By Paul Gotham
Ask Dayton’s Archie Miller about the priorities on a basketball court for his team, and he wastes little time pointing to rebounding. The third-year coach has placed has placed a premium on his teams getting to those fifty-fifty balls which carom off the rim or glass.
Not surprisingly, UD’s Flyers (12-4/0-1) rank at or near the top of all rebounding statistical categories in the Atlantic 10. The Flyers lead the conference in limiting opponents to 30.9 boards per game. Their rebound margin of +5.7 is tied for second with St. Bonaventure behind St. Joseph’s and their rebound percentage of 54.2 is second only to the Bonnies.
Devin Oliver paces the Flyers on the boards. The senior forward’s 7.3 rebounds leads the Flyers and ranks 10th in the A-10.
“At the end of the day, rebounding is about wanting the ball and it’s also about the ability to get it,” Miller said during this week’s Atlantic 10 conference call. “He runs balls down. He has a great motor. Defensively he goes and gets the ball.”
Oliver has corralled double-digits boards twice this year, but more importantly he has grabbed seven or more in 11 of Dayton’s sixteen contests.
He leads the Flyers in minutes played at 29.3, and his rebound rate (or the percentage of missed shots a player rebounds while on the floor) of 16.51 leads all Flyers who have played 15 or more minutes per game.
“He’s got a knack for it,” Miller continued. “Part of it is his talent, but he’s got a nose for it.”
Of Dayton’s four losses, two occurred when Oliver grabbed less than seven rebounds. In a game where he was limited to 20 minutes because of foul trouble, Oliver grabbed six rebounds in the 67-66 loss to Baylor in the Maui Invitational. Oliver was also limited to six boards in UD’s loss at Illinois State.
“When we rebound, and when Devin rebounds, we’re better,” Miller stated.
Oliver has steadily improved from 2.3 rebounds as a freshman to 5.0 his sophomore year and at least seven this year and last.
“Even as a sophomore when he wasn’t as big and strong as he is now he was a very good rebounder for us.”
At 6-7 225 pounds, Oliver doesn’t fit the prototypical build for a rebounder. But as Fordham’s Tom Pecora notes, rebounding is more than size.
“He pursues every rebound that’s out there, and that’s what the great ones do. They have a nose for the ball, and they’re relentless.”
Dayton and Fordham square off Wednesday night. Both teams will be looking for their first conference win. Fordham lost at Duquesne and to Richmond last week. UD fell to St. Louis.
Pecora knows his Rams will need to keep Oliver and his teammates off the glass.
“They’re a very good rebounding team at both ends of the floor, so that’s going to be a key for us trying to contain them on the glass,” Pecora stated. “They have a nose for the ball, and they’re relentless. Rebounding and defense are 80 percent desire and heart and 20 percent technique.”
The game is the first of two Dayton plays on the road this week. The Flyers will travel to Richmond Saturday. UD lost to St. Louis at home in their conference opener.
“Any time you’re in conference play, it’s exciting,” Miller said. “To go on the road in conference play and get a win? That’s the hardest thing to do. We got our work cut for us this week.”
Dayton and Fordham tipoff at 9 p.m. The game will be televised on Sports New York (SNY) and WHIO.
Paul Gotham is the founder, owner, editor and lead writer at Pickin’ Splinters. Paul is the Communications and Media Director of the New York Collegiate Baseball League. He is a contributor at USA Today and member of the USBWA. You can follow Paul on Twitter @PickinSplinters.