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So now, in theory, they mean something. Dayton put the hammer to UMass 78-50 in the campus site games to showcase the tremendous ability that they do have. UMass is a pretty dreadful team, but the Flyers plowed through them with a balanced attack that saw 11 different players score. Xavier, meanwhile, spent the campus site round resting and hoping that Kenny Frease' back wouldn't continue to act up. While it appears the big man will be ready on Friday, the game will actually hinge outside the arc.
Xavier and Dayton actually play a similar style of basketball, both teams average 67 possessions per game, but their execution of it is different. Despite Dayton's excellent freshman guard, Juwan Staten, they still manage to turn the ball over nearly 14 times a game, over 20% of their possessions. That isn't good. Xavier capitalizes on its 67 possessions by scoring on 53.5% of them, Dayton scores on only 51.4% of theirs. That difference, though it seems small, equates to about six points per game.
Where Dayton really lags behind Xavier is simply their ability to put the ball in the hoop. Comparing the true shooting percentages (an incorporation of all the standard three) shows Dayton trailing Xavier 50.1% to 56.3%. While Xavier's mark leaves them 38th in the nation, Dayton's mires them deep in the 280s.
How much this will all matter this game is up for debate. The old cliche says that it is hard to beat a team three times in one season. Dayton has played Xavier tough once by forcing the Musketeers to be more careless than they normally are, and once by shooting the lights out. The Flyers have the added impetus of playing for their tournament lives each time they step onto the court now. Expect this to be another hard-fought game.
Keys to the game:
Stay efficient- Xavier is where it is because its guards have kept the team running smoothly. Dayton disrupted that in the last meeting and it showed. If Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons take care of the ball, Dayton will have to have a hot night to stay close.
Try guarding Chris Johnson- Johnson is averaging barely 11ppg against the rest of the world and 19 against the Musketeers. Jeff Robinson would seem to have the ideal combination of size and speed to stay with Johnson, but Robinson has to be mentally in the game for that to happen.
Get to the line- Xavier has taken 51 free throws against Dayton so far this year and made 42 of them. That kind of effectiveness only comes from a team that is aggressive getting to the rim. If Lyons and Holloway are attacking early, it's going to be a long afternoon for the Flyers.
It's never easy to beat a team three times in a season, it's even more difficult to beat a rival three times in a season. Dayton has everything to play for tomorrow and if Brian Gregory wants to keep his job, he'll get that message through to his team. Call this one a 3.5.