Stanford has made the most of their first NCAA Tournament in six years. The Cardinal notched upsets over seventh-seeded New Mexico and No. 2 seed Kansas in the first two rounds to advance to the Sweet 16, where Stanford will meet a team that also wasn't expected to advance beyond the tournament's first weekend, Dayton.
The No. 11 seed Flyers upset Ohio State and Syracuse in the first two rounds to set up a most unanticipated clash with Stanford.
Cardinal Sports Report checked in with the publisher of FlyerHoops.com, Matthew Schwade, to preview the Sweet 16 matchup.
Cardinal Sports Report: Dayton had a nice start and finish to the season, but lost 4 in a row (and 5 of 6) in the middle of the conference season. What happened during that stretch?
Matthew Schwade: Honestly, prior to the season, I predicted the tough stretch and it was mainly because of a top heavy conference schedule. When the conference schedule was released, I noticed right away how tough their games were to begin Atlantic 10 play and thought they would be slow out of the gate. They had a six game stretch where they had arguably the three best teams in the A-10 at UD Arena and three road games, two of which have historically posed problems. It was a recipe for disaster.
To their credit, they went 1-5 and somehow worked their way out of it. I remember very vividly after their fourth straight loss, a buzzer-beater by Saint Joe's Langston Galloway, the group was upbeat and positive when they spoke to the media. There were smiles and coaches were joking, it just seemed like the opposite of what I was expecting following what should have been a devastating loss.
It was because of what transpired before the buzzer-beater, they erased a 15-point deficit in the final 10 minutes, showing the grit, determination, and fight of a winning basketball team. They knew if they put forth that same kind of effort for longer stretches, they could play with anybody. They'd run off 10 of the next 12 to make the tournament.
CSR: What kind of offense and defense should Stanford expect to see from Dayton?
MS: Dayton is strictly a man-to-man defense, sometimes they will sag a little bit towards the paint to give you the feel of a zone. They've only show full court pressure when they've been down late in games.
They run a motion offense with most of their scoring from the 2-4 spots on the floor. Starting point guard Khari Price is a good three-point shooter, but is very selective in the shots he attempts.
They like to get up and down the floor in transition, beating the defense down the court to get some of their best looks. They share the basketball very well, and their ball movement at times looks like a thing of beauty. Good things usually happen when the Flyers are moving the basketball at a rapid pace. Taking care of the basketball and limiting turnovers is key.
CSR: What are the strengths of Dayton's team?
MS: Dayton's strength is versatility and numbers. They have a lot of guys that can bring the ball up the floor, a lot of good shooters, and a lot of energy off the bench. They go 11 deep and any of those 11 are capable of having big nights. They've had 11 different guys reach double figures this year and seven different players lead the team in scoring for a game.
Archie Miller has a good feel for his rotation too, allowing players to get extended minutes when they are playing well. If one guy is struggling, next man up. It's worked really well this season and could play a big advantage if they are able to get Stanford into foul trouble.
CSR: What are the Flyers' weaknesses?
MS: The dribble penetration from opposing guards has been a thorn in their side for most of the season. Tyler Ennis had his way with Dayton in the second half by taking the ball to the basket. That's why I was so incredibly shocked on the final two Syracuse possessions that he opted for jump shots.
Their free throw shooting has been subpar this season as well. There's a couple of guys they want to get the ball too when trying to secure a win with Khari Price being the main one. Devin Oliver is also usually a good free throw shooter in those situations, but missed three in the clutch when trying to close out wins against Ohio State and Syracuse last week. If it comes down to free throws late, Flyer fans will be holding their breath.
CSR: What allowed Dayton to notch two upsets in the 1st/2nd round of the tournament? What did they do well?
MS: Their defense was terrific in both wins last week, particularly from the perimeter. Ohio State was just 25% from the arc, while Syracuse failed to notch a single three-pointer.
They got a lot of balance out of their offense with no player scoring over 14 points in either of the two games last week. But the offense was able to hit some timely shots, none bigger than Vee Sanford's game winner with 3.8 seconds left against Ohio State. Jordan Sibert also hit a deep triple to provide the dagger against Syracuse at the end of the shot clock.
More than anything though, they were able to get the two stops at the end of the game. Historically, those shots seem to find a way to go down against Dayton. All you have to do is go ask Pe'Shon Howard at Southern Cal or Langston Galloway at Saint Joseph's.
CSR: Stanford doesn't have a ton of depth, but the Cardinal has good length/size on the interior and several capable outside shooters. What do you think is the key for Dayton to top the Cardinal?
MS: Dayton has to keep their bigs out of foul trouble, and at the same time, try and get the Cardinal bigs into foul trouble. With Stanford's size, UD may be forced to double the post which opens up the outside. If Chasson Randle and Anthony Brown get going, Dayton could be in trouble.
Offensively, if Dayton can get up and down the floor, perhaps they can wear down Stanford by the end of the game. Dayton is at their best when they create offense off of their defense. If they can get an early lead, I think Dayton has a shot to pull off one more upset.