Now that’s how you kick off the big dance!
Vee Sanford answered Aaron Craft’s tough, falling layup with a runner of his own and Craft’s potential game-winner bounced off the backboard and the front of the rim as No. 11 Dayton advanced past No. 6 Ohio State, 60-59.
Sanford, a senior point guard, finished with 10 points off the bench while Dyshawn Pierre, who hit three huge free throws with 25 seconds left, led the way with 12 points and eight boards. With the win the Flyers will advance to face the winner of No. 3 Syracuse and No. 14 Western Michigan on Saturday afternoon, and whoever they end up playing, Dayton will have a chance to beat. They’re tough, they defend, they’re balanced offensively and they have one of the nation’s best young coaches in Archie Miller.
Speaking of Miller, it will be interesting to see what happens with him this offseason. He comes from a great coaching background — his older brother is Arizona head coach Sean Miller, he worked under Thad Matta for a couple of years — and he’s done an awesome job with the Flyers this season. They weren’t expected to be contending for a tournament berth this season, yet here they are, an at-large bid that knocked off in-state foe Ohio State and is now on the way to the Round of 32.
On the Ohio State side of things, this is the end of Craft’s career as a Buckeye, and he will be missed. Craft has spent the majority of his career being one of the most polarizing players in the country, but at the end of the day, he’s a terrific student and a terrific kid that played the game as hard as anyone in the country played. I guess I get the pushback against a media darling, especially a kid whose biggest strengths as an athlete are not as readily apparent as throwing down high-flying dunks or scoring bushels of buckets.
He was a leader, a facilitator, the nation’s best on-ball defender, a role model. He was an easy guy to root for, and it’s a shame that the way that his career had to end was a loss to Michigan, a loss to an in-state rival, getting beaten off the dribble by Vee Sanford and a missed shot of his own at the other end.
He’ll be missed.