It won’t be a homecoming game in the traditional sense for McKinley Wright. Yet Saturday’s long-awaited showdown in the Windy City might be as close as it gets for Colorado’s point guard during his Buffaloes career.
During his early teenage years, Wright lived in Chicago for three years. He has an extensive network of relatives that call Chicago home. And when the Buffaloes take on No. 13 Dayton Saturday evening, the cheering section for CU’s junior guard will take up several dozen seats at the United Center.
Adding to the subplots is that Wright originally was committed to Dayton, and the Buffs topped the Flyers nine months ago in Boulder in a hotly-contested battle in the first round of the NIT. Both programs entered the season harboring big expectations, and while the Buffs have struggled at times to meet those expectations, the Obi Toppin-led Flyers have perhaps exceeded them while surging up the AP Top 25 to the program’s highest national ranking in 51 years.
“Before the season started coach told me we were playing Dayton again, and my eyes lit up,” Wright said. “It’s going to be fun. I know a lot of those guys from when I was committed there. I’ve got a lot of family in Chicago. I’m going to have 50, 60 family members there. It will be fun.”
Toppin made an impression against the Buffs last spring, going 9-for-12 from the field and finishing with 21 points, six rebounds, and two assists in a 78-73 CU victory. After opting to return to Dayton for his redshirt sophomore season, Toppin has emerged as a potential lottery pick in the NBA draft.
Toppin is shooting a robust .639 from the field with a .414 mark on 3-pointers. Toppin scored at least 20 points in each of the first five games of the season, and he was particularly impressive during the Flyers’ three-game run through the Maui Invitational, where he shot .694 (25-for-36) from the floor and averaged 22.3 points while going 6-for-11 on 3-pointers.
However, the Buffs’ upset bid likely will not be a matter of simply slowing down Toppin. Two of Dayton’s other two starters, Trey Landers and Ryan Mikesell, in addition to top reserve Ibi Watson, all are shooting at least 50 percent from the field. As a team, Dayton is shooting .537 overall with a .396 mark on 3-pointers.
Through Thursday’s games, Dayton ranked sixth nationally in KenPom.com’s adjusted offensive efficiency.
“Obi Toppin is a terrific, terrific player,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “He has made major strides. Really can shoot the ball from three now, and he’s a really good low-post player. He’s a matchup problem, there’s no doubt about it. We’ve got our work cut out.
“But he’s not their only weapon. The thing that makes Dayton so good is they’ve got depth, they’ve got quality depth, they’re well-coached, they defend, they’re efficient on offense. They’re legit. They’re a legit top-20 team. This is an opportunity you just relish.”
No. 13 Dayton Flyers vs. CU Buffs
TIPOFF: Saturday, 4:30 p.m. MT, United Center, Chicago.
BROADCAST: TV — CBS Sports Network; Radio — 850 AM and 94.1 FM.
RECORDS: Colorado 9-2; Dayton 9-1.
COACHES: Dayton — Anthony Grant, 3rd season (44-30, 237-140 overall); Colorado — Tad Boyle, 10th season (198-125, 253-191 overall).
KEY PLAYERS: Dayton — F Obi Toppin, R-So., 20.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 2.1 apg, .639 field goal percentage; G Jalen Crutcher, Jr., 12.5 ppg, 5.5 apg; F Ryan Mikesell, Sr., 10.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg, .506 field goal percentage. Colorado — F Tyler Bey, Jr., 12.6 ppg, 10.1 rpg; G McKinley Wright, Jr., 11.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 3.9 apg; G/F D’Shawn Schwartz, Jr., 10.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg, .426 3-point percentage.
WHAT TO WATCH: Through Thursday, Dayton ranked sixth in KenPom.com’s adjusted offensive efficiency and the Buffs ranked 16th in adjusted defensive efficiency. CU likely will need its best defensive game of the year to pull off the upset.
NOTES: This will be CU’s first game in a full-time NBA arena since November of 2016, when the Buffs played two games in the Legends Classic at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. It is CU’s first game in the Chicago area since a season-opening loss at Northwestern on Nov. 21, 2003…The Buffs have won three of four games against Dayton. The teams also met on a neutral floor on Nov. 15, 2012, with CU posting a 67-57 win in the Charleston Classic…Boyle is two wins shy of his 200th victory at CU. Only Sox Walseth (261) has led the Buffs to more wins…Schwartz enjoyed a big game for CU in the Buffs’ win against Dayton in the NIT in March, hitting a career-high five 3-pointers before finishing with 19 points. Wright also scored 19 points in that matchup…Dayton owns the program’s highest ranking since the Flyers were ranked sixth in December of 1968…The Buffs will be released following the game to head home for Christmas before returning to Boulder to prepare for the Dec. 29 home date against Iona.