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2017-18 MAC Basketball Preview: Ball State Cardinals at Dayton Flyers

The Cardinals take on the Flyers in a huge opening night game

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Dayton vs Wichita State Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Ball State Cardinals super sophomores are now juniors and excited to begin the year. They open the season on the road against a formidable opponent, the Dayton Flyers. While there are a lot of new faces on the Flyers, a win here for the Cardinals would go a long way in improving the image of the entire MAC.

Game Details

When: Friday, November 10th, 7p.m.

Where: Dayton, Ohio

Watch: Via stream at the UD website by Spectrum Sports

Listen: WLBC 104.1 in Muncie

Line: Dayton -5.5

Scouting the Flyers

Gone from last season’s team are the top 3 leading scorers and head coach Archie Miller, who is now coaching the Indiana Hoosiers. The Flyers hired a familiar face, Anthony Grant, who played for the Flyers in the 80s. While he was a member of the team, Dayton made 2 NCAA tournaments and he was a co-captain and team MVP as a senior. This isn’t his first BBQ as a coach, either. He had a successful run while head coach at VCU and Alabama, and most recently was an assistant in the NBA.

Returning for the Flyers on the court is Xeyrius Williams, who averaged 8.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. The versatile 6’9 junior shot 41.5% from beyond the arch last season. 6’5 guard Darrell Davis started 16 games for the Flyers and shot 38.5% from beyond the arch. Josh Cunningham was injured for most of last season, but is a big body at 6’7, 233 lbs and was a very good rebounder as a freshman at Bradley.

This is a tall team that likes to shoot the three. In their exhibition game against Ohio Dominican, Williams and Cunningham combined for 24 rebounds and the team attempted 22 three pointers.

Kostas Antetokounmpo had 6 points and 4 rebounds in the game. He is the brother of Giannis and Thanasis of NBA fame.

Scouting the Cardinals

The super sophomores are a year older. Tayler Persons, Tahjai Teague, and Trey Moses form a great core, along with under-hearlded, do everything senior guard Francis Kiapway. There are also some new faces, like 6’6 freshman Zach Gunn and 6’1 frosh Ishmael El-Amin.

Every season is different but I expect the Cardinals to try and work the ball around the perimeter, and from the inside out to get some good looks beyond the arch.

In their exhibition game, Tahjai Teague had a big game, scoring 13 points and 12 rebounds. Zach Gun also had a double double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.

Trey Moses, who does a good job controlling the paint on both sides of the court didn’t play in the exhibition game and has been held out of practice. Even if he plays, his minutes will be limited according to this article from The Daily News.

Players to Watch

Tayler Persons, guard, Ball State: The 6’3 guard was number 2 on our best players in the MAC list for good reason. He can control the tempo break down bigger defenders off the dribble. He averaged 15.5 points per game last season.

Tahjai Teague, forward, Ball State: The 6’8 Teague can get after it on both ends of the court and has a high ceiling. As a freshman, he shot 50.6% from the floor and 40.5% from three.

Xeyrius Williams, forward, Dayton: The 6’9 Williams shot 41.5% from beyond the arch and had 36 blocks last season.

Matej Svoboda, forward, Dayton: Svoboda is from Czech Republic and I am not going to pretend to be an expert on his game. He scored 13 points in the exhibition game and was only 1-5 from three. I have a feeling we’ll see some high point totals out of this guy in his career.

Keys to the Contest

  • These are two similar teams with good height and an ability to hit threes. Both teams need to hustle and make sure they don’t get embarrassed on the glass.
  • Ball State must protect the ball, especially early. Dayton is a tough place to play and the Cardinals might not be able to recover momentum if they lose it early.
  • The Flyers will likely get their share of open looks on the perimeter. If they are hitting from outside, there wont be much the Cardinals can do, other than try and match them shot for shot.


I think both teams will be chucking up some jumpers, as it will be tough sledding with all the trees packing down in the lane. While the Dayton home court advantage, plus the potential loss of All-Defensive player Trey Moses, scares me, I think the heady, steady play of Tayler Persons will be the game changer. The Cardinals pull off the mild upset, 75-74.