After escaping Buffalo with close wins over No. 6 Ohio State and No. 3 Syracuse last weekend, No. 11 Dayton defied many skeptics in reaching their first Sweet 16 since 1984. And thanks to a balanced offensive attack and quality depth, Archie Miller’s Flyers are headed to the Elite Eight.
Jordan Sibert led four players in double figures with 18 points and as a team Dayton assisted on 19 of their 28 made field goals in a 82-72 win over No. 10 Stanford. Stanford struggled to find the necessary answers for Dayton defensively, looking to both zone and man defenses but to no avail.
Dayton shot 48.3% from the field and committed just ten turnovers, getting out in the open court after playing much of their first two NCAA tournament games in the half court. When faced with Stanford’s 2-3 zone Dayton was able to work the ball into the high post, and the ability to pass the basketball resulted in six made three-pointers. That forced Stanford to go to its man-to-man, and the Cardinal were unable to keep Dayton from penetrating off the dribble.
But regardless of how Dayton got its shots the unselfishness was a constant, resulting in quality looks throughout the night. Seven players accounted for at least two assists, and the Dayton bench outscored the Stanford reserves 34-2. Dayton had an advantage in the depth department entering the game, and their ability (and commitment) to take advantage of it led to success on both ends of the floor.
Next up for Dayton will be either No. 1 Florida or No. 4 UCLA, and they’ll likely be an underdog regardless of the outcome of that contest. But given the way the Flyers are playing, it wouldn’t be wise to rule them out. Archie Miller’s got a tough bunch, one that began Atlantic 10 play 1-5 and looked nothing like a team destined to reach the NCAA tournament much less win games once in.
But the Flyers got back to sharing the basketball offensively and playing better defense, resulting in a 13-2 record over their last 15 games with both loses coming against Saint Joseph’s. Forty minutes away from their first Final Four since 1967, Dayton is certainly capable of taking that next step given the way they’re currently playing.
Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.
After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.
Video credit: Wyoming Athletics
Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.
Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.
Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.
Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.
Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.
But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.