Friday, April 2, 2010

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: At the NIT -- The Last Waltz?

by Ray Floriani

NEW YORK CITY - It was championship number three. Dayton defeated North Carolina 79-68 to win the 73rd NIT at Madison Square Garden. The Flyers previously won in 1962 and ‘68.

Madison Square Garden, NYC
The skies may have been Carolina Blue...
...but the sun shined on Dayton

The factors and numbers from a 70 (UNC 72 Dayton 68) possession game:

North Carolina9449132721

Dayton had an outstanding offensive showing but the staples of defense and poise were crucial for the Atlantic Ten representatives. The Tar Heels were solid from the perimeter shooting 8 of 20 (40%) from beyond the arc. Junior forward Will graves did appreciable damage with a game high 25 points punctuated with a 7 of 13 performance from downtown. In the stretch when Dayton finally achieved game winning separation, the percentages from the perimeter caught up with UNC, a 26% three point shooting team in four prior NIT contests. Flyers did a significant job inside the arc limiting the Tar Heels to a 44% (18 of 41) night on two point field goals.

Turnovers, those forced by Dayton, was a significant factor. Brian Gregory’s club forced 10 first half TOs (a 26% rate) en route to a 45-32 halftime lead. Carolina cared for the ball better the final twenty minutes (only 5 turnovers) which helped get them back in it. A 7-0 opening run the first two minutes after intermission was very significant as well.

In the end that Dayton offensive efficiency was supported by a creditable 35% from three and of greater note, 62% (18 of 29) from two point range as the Flyers attacked the basket with a vengeance.

At the half UNC enjoyed a 38%-21% edge in offensive rebounding percentage. Dayton hit the boards harder the second half limiting the Tar Heels to two offensive boards the final 20 minutes and securing the edge on the offensive glass.

The double figure scorers and efficiency. The Martin Manley and NBA efficiency model adds points, rebounds, made shots, blocked shots, steals, and assists while subtracting turnovers and missed shots.

Marcus Johnson20160.533
Chris Johnson14181.06
Chris Wright14210.750
Paul Williams16170.654

North CarolinaPts.RtgMin.
Will Graves25170.567
Deon Thompson13180.581
Larry Drew II12110.333
Tyler Zeller1150.217

Dayton numbers were solid across the board. Chris Johnson’s efficiency per minute metric was on a ’superstar’ level. Johnson added 9 boards in a 17 minute outing that was limited due to a hip injury suffered in the game. Drew II of UNC had 8 assists but his 6 turnovers were detrimental. Tyler Zeller, the tar Heels 7-foot soph who came on strong in the NIT, scored in doubles but his efficiency was hurt by a shutout in the rebounding department in a 23 minute evening.

Not in the box score. Deon Thompson set an NCAA record in the final. It was the UNC senior’s 152nd career game breaking the record shared by Kentucky’s Wayne turner (1996-99) and Walter Hodge of Florida (2006-09).

Not in the Box Score Part Two. Dayton led 17-8 in second chance points. A key stat considering rebounding was a Flyer concern entering the final.

The last...waltz? With talk of NCAA expansion to 96 teams the idea the NIT might have seen its last tournament was a topic of discussion. Both coaches felt the NIT being phased out would be unfortunate. As Brian Gregory said, “Dayton built its national brand name (years ago) here in the NIT at Madison Square Garden.”

Dayton is tempo free. Dayton assistant Jon Borovich said the Flyers study tempo free statistics closely. “Coach (Brian) Gregory will bring them up in staff meetings citing turnover rates and points per possession,” Borovich said before Tuesday’s semifinal. “We chart possessions on the bench as a staff and points per possession and other (tempo free) stats we pay close attention to.”

All Tournament...
Delroy JamesRhode Island
Will GravesNorth Carolina
Deon ThompsonNorth Carolina
Marcus JohnsonDayton
Most Outstanding Player - Chris Johnson Dayton

“You can’t measure heart and this team had the biggest heart of any team I coached” - Dayton coach Brian Gregory

“We just didn’t finish the job….I thought Brian’s (Gregory) team was so active, you just have to congratulate them.” - UNC coach Roy Williams

Dayton players greet their fans

The Fans. “It was like a home game,” Gregory said,” our fans are absolutely great and we put them through a lot this year.” Dayton players truly appreciated their outstanding and passionately devoted followers. Part of the celebration saw the players recognize the band and cheerleaders for their great support. They then went into the stands at the Garden to personally say thanks to their fans. The exclamation point on a wonderful night for Dayton and its faithful.

Flyer squad poses with
the Dayton Cheering Squad

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