This senior class will be remembered for an Elite 8 run, UD’s first in 30 years. They will be remembered for getting to the tournament after two classmates were booted off the team. They will be remembered for one of the most electric games ever in The Arena against Boise State, and beating a talented Providence team a few days after. They will be remembered for back-to-back regular season conference titles. They will be remembered for persevering after the death of a teammate. They will be remembered for a poor showing against Syracuse in the first round of the tournament, and they undoubtedly will be remembered for how they went out, losing 3 in a row to close out an historic four years. They will be remembered for all of it.
For every Ryan Arcidiacono (who ended his career on a perfect play call that lead to a 3-pointer to win the national championship) there are 10 Charles Cookes, who end their careers inconsolable in a quiet locker room. Sports are rarely ever fair and just, the fairy tale endings only come calling for a select few, and your Dayton Flyers were among the unlucky. The triumph that led to cutting down the nets in the old barn on March 1st would be the last, and the run of the winningest class in Dayton basketball history is over.
We will surely remember all the great moments these four guys have given us, but in the end, we will remember their flaws in March just as much as their consecutive conference titles. When the team was under their leadership, they couldn’t get the job done on the biggest stage. This is not an article that is meant to overshadow all the great things these guys have done, or take a shot at them, it’s just the way it is. When you have the spotlight, it tends to shine brightest after your failures, this case is no different.
With all of that said, the only reason these words needed to be put on a page is because this senior class truly elevated the Dayton program from where it was the day they got on campus. That’s what made last Friday night so frustrating, with great expectation often comes great disappointment. That’s how the dice roll.
Of course, this loss was more difficult to stomach because of the boys who played their last game in a Dayton jersey, but moreover, it was difficult because this class was one of the first in a VERY long time who fully realized the weight they carried in Dayton, OH. Winning as freshman on such a grand scale, I personally believe that’s all it took for them to step back and realize “Hey, when we win, this whole damn city is behind us.” They took this to heart, and fully embraced it. We just saw four years of these guys understanding that it has never been “Dayton won tonight” but always “Our boys won tonight.” Whether you call Dayton home, or post-graduation has taken you elsewhere around the country, we turn on the Flyers to see OUR boys, and no one understood this concept quite like the senior class that now must say their goodbyes to the program. When the arms went up to get The Arena LOWDer, or when Kyle Davis stood on the media table, that’s what was happening: a collective, “We’re in this together,” and we were, we will always be, that’s what makes Dayton such a special place to play college basketball.
But naturally, over the course of the season, we caught a little shit here and there for finally coming around and being fired up about the prospect of our program/season. You can chalk that up to a portion of this fan base that is utterly uncomfortable with the fact that we now have real shit to be happy about. When the blog was started in 2008, the program was in FAR different position than it is on this day in 2017. Besides the inevitable 10-point first half deficit, the days of doom and gloom are behind us, the future of the program is brighter than ever, and we have those four seniors to thank. You saw the jubilation that came from Rhode Island this year, a team that punched its first ticket since 1999, but did you notice how excited you were for Dayton to punch theirs? You weren’t. You expected it. That’s what Scoochie, Kyle, Kendall and Chuck did for us. They forced you to expect great things from Dayton Basketball.
In an effort to be concise, that’s what I wanted to say before recapping the game. These boys will truly be missed. They elevated our expectations, and they didn’t get the ending they deserved. That’s life, onto the action…
As many predicted when the bracket came out, UD-Wichita was pound-for-pound probably the best game of the first round, a case for Northwestern-Vandy could also be made. (wtf was that kid thinking with that foul at the end?) The game was a slugfest from the get go. The tone of the first half was smothering defense, fouls and UD forcing turnovers. The Flyers stuck to their game plan, and forced a plethora of terrible looks from the Shockers, most from long range. However, Wichita’s terrible shooting in the first half never translated into a Flyers lead greater than 5. A miracle three-pointer somehow found its way into the hoop for Rashard Kelly at the buzzer, and while a two-point lead was super neat, you felt like an opportunity was missed to put some cushion on their ass. 29-27 Flyers when we went to the locker room.
