Home sweet home
Dayton gets out of First Four with win in own arena
DAYTON, Ohio -- SORRY TO SHOUT, BUT IT’S A LITTLE NOISY HERE AT THE BOISE STATE-DAYTON GAME! LET’S GO SOMEWHERE QUIETER!
There, that’s better.
Poor Boise State. Is this what an NCAA tournament is supposed to sound like?
When the Dayton rally came in the second half Wednesday night, the building nearly shook and the walls almost rattled from the roar. When Boise State coach Leon Rice tried to call a timeout in the final seconds, nobody heard him.
"That’s the loudest I’ve ever heard the arena," Dayton coach Archie Miller would say later, especially about Jordan Sibert’s game-winning 3-pointer with 35 seconds left.
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"We don’t make excuses. As a coaching staff, we don’t. As players, we don’t," he said. "So we played the cards we were dealt. And we played them well. I was proud of our effort. I was proud of our weathering the storms, because that place got loud."
Any Boise State frustration would have been understandable. Go back to Sunday, when Rice saw the pairings and "First, I thought it was a typo." It wasn’t. Dayton and the Broncos were among the last four seeds in the field, so the selection committee decided that be that. Dayton was in the First Four, even if the First Four was in University of Dayton Arena.
To be sure, the Flyers played a strong second half Wednesday and made the plays needed to save the night. They hit their last six shots. They defended when they had to, including Boise State’s last possession, when main Bronco threat Derrick Marks was harassed into a prayer of a shot. Dayton’s crowd is among the most passionate in the sport, one reason the Flyers went 17-0 at home this season.
But nobody in the NCAA tournament -- nobody in the tournament for decades, since home court advantage was banished in the late 1980s -- has had to go through what Boise State went through Wednesday night.
It was Miller, the beneficiary of this decision, who said afterward, "They were given a really hard deal coming in here tonight."
The Flyers were in road red uniforms, sat on the visiting bench and were not allowed to use their usual locker room. But they were the home team, all right. They needed every push from the local folks in a game Boise State led for 23 minutes. They got by with a roster of only six recruited scholarship players, and nobody taller than 6-foot-6. To survive that takes team purpose.
"Our guys may be the most together group in the country right now," Miller said.
Rice said that the focus should not be on the home court. "The focus should be on Dayton made some big plays down the stretch, made some big shots down the stretch."
Still, all that noise. "It has an effect on the game, no question," Rice said. "I mean, I was yelling, trying to get a timeout on the last possession, it couldn’t be heard. So that kind of stuff does affect you."
The tournament hits full throttle Thursday, with 64 teams present and accounted for.
There is every point on the compass. Eastern Washington and West Virginia. Texas Southern and North Dakota State, and Northeastern.
There is Baylor, and there is Butler. Stephen F. Austin and Robert Morris, whose leading scorer here Wednesday against North Florida was a guy with the first name of Lucky.
There are five teams from the state of Indiana, and none from the state of Florida.
There is Ole Miss, and New Mexico State. SMU and VCU and LSU and UAB and UCLA.
Buffalo and UC Irvine are playing in their first NCAA tournament. Kentucky is playing in its 54th.
There are eight schools in the bracket who have never won a tournament game. And 21 schools with past national championships.
There are eight men who have never coached an NCAA tournament game in their lives. And Mike Krzyzewski, who has done it 108 times.
There are the Wofford Terriers, and the Albany Great Danes. The West Virginia Mountaineers and the Xavier Musketeers and the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers and the Virginia Cavaliers. Five variety of Wildcats, starting with Kentucky.
And there is Dayton, making a short bus ride to play the next game in Columbus Friday against Providence. That is but 60 miles away, so the Flyers should have plenty of support. But it will be nothing like Wednesday night.