Photo Credit – Erik Schelkun
Follow him on Instagram @flyer_images
The Dayton Flyers finished their season at 25-8 (14-4 A10) and won the regular season title in the Atlantic 10. They had a very disappointing end to the season as they were dismantled in the first round of the NCAA tournament by Syracuse, a Final Four team. This was a rematch of the 2014 Round of 32 game that the Flyers won so the Orange were definitely looking for some revenge. One of the major issues that the Flyers dealt with in this game was the constant missing of layups and dunks. I think that some of this could be credited to either lack of conditioning or just a bad shooting day. As for why the Flyers didn’t win the NCAA Tournament, they had a few issues during the season and towards the end.
Injuries to Kendall Pollard
In my mind, this was definitely the biggest reason as to why the Flyers weren’t able to win the championship. Kendall Pollard, a junior forward from Chicago, might have been the most integral part of this team, an X-factor if you would. When you lose someone like this for a decent amount of time, the team starts to become affected by it. Pollard missed his first two games of the season in January. One of them was a win against UMASS and the other was an awful loss to La Salle, the worst team in the conference. Pollard would play the next eight games but then sit the following four. The team was 3-3 in games that Pollard did not play. This team only lost 8 games and 3 of them Pollard didn’t play in. That is pretty significant. After he missed his second set of games, he didn’t seem like himself for the rest of the year. He was never 100% and didn’t really seem to play very well. The injuries, ranging from a bone bruise in his knee, to a shoulder issue, to a leg issue and then to a wrist issue during the A10 tournament, really hurt Pollard’s chances of becoming the go to guy late in the year. He tried to make it that way but you could tell he was hurting. This forced Archie’s hand to play Freshmen Sam Miller and Steve McElvene who couldn’t stay out of foul trouble. Kendall was one of, if not the best all-around player on this team. His injuries and lack of effectiveness towards the end of the year was the main reason the Flyers didn’t win the National Championship.
Lack of Focus/Fatigue Late in the Season
One of the things that left me dumbfounded was in the tournament game against Syracuse. This is a team that I have seen play through any and everything and they seemed like they didn’t want to be there. They only shot 32% from the field and 47% from the free throw line. I think you have to tip your cap to Syracuse in this game too as they completely shut down every facet of the Flyers’ game. The lack of shooting could have been a bit of lack of focus and fatigue combined. Late in the year, Archie went to a 7-8 man rotation and I think that this really affected the team. My thought was that they needed to play 10-11, but play the extra guys minimal minutes just to get the regulars a rest.
The Flyers have been to three straight NCAA Tournaments now and they only lose two players going into next year. Charles Cooke announced last night that he will withdraw his name from the NBA Draft and return to Dayton for his senior season. Dyshawn Pierre’s role with the team will need to be filled as well as the late Steve McElvene’s.
This has nothing to do with why the Flyers didn’t win the championship. This has to do with a guy that I think needs to be recognized on and off the court for what he was becoming. Big Steve died in his home on Thursday, May 12th from an enlarged heart. This kid was fun to watch on the basketball court. You could get so frustrated with him and then be extremely happy with what he was doing in the span of 30 seconds. He came in to the University of Dayton two years ago at 300+ pounds and was only partially eligible to play because of academics. This meant he could practice with the team but not play in games. Steve did everything that the staff wanted him to including drop anywhere between 50 and 80 pounds to get into playing shape. As Archie Miller said in his eulogy at his funeral, Big Steve was turning everything around. He was finally realizing his potential on the court and in the classroom and he was going to be a force to reckon with. Archie said that he had never seen a kid raise his GPA between his freshman and sophomore year that much. He was doing everything right. The best thing about Big Steve was his attitude and how happy he always was. I don’t think I ever saw the kid without a smile on his face. He would always be joking around with people and it was great. Rest in peace Big Steve. You’re gone, but not forgotten.
Welcome to the block party, Steve McElvene.https://t.co/RvLOreXZna
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) March 12, 2016
Alex Handorf ’17