Anthony Grant has grown at Dayton over the past five seasons, leading the Flyers on the cusp of the NCAA Tournament last year despite being one of the youngest teams in the country.
A breakthrough could take place this year.
With nearly everyone back from last season’s squad, including one of the Atlantic 10’s best players, the No. 24 Dayton is targeting the program’s first appearance in an NCAA tournament in six years. .
“Our team, to have the type of success that we think we are capable of, will be based on our ability to grow in terms of trust, not just individually but in each other and the leadership that we are able to develop in terms of guys. being lined up and leaning on each other,” Grant said.
The Flyers’ rise appears to point to their first NCAA tournament since Archie Miller’s final season in 2016-17.
Dayton fires all five starters from a team that won 24 games last season, including victories over eventual national champion Kansas and Miami, which went to the Elite Eight.
The young Flyers struggled growing amid last season’s success — three straight losses to Massachusetts-Lowell, Lipscomb and Austin Peay — but the experience should help them progress this year.
DaRon Holmes, the 2021-22 A-10 Rookie of the Year, returns with former Georgia transfer Toumani Camara to give Dayton what should be one of the best frontcourts in the nation.
Point guard Malachi Smith is back after a regular freshman season and will team up with Kobe Elvis in the backcourt. Forward RJ Blakney also returns to the starting lineup, with Kobe Brea and Mustapha Amzil returning to give Dayton depth off the bench.
Sports great Tyrone Baker should make an impact after his transfer from Georgia and rookie Mike Sharavjamts, the first Mongolian citizen to earn a Division I scholarship, should give the Flyers length and a good shot from the perimeter.
HOLMES ON THE RISE
Holmes arrived at Dayton as the highest-ranked rookie in program history and lived up to the billing in his first season.
The 6-foot-10 forward from Goodyear, Arizona, made an impact at both ends of the field, leading the Flyers in scoring with 12.8 points per game while averaging 6.1 rebounds. Holmes was second nationally in shooting 64.9 percent from the floor and broke Dayton’s single-season blocked shots record with 81.
“He’s a guy who had to kind of anchor our defense as a rim protector, I think his confidence and understanding of that role has really grown,” Grant said. “And he continues to do so now as a real sophomore, a young man trying to figure it out.”
One of the reasons Dayton had success with such a young team last season was their ability to defend.
The Flyers were 39th in adjusted defense, according to KenPom.com, and 15th nationally in scoring defense, holding the teams at 61.2 points per game.
A year of experience in Grant’s system should only make Dayton better defensively this year.
Dayton has two glaring areas it needs to shore up this season: turnovers and free throws.
The Flyers coughed the ball 12.4 times per game last season to finish 154th in Division I, which isn’t all that surprising for such a young team. A year of experience should help in this area.
Dayton also finished 284th in free throw percentage, hitting 68.2 percent from the line.
Dayton will have some tough first tests before entering its A-10 schedule.
The Flyers’ second game of the season will be against an SMU team that won 24 games last season and a trip to Las Vegas to play UNLV comes four days later. Dayton also opens the Battle 4 Atlantis against Wisconsin with potential matches against No. 5 Kansas, No. 11 Tennessee, Southern California, North Carolina State and Butler.
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FILE – Dayton forward Daron Holmes II (15) shoots past Belmont center Nick Muszynski during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game on November 28, 2021 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Holmes, La A-10 rookie of the year in 2021-22, returns with former Georgia transfer Toumani Camara to give Dayton what should be one of the best frontcourts in the country. (AP Photo/Jacob M. Langston, File)
FILE – Dayton coach Anthony Grant watches the team take on Belmont during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Nov. 28, 2021, in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Grant has been gaining momentum at Dayton over the past five seasons, taking the Flyers on the cusp of the NCAA Tournament last year despite being one of the youngest teams in the country. A breakthrough could take place this year. (AP Photo/Jacob M. Langston, File)