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Zach Pekale | | March 11, 2020

Obi Toppin says chemistry, depth are key to Dayton's March success

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Obi Toppin might make the most noise of anyone on the Dayton basketball roster. But the uproar generated by a flashy dunk shouldn't drown out the noise of the assist or the defensive stop made to set him up on the other end. The way the Flyers' high-flying 6-9 sophomore sees it, everyone on his team has a voice.

"From the beginning of the season, we knew it was going to be a very dangerous team just because we’d seen how bought-in everybody was going into the season," Toppin tells Andy Katz on the latest episode of March Madness 365. "Everybody was dedicated to what the coaches were asking us to do and everybody knew their role on the team."

Toppin's interview with Katz begins about 6 minutes, 50 seconds into the podcast. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi and broadcaster Dan Dakich also joined this week's episode.

The Flyers haven't lost since Dec. 21. They're 29-2, fresh off a perfect 18-0 regular season in the A-10 and in the discussion to potentially earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. While Toppin — a national player of the year candidate — is at the center of it all, he attributes his success to the Flyers' collective ability to soar. And that's what he believes will make Dayton a dangerous team in March.

"We have so many different options on our team," he said. "Because of the attention that I’m getting, it’s going to open up a lot for other shooters. If I’m in the pick-and-roll with Jalen [Crutcher], they have to decide whether they have to stop the ball or collapse on me on the roll.

"We have really good shooters, really good defenders and really great playmakers on our team that help us win every single day."

There have been bumps along the way. Dayton lost by six in overtime to Kansas in the finals of the Maui Invitational in November. Three weeks later, the Flyers stumbled again in overtime, this time losing by two on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Colorado's D'Shawn Schwartz. 

The Flyers learned their lessons. Head coach Anthony Grant's team is without a loss in 20 consecutive games, playing through a nine-man rotation that ranks in the top-50 in scoring defense and 13th in scoring offense. The Flyers are college basketball's top field-goal shooting team at 52.5 percent.

Toppin leads the offensive charge, scoring 20 points per game — one of four Flyers to average double-digit points along with Crutcher (15.1), Trey Landers (10.5) and Ibi Watson (10.1). 

Grant's small-ball lineups allow his team to dictate the tempo and creates mismatches in four-guard sets, either on the perimeter or in the post. Double team the paint, and the Flyers can make opponents pay from deep. Help too much around the arc and you might just find yourself on the wrong side of Toppin's next highlight dunk. While defenses try to guess matchups, one thing is clear: You're not going to want to miss Toppin and company this month. 

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