The 2014 NCAA tournament has been full of stunning upsets, but the Dayton Flyers may have taken the role of most surprising team to date with a 55-53 victory over the Syracuse Orange. The win advanced Dayton to the Sweet Sixteen, showed why they can compete with any team in the nation and paved the way for a path to the Final Four that looks utterly attainable.
Throughout the game, Dayton showed the ability to force Syracuse into difficult shots by keeping them to the outside and battling on the boards. There was no conceivable way that Dayton could match their opponents in a track meet of a game, but by allowing it to be slowed down, they forced the Orange to engage in a physically imposing battle that their short bench could not handle. This was displayed in great fashion as Syracuse lost the rebound battle 35-32 on the night, didn’t make a single one of their 10 three-point field-goal attempts, only shot 38.9 percent from the field in total and only used six different players during the game.
On the flip side, Dayton utilized 10 different players during the game, which was actually a decrease over the 11 that were used to take down Ohio State Buckeyes in the first round of the tournament. Still, in that game, they still tied the rebounding battle, limited the Buckeyes to 25 percent from three-point range, and showed the same ability to make the key plays that win games late on that defined the victory over Syracuse. Nobody on the court for Dayton during these two games was a star, but as a unit, they outplayed their opponents in both games of the NCAA tournament.
Moving forward, Dayton will not have an easy road to the Final Four, but things don’t look especially bleak as they look to fight out of an easy South region. In the Sweet 16, they will almost surely face a Kansas Jayhawks team that is significantly weakened by an injury to star center Joel Embiid; and then in the Elite Eight, a matchup with an unspectacular Florida Gators team looks likely.
Neither of these teams are a sure gimme of a win, but after taking down Ohio State and Syracuse in the NCAA tournament already, no matchup should be especially difficult. After all, Dayton will continue to crash the boards, limit open shooting opportunities, utilize a deep bench and generally get 110 percent effort from all positions. If all of this continues, then a spot in the Final Four looks to be a sure thing.