By: Jonathon Kostoff – Staff Writer
Minutes before the NCAA Tournament bracket was released on Selection Sunday, ESPN projected the Flyers as a nine-seed, NBC Sports a nine, and CBS Sports pegged the team as an eight. The national media thought they were a lock for the tournament after the regular season.
Hours earlier, Dayton head coach Archie Miller spoke with confidence after an Atlantic 10 Conference title game loss to Virginia Commonwealth University Sunday.
“To go to back-to-back NCAA tournaments … and to build two in a row is awesome … this loss will sting, but the selection show will reenergize us,” Miller said.
Little did Miller, as well as the team, coaching staff and Dayton fans everywhere know, they actually squeaked their way into the Big Dance.
The selection committee thought differently than many bracket experts as they handed the Flyers the final at-large bid in the tournament, forcing them to play a Wednesday First Four game at home versus Mountain West Conference regular season champion Boise State University. Tipoff is set tentatively for 9:10 p.m. on truTV.
The team watched the selection show at Burke’s Bar in Yonkers, New York, after the A-10 championship game. As the announcement flashed across the TV, the room flipped from pure jubilation to shock.
Players and coaches scratched their heads.
“We were a little confused,” sophomore guard Scoochie Smith said. “Everyone had to re-read it, and then we realized we’ll be playing in a couple of days. There wasn’t much excitement.”
Smith relayed the room’s double-take. The players initially thought it meant Boise State faced a team in Dayton. Little did they know, they had been snubbed.
Sophomore guard Kyle Davis felt “disrespected” by Dayton’s seeding. The Flyers believed the other national bracketologists, but according to the committee, everyone was off.
Numerous teams leapfrogged the Flyers comfortably into the tournament including the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of Texas, and the University of Georgia. UCLA and Texas’ resumes seem weak in comparison to the Flyers.
UCLA finished 20-13 with an RPI of 49, 2-8 record on the road and a record of 2-8 versus the RPI top 50.
Texas finished 20-13 with a 42nd- ranked RPI, 4-7 record on the road and a record of 3-12 versus the RPI top 50.
Dayton finished 25-8 with a 29th- ranked RPI, a 5-6 record on the road, and 1-3 vs. Top 50 RPI, but was 6-4 versus RPI top 75.
The Flyers have certainly been doubted before. Nobody thought the “small ball seven” could be anything after juniors Devon Scott and Jalen Robinson were dismissed from the team.
“We’ve handled so much adversity, we’ll handle this too,” redshirt senior Jordan Sibert said. “Facing challenges is what we know how to do.”
Sophomore forward Kendall Pollard knew that they were snubbed after a 25-win season, and commented immediately after he learned of the tournament pairing, saying, “we are definitely going to go into the tournament with a chip on our shoulder.”
The Flyers are an 11-seed playing a game on their home court where they have won 21 straight games.
They are playing in front of a sea of red. With so many local fans purchasing tickets months in advance to enjoy the NCAA First Four event, the city’s fans will see their Flyers inside the arena.
The Broncos enter 25-8 led by senior guard Derrick Marks. The Player of the Year in the Mountain West Conference. Marks, who led the conference in scoring just over 20 points per game, is the senior leader the team relies on having played in 128 games during his career for the Broncos.
Besides Marks, the team, under the direction of MW Conference Coach of the Year Leon Rice, plays mainly a seven-man rotation. Forwards Nick Duncan and James Webb III present some height-advantage problems for the Flyers. Webb III was also named to second team All-Conference as well as to the All-Defensive team.
The Broncos hoist up a bountiful amount of 3-pointers as 39 percent of their made shots come from behind the arc, good for 19th in the country.
Boise State, who will be matching up with Dayton for the first time in school history, has yet to win an NCAA Tournament game. The team did, however, play at UD Arena in the First Four in 2013 where they lost to La Salle University 80-71.
The winner of this matchup Wednesday night will meet the No. 11 Providence Friars out of the Big East Conference at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus. Tipoff is tentatively set for 9:57 p.m. on truTV.