Arkansas State (0-0) at Dayton (0-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 10, 2 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: UD Arena (13,409) -- Dayton, Ohio. Television: None. Home Record: Arkansas State 0-0, Dayton 0-0. Away Record: Arkansas State 0-0, Dayton 0-0. Neutral Record: Arkansas State 0-0, Dayton 0-0. Conference Record: Arkansas State 0-0, Dayton 0-0. Series Record: First meeting.
GAMES NOTES: The 20-win factory that is the Dayton will open its season on Saturday when the Flyers host the Arkansas State Red Wolves at UD Arena.
Playing on the road is never easy in college basketball and for Arkansas State it was a painful exercise. The Red Wolves finished just 2-14 on the road last season which was a big detriment to the team's success. Overall Arkansas State finished 14-20 overall and 6-10 in Sun Belt play. With one of the more talented backcourts in the league returning including three players named to the Sun Belt Conference Preseason All-Conference teams, much is expected in John Brady's fifth season at the helm.
No matter who is on the roster or at the top of the bench, penciling in Dayton for 20 wins at the beginning of the season has been a good bet. Despite last season being Archie Miller's first at the helm, the Flyers finished 20-13 for their fifth 20-win season in as many years. However, it should be pointed out that last season was also the lowest win total during that stretch and that the Flyers have won fewer games than the previous year in four straight seasons. Dayton has also only made one NCAA Tournament bid during these past five years becoming more of a fixture in the NIT, where it fell in the first round to Iowa (84-75) last season.
This is the first meeting between these programs.
Guard-play will not be something Arkansas State will be at a loss for this season with the return of Marcus Hooten and Trey Finn. Hooten (12.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg) is the lead returning scorer that can get to most spots on the floor to create offense thanks to his size (6-4, 205 pounds). Finn's expertise is long- distance shooting. The senior guard is appropriately named after he knocked down 45.9 percent of his 3-point shots last season, including a 9-of-18 effort during a short run in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament by the Red Wolves. Edward Townsel (9.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.0 apg) adds further depth to the backcourt with his ability to contribute in just about every area. The frontcourt is not as fortified with Malcoln Kirkland and his 21.1 points per game gone. Brandon Peterson (9.2 ppg, 7.9 rpg) was a beast on the boards last season and with increased offensive touches could transform into a regular threat for a double-double.
The keys to the Dayton offense are firmly in the hand of Kevin Dillard. The 6-0 guard was the team's leading scorer (13.3 ppg) a year ago but he was still able to run the point and get his teammates involved, averaging a sparkling 6.0 assists per game. Dillard enters this season with a great deal of pressure on his shoulders as he was named to the All-Atlantic-10 Preseason First Team, only the fourth Dayton player to earn that honor. Dillard has even more responsibility since formerly projected starting center Matt Kavanaugh (9.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg) was suspended for the season. Needing to step up in Kavanaugh's place is Devin Oliver (4.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg) and freshman Devon Scott. Oliver was a dependable contributor last season playing just over 20 minutes per game, but Scott has the talent to really made some noise. The freshman forward scored 17.5 points per game in his senior season of high school and at 6-8 has the size to compete on the inside right away.
The battle between Hooten and Dillard should be an interesting one in this game. Hooten has the size advantage but Dillard is a more proven commodity at point guard. That duel will be crucial for Dayton as it needs its front line to really step up early against Arkansas State's Peterson. Benson and company should be up to the task.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Dayton 68, Arkansas State 64
11/10 10:33:44 ET