My personal takeaway from the first half: “this is fine”. If we learned anything about these two teams, it’s that they were extremely evenly matched, and from my seat in the upper deck, it was abundantly clear WSU had not seen a Dayton-caliber team in quite some time. Their offense looked sloppy and unorganized, and frankly that didn’t change much in the second. Defense was not the problem for the Flyers on this night.
Years from now when I look back on this game it will remind me that sometimes it just isn’t your night, I’m referring of course to Charles Cooke. You can place any amount of blame on him that you see fit, but sometimes, it just isn’t your night. God bless him, Chuck did everything he could (short of stabbing someone) to get the ball in the hoop, and it was just not to be. As I have mentioned above, sports are not fair. Cooke’s 6-point, 1-for-10 shooting effort was the main cause of offensive woes for the night. Even 25 points from the low-hanging Scoochie wasn’t enough to wash away that amount of stink. The Flyers offense in the second half was hardly a surprise. In multiple games this year we saw the same sort of ineffectiveness, but often, we were playing someone terrible and found a way to win anyways. Wichita is not terrible. Here’s the stat line for people not named Scoochie or Kendall:
5-for-30, 20 total points, 3-for-12 from downtown. Fuck, that’s so awful.
Five guys would come off the bench for the Flyers, they would score 5 points. DURRELL didn’t even attempt a trey. Sad!
I do truly believe the beginning of the end was sparked by the mind-blowing move by Archie to come out of the under-8 timeout with a lineup including Crosby, Sam AND Mikesell. The reasoning behind this was of course to give the starters a breather, I’m just not trying to hear that shit, I guess. The true fall was a mere 5 minutes away, when Wichita gathered a 7-point lead with 3 minutes remaining. Given how baskets were at a premium the entire evening, this was the moment I truly knew it was over. The knife in your heart was supplied by Birdman-turned-basketball-player Connor Frankamp, who scored his first fucking points of the night on a 3 ball when the Flyers absolutely couldn’t afford it in the last two minutes. If you would like to remember one more positive before we turn the chapter on these seniors, Kyle Davis did an unbelievable job of shutting down the 47-year-old Frankamp, he was a non-factor the entire night.
After that long ball, a few piddly foul shots were all that stood between UD and the end of an otherwise great season. All I could do from my perch in section 221 was take in the carnage with a few fellow Flyers who I will give a special shout out to for refusing to curse. “Dangummit” type of people, which was refreshing for the people around us I must assume, since I do a fair amount of cursing during games. I know this comes as shocking to many.
So that’s it, dudes. An off-night from Cooke, and a 40-minute lack of offensive mojo was the undoing of your 2016-17 Dayton Flyers. If this year has made me appreciate anything, it is the sheer magnitude of how special the Elite 8 run really was for a program like Dayton, and how unbelievably difficult it is to get to that stage of March. This year, of course, it had a lot to do with our matchup, but that’s March. From getting in the dance, to the seeding, to the matchup, right up to the actual game, it is a total fucking crapshoot. If 2014 saw luck on our side, we paid for it in 2017.
Lastly, I get to say my piece, because (you guessed it!) I have the keyboard. I want to thank everyone who read this blog and enjoyed my commentary throughout the year of Flyers hoops. I met some awesome folks simply from writing for this site this season, and I hope that trend continues next year and beyond. We do this for fun, and you make it fun. Keep wareing RED, keep being LOWD. I’ll have more John Crosby hot takes for you come October. (We know John reads the blog)
It is a great time to be a Flyer, and it has been made that way by Kyle, Scoochie, Chuck and Kendall. Thank you, boys, you will truly be missed.
See you in October, you beautiful bastards.