On my journey back to Chicago this morning, I was doing my best to come up with something to put last night into my own words. From California, to Texas, to Denver, to my home bar of Glascotts in Chicago, to the East Coast, and back to Edwin C Moses Blvd in Dayton, OH, Flyers everywhere waited four long months for March 1st, and the boys in Red and Blue made it worth every minute.
When Blackburn and Donny started this site many moons ago, their main goal was to shed light on a portion of the fan base who had accepted the status quo of Dayton Flyer basketball. The status quo entailed making the tournament every couple of years and maybe getting a quality top 25 win every other year or so, rinse and repeat. After the dark days of Jim O’Brien, to many, this seemed like a fine fate. This was not a fine fate. For years, many wondered, would UD ever take the next step? Would Dayton ever become a program that is well-respected and mentioned in the same breath as a Wichita State, Gonzaga, and yes, the Overlords to the South? There is, of course, only one way to take that next step: you win basketball games consistently.
The new generation of fans are mostly sheltered from those days, and with that blind optimism comes an opportunity to put old and new together to make up the LOWD you know and love today. In the last four years, this program has seen (now) unprecedented success, while being shadowed by tragedy and scandal. Just in the last four years, we’ve seen: An Elite 8, a talented recruit who couldn’t read a book, two dumbasses that stole shit from Freshman girls, a tournament win in our own arena, two rape scandals, an NCAA tournament trouncing, the death of a beloved player, and two conference championships. But when you hear older Sweaters complain, whether about gameplay or student attendance, it all comes from an understanding that something unseen is finally starting to happen in the Gem City – Dayton is starting to win some shit for a change! It took 22 seasons, but goddamnit, it is a great time to be a Dayton Flyer.
I say all this because last night, your University of Dayton Flyers took another small step towards the top of the mountain of mid-major legitimacy. The group of seniors, who had gone 58-8 in 4 seasons at The Arena, decided to give the Sweaters one more memory on their way out the door, and it was their finest one to date.The Flyers had complete control of the first 20 minutes (minus maybe the last two) despite a heap of foul trouble and another shellacking on the offensive boards. KP, X-Man AND Josh all picked up a foul within the first couple minutes of the half, and this would become the recurring theme for the night. Very early on it became clear that Ryan Mikesell and Sam Miller were going to be mostly useless against the VCU front court, but they were counted on for minutes just the same. UD’s stifling back-court defense was nullified time after time by an offensive board and a quick put-back. If that sounds familiar, it’s because that’s exactly how VCU beat UD the first time around. But alas, the offense was clicking on all cylinders, and the Flyers were never seriously threatened at any point in the first. They took a seven-point lead to the half.
So, with the deficit hovering to 10 points or so heading into the twelve minute mark, VCU deployed, I guess, what is Wade’s version of HAVOC. HAVOC, of course, has always just been a convenient way to say you can foul the shit out of the opposing team without repercussions. If you came here for the hot take, it lives right here: HAVOC is a crock of shit based on fouling the opposing team so often that you begin to get away with the small stuff. It’s genius and it’s bullshit.
The pressure defense was enough to force a few mistakes from the Flyers, and before you knew it, the buttholes were tightening up around the building. VCU would cut the lead down to three at 71-68, and forced UD into a tough spot inbounding the ball with a few seconds on the shot clock. Then, Josh Cunningham hit what is probably the second biggest shot of the year behind the X-Man three in Rhode Island. All morning I’ve been thinking to myself, if this fade away jumper doesn’t go in, do the Flyers win this game? Jury is out on that one.
From that point forward we saw a few more grab-the-guy-next-to-you possessions, but in the end a few foul shots were all that were needed to secure the win. The on-guard defense that got UD to that point took over, and that was all she wrote for the visiting Rams. Archie and the gang cut down the nets in the Arena once again before my very eyes, and your Flyers are back-to-back A10 Champions, winning their first outright conference title ever. Just writing that line gave me all kinds of willies, March is upon us. There’s more work to do.
Whatever your personal feelings are on this win, and what it means to the program, this much is clear: The Dayton Flyers are a legitimate NCAA tournament team, and they will most certainly be dancing for the fourth time in a row (also a record).
Five quick takeaways from my comfy seat in section 221 last night:
1. In the first half, one of my favorite older gentleman in the arena had a great quote: “I don’t care if I’m playing basketball, baseball, football or checkers, I want Kyle Davis on my team.” I couldn’t agree more. KD’s defensive excellence was on display again last night, along with the rest of the back court, as UD held the VCU guards to 28 points on a dismal 10-for-36 shooting from the field. That’s going to get the job done most nights.
2. Josh Cunningham is back kids. Although he was plagued by foul trouble for a good portion of the game, Josh turned in 10 points and 4 boards in 27 minutes, including the game’s biggest shot, as I mentioned above. As friend of the blog, Kyle Rudy, pointed out, the Flyers are undefeated with Josh in the lineup. Giggity.
3. Scoochie scored 20, he’s still the best player on the team in case you forgot. Praise be to Dayshon. His most underrated skill these days is staying clear of foul trouble, it sure as hell came in handy on Wednesday night.
4. Foul trouble could bury the Flyers in March. While Dayton showed a good amount of depth, it’s slightly transparent. If UD gets in that kind of foul trouble hole in the tournament, it could be lights out.
5. The road ahead is now clearer.
What we know now is that the Flyers just locked up an NCAA tourney bid and #1 seed in the A10 tournament. They will play at high noon in Pittsburgh on Friday, March 10th. The latest bracketology as of this writing listed the Flyers as a seven seed, so what I see as a realistic path goes like this:
- Flyers lose to GW: go down one seed.
- Lose to GW and Quarterfinal exit: go down two seeds.
- Flyers win out: go up one seed.
- Flyers beat GW and lose in the A10 tournament: stays the same, seven seed.
With a maximum of four games remaining, this is the only way I see things shaking out. You can book the Flyers somewhere between seeds 6 and 10. Feel free to disagree.
Blackburn will have the long-awaited GW recon coming at you before the game on Saturday, and then I will be back at you next week for a special Pittsburgh-themed preview of next weekend.
Last night was so goddamn LOWD. Shout out to every person in the building, from the students to the Prez himself, it was an atmosphere worthy of a 24 hour flight from Chicago. As a wise man once said, Go Flyers, Go America.
Stay LOWD. March is here.
The LOWD ambassador of Chicago, Sully has spent his life tirelessly watching UD hoops. Welcomer of all takes, hot and cold.