Archie Miller’s Dayton Flyers are locked and loaded to make another deep run in the NCAA Tournament this season. The defending Atlantic 10 champs lost just one rotation player from last year, and their sharpshooting backcourt tandem of Scoochie Smith and Charles Cooke are determined to build on the most successful regular season in the 112-year history of Dayton basketball.
Smith and Cooke bring their east coast swagger to the Midwest for one more go around this season. Smith has been a cornerstone for the Flyers dating back to their run to the Elite Eight in 2014, after being passed over by a number of big-name schools who had concerns about his rail-thin physique.
Cooke, who grew up just 60 miles down the road from Smith in Trenton, NJ, transferred to Dayton following two seasons at James Madison. The 6’5 guard showed no trouble stepping into his new role with his new team last season, as he led the Flyers in scoring, averaging 15.6 points per game. Cooke also established himself as a legitimate perimeter threat, shooting an impressive 40 percent from beyond the arc.
Smith, Cooke and the rest of the Flyers are currently in the middle of a 10-day exhibition tour of Spain. Dayton kicked off the tour on Monday with a 64-58 defeat at the hands of the Spanish Select team. Dayton fans should not be discouraged by this result, as it appears Miller was more focused on getting the whole team involved — every scholarship player played at least 12 minutes — than going full throttle for the victory. Smith and Cooke tallied 10 points a piece that game.
The biggest bright spot for Dayton on Monday came from sophomore forward Josh Cunningham, who notched a double-double in just 24 minutes, contributing 12 points and 11 rebounds. Cunningham sat out last season after transferring from Bradley, and he appears ready to fill the void in the Flyers’ starting lineup after Dyshawn Pierre’s graduation. Cunningham shot an efficient 4-6 shooting from the field against the Spanish Select team, while also knocking down 4-6 shots from the line.
Monday was Cunningham’s first live action with the Flyers, and Dayton fans have to be encouraged by what they saw. He gives his team a solid third scoring option behind Smith and Cooke. If he can step into Pierre’s role from last season, the Flyers could once again find themselves atop the A-10.
From a talent and experience perspective, this could very well be Miller’s best team in his six years at Dayton. Smith and the rest of this year’s seniors have a chance to make history by becoming the first class in Dayton history to make the NCAA Tournament in four consecutive years.
With great talent, however, comes great expectations, and that is exactly what Dayton is up against this season. Anything less than another trip to the Dance will be considered a disappointment, and you can bet that Smith and Cooke will do everything they can to keep that from happening.