Wait, don’t go! Hear me out here. The 2013-2014 University of Dayton men’s basketball team isn’t just another cute Cinderella store any more – at this point, they have a legitimate chance at a national championship.
For an in-depth breakdown of their Cinderella run, click here.
For a preview of what we thought their Sweet Sixteen would look like, click here.
The road hasn’t been smooth. In each game they’ve won to reach this point, they’ve been lucky in a number of ways. Basically, even though they are in the Elite Eight, they still aren’t viewed as a dangerous team. They’re still the underdogs. Their accomplishments have gotten them headlines, but not respect.
That’s ridiculous. It’s time to add them to the list: Florida, Arizona, Louisville, Michigan State, …Dayton?
Depth and balance
Possibly the most unique thing about this Dayton team is their rotation. Most college teams will use seven, eight, or maybe even nine guys each game to try and get the win, and this number gets cut even shorter in the Tournament as teams leave everything out on the floor.
The Flyers? Twelve different troops are sent out onto the floor in any given game. The in-depth effects of this phenomenon are detailed here, but suffice it to say that coaches around the country are jealous of the depth on display at Dayton. Against Stanford, the bench outscored their counterparts 34-2. This flexibility provides so many different combinations for Dayton to throw at opposing teams, and it is impossible to prepare for.
Dayton’s troops are led by Archie Miller, whose brother Sean is also leading a team into the Elite Eight (Arizona). Some family, huh? Like many other coaches who take their relatively obscure teams to new heights in March Madness, he’s been getting a lot of attention lately. And deservedly so.
Coaches earn their paychecks at the end of close games. The decisions they make directly affect the outcome of the game, and it’s a testament to Mr. Miller that his team pulled out a one-point win against (6) Ohio State and a two-point win against (3) Syracuse. Key timeouts, switching defenses, and making smart substitutions were all executed flawlessly.
Beyond that, he’s obviously got his team playing hard, playing smart, and playing together. The boys buy into his message, and he sticks to it to create a winning formula. That’s all you can ask for in a coach.
In conclusion, he deserves every penny of that contract extension – and the further he leads the squad, the more of a bargain that’ll look like.
To go from the Round of 64 to being crowned national champions, a team has to win six games in a raw. Dayton’s already at three. However preposterous you may believe it is for this team to come out on top of college basketball, there’s no denying the fact that it’s already halfway there.
Talk all you want about the quality of opponents, or any other factors you can think up. All you need to know is, three down, three to go. And when it’s broken down that way, Dayton’s chances begin to look not so shabby after all.
Ohio State was a dark horse Final Four contender. Syracuse, which won its first 25 games of the season, was a team that had national title potential. Stanford was the only “mediocre” team they’ve faced, and Dayton handled them by double digits. Repeat performances of those three games are all Dayton needs to win the national title.
Despite what the “experts” are saying, I guarantee you that everyone around this team believes.They believe that they can go as far as they want in this Tournament. If you doubt that, riddle me this: why shouldn’t they? That (11) next to their name was only relevant to determine their first opponent in the Tournament – from there, they controlled their own fate. And from the body of work they’ve put together, nobody can tell them that they don’t belong.
Faith, confidence, mental advantage – whatever you want to call it, it’s an immeasurable concept that somehow plays as big a role in deciding sports events as any physical trait. Right now, Dayton’s filled to the brim with it. They feel unstoppable, and anything stated to the contrary will fall on deaf ears. The Flyers believe they can do anything, and that’s always the first step to getting anything done.
No matter what they’ve done or what they’ll do, that (11) which they were given will stick to them like glue. And in many ways, that’ll be a good thing.
Opposing coaches will incessantly tell their players that the Flyers will be dangerous – but that (11) is definitely still going to stir up all kinds of overconfidence and underpreparation. Dayton, on the other hand, will come out with guns blazing. Teams will be caught off guard. By the time Florida, Michigan State, or whoever it may be, realizes what’s hit them, it may be too late.
The element of pressure also plays a huge role here. Remember – these are all very young adults playing before the eyes of millions of people. By itself, that’s enough to make anyone crack. Unfortunately, high seeds such as Dayton’s next opponent (Florida) have an extra burden placed on them – the expectation to win.
When Dayton wins, headlines are made. When Arizona takes someone down, it’s a little side note. All this to say, there’s virtually no pressure on Dayton to win any games – they’ve done enough to be remembered. This is a blessing in disguise. They’ll come out to play with one thought on their mind – to give it all they’ve got. If their opponent is worried about winning the game because they’re supposed to win, things will get interesting real fast.
No, not in the sense of: Dayton won’t be national champions; here’s why not. More like, why NOT Dayton? Why can’t they be the last team standing?
Here we come to the crux of this case. Even before the regular season tipped off, college basketball fans knew that this year’s national championship race would be wide open. There was no clear-cut best team.
As the season wore on, this trend continued. Kentucky, the preseason No. 1, went down in its third game. Michigan State took over for a few weeks. Syracuse, Arizona, and Florida all held that top spot at some point during the season. The shuffle among teams below them was constant as well. Heading into the tournament, nobody could decide on a favorite – there were just so many teams that could conceivably take it all home. This plays to an underdog’s advantage – Dayton’s already shown they can beat three tournament teams, so who’s to say they won’t keep things rolling?
Florida is definitely on another level than any of the teams Dayton has faced so far. KenPom gives them just a 16% chance of winning the game. But weren’t people saying that about their second round game against Ohio State as well? Isn’t the whole idea of a Cinderella based on beating teams that are “better” than you?
If they take down the top overall seed in the tournament, they’ll have to face another great team in the Final Four (Arizona or Wisconsin), and their national championship matchup will be just as challenging. It’ll be fun.
I never said it would be easy. But please, do not count these guys out.
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