The University of Dayton men’s basketball team celebrates knocking off Syracuse University, 55-53, in the third round of the NCAA tournament, March 22, 2014, at the First Niagara Center, in Buffalo, New York. The Flyers are in the Sweet 16 and will play in Memphis on Thursday.
By: Steven Wright – Sports Editor
Dayton is back on the college basketball map.
Making the Sweet 16 is important tfor any program, but the fashion in which the University of Dayton men’s basketball team fought its way there gave it the credibility it needed.
“Credibility. You know, I think the big thing is credibility and what we do works,” Miller said. “We didn’t walk into a place and have just a stockpile of young kids in our program. We inherited eight scholarship players, four of which were seniors.
“We never deviated from developing the guys we had. We never deviated from the plan of bringing guys in to fit the style of play. And we never deviated from evolving and getting better each day and sticking with the plan 365 days a year.”
The plan has worked quicker than expected.
In his third year as head coach, Miller’s team has made it to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. To do so, his team had to win nine of its last 10 in the regular season, and then knock off The Ohio State University and Syracuse University in the tournament. The latter being more impressive, as it came in front of a pro-Syracuse crowd in Buffalo, N.Y., just two hours away from Syracuse.
“It was really tough,” sophomore forward Dyshawn Pierre said. “It feels good for sure. I mean, anyone getting into the Sweet 16 feels good. We really stuck together.”
It has also been a total team effort. Playing 11 players on a nightly basis, each UD player has been able to stamp their prints on the what has become the Dayton way.
Freshman forward Kendall Pollard said though it his mind, it always was the plan for the success to start this season.
“Coming from a program like where I came from, we won a state title every year,” Pollard said. “Coming here, I just expected to win no matter who it was. I’m happy for my team.”
The freshman’s response was more than senior forward Devin Oliver expected.
“It’s unexplainable, man, especially for me,” Oliver said. “I had a coaching change early on in my college career. Coach Miller came and it’s been a process. … To come back this year, my senior year, with tihs group of guys to be able to get to the Sweet 16, it’s unexplainable.”
Dayton will now play in its first Sweet 16 since 1984. In that season, the team advanced as far as the Elite 8 before coming up short of its first Final Four appearance since making the national championship game in 1967.
Can Dayton make it that far in the tournament this season?
“Who knows?” sophomore guard Khari Price said. “We’re just going to keep riding this momentum, keep believing in ourselves and keep working hard. Wherever it takes us, it takes us.”
No matter how far Dayton’s NCAA Tournament journey takes them, the Flyers have surpassed expectations.
They’ve put themselves back into the discussion of great programs across the country by winning on the big stage. Against as big of programs as someone could name in the college basketball landscape.
“I’m just happy,” Miller said. “I’m happy for the institution. I’m happy for our fans. When I say great tradition, there’s a lt of people that have been going to our arena 20, 30, 40 years who have seen great moments.”
“There’s a lot of great places, but if you’re a player at our place, you experience the same stuff that you can experience at a Syracuse in terms of the way they’re cared about and treated.”