For the first time in school history, Detroit Mercy will end non-conference play without a win. The Titans, who are 0-13 (0-2 HL), have seemingly had nothing go their way both on the court and off. They have dealt with an abundance of issues including injuries, visa issues, car accidents and guys being left behind on trips based on coaching decisions. Every time the team seems to get a spark, the potential fire is quickly extinguished by another issue, and it truly is pushing into unprecedented territory.
While it probably wasn’t this out of sorts, Mike Davis has been in this position before taking 2017-2018 Texas Southern from 0-13 to 16-20 and a first four win in the NCAA tournament before losing to No. 1 seed Xavier. It’s not the exact same scenario as the Horizon is more competitive than the SWAC and that team had a true center in 7 foot 2 Trayvon Reed (10 PPG, 9RPG), as well as scoring 78 points per game as a team compared to UDM’s 61.8 so far.
However, that TSU team ran a lot of off ball screens to open guys up at the top of the key to go to work as well as on ball screens, running their O through 5-foot-7 Trae Jefferson (23 PPG) and 6-foot-4 Donte Clark (18 PPG) both with similar builds to Donovann Toatley and Jayden Stone of UDM. Texas Southern also had 2 6-foot-3 guards’ chip in 13 a piece, so insert Marcus Tankersley and Ryan Hurst and the similarities are kind of eerie. Again, this is not to say that it’s the same team as Toatley is not the main focal point of this offense as Jefferson was, but it does show that Davis has had success with a very similar guard rotation.
The road to redemption starts on Friday for the Titans as they travel to Indianapolis to take on IUPUI at noon. The Jaguars currently sit at 4-9 with their sole D1 win coming against former Horizon League foe Valparaiso but are ranked below the Titans by 20 spots in KenPom and 6 spots in the net.
IUPUI is atrocious defending the three and are even worse shooting it, knocking down just 22% of their shots from beyond the arc. Good three-point shooting from opponents has hurt the Titans this year so if IUPUI continues that trend the Titans have a real shot to push for their first win. They’ll have to slow down all league guard Jlynn Counter (16,4,3) and fellow guard Bryce Monroe (11 PPG) to do it, but the Titans match up much more favorably in the front court than normal especially with the true debut of forward Emmanuel Kuac on the docket who grabbed 3 rebounds in just 5 minutes against NC state. The new addition to the team in 6-11 Michael Oaks has been refreshing as well registering 3 blocks in his first 3 games in a Titan uniform and scoring 11 points in that frame.
UDM fared very well against NCSU in their last outing even without Ryan Hurst and Jayden Stone. They got 21 from Toatley off the bench and 20 from Tankersley on a combined 17-30 shooting, 14 of those shots from inside the arc. While those two are most efficient when getting to the hoop, the Titans need to shoot better as a team from 3 and need more buckets from assists (only 8 vs NCSU), but the reality is this team isn’t going to be assist heavy they’re going to score by committee which will only improve as they get healthier.
Their defense has been rapidly improved, and this help side heavy scheme will become less prone to breakdowns the less minutes guys are forced to play, especially out of position. The Alex Tchikou situation is extremely unfortunate as anytime you can’t have a former top 100 guy go it hurts you especially on defense, but Edoardo Del Cadia deserves all the praise for keeping this team from an all-out collapse. He’s had some down moments at points, but the Italian forward has stepped up immensely, finally getting back in the double-double column for the first time 10 games. He is the only player who has started every game for the Titans so as the season goes by hopefully he can transfer some of that continuity to the rest of the team.