Dayton had arguably the best college basketball team in the country last season and ended the season with nothing to show for it. No conference tournament crown. No NCAA Tournament wins. Nothing to raise into the rafters.
But, for the second year in a row, Joey Gruden will try and give UD Nation that well-deserved championship crown. Only this time with former players, in front of zero diehard fans.
This year’s rendition of The Basketball Tournament is a short car ride from home for most of the players, in nearby Columbus. The final rounds were originally set to be a home-court advantage for the Red Scare, at UD Arena, but because of COVID-19, the whole thing was moved to Ohio’s capital.
“I think the biggest advantage is getting everyone to the tournament by car, for the most part,” Gruden said. “Since there are no fans, I think this is a true test of talent and team.”
The son of Jay Gruden, who leads Washington’s NFL team, Joey has coaching in his veins. He walked onto his dad’s alma mater’s basketball team in 2014 and lasted three seasons with the Flyers. After graduating in 2017, he made his way over to Louisville to get his Master’s degree and join Chris Mack’s squad as a graduate assistant. That is where he met Ryan McMahon.
“I coached Ryan at Louisville for the last two years and he’s one of the best shooters I’ve seen, so he was a no brainer” Gruden said about putting McMahon on the team.
Although Louisville is two and a half hours away from Dayton, he fit into the squad perfectly. The Red Scare needed a big three-point shooter, and he is just that.
Last season, McMahon ranked 28th in ORtg, 31st in TS%, 43rd in 3PT%, and 59th in eFG% per Ken Pomeroy.
The Cardinals also had their tournament hopes pulled away from them. They finished the season ranked 14th in the country and were projected as a top four seed.
“I got my last college basketball experience taken from me,” McMahon said. “I’m treating this tournament like it’s my NCAA Tournament.”
Two Dayton players that would’ve been on their own tournament squad are also on Red Scare: Third Team All-Atlantic 10 guard Trey Landers and two time All-Academic Atlantic 10 member Ryan Mikesell.
Just like McMahon, Landers is another great shooter. He finished the season ranked 20th in 2PT%, 43rd in eFG%, 83rd in TS% and 93rd in ORtg.
Although Obi Toppin stole all the spotlight, Landers was named Dayton’s Most Improved Player in 2019-20, going from an ORtg of 104 in 2018-19 to 119.7 in 2019-20.
Fellow 2020 graduate Ryan Mikesell was a stalwart of Dayton basketball, playing 118 games and starting 87 of those for his hometown team over four seasons. As a senior, he ranked 46th in the country at 2PT%.
Mikesell ultimately ended up making two NCAA Tournaments as a Flyer but never came out with a victory.
“We were having one of the best seasons in the history of the program and it just came to end so it will always sting a little bit when you think about it.” Mikesell said.
Players such as Devin Oliver, Jalen Robinson and Kyle Davis had their One Shining Moment at Dayton, though. They were all members of the 2013-14 team that made the Elite 8.
“It helped me develop the love for the city because we wouldn’t have went that far if it wasn’t for the city and all the fans supporting us and being at all our games cheering us on,” Davis said.
Oliver was known as a force down low, and Robinson and Davis were bench pieces on that team. That was just the start of Kyle Davis’s Dayton career and his love for the city. He would go on to be one of the best Flyers of the decade, winning Atlantic 10 Sixth Man of the Year and being named to the Atlantic 10 All-Defensive Team in 2016-17.
Former All-Big Ten player Trevor Thompson and VCU legend Justin Tillman round out the team.
The Red Scare will begin action on Wednesday, July 8 at 2 p.m. EST on ESPN.