Here’s one way to guarantee a sellout at the First Four: Include the Dayton Flyers.
To the surprise of many, that’s what happened Sunday when UD was assigned a spot in the opening round of the NCAA tournament at UD Arena. The Flyers will take on Boise State at about 9:15 p.m. Wednesday.
“We’re extremely shocked,” UD senior guard Jordan Sibert said as the Flyers watched the selection show at a restaurant in Yonkers, N.Y., following their close loss to VCU in the Atlantic 10 championship game.
“We didn’t really expect that,” Sibert added. “I don’t know what we expected, but that wasn’t it.”
UD’s No. 11 seed was far lower than pre-tourney projections. The Flyers take an impressive 25-8 record into the game against the Broncos, who lost to La Salle two years ago in the First Four.
NCAA tournament selection committee chairman Scott Barnes acknowledged that the Flyers will have a homecourt advantage, but said putting UD in its home arena “falls within the context” of the committee’s procedures.
“It was talked about quite a lot and revisited as late as last night,” Barnes said on CBS’ Selection Show.
The First Four debuted in 2011, so UD wouldn’t even be in the tournament under the previous format that included 65 teams instead of 68.
“Usually in the NCAA tournament, you’re on a bus or a plane, and you’re ready to get shipped off. This is a unique one,” UD coach Archie Miller said. “Us being in our arena, it’s going to be interesting to see how it all works out.
“But back-to-back NCAA tournaments is what it’s about. It’s an awesome opportunity for our program. I’m really happy for this team in general for what they’ve been doing all season to be back in the tournament.”
Minutes before UD’s game was announced, hundreds of First Four tickets were available online for Wednesday’s doubleheader, which will start with a North Florida-Robert Morris matchup. Those tickets didn’t last long.
On Tuesday, Manhattan plays Hampton in the 6:30 p.m. First Four opener, followed by BYU and Ole Miss.
There are some positives to UD’s draw. The Flyers are 16-0 at home, although the playing floor will feature a neutral NCAA tourney design.
If the Flyers beat Boise State, which also is 25-8 after losing to Wyoming in the semifinals of the Mountain West tourney, they will play sixth-seeded Providence on Friday in Columbus.
The Friars’ leading scorer is LaDontae Henton, who originally committed to Dayton but changed his mind after Brian Gregory left for Georgia Tech.