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Miller likes pace of revamped practice schedule

Dayton basketball coach Archie Miller always felt rushed in years past with practices starting around Oct. 15 and the first exhibition games coming in early November.

Of course, every other program faced the same dilemma. But that’s changed now that the NCAA is allowing coaches to begin practice 40 days before the season-opener, giving them 30 practices in that span.

What was it like before?

“You’re hoping in those early exhibition games that you don’t face a crazy zone — or do they press? Because in most cases, some of those things aren’t in yet. You’re limited on your offensive packages. There are only a certain amount of things you can have in,” said Miller, whose team started practice Saturday.

“Not only should we be more prepared, we should be better at what we’re trying to accomplish earlier in the season.”

The NCAA already allowed coaches limited time on the court with their teams in the offseason. And the extended preseason should be a boon for freshmen, giving them a longer window to get acclimated.

“The biggest thing for our freshmen is they had a summer period to get (integrated). We spent the majority of the six weeks of the second session when our entire team was here kind of focused on shell offense, working on our break, working on our transition, working on our motion a little bit,” Miller said.

“But it always comes down to the same things. Early in the season, it will be sloppy, there will be a lot of fouling, and you have to look for ways to clean some of that up.”

Miller is optimistic about his team. The Flyers finished 17-14 last year (six losses were by a combined 10 points) and have four starters back, counting the return of center Matt Kavanaugh from a suspension.

A five-person panel of ESPN analysts almost unanimously picked the Flyers to finish fifth in the Atlantic 10 with VCU the favorite. The A-10 preseason poll will be announced Tuesday.

“I like our talent and I like our chemistry,” Miller said. “This is the first team our staff has had the ability to coach where we may be two deep at every position. We’ve really had to mix and match some odd lineups at times, and I really felt like our (lack of) depth hurt us at times our first couple years.

“This year, there’s an influx of new bodies. From an optimism standpoint, I hope our depth gives a chance to explore our (fast-paced) style of play a little more.”

Albers honored: Bucky Albers won the yearly UD Alumni Association Special Achievement Award for a sports writing career that spanned 56 years at Dayton newspapers. Past winners include Super Bowl-winning coaches Chuck Noll and Jon Gruden.

UD Athletic director Tim Wabler, former coaches Don Donoher and Mike Kelly and Bengals owner Mike Brown all recommended Albers for the award.

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