts
  • Road record: 3-4
  • SOS: 81

South Carolina (11-7, 3-4 SEC)

  • RPI: 53
  • Top-50 wins (2): No. 19 Kentucky, at No. 49 Georgia
  • Sub-100 losses (0): Worst loss is No. 97 Illinois State
  • Road record: 3-3
  • SOS: 58

The post NCAA Tournament Bracketology: SEC basketball still solid, but Kentucky increasingly shaky appeared first on SEC Country.