The run came to an end on Saturday night, as No. 11 Dayton ran into top-seeded Florida, who knocked off the Flyers 62-52 while advancing to their first Final Four since 2007.
Dayton never really threatened the Gators, but they kept the score close enough that gamblers had their evening made — or ruined — by a meaningless jumper from Dyshawn Pierre with 19 seconds left. Given how well Florida is playing these days, there are worse things that can be said about the Flyers, especially when you consider the fact that this loss took place in the Elite 8.
That’s not the way that the Flyers wanted to bow out of this tournament. Even Cinderella has their sights set on the Final four when they’re only a game away, which should tell you about how successful this tournament run was for Dayton.
The question now becomes the future of this program, and while they’ll lose Devin Oliver, Vee Sanford and Matt Kavanaugh, the good news is that, for now, Dayton will return the most important part of their program: Archie Miller.
The younger brother of Arizona head coach Sean Miller, the son of a well-known high school coach in Pennsylvania, a product of N.C. State and a former Thad Matta staffer, Archie has the pedigree of a coach destined to be a star. It was only a matter of time until he was going to have his name pop up in every coaching search in the country. A run to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament simply sped up that process, but Dayton put a stop to that movement with a vengeance, locking Miller into a contract extension last Monday.
Along with Miller, the Flyers will return Pierre, their leading scorer, and Sibert, who may actually be their most talented offensive weapon. Throw in sophomore Scoochie Smith and incoming freshmen Darrell Davis and Steve McElvene, and Dayton will have a nice blend of quality experience and talented youngsters. In other words, the direction that this program is heading is a positive one.
Will they be able to replicate the success they had this season anytime soon?
They can probably earn a bid to the tournament next season, but that’s no guarantee that wins over programs like Ohio State, Syracuse and Stanford will happen again.
The bottom line is this: the Flyers will have talent and be well-coached for at least one more year, and as we learned this season, that’s enough to put together a run to the Elite 8.