DAYTON — #7 seed. #36 team (Kenpom). #33 in steal%. All seniors. 24-6.
Experience and excellent coaching. 2 things the Dayton Flyers have in spades and 2 common themes you’ll see among my sleepers. You might remember Coach Archie Miller (Arizona Coach Sean Miller’s brother) from their Elite 8 run in 2014 as a #11 seed. Well, fan favorite Scoochie Smith is back as a senior and the only thing more dazzling than his name is his play on the court.
The Flyers stood tall against the very best competition this year and they’ve proven they can replicate that success come March. The Flyers went 6-3 against top 75 opponents, and all three losses came by 5 points or less. 2nd leading scorer Kendall Pollard didn’t play in 2 of those losses, and a crucial cog of their bench unit, Josh Cunningham, has been out most of the season but has recently made his successful comeback.
Facing the highly profiled Wichita State Shockers, Dayton is the biggest #7 seed underdog of all time as a 6.5 point Vegas dog. In ESPN’s brackets, 65% of the public is picking the Shockers to advance. In the words of Lee Corso, “Not so fast my friend”. With the game being played in Indianapolis, Flyer fans have a quick drive of under 2 hours to support their heroes.
The Atlantic 10 is one of the best mid-major conferences in America and it’s about time they get some goddamn respect. Don’t worry A-10 fans I got you, even if my darling Flyers don’t make a run, I can assure everyone their VCU and/or Rhode Island counterparts definitely will. The A-10 is making moves this year. Watch out.
Charles Cooke (6’5 redshirt senior) — 16.2 pts, 5.2 reb, 3 ast, 40% 3p.
Scoochie Smith (6’2 senior) — 13.5 pts, 4.4 ast, 3.1 reb, 1.6 stl.
Kendall Pollard (6’6 senior) — 14.2 pts, 5.1 reb, 1.5 stl, 54% fg.
MICHIGAN #7 seed. #21 team (Kenpom). #5 in offensive efficiency. #5 in limiting turnovers. #8 in effective fg%.
Call me a homer. Go on, get in your best shots. “You ain’t so bad!”
You get those verbal jabs out of your system? Good, because Michigan is making a deep run this March and here’s why:
This team was despicable in mid-January. Unwatchable. Pathetic. Made me want to puke. Who was the leader of this vomit inducing squad? You guessed it, senior Zak Irvin. That’s right “Zak” with a “K” because the kid is just too cool for school. This hero-ball playing, step-back chucking, turnover machine was an abomination to watch on the basketball court. Reprehensible to the entire sport. James Naismith turned over in his grave watching this clown muck up his beautiful creation.
But I have to say, I’m in awe of his unwavering confidence. Somehow a kid who keeps chucking and BRICKING every single shot lines up the next step back fadeaway and couldn’t be more cocksure that he’s hittin’ all nylon. Unfortunately for him and all of Michigan nation, that nylon is usually the net under the rim resulting in an airball or if we’re lucky, the side of the backboard on a baseline shot so we have a chance at a rebound. He is DEAD LAST in fg% and 3 pt % on the team by a HUGE margin, but that doesn’t stop good ole Zak.
The results were ugly. After a 4-6 stretch ending with an awful home loss to Ohio St it was Cuncel Da Season (shout out KFC Barstool). We’ll get em next year kids. There were even some unprecedented “Fire Beilein” rumblings being morphed into loud whispers around the Michigan community.
What happened next was nothing short of a miracle. Hanukkah Harry himself couldn’t have lit this menorah. The light was all but extinguished. But with a gust of wind coming straight out of his asshole Derrick Walton transformed from an above-average solid point guard into one of the best players in the entire country. You read that right, the COUNTRY. Over his last 15 games the senior floor leader has been averaging an astounding 18.7 pts, 6.4 ast, and 5.2 reb per game. He sprinkles in 1.1 steals and shoots 43% from 3. Considering that’s a sample size of almost half a season, this is no longer a fluke.
What’s also become the norm is the impressive play of the one and only Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman, better known as “Rock”. As Irvin has begrudgingly taken a backseat, the Rock has upped his usage and showcased the talent that had some (me) clamoring for him to become the next Michigan star.
**(Those highlights were all from his freshman season)
The biggest factor Michigan has going for them though is they finally have bigs who can not only protect the paint but can drain the 20 footer. Not since the days of Kevin Pittsnoggle has coach John Beilein been blessed with such shooting range 1-5 on the roster. DJ Wilson is a 6’10 athletic freak shooting 38% beyond the arc while igniting the crowd with his putback dunks and imposing blocks.
Live look at me in the stands:
Frontcourt mate Mo Wagner is a German phenom who at 6’11 is the understudy to Dirk Nowitzki, shooting 42% from 3 and has real NBA aspirations. If that’s not enough shooting firepower, 6’10 backup Mark Donnal hits at a 47% clip from deep.
The Wolverines make it rain from all over the court, that much is clear. What wasn’t clear in years past was the matador defense Michigan has been infamous for. Well, after hiring a defensive specialist in the offseason in Billy Donlon it’s finally started to click on that end of the floor as well.
John Beilein teams peak in March. That’s a fact. Look no further than the recent Runner-up and Elite 8 teams of 2013 and 2014 and even the team last year that made a late season push in March. This team just had a near fatal plane crash, and instead of crying about it they went on to knock off Illinois, #1 seed Purdue, Minnesota, and Wisconsin in rapid succession while rocking their practice gear like it ain’t no thang.
Rule #28 in the gambling manifesto: When a team has a near-death experience you RIDE them. The #5 offense in America is a team nobody wants to face right now. God himself is smiling down upon them. This is a team of destiny. That is, unless this man gets in their way:
And if he does, GOD HELP US ALL.