By: Steve Maloney – Columnist, Senior
Embrace this moment. Embrace this feeling. Remember it. Realize we belong here.
When the University of Dayton men’s basketball team was designated as an 11 seed in this year’s NCAA tournament, I was pleasantly surprised, but I think we can all admit that even 11 was generous, given our tournament resume.
Sure, we can talk about how the tournament committee didn’t want us playing a home game in the First Four at UD Arena, or that we were set up for failure with a first round matchup with a Big 10 opponent, Ohio State.
But when you scratch under the surface of the situation, you might begin to realize that all of this just makes sense.
This is the team of second chances.
Let’s start with the OSU game. You’ve got the obvious battle for Ohio between David and Goliath (as far as student population goes). You’ve got Jordan Sibert, an OSU transfer, having a chance to revamp his collegiate career and show the Buckeyes he belongs on the big stage.
And then of course there’s UD head coach Archie Miller battling his former superior, Thad Matta.
It’s a match made for the tournament, and it undoubtedly lived up to the hype.
I was watching the game at my house on the 400 block of Kiefaber and I thought it was so cool when Aaron Craft missed that heave and people ran out of their houses to high-five and cheer. After immediately consuming a celebratory beverage, I didn’t think it could get much better. Boy was I wrong.
The couple days before our bout with Syracuse, I was still running off the euphoria of beating OSU, a school I’ve never liked. It just felt so great and so right. As the Saturday evening game approached, my friends and I started to compare the two teams.
The conclusion was similar to that of the previous game: UD needs to play very well, while Syracuse needs to play sub-par basketball.
In my opinion, that’s exactly what happened. The composure and heart the Flyers exhibited for 40 minutes was inspiring, and while the talent of the Orange was without question at a higher level, we learned that talent alone doesn’t win games in March.
This team has been admittedly tough to watch at certain points this season. For a while, it seemed like coach Miller just closed his eyes and picked five guys to put on the court with the way they played. But that’s all in the past.
A group of close-knit guys who were counted out before the tournament even started taught us to love Dayton basketball again. I love seeing Matt Kavanaugh playing well after getting a second chance.
Vee Sanford is obviously doing big things after transferring from Georgetown. These guys have been brought together for a reason, and we are seeing it all unfold in front of our eyes.
We’ve already made national headlines not only with our wins on the court, but our style of celebration on campus.
Looking back, that feeling of beating OSU pales in comparison to the jubilation and adrenaline this campus generated after defeating Syracuse.
My roommates and I were lucky enough to have the celebration on our front lawn, and during the festivities, as many people would later say, I have never been more proud to go to this university.
We showed the country who we are. We showed people that we can hang with the best, and that we have the best school president by far in Daniel J. Curran. Get ready for Thursday, UD, and let’s beat the Stanford Cardinal.
And I pray to the dear Lord that we might celebrate in similar fashion, although hopefully with less pepper spray.