The eleven-seeded Dayton Flyers collide with the third-seeded Syracuse Orange Saturday in a third round NCAA Tournament matchup for a coveted spot in the Sweet 16. Dayton stunned no. 6 Ohio State 60-59 in their second round game, while Syracuse trounced Western Michigan 77-53 in its tournament opener.
The Flyers may have provided March Madness with one of the first true upsets. After a mediocre Atlantic 10 result and an equally unimpressive conference tournament, Dayton punched its ticket to the dance by virtue of a strong 12-3 non-conference finish. And they didn’t disappoint. Facing a heralded Ohio State team that finished fourth in one of the nation’s toughest conferences and lost in the semi-finals of the Big 10 Tournament, the Flyers just hung around and hung around some more. Senior G Vee Sanford’s layup with 3.8 second left in regulation sent the Buckeyes packing after the two sides traded blows and leads—14 in all—for virtually the entire game.
Dayton knew coming in they would need contributions from everyone to get the upset and that’s exactly what they got, as nine different players scored for the Flyers, with seventeen points coming from the bench. Dayton essentially matched Ohio State in every category, connecting on 49.9 percent from the floor to Ohio State’s 48.0 percent, and 23.1 percent from outside the arc to the Buckeyes’ 25.0 percent. The two were also deadlocked on the boards 28 to 28 and only one turnover separated them, as Dayton committed 13 and Ohio State 14. Third-year coach Archie Miller is making his first appearance in the NCAA Tournament as Dayton’s head man after losing in the NIT’s first round in 2012 and getting locked out of the postseason altogether last year
Syracuse, meanwhile, had a much easier time of it in its second round. The Orange crushed Western Michigan by 24 points in a game they led wire to wire and dominated in every possible way. The rout came at a good time, too, considering how suspect Syracuse looked down the stretch in dropping four of its final six regular season games, then losing to NC State in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament. The Orange both shot well and defended well against Western Michigan, hitting 49.1 percent from the floor and 7 of 17 from distance, while allowing the Broncos to shoot just 34.7 percent from the floor and 4 of 18 from beyond the arc. The Orange also dominated the boards 41-24 and converted 14 of 17 from the free throw line.
These two teams like to get up and down in transition. In that regard, this will be a fun NCAA tournament game to watch. Syracuse has, hands down, the better players here, but a good argument could also have been made about Ohio State’s superior roster, and it probably was. The Flyers had no standout performances against the Buckeyes in the NCAA’s second round. Sophomore F DyShawn Pierre had a team-high 12 points, followed by senior F Devon Oliver at 11 points. That level of production is unlikely to get it done against Tyler Ennis and C.J. Fair, who as a senior is guaranteed to play like his hair is on fire.
Commentary by Rick Sarlat
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