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.
The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.
The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.
They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.
That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.
So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.
Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:
With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.
At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes
“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:
“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”
“It’s all money.”
Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.
Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .
Want to talk about coaching luxuries?
Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.