Archie Miller has become one of the hottest young coaches in the game after leading the Flyers to their third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. Dayton earned a share of the A-10 regular-season title despite dealing with the suspension of Dyshawn Pierre that kept him out of the first semester.
Dayton is expected to be in the hunt for the conference crown once again despite losing Pierre as well as big man Steve McElvene, who died tragically in the offseason.
The 2016-17 team may not be quite as overpowering, but the Flyers have experience among the starting group — and Miller is also optimistic that the second unit won’t result in as much of a drop-off as it has in the past.
All Atlantic 10 predictions and a full preview of each team in the conference can be found in the Athlon Sports 2016-17 Preview Magazine, available in our online store and on newsstands everywhere.
At a Glance
HEAD COACH: Archie Miller
2015-16 RECORD (A-10): 25–8 (14–4)
2015-16 POSTSEASON: NCAA: Lost to Syracuse 70–51 in the first round
2016-17 PREDICTION: First in the Atlantic 10
C Steve McElvene (6.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg)
F Dyshawn Pierre (12.6 ppg, 8.5 rpg)
One of Dayton’s primary advantages last season was that few teams in the league could match up with the mammoth McElvene. Now the Flyers won’t be able to overpower opponents up front.
However, Dayton still has a couple of proven commodities back in the frontcourt in Charles Cooke, the leading returning scorer, and Kendall Pollard. Cooke averaged 15.6 points and 5.8 rebounds in his first season with the Flyers after transferring in from James Madison. He’s a potential first-team all-league performer, and Miller wants to make sure he continues to play with a chip on his shoulder. Pollard was key for the Flyers last season, averaging 10.3 points and 4.9 rebounds. But he dealt with multiple injuries down the stretch that limited not only his effectiveness but also that of the entire team. Pollard had surgeries on both his wrist and knee in the offseason.
“He missed eight games in the second half of the year, and when he came back he was a shell of himself,” Miller says.
Miller is hoping 6'7" forward Josh Cunningham can make as big of an impact this season as Cooke did a year ago. Cunningham is a Chicago native who averaged 7.9 points and a team-leading 7.5 rebounds as a freshman at Bradley in 2014-15.
There’s depth in the frontcourt with a trio of sophomores — Sam Miller, Xeyrius Williams and Ryan Mikesell — who combined for about 27 minutes per game a yar ago.
Dayton also added Kostas Antetokounmpo, the brother of Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, late in the spring. Miller loves his upside but isn’t sure how long it’ll take for the 6'10", 190-pound forward to make an impact on the floor.
Scoochie Smith is a senior who has started every game for the past two seasons. Miller loves his ability to step up in key situations and big games, and the coach is hopeful that Smith will be even more consistent this season. Smith, who averaged 11.7 points and 4.3 assists last season, can distribute and also knock down shots. He should be one of the top point guards in the A-10.
He’ll be joined by another veteran in the backcourt in Kyle Davis, who Miller describes as his “glue guy.”
“He just does whatever we ask him to do,” Miller says. “He gives us that toughness.”
Davis, who has averaged 7.5 points over the past two seasons, can really defend, and he is a capable shooter who will need to be more effective in that area as a senior.
Darrell Davis didn’t shoot it nearly as well last season as he did as a freshman, but he’s a junior who is one of the top guards coming off the bench in the entire league. Dayton also has sophomore guard John Crosby back in the fold after a solid freshman campaign.
Kostas Antetokounmpo is a superb athlete who will provide some length to the frontcourt. Trey Landers is an in-state guard who will have to fight for minutes as a freshman. Josh Cunningham, a transfer from Bradley, will play a significant role up front.
Miller and his players will have to deal with the loss of McElvene — both on and off the court. That won’t be easy. Neither will be having to replace Pierre.
However, this team is full of grown men in its starting unit. Smith, Cooke, Pollard and Kyle Davis are all seniors, and Miller likes that recipe for success. It’s a group that has won at least 25 games in three consecutive seasons.
The perimeter play is the strength of the Flyers with Smith, Cooke and Kyle Davis. While Dayton won’t be nearly as big up front, a healthy Pollard and the addition of Cunningham should be enough to match up with just about any team in the league.