Two weeks ago, the Dayton Flyers sat squarely on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament. After losing in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 Tournament, there was a nervous wait on Selection Sunday before the committee called their name.
Now, the Flyers are headed to the Sweet 16 after winning thrillers over two of the bigger powerhouses in college basketball, Ohio State and Syracuse. How did they get to this point? Let's get familiar with this year's Cinderella.
Meet the Flyers
Dayton wins games with strong execution on the offensive end of the floor. They don't push the tempo unless there's an easy fast break opportunity -- Pomeroy rates their pace at 237th fastest in the country -- meaning the Flyers have to convert in the half-court setting most of the time. They do that really well, drilling upwards of 46 percent of their shots from the floor and 38 percent from behind the three-point line.
Throughout the season, Dayton was a team in every sense of the word. Leading scorer Jordan Sibert averaged just 12.4 points per game. Eleven players appeared in 31 games or more, and coach Archie Miller utilizes a legitimate nine-man rotation to get the job done most nights. That's highly unheard of in today's college game.
Dayton faced a pretty tough schedule in the regular season, especially for not playing in a BCS conference. An early-season win over Gonzaga was an eye-opener, and wins over George Washington, UMass and at Saint Louis were all impressive in conference play. The only thing that kept this team on the bubble was an ugly two-week stretch in January that saw the team go 0-4. They have rebounded nicely since then, winning 11 of 13, but that still wasn't enough to finish higher than 6th in the Atlantic 10.
As they say, though, it's all about getting hot at the right time. Dayton has certainly done that through the first week of the Big Dance.
Meet Archie Miller
This is Archie's first head coaching gig, and it certainly won't be his last. He came over from Arizona in 2011 after serving as an assistant coach for his older brother, Sean, for two seasons. He also spent a year working under Thad Matta at Ohio State in 2007-08.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that Miller is off to such a terrific start. He has tremendous bloodlines -- his brother has saved Arizona's hoops program, and his father was a successful high school coach in Pennsylvania for years -- and he is known as one of the top recruiters in the country. His staff has done a nice job developing talent in a short amount of time.
Archie inherited a decent team in his first year at Dayton and won 20 games before losing in the NIT. The Flyers' 2012-13 campaign was not great, but with nearly the entire roster returning, there was optimism with Archie calling the shots. That's turned into at least a Sweet 16 appearance (and perhaps more.)
Meet the program
Dayton is one of the winningest mid-major programs in the country.
Granted the school has not been to the Final Four since 1967, but there have been a handful of Elite 8 and Sweet 16 appearances scattered throughout the last half-century. They've reached the NCAA Tournament five times since 2000. Since 1995, there has only been two losing seasons (1997, 2006).
So while the Flyers may not be a household name, their journey to the Sweet 16 should not come as a big surprise. They have an excellent coach, a veteran-laden roster, and they've been on the fortunate side of two would-be game winners clanking off the back of the rim. No one ever said you can't be Cinderella without a little bit of luck.