I doubt anyone was expecting this when they tuned into CBS Sports on Tuesday night.
Two teams with tournament aspirations found themselves right in the middle of the NCAA Tournament bubble heading into tonight's game, according to many bracketologists. Chris Dobbertean of Blogging The Bracket had Saint Joseph's as one of the "first four in" and Dayton as one of the "first four out" in his latest projection. Both teams were in need of a big win to fatten up their resumes and ensure their entry into the Big Dance. Not only that, but both teams had yet to separate themselves from the line that gives the top four teams a bye in the conference tournament.
However, only one team could earn such a victory. Tonight, it was the Hawks of Saint Joseph's who showed the world what they could do.
The Hawks played tremendous defense from the get-go and led Dayton 10-1 at the first media timeout. Dayton, however, had little to worry about at that point, given that they had trailed 17-7 against La Salle and 17-2 against Duquesne in their two previous contests and ended up winning both. However, that quickly turned into a 21-8 advantage and the Flyers never got closer than 12 the rest of the way.
The Hawks were dominant in all facets of the game. They were unselfish and totaled 19 assists, always seeming to see the open man for a high-percentage look. They forced 11 turnovers and managed to convert them into 14 points. They frustrated the opposing offense with their man-to-man defense that switched on ball screens and did not allow the Flyers to drive into the lane. When a Dayton player did manage to get a look near the basket, the strong interior Saint Joseph's defense sent it right back, blocking a total of eight shots.
The star of the game was Ronald Roberts Jr., who seemed to always be at the right place at the right time. He finished with 22 points and was consistently the first one down the floor on fast-breaks, providing a ton of energy for his team. He also had a monster flush in the second half that revealed shades of Blake Griffin.
I was expecting a lot more energy and fight from Dayton than it displayed here. When the Flyers were denied entry into the lane, they settled for threes time and time again and only connected on 22.7 percent of them. They seemed unmotivated and without the will to win. Even when they got down early, they never really woke up out there and lost a golden opportunity to show the NCAA Tournament Committee what they're made of.
The schedule doesn't get any easier down the line for Dayton, who hosts Massachusetts on Saturday night followed by a road trip to Saint Louis. The opportunities for marquee wins are still there, but they'd better capitalize on at least one of them if they hope to make up for tonight's disaster.