I admittedly had no idea what to expect for the Dayton Flyers this season. The team was dealing with the offseason departures of four key seniors and coach Archie Miller, making it difficult to get a clear outlook for the upcoming year. For all intents and purposes, many anticipated a rocky transition.
Somehow, this team has fallen well below even the most realistic expectations. If there was any benefit from last night’s drubbing at the hands of a bad LaSalle team – another blunder in a season full of them – it’s that the loss brought us one step closer to getting this miserable season over with.
Again, it would’ve been foolish to expect this year’s Flyers to continue the success we’ve seen over the past four seasons. Another tournament bid was seen as nothing more than a lofty best-case scenario. There was simply too much youth and inexperience on the roster to expect anything less than a year full of growing pains.
At this point, I’d kill to see such a thing, only because it would imply we’re witnessing even the slightest bit of growth.
The Flyers will more than likely finish the year below .500 for the first time since 2006. They’ve only won once on the road. They’ve been utterly manhandled in their last three defeats, including last night’s spanking at the hands of one of the few teams below them in the A-10 standings.
The year hasn’t been completely devoid of bright spots. The play of Jalen Crutcher and Jordan Davis indicates Dayton should have a solid starting back court for the next few years. Trey Landers is slowly becoming a consistent contributor.
…and that’s basically it. Darrell Davis has had a great season, sure, but he’ll be gone come next year, so it’s nothing this team can build upon. Josh Cunningham is still one of the team’s best players, but new coach Anthony Grant doesn’t seem to know how to design an offensive scheme around him.
While silver linings are tough to come by, you’ll have no trouble finding negatives when looking at this season. This is mainly due to the fact this team deals with the same problems in almost every single defeat.
Motivation comes at a premium, as the Flyers are very easily deflated by the slightest sign of adversity. The defense is haphazard at best, while the offense often lives or dies by the three-point shot even if it’s not even remotely falling.
Despite dealing with an inexperienced roster, Grant has made countless questionable decisions throughout the year. Whether it be bizarre rotations, a refusal to call time-out to stop an opponent’s momentum or just a blatant lack of a game-plan, Grant’s first season has been head-scratching to say the least. When it comes to both him and his players, none of the problems we saw at the beginning of the year have disappeared as we near the end of it.
Which helps to highlight easily the most frustrating outcome of this year. We’re just one game away from the regular season ending, and there’s been zero indication of growth from this team. The players are still making the same mistakes, still falling into the same predictable habits, still tucking their tails between their collective legs the second the going gets tough.
This only makes the lack of development even worse. It’s one thing to keep losing despite solid effort, it’s another to look as though you’re blatantly quitting. The amount of losses which could be accurately described this way is too high to count.
Barring a seemingly impossible run in the upcoming conference tournament, this Dayton season will be an incredible let-down. However, it won’t be because these Flyers failed to live up to the expectations of the previous class.
It’ll be because they didn’t even try to do so in the first place.
Casey Drottar is an independent sports writer. Subscribe to his podcast, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook