INDIANAPOLIS — These teams had no business playing each other. Not on this stage, not in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. No, this game had the makings of second-weekend matchup.
When the Dayton-Wichita State pairing was announced on Selection Sunday, it was immediately anointed as one of the best games of the opening round. Two of the best mid-major programs, two of the hottest names on the coaching market, and two teams that have been there, done that. Would it live up the hype?
It did, and it was an absolute bloodbath.
In the end, it was Wichita State that escaped the carnage with a 64-58 win. For the Shockers, it was a small vindication, showing how severely under-seeded they were. Dayton coach Archie Miller made his thoughts clear in the postgame press conference about the draw.
“They’re like a 4 or a 5 seed maybe,” Miller said. “They have 30-some wins, and you look at the numbers across the board, I mean, every coach studies the analytics. They’re a team that can beat any team on a neutral court at any time.”
On the Shockers’ end, Marshall has made it clear how he feels about the seeding, but took the time to give recognition to the Flyers.
“I would like to finish by saying that, once again, I think Dayton deserved a better draw in this tournament. I’ll finish with that,” Marshall said after the win.
On the court, the Shockers won the war in the trenches. They out-rebounded the Flyers 48-29, and regularly contested Dayton’s attempts at the rim. The Shockers bounced back from a slow first half with a newfound energy.
“I thought we were playing passively in the first half. I thought we weren’t executing,” Marshall said. “The three words that I talk about: verve vigor, and vitality, we didn’t have those things.”
They sure brought those three words in the second half. They held the Flyers to 8-29 shooting from the floor, which included a few quick buckets at the start of the half.
For Dayton, it signals the end of a great four-year run by their seniors. Kendall Pollard, Scoochie Smith, Kyle Davis, and Charles Cooke end their careers with four straight NCAA Tournament appearances. For Scoochie Smith, hearing his name from the fans one last time will be a moment he cherishes.
It was a good feeling, a little bitter sweet. I had a terrific journey with the rest of my fellow seniors, and it was really good,” Smith said. “I’m proud of what we accomplished, all four of us.”
Wichita State advances to the Second Round where it will face the 2 seed Kentucky Wildcats. It’ll be rematch from the 2014 NCAA Tournament, when Kentucky ended Wichita State’s undefeated season.
It won’t just be another chance for vindication, but rather a chance at revenge for what could be the best team in program history.