To hear members of the Dayton basketball team tell it, the Flyers are no one's little brother.
So forgive us the analogy that nonetheless is such a perfect fit in the wake of Dayton's 60-59 upset of Ohio State in the NCAA tournament on Thursday.
Dayton is coached by Archie Miller—little brother of Arizona coach Sean Miller, who is better known. Archie, in fact, was a pretty good little point guard back in the day at North Carolina State. But even then, he was overshadowed by big brother Sean, who was a better point guard in his playing days at Pittsburgh and was just embarking on the coaching career that would make him rich and famous.
Furthermore, Archie Miller served as an assistant to Ohio State coach Thad Matta in 2007 and 2008. Heck, the two guys were even comparing tie choices on the sideline prior to tipoff—although Miller in no way interpreted that fraternal moment as a sign of weakness on Matta's part.
"When you've worked for Thad, you know how it is," Miller told Cleveland.com, prior to the game. "He'll walk around with a smile on his face, but he's going to try to stomp on your head the first chance he gets."
Dayton, the team, is akin to little brother to the Ohio State program—despite the protestations of Dayton sophomore Devon Scott to columnist Tom Archdeacon of the Dayton Daily News when this was suggested prior to Thursday's showdown:
We're nobody's little brother! We win games just like they do. We beat the same kind of talent they do. We definitely feel we can play with anybody in the country and win. We beat Gonzaga, Cal, Ole Miss. We had Baylor won until the last couple minutes and lost by one.
I would say we're just as confident as Ohio State. They're not anything bigger than us.
That Dayton chip-on-the-shoulder mentality shone through in a big way on the court Thursday.
The Buckeyes came in as the No. 6 seed, despite an uneven season in Big Ten conference play. The Flyers, currently of the admittedly much weaker Atlantic 10 conference, were a No. 11 seed.
But this all-Ohio matchup was long overdue because Matta's unabashed philosophy as head of the program of the biggest school in the state is to avoid all other in-state threats at all costs.
That includes Dayton, which therefore had last faced the Buckeyes in 2008 in Columbus in the NIT. Remarkably, the two schools haven't played each other in the regular season since 1988 (they split four meetings overall during the 1980s).
Honestly, it makes no sense for two schools located within 67 miles from one another. But because of Matta's motto that his team has all too little to gain and everything to lose by scheduling the likes of Dayton, Cincinnati and Ohio University, that's the way it is.
And that's why this game meant so much to the Flyers.
They yearned to soar out from underneath Ohio State's shadow. They yearned to prove they belong on the national stage.
Dayton earned not just statewide respect, but countrywide respect with Thursday's win.
Vee Sanford's bank shot off a drive gave the Flyers their 60-59 lead with 3.8 seconds left and then they had to withstand a final effort by OSU point guard Aaron Craft. But they got to that point by playing tenacious defense and battling for every rebound over the full 40 minutes, matching the Buckeyes at what they do best.
In the end, the irony is that perhaps Archie Miller proved Matta's seemingly ludicrous philosophy of avoiding all in-state rivals as sound, at least from the Ohio State standpoint. Little brother the coach and little brother the program now has a signature win over the Buckeyes to point to the next time they battle each other for a blue-chip, in-state recruit, leveling that playing field just a bit.
It's just too bad that brothers can't learn to play with each other without fear. When it costs fans the opportunity to watch more of the types of games like the one played Thursday, that's where the real loss occurs.
Meanwhile, Dayton scored a meaningful victory for little brothers everywhere with Thursday's upset.
Joe Menzer, who happens to be a little brother himself, writes about college basketball, golf, NASCAR and other sports for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @OneMenz.
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