After a few years of Cinderella-style success in the NCAA Tournament, all signs are pointing to Dayton making it back to the Big Dance this season. We all remember when the Flyers went to the Elite 8 in 2014 and fell just one game short of the biggest stage in college basketball: the Final Four. Now ranked as the 15th best team in the nation according to the AP polls, it seems as if Dayton’s chances of making it that far are actually likelier than ever. This Flyers team has now won 9 straight games in conference play and sits in first place in the Atlantic 10. Dayton (21-3, 11-1 A 10) is led by head coach Archie Miller who’s brought this team to prominence throughout the last couple seasons. With all of the success Miller and his team have had in recent years, there’s no telling just how far Dayton could go in the 2016 NCAA Tournament. Heck, the Flyers could be a Final Four team, and here’s 3 reasons why.
1. Dayton’s proved it can beat the nation’s best
Remember when the Flyers grabbed a win over Iowa back in the AdvoCare Invitational on Thanksgiving Day? It didn’t seem like much at the time (Iowa wasn’t even ranked), but the Hawkeyes would go on to find loads of success in the Big Ten conference. Now ranked 4th in the nation and atop its conference standings, Iowa is one of the best teams in the nation, and Dayton boasts a huge early season win over Fran McCaffery’s squad. That win might have single-handedly boosted this team up a couple of seeds in the NCAA Tournament. If Dayton can beat one of the nation’s best teams, what’s stopping it from making the Final Four?
In addition to its win over Iowa, Dayton has some very good victories both in and out of conference play. The Flyers took down Vanderbilt on the road earlier this year; the Commodores were ranked at the time. Dayton took down a very good Monmouth team and managed to sneak past Arkansas in overtime. In the Atlantic 10, the Flyers have already notched really good wins over George Washington and St. Bonaventure. They’ll have a chance to get another good win when they play on the road against St. Joseph’s on Wednesday. This team has shown grit in tough games, and that’s exactly what it’s going to need to make a run to the Final Four this season.
2. The Flyers boast a talented roster with loads of experience
What does this Dayton Flyers team and the one that made it to the Elite 8 in 2014 have in common? How about Scoochie Smith, Dyshawn Pierre, Kendall Pollard, and Kyle Davis. Not bad. Now add in transfer and leading scorer Charles Cooke, and don’t forget about the young guns in Darrell Davis and Steve McElvene. Mix it all together, and you’ve got yourself a squad. This team has the perfect mix of experience and talent. The Flyers have proven that they can win close games this season. Nothing’s stopping them from doing the same thing in the Big Dance this year.
The most promising part about this Dayton team is that it has been there before. It knows the expectations of an Elite 8 game, and most importantly, it knows just how hard you have to play to get to the Final Four. Most of these guys have to be hungrier than ever to make it to that stage; once they got a taste, they wanted some more. I wouldn’t doubt Dayton to play its heart out come tournament time for one simple reason: it’s been so close to the Final Four. Nothing’s out of reach for an experienced squad coached by Archie Miller.
3. Archie Miller gets the job done
There may not a be a coach in the nation that’s cooler than Archie Miller. I mean “cool” in two different ways For one, the dude’s got swag; there’s a certain style that he coaches with that just makes him a special leader on and off the court. On the other hand, he’s so cool-headed and doesn’t allow his team to lose sight of the task at hand. Archie doesn’t care about rankings or standings or projections. The only thing he cares about is the very next game. Nothing is guaranteed in this day and age, and Archie Miller makes sure his team knows that night in and night out.
In addition, Archie Miller has the experience of coaching his team deep into the tournament. With an experienced roster that he had by his side in 2014, Archie Miller is primed and prepped to continue delivering consistent success in the NCAA Tournament. The Flyers are beginning to assert themselves as a “tournament team” thanks in part to the guy at the helm. There’s no one that wants a trip to the Final Four more than Archie Miller, and he’s got the talent to take the Flyers there this season.