Dayton already prepared for being one win from the biggest stage of all

NCAA Sweet 16Head coach Archie Miller congratulates his players as the final seconds expire during a game against Stanford University in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament, March 27, 2014, at the FedExForum, in Memphis, Tennessee. UD won 82-72 and advance to the Elite 8. Ethan Klosterman/Photo Editor

By: Steven Wright – Sports Editor

It wasn’t tough for University of Dayton players to find the words needed to summarize their victory over Stanford University.

“Excitement, amazing, it’s great,” sophomore forward Dyshawn Pierre said.

The win in the regional semifinals puts Dayton one step away from the school’s first berth in the Final Four since 1967, when it went on to play in the national championship game.

It’s a fact that’s tough to ignore at this point in the tournament, as few teams remain after this round. Eight to be exact.

Which means half of them will be heading to Dallas, Texas, and AT&T Stadium, April 5th and 7th and the other half will come up just short.

“It would be big, but we have a big game in the Elite Eight,” redshirt senior guard Vee Sanford said. “We’ve got to focus on that and can’t look ahead.”

Seniors like Sanford and forward Devin Oliver seemingly have more to play for right now. Their careers will end after a single loss, no matter far they advance into the tournament.

Oliver said though this senior year with the run Dayton is making is a special event that can’t be taken away.

“It’s big for our fans, the Dayton community and campus,” Oliver said. “Those guys, this run, they’ve been all over us.
Just giving us praise and supporting us has been great just to see. Moreso than just basketball, a community who will come together because of a sport, that’s just amazing. I’m just happy to be a part of it.”

And does it get any better than making a deep tournament run for Oliver?

“No way,” Oliver said. “Maybe with a national championship. This has been amazing. Mid-January, we were down in the dumps, it was tough. We stuck with it. Guys continued to fight. Look where we are now.”

So how do you ignore the pressure of what will become Dayton’s biggest game in program history in 47 years?

“I think just looking at your past success, it has been based on being consistent every day,” Oliver said. “Don’t look too far ahead. Prepare for the game like we prepared for these last three games. Just come in ready to play.”

It’s no simple task. The tournament’s top overall seed in the University of Florida, or the No. 4-seed in its region in the University of California, Los Angeles await with similar aspirations of making it to college basketball’s biggest stage.

Dayton will go into Saturday on the brink of history. A team that began 1-5 in Atlantic 10 Conference play this season is now one win away from the Final Four.

Ask any Dayton player though, and they’ll tell you this team has been playing its biggest game of the season each time it has taken the court. Saturday will be nothing new.

“We have to handle the obstacle of the day gives us and if we take care of our business,” Sanford said. “Then we’ll see what happens.”