Ever since the magical Elite 8 run in 2014, the hype around Dayton’s basketball program has continued to grow. The Flyers nearly made it back to the Sweet 16 last season, but they ran out of gas late in the second half against Oklahoma. Returning all but one player from the 2015 team, expectations for Dayton are certainly sky high this year. No longer viewed as the underdog, Dayton’s need to meet these expectations and still play like it has something to prove could become challenging for the Flyers as March approaches.
Archie Miller, as one would come to anticipate, has Dayton in the midst of another terrific season. The Flyers entered Saturday night’s game against George Mason ranked 24th in both the AP and Coaches Polls. After a dominating road win, their overall record improves to 19-3 and they should certainly look to move up in this week’s rankings. Of course, with this success comes lofty expectations. Some have them as high as a four or low as a seven, but most experts currently place the Flyers at a 5 or 6 seed in their brackets. As a lock to make the tournament, Seth Greenberg and others have picked Dayton as their dark horse to make the Final Four. Mark Adams even tweeted out a very ambitious statement regarding Dayton’s potential if Dyshawn Pierre had not missed part of the season.
If the Dayton Flyers had Dyshawn Pierre all season long they would be in the conversation with Maryland and Villanova today for who is # 1
— Mark Adams (@EnthusiAdams) February 7, 2016
Initially playing as the favored team in the postseason, will Dayton still play with as much hunger as previous seasons? Many believe that they will for one simple reason: Archie Miller. In his fifth year as the Flyers head coach, he has created an incredible culture driven by winning. He constantly feeds his team the underdog mentality, hoping they always continue to play with a chip on their shoulder. Miller has openly stated many times that while it is good for the program overall, he would prefer Dayton to not be in the rankings simply because of the added distractions. Adapting the underdog mindset is much easier to do when you’re not ranked. Archie constantly preaches the need to stay locked in at all times to his team.
While success might end up having a negative effect on some, Dayton, under Archie Miller, is one of the last places where one would expect that to happen. After suffering brutal losses to Xavier, Chattanooga, and La Salle this year, Dayton got an unfriendly reminder that nothing comes easy in college basketball. All Archie needs to do is remind his team that anything can happen when they’re not 100% locked in. Having talented, experienced upperclassmen like Dyshawn Pierre, Kendall Pollard, Scoochie Smith, Kyle Davis and the outstanding transfer Charles Cooke certainly helps a lot. With Archie Miller at the helm and a wealth of tournament experience among the Flyer players, another deep tourney run is very reasonable to expect come March. Dayton next takes on Duquesne Tuesday night at home as they hope to win their 20th game of the season and continue building towards another year of magical March Madness.