Dave’s Dayton Diary, Day 1: A bittersweet March Madness ahead

A tournament without Dayton fans in attendance won’t be the same

EDITOR’S NOTE: David Jablonski will keep a daily diary for as long as the Dayton Flyers are playing in the postseason, starting today, the first day of the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament.

A crazy day for college basketball

6:00 p.m. — Dayton Flyers fans have been typing the words, "What a time to be alive," all season, and the statement is still true today — for so many different reasons.

I wrote my boss this morning about the idea of starting a daily diary — detailing my experiences covering the Flyers throughout the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament and the NCAA tournament — not knowing just what this day would bring. I’m starting it anyway not knowing where the days ahead will lead me.

» FREQUENT FLYERS: Mikesell’s parents rarely miss a game

All I know right now is I’m heading to Brooklyn, N.Y., in the morning: 9:30 departure from Columbus with a direct flight to LaGuardia. Then I’ll head straight to the Barclays Center, hoping to arrive to catch the second half of the UMass-VCU game. At this moment, the A-10 plans to continue with the tournament as scheduled and still allow fans — and media — into the games. Things have changed rapidly this week, so who knows what may come later tonight or Thursday.

Earlier today, the NCAA announced it will play the NCAA tournament but with "only essential staff and limited family in attendance." Anthony Grant said "trust the decision makers" on this, so I'm going to follow his lead and echo that, but it's sad to know most Dayton fans won't be able to see their team in the big dance. As I said on Mo Egger's show on ESPN 1530 today, Dayton fans fuel the program. I can't imagine covering a game without the stands full of red.

Credit: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

Credit: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

Candidate Toppin

8:30 p.m. — As much as the weeks ahead will be about the success of Dayton as a team, eyes also will be on an individual, Obi Toppin, as he competes for the national player of the year awards. The Sporting News chose Luka Garza as its player of the year. Rob Dauster, of NBC Sports, picked Toppin.

» MARCH FORECAST: Where UD stands in NCAA tournament picture

The most high-profile awards — the Naismith Trophy (April 5), Wooden Award (April 10) and Oscar Robertson trophy (April 13) — come out later.

Earlier this season, I received a piece of mail from the University of Iowa: a notebook touting Garza as the nation’s top player. We will use the pages for grocery lists for months to come. I asked Dayton graduate assistant James Haring if they planned to do anything similar for Toppin, and he said they were working on something.

That something arrived in the mail today: a sharp-looking glossy pamphlet featuring 12 different images of Toppin, his stats and a QR code for people to scan and bring up a Toppin highlight real. It was mailed to media members and anyone who votes for the major awards. There was also #Vote4Obi highlighter in the package. I got a message from Toppin’s mom, Roni, soon after showing off the highlighter. She’s a teacher and wants some for her classes.

» BIG NEWS: NCAA won’t allow fans at games

I expect Toppin to win one of the major awards. He seems to make history every day. He was named A-10 Player of the Year on Tuesday, becoming the first player Dayton ever to win that award, and he became Dayton's first All-American since Jim Paxson in 1979 on Wednesday when The Sporting News named him to its first team.

The Obi hype train keeps gathering momentum. A billboard on Interstate 75 near UD Arena serves as a giant version of the pamphlet UD mailed out, though Toppin long ago won the vote of most of the people driving through that area.

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