Dayton fans have gotten spoiled. We have watched UD play in a preseason tournament in most of the past 6 years and those tournament runs have been largely successful. For a team that struggles to get a home-and-home with a quality team, these tournaments are a great chance to schedule major conference games without having to actually negotiate with the school itself. The Wooden Legacy is a bit of an outlier this year. Coming in to the season it seems pretty clear that Dayton and to a lesser extent Texas A&M were the headliners. UCLA may have been the nominal headliner and the local draw, but they have been such a disappointment lately that Bruins fans would be excused for looking forward to seeing the Aggies and Flyers in southern California. Today, that seems quaint. Dayton is one of the more interesting teams in the country in terms of how the coach is going to deal with adversity. They did very well in that spot two years ago, but this seems different. UCLA is trying to wash last year’s bad taste out of its mouth and Texas A&M is trying to prove that it’s a perennial power. There are other teams involved in this tournament but honestly, if these three teams don’t finish in the top 3-5 something has gone seriously wrong. Want a preview? I sure hope so.
TEAMS NOBODY CARES ABOUT
Cal State Northridge
If you’re a fan of this team I suppose I should be sorry that I just denigrated them. That being said, what the hell is this team doing in the field? If they don’t finish dead last I’ll be stunned and so will any team that loses to them.
I’m sure people care about this team but I honestly haven’t met one who does. Dayton has a great chance to rack up a “power 6” win with their opener against these guys but this honestly shouldn’t count. Nebraska is to B1G basketball what Rutgers is to B1G football.
BAD TEAMS THAT THEIR FAN BASE TAKES TOO SERIOUSLY
Doing research for this post I came across the bruinsnation.com blog which seems to think that UCLA needs to win this tournament to gain some measure of credibility. The best thing they came up with for the Dayton preview portion of their blog is that Archie Miller is Sean’s brother. Nice research, fellas. UCLA fans seem to be in denial about where their program is and have been for the past few years. There might not be an easier recruiting job in the country and yet UCLA has fallen way behind fellow blue-bloods Duke, North Carolina, Duke, Indiana, Kansas, Arizona, Gonzaga, Xavier, Texas, Florida…. You get the idea. Whatever is going on here, it’s bad. I’m sure they’re talented but I haven’t taken this team seriously for years and that’s entirely on them. I desperately want Dayton to play them in the second round of this tournament both because Dayton winning would be a nice name recognition get but also because honestly – Dayton’s just a better program than UCLA at the moment. I really enjoyed typing that.
FUN TEAMS THAT SHOULDN’T MATTER IN THIS TOURNAMENT
These guys might be good. They might not. They certainly aren’t trying to schedule anyone. Their first three games were against Idaho State (there’s an Idaho State?), Houston Baptist (seems redundant), and New Mexico State. To their credit they’ve won all three games but really, who wouldn’t? I loved watching them play live in Las Vegas and they have intermittently been a very good squad. Honestly, I’m not sure what they are this year. They have a great opportunity in this tournament with a somewhat diminished field. They’re my dark horse.
Honestly, the reason I’m putting them here instead of the “Teams Nobody Cares About” category is because back when I was a degenerate college basketball gambler I used to pick them as my late night “I need to win back my losses” pick. They’re taking a huge step up in competition with game one with UCLA since they haven’t played anyone good yet this year. I’m pulling for the Pilots but I’m pretty sure they’ll end up finishing between sixth and eighth in this tournament.
These guys have been hanging some serious points on some seriously lousy teams this season. It’s hard to get a read on a team like that. They have a pretty fun matchup with New Mexico in the opener of this tournament. They seem like a team that could do some damage if they can get some stops, though.
When this tournament was booked I’m quite sure they expected Dayton and maybe Texas A&M to be ranked. They aren’t. They still seem to be the class of this tournament but I don’t think anyone will be surprised if another non-Nebraska team wins it, though.
Losing to USC is a bad look for a team that is looking to build on some recent success. They still appear to have the talent to be a legitimate contender for second in the SEC (seriously…nobody’s challenging Kentucky). They have a great opportunity in this tournament to beat some quality teams, but if they don’t it’ll really set them up for a lousy season.
I’ll keep this brief since there will be a much longer season recap coming after this tournament ends on Sunday. This team has a bunch of talent but lacks a frontcourt. By that I mean that they literally don’t have a frontcourt. Cunningham is out for the season. The Greek Freak Jr. can’t play this year. Big Steve…RIP. Pollard hasn’t been healthy since 2014. They’re starting Ryan Mikesell and Sam Miller. That’s not ideal. Basically, they’ll go as far as Scoochie Smith, Charles Cooke, and Archie Miller will take them. If Archie can figure out a way to get them to keep playing the kind of lockdown defense they played in the second half of the St. Mary’s game, then they’ll have a chance in every game. On offense, they seem to have bought in to a system that insists on either taking threes or shots in the paint. That’s all the product of good coaching and quality on-the-court leadership. I think they can win this tournament but without their frontcourt there’s always going to be a limit on their ceiling. We’ll see this weekend whether any of these teams can capitalize on that.