Given that I am sitting across from the University of Dayton Arena, it seems only natural that I should be writing about a Flyers team that many didn't expect to be in the NCAA Tournament.
And if they were, a lot of people felt that they would be one of the final at-large teams in, meaning they would be sent to their own arena to play a game. It didn't end up that way, and they comfortably made it into the field avoiding, well, Dayton.
In the days leading to the NCAA Tournament, we evaluated Dayton against some of the other teams being considered for placement into the field. We felt that maybe the Flyers didn't deserve to go at all, and that they were only getting bumped in based on their conference schedule which allowed them to get eight additional games they wouldn't have normally had against the RPI Top 50.
But Dayton had been in Maui, and in you saw the Flyers then, you saw a team that looked very much like an NCAA Tournament squad. They beat Gonzaga, and then lost to Baylor by just a single point. After that, they crushed fellow bubble squad Cal, and came home in third place. That is a pretty impressive Thanksgiving weekend, and we said then that no team had done more for itself than the Flyers over the break.
But Maui was just one stop on the nonconference schedule and the rest was littered with good, but not great teams. The Flyers helped themselves by playing just three nonconference games outside of the top 200 in the RPI, and they easily won all three of those at home.
When conference season hit, Dayton won just enough games against the top of the league to finish at 10-8 and score three Top 50 wins against UMass, Saint Louis and George Washington. That is what ultimately helped them out. They took care of business when they had to, and they didn't have anything resembling a really bad loss.
Ohio State is going to be a test for them though. This is one of the premier defensive teams in the country, and while the Flyers have gone up against Saint Louis and VCU, they aren't ready for Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott.
The two Buckeye guards are relentless on the ball and two of the best steal artists in the country. Dayton has Jordan Sibert who can probably withstand that pressure, but the rest of this Flyers team is just asking to have their pockets picked.
Plus Craft and Scott are really good at taking away the open outside look, so if Dayton gets down, they won't have the opportunities to come back via the 3-pointer.
And it isn't just pressure defense; this is disciplined defense. There are very few teams better at not fouling than Ohio State. While this has lately been a trouble spot, they were so good during the season that only now does it look like an anomaly when they reach 15 fouls in a game.
And we haven't even mentioned LaQuinton Ross yet.
Yeah, Devin Oliver is going to have his hands full inside with that one.
Ohio State is a taller, more experienced team that will make Maui feel a long way away in the minds of Dayton fans. Archie Miller and team may need a vacation to forget about how this one is likely to turn out.
No. 11 Dayton vs. No. 6 Ohio State
Where: Buffalo, N.Y.
When: 12:15 p.m., Thursday