A light snow greeted Flyer fans Sunday morning in Buffalo, N.Y. They weren’t dreaming. They were still in the City of Light, or City of White, stuck in winter even four days into spring, but loving every little thing about the city they called home for most of the week.
Yet even as hundreds of fans started the journey home to Dayton, their thoughts drifted south and west to Memphis, Tenn. Many fans will get home, unpack their bags, do the laundry and start preparing for the second weekend of the NCAA tournament — while also daydreaming about the third weekend.
Anything’s possible right now. The Flyers, carrying the banner for Atlantic 10 basketball, not to mention the entire state of Ohio, have already had a song written about them.
“Started from the bubble, now we’re here,” sings 2008 UD grad Nicholas Schmidt, who posted the song on SoundCloud.com. “Started from the bubble, now my whole Fly team here.”
One day after the No. 11 seed Flyers upset No. 3 Syracuse 55-53 at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, they learned their opponent in the Sweet 16 on Thursday at FedExForum in Memphis will be another double-digit seed. No. 10 Stanford knocked off No. 2 seed Kansas 60-57 Sunday in Saint Louis.
Stanford (23-12) and Dayton (25-10) have never played. They do have two common opponents this season.
Dayton beat California 82-64 in Maui and lost 79-76 in overtime to Southern California on a buzzer-beater at home on Dec. 22. Stanford split with California, losing 69-62 at home and winning 80-69 on the road. Stanford swept USC, 79-71 in overtime and 80-59. Stanford is also familiar with one of the Miller brothers, having lost twice to Archie Miller’s brother Sean and Arizona, 60-57 and and 79-66.
Dayton fans were surely glad to not have to deal with Kansas (25-10). The Jayhawks remain the last team to beat Dayton in the NCAA tournament. In 2009, No. 3 seed Kansas beat No. 11 Dayton 60-43 in the second round in Minneapolis.
The other South Regional semifinal will pit No. 1 seed Florida against No. 4 seed UCLA.
The Flyers are in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1984 when they were seeded 10th and beat No. 6 seed Washington 64-58 in the regional semifinal and then lost 61-49 to Patrick Ewing and No. 1 seed Georgetown to fall one victory short of the Final Four.
Dayton reached the Final Four once, losing 79-64 to UCLA in 1967 in the national championship. The Flyers aren’t looking past their first game in Memphis, but they are thinking big.
“How far can you guys go now that you’ve beaten Ohio State and Syracuse?” Khari Price was asked Saturday night.
“Who knows,” he said. “We’re just going to keep riding this momentum and keep believing ourselves. Keep working hard and do whatever it takes.”
That’s exactly what got Dayton this far. So many little plays and a few big ones made the victory over Syracuse possible.
• With Dayton leading 47-46 with 2:11 to play, Jordan Sibert made the save of the year, grabbing a loose ball and throwing it off Jerami Grant. Dayton retained possession. It didn’t score, but ran a few seconds off the clock.
• With 1:46 to play, Devin Oliver stole the ball from Syracuse freshman Tyler Ennis and passed it ahead to Scoochie Smith, whose fast-break layup gave the Flyers a 49-46 lead with 1:43 remaining.
• The Shot of the Game award goes to Jordan Sibert, who hit a 3-pointer from about four steps behind the line to give Dayton a 52-46 lead with 49 seconds left. The Flyers had some breathing room only until the next possession when Ennis converted a 3-point play after being fouled by Khari Price.
The game came down to free throws for the Flyers and missed shots by the Orange. Devin Oliver missed the front end of a one-and-one with 38 seconds left, but Dyshawn Pierre hit 3-of-4 free throws in the final 23 seconds.
The Flyers flew home right after the game and landed in Dayton in the wee hours of Sunday morning. A large crowd greeted them at the Cronin Center at UD when their bus pulled into campus.
“Amazing fans, amazing students, amazing people!” senior Devin Oliver wrote on Twitter.
Sean Miller, whose Arizona team played late Sunday against Gonzaga in the third round, congratulated his brother and the Flyers on Twitter, writing, “GoUDGoGoUD … GoUDGoGoUD. I can hear it in my sleep!”