Dayton Advances to Elite 8: When Will Midnight Strike for Cinderella?

Kerry MillerCollege Basketball National AnalystMarch 27, 2014

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Led by Jordan Sibert's 18 points, the Dayton Flyers kept their incredible run going with an 82-72 Sweet 16 victory over the Stanford Cardinal, moving to within three wins of the most improbable national championship of all time.

Coming into the game, one of the biggest questions was how Dayton would contend with Stanford's Chasson Randle. The Flyers did a great job all season of stifling assertive guards, most recently holding Syracuse's Tyler Ennis to 19 points on 7-of-21 shooting.

Following suit, they simply broke Randle's will. Even with a few meaningless buckets at the end of the game, he shot just 5-of-21 from the floor and committed five turnovers.

Stanford's big men scored almost at will when they weren't in foul troubleStefan Nastic, Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis combined for 45 points while shooting 16-of-27 from the fieldbut the Cardinal's leading scorer during the regular season couldn't get anything to go his way Thursday night.

Another key part of Stanford's rotation was almost nonexistent. Anthony Brown was the team's most accurate three-point shooter during the regular season, but he attempted just two triples in the gamenever able to get an open look against Dayton's perimeter defense.

We all assumed coming into the game that the winner would be celebrating a trip to the Elite Eight before getting unceremoniously bounced from the tournament by Florida or UCLA in the following round.

But if Dayton keeps playing like it did against Stanford, what's stopping the Flyers from continuing to win?

Against Stanford's big frontcourt, they fought to a 35-35 draw in the rebounding battledespite not getting a single board from center Matt Kavanaugh. They got a little careless with the ball once the game was pretty much in the bag, but the Flyers committed just four turnovers in the first 35 minutes.

You could argue that Dayton committed too many fouls in the game, but I would say that's just smart coaching. Why not encourage a physical basketball game against a team that has basically nobody to come in off the bench? Once Nastic and Powell got into foul trouble, the game was practically over.

Beating Florida won't be easy, but none of Dayton's wins have been.

Playing in the oft-disrespected A-10, the Flyers now have wins over a Big Ten team, an ACC team and a Pac-12 team. It sure would be something if they went through an SEC team (Florida), a Big 12 team (Iowa State) and an AAC team (Louisville) to finish their journey to cut down the nets.

There are three things that need to happen for them to keep winning.

First, they need to continue frustrating the dickens out of the opposing team's leading scorer.

Since the calendar flipped to March, they held Massachusetts' Chaz Williams to 5-of-17 shooting, Saint Louis' Jordair Jett to just three field-goal attempts, Fordham's Jon Severe and Branden Frazier to 13-of-42 from the field, Ohio State's LaQuinton Ross to 5-of-12 shooting—and we've previously addressed their work against Ennis and Randle.

Mar 27, 2014; Memphis, TN, USA; Dayton Flyers forward Kendall Pollard (22) celebrates after defeating the Stanford Cardinal 82-72 in the semifinals of the south regional of the 2014 NCAA Mens Basketball Championship tournament at FedExForum. Mandatory Cre
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Sure, in the Flyers' one loss during that stretch, Saint Joseph's Langston Galloway exploded for 31 points on an efficient 9-of-16 shooting night, but that just further reiterates how important it is for them to stifle the opposing team's primary shooter. Against Florida, they'll key on stopping Scottie Wilbekin.

The second thing Dayton needs to do to keep dancing is keep Sibert scoring. No one will ever confuse Sibert with Kemba Walker, but the Ohio State transfer is the team leader in scoring and three-point shooting. In his last two games, Sibert has hit 7-of-17 three-point attempts. If he can keep making those great equalizers, anything is possible.

The third keyand perhaps the most important of all—is to keep having fun.

This is far from Dunk City, but Dayton has that winning attitude. The Flyers are playing loose and enjoying the ride. By contrast, Stanford looked stiff as a board and terrified to lose Thursday night.

It's safe to assume that all three of your Bleacher Report experts are going to pick Dayton to lose its next game.

But if the Flyers can abide by those three keys, Cinderella could be taking her glass slippers to Arlington.


Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.