By: NATHAN VICAR – STAFF WRITER
How does a team go from beginning a season with a victory off a last second three from redshirt junior guard Jordan Sibert against Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, to winning third place in the EA Sports Maui Invitational?
Over Thanksgiving break, students enjoyed time with old friends, ate turkey, watched football and went Black Friday shopping. Hopefully, they also watched a promising University of Dayton men’s basketball team shine in Maui.
Luckily, I was in Maui to witness the tournament, and the experience was phenomenal.
The Flyers had a tough draw going into the tournament. The team started play against Gonzaga University, ranked 11th at the time, and were lined up to face either Baylor University, then 18th, or Dayton’s sister school, Chaminade University.
“We are hoping to just learn about ourselves during our time here,” head coach Archie Miller said. “This tournament will show us what we can do and who we can compete with. Our goal is to just play well and win games.”
I had no clue what to expect from the Flyers going into the tournament for Monday’s game. After barely beating IPFW and then handling former Flyers coach Brian Gregory at Georgia Tech by 10, I was wondering what team would show up in Maui.
The team that did received attention of many national college analysts and fans.
I was able to see how Miller can be unpredictable on what he is willing to do to win. While most teams stick to their five starters, Dayton uses its bench to its advantage and it has been working. Everyone stepped up at the right time, and presented plenty of leaders.
The Flyers pride themselves on rebounding and moving the ball. Progressively, the team showed they can do both in a tournament that featured teams much bigger both in size and length.
But that didn’t stop the Flyers from backing down.
Overall, the biggest takeaways from the tournament I have involve the victories over Gonzaga and the University of
California, Berkeley, and the fans that made it happen.
UD fans came together Monday before the game against Gonzaga for a pre-game meal sponsored by the alumni association and the booster club. The fans that came to Maui were the loudest and most passionate at the tournament.
Most of the fans were alumni and locals who have been Flyer fans for years. They brought signs of notable Dayton people, including UD President Dr. Daniel Curran, and encouraging words like “Let’s Go Flyers.”
The crowds supported the team with chants of “We are! U-D!” after wins, and spelled out Dayton during timeouts.
The support did not go unnoticed by the players and coaches either.
After the Gonzaga game, senior forward Devin Oliver made sure to comment on how the crowd impacted the team.
“We were told that we sold the most tickets out of all the teams at the tournament,” Oliver said. “To have such a powerful fan base means a lot to us as players. In such a smaller gym, it’s like being at home.”
Head coach Archie Miller echoed his comments.
“It was awesome for our fans to take over the civic center and our games,” Miller said. “It’s what I don’t think a lot of people understand, how well we travel and what a great job they do of supporting our team.”
Dayton proved themselves yet again in a close loss to Baylor, falling by one point after a last second shot and tip-in attempt both did not fall. Despite the loss, Dayton looked athletic, strong and tough against a similar team.
And even after the loss, fans did not hold their heads down. They showed their respect for Baylor the following
afternoon after the Bears walked into the gym, prior to the tournament’s championship game, standing up and giving
Baylor a standing ovation and rooted for them to beat Syracuse University.
After beating California in the third place game, the Flyers showed their own appreciation for the crowd. Miller pointed to the crowd and the team cleared the bench and made its way into the stands, high fiving as many fans as they could and giving thanks for the support.
The fans showed me how close we are as Flyers even after we graduate. The university preaches community and this tournament echoed hat concept.
To leave 2-1 after playing three tough opponents in three days and finishing in third overall of the eight squads is quite an accomplishment. UD left a lot of fans in attendance excited to see what the team is capable of in the future.
I was able to observe a team that quickly changed itself, from almost losing to IPFW to a team that is worthy of its top 25 ranking and playing in March.
This is the best team I’ve seen in my four years at Dayton. The Flyers are playing a great brand of basketball and showed the nation what they are about as a team.
This is looking like a team that was able to use a last second three as its launching point, and one fans can be excited about whether they were in Maui or not.