No. 8 Auburn (7-1) will have one of its toughest home games of the season when Dayton (5-3) comes to town on Saturday at 7:30 inside Auburn Arena. The Tigers have won three straight games, the latter two were massive blowouts against lesser competition.
Still, the Tigers are beating opponents by about 27 points per game this season. They are the best team in the country right now at blocking shots and forcing turnovers. They also have a very winnable schedule for the rest of the nonconference season. Dayton will be among the toughest remaining games.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Flyers.
Dayton is consistently a strong program — one that went to the NCAA Tournament in the final four years of Archie Miller’s tenure that ended in 2017. They were below .500 last season, but will have a fringe shot of making the NCAA Tournament this year — and beating Auburn would go a very long way toward that.
This season, they have a great win against Butler in the Battle 4 Atlantis. The only three losses have come to No. 4 Virginia, Oklahoma, and a ranked Mississippi State team. They’re coming off a 39-point home win over Detroit Mercy.
The Flyers run their offense at a slow pace and almost never take 3-pointers. Only about 24.7 percent of their offense comes from behind the arc, while 59 percent comes from 2-point shots (15th in Division-I). They’re very efficient with their inside shooting. Ryan Mikesell is 17-of-24 from inside the arc and Obi Toppin, a freshman, is 44-of-64.
Dayton is coached by Anthony Grant, who might be familiar to area fans. He was the head coat at Alabama for six years, until 2015. He took the Crimson Tide to the NCAA Tournament in 2012.
LAST TIME THEY PLAYED
This game is part of a contract — one that started last year when Auburn travelled to Dayton for a 73-60 road win over a not-so-great Flyers team last season. After falling behind in the first 10 minutes, the Tigers took control of the game. Mustapha Heron led the scoring with 21 points, while Chuma Okeke had 15 points and eight rebounds. Dayton turned the ball over 19 times.
“I think last year, this game was really sort of the kick-off, if you will, of when we started to kind of come into our own,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said on Thursday. “We went there 4-1. We had lost to Temple in the Charleston Classic, and still, lots of uncertainty about our team, and we went there and played awfully well to be able to beat them start to finish.”
HOW AUBURN WINS
The way Auburn wins any basketball game is starting to become a pretty set formula. This is a three-point reliant team. They have 43.4 percent of their scoring from 3. One reason why Auburn has been so successful is its ability to rebound the ball off of their misses. It gives them more chances and increases time of possession.
The Tigers have been able to impose their defensive will on a lot of lesser teams. Dayton is not a lesser team in the same mold as a Saint Peter’s or UNC Asheville. They probably won’t block double-digit shots. But if Auburn wins the battle in the paint, there’s no way they don’t win this game, given the ability of this Auburn team to shoot 3-pointers, in addition to all that.
STAT TO KNOW
For all the concerns that Auburn has with its free-throw shooting, Dayton is actually a worse free throw shooting team. They make just 65.1 percent from the line, which places them at No. 11 in the Atlantic-10. Ironically the worst free-throw shooting team in that league, Saint Louis, is also the best team in the A-10 this season. Auburn has similar issues to Dayton, making 65.9 percent from the charity stripe.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Dayton really only plays a seven-man rotation, significantly different than Auburn. But there’s one player that’s definitely stood out so far this season. Toppin is just a freshman and is making his shots at an inside clip — making nearly 70 percent of the shots he takes. The 6-foot-9, 220-pound forward is also fairly good at blocking shots and rebounding the basketball. Apparently in that game against Detroit, he dunked the ball eight times!
(All advanced stats are via kenpom.com)