The three most disappointing moments of my Dayton basketball fandom are as follows (in reverse order so as to really ratchet up the suspense!)
3. Big Steve McElvene’s death. This would have been Big Steve’s senior season, a frontline of Cunningham, Toppin and McElvene would have been something to watch. There’s no telling how advanced Big Steve’s skill set would be at this point of his career, but even if half his potential was met — the big guy would have been a formidable and possibly transcendent talent for the Flyers. The program would be on much firmer ground if McElvene was still with us.
2. The Flyers 70-51 loss to Syracuse in the first-round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament. This has become sort of a minor footnote, practically forgotten about, in the story of what became Dayton’s all-time winningest class. The 2015-16 Flyer squad jumped out to a 21-3 record before stumbling down the stretch the rest of the season. A campaign that held so much promise ended bitterly as UD went out with a whimper against St. Joe’s in the semi-finals of the A-10 tournament and then got absolutely manhandled against the Cuse a week later in the NCAA Tournament. I have no idea what was going on with the team, but the complete breakdown over the last month of the season was disheartening. (I have vivid memories of watching the UD/Syracuse game at the St. Marks Ale House while an Orange fan kept informing me that Cuse’s dominance in that contest proved that UD’s win over Syracuse two years earlier was a fluke. Who was I to argue?)
1. Dayton’s 84-71 defeat against Tulsa in the first-round of the 2003 NCAA Tournament. Keith Waleskowski, Ramod Marshall, Nate Green, DJ Stelly, Brooks Hall and Sean Finn. Likely my favorite Flyer team ever. The 2002-03 Flyers racked up impressive non-conference wins (Cincinnati, Marquette and Villanova) and turned in the most dominant conference performance we have ever seen (13-2, the two losses coming against The Overlords, and a A10 tournament championship — won on our home floor, but it counts all the same). Dayton earned a four-seed in the NCAA Tournament (yes, you read that right) and faced off against Tulsa in the first round.
The Flyers were inexplicably sent way out to Spokane to play the Golden Hurricane in the last game of the night on the tournament’s opening day. Tulsa came out on fire and almost immediately put UD behind the eight-ball, the Hurricane were up by 18 points before the Flyers came storming back. A Brooks Hall three-pointer tied it at 67 with just over five minutes to play before the “Sean Finn Affair.” Finn, the spindly Kansan, dunked a rebound of a Brooks Hall missed shot to cut the lead to one with two minutes left in the game. The play was ruled offensive interference, basket taken away, and Tulsa went on a 12-2 to finally put the Flyers to sleep. I hope that ref that made the Finn call got the kind of anal cancer that caused his colon to melt out of his asshole.
Needless to say, I was like a Vietnam vet after a trip to the dry cleaners when I saw Tulsa pop up (on a neutral site no less) on this year’s schedule — suffering a completely debilitating flashback. Seriously, I hope that ref fell on the fire during a family camping trip and looks like a melted candle now.
As was discussed on this week’s enlightening podcast, there are many similarities between the Tulsa Golden Hurricane and the Dayton Flyers. Both teams are below-average perimeter shooting teams, neither gets to the line with much frequency and both programs employ a misery brand of defense.
Expect a rock-fight this Sunday, a battle that harkens back to Pequot War that ended on the very grounds of the Mohegan Sun Arena in 1638. During the four-year skirmish, the Pequot Indians, armed with nothing but rocks, were soundly defeated by Plymouth English colonists who were armed with muskets and head lice. Vanquished, the Pequots were forced to sign the Treaty of Hartford, which signified the permanent dissolution of the Pequot tribe.
I always appreciated the fact that wars in the not so distant past weren’t declared over until a piece of paper was signed.
INT DAY: A tent in the woods (Summer of 1638) A PILGRIM and a CHIEF sit at a table fashioned out of a jagged plank of wood and two barrels. The PILGRIM is surrounded by five of his closest advisors. The CHIEF struggles to maintain eye contact as the PILGRIM leans in to address him.
Pilgrim Thanks for joining me, Chief. It appears you are ready to surrender and finally put this war behind us?
Chief Yes, my people have suffered many long and deadly winters. Our tribe, once proud, has been decimated. Our women sold into slavery. Our tribe's land has been burned, looted and the earth salted. Our lives will never be the same, it appears that the great and noble Pequot Tribe is no more.
A single tear runs down the CHIEF's face as the rest of the men nervously look away.
Pilgrim Yeah...I'ma need ya to sign and initial here (the Pilgrim flips the paper) and here.
Chief My son died in my arms. My wife was raped in front of me. I was sodomized with a hot fire poker. Please, my tribe is no more, I just wish to be left alone to die under the wishing tree.
Pilgrim Yeah, I'm still gonna need that signature.
Flyers 59, Golden Hurricane 55.
ENJOY THE GAME, EVERYBODY!! #LOWD
Tom Blackburn is a proud U. o' D. alum. He loses faith in humanity one day at a time, but not in you, you seem like you are all kinds of alright. Charter member of the T-Man fanclub.