Dayton heading west as long wait for NCAA tournament berth ends

No. 7 seed Dayton will play No. 10 Nevada in first round

The Dayton Flyers waited seven years for this moment — what did a few more minutes matter?

UD players gathered in the Connor Flight Deck on the upper level of UD Arena on Sunday, sitting in a row of high-backed chairs with two TVs on the wall in front of them and the UD Arena scoreboard also showing the NCAA tournament selection show. The players got excited every time a No. 8 vs. No. 9 seed or No. 7 or No. 10 seed game popped up on the screen because that’s where all the experts expected them to land.

Three times, as the East, South and Midwest Region games were unveiled, the players pulled out their phones and then put them away as their wait continued. Finally, at the end of the show, with only a couple more spots left on the bracket, Dayton’s long-awaited moment came. The players, with star DaRon Holmes II sitting front and center, jumped out of their seats in celebration.

Dayton (24-7) earned a No. 7 seed in the West Region and will play No. 10 seed Nevada (26-7) in the first round at 4:30 p.m. (EST) Thursday at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. The game will start at 2:30 p.m. in Salt Lake City.

“It was definitely very nerve-wracking,” Holmes said. “We were all very excited. We were on the edge of our seats. It was great to hear our name being called. We knew it was going to happen, and it happened.”

“It was extremely nerve-wracking,” guard Koby Brea said. “I’ve been in college for four years. I’ve never been a part of this kind of experience. I’m just extremely blessed and grateful for the opportunity.”

If Dayton wins, it will play No. 2 seed Arizona (25-8) or No. 15 Long Beach State (21-14) in the second round on Saturday.

Here’s what the news means for the Dayton basketball history book:

• This is the 19th NCAA tournament appearance in school history.

• This is the first NCAA tournament appearance in coach Anthony Grant’s seven seasons. That number would be two if the 2020 tournament had not been cancelled because of the pandemic.

• This is the first NCAA tournament appearance for the program since 2017 when it also received a No. 7 seed and lost to Wichita State in the first round in Indianapolis.

Dayton had to wait three days for the news after a 65-57 loss to Duquesne in the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament on Thursday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

No. 6 seed Duquesne followed that victory with a 70-60 victory against No. 7 St. Bonaventure on Saturday and a 57-51 victory against No. 5 Virginia Commonwealth on Sunday. The Dukes earned their first NCAA tournament berth since 1977. They received a No. 11 seed and will play No. 6 BYU on Thursday in Omaha, Neb.

Most experts expected Dayton to receive a No. 8 or 9 seed. A few thought it would get a No. 7 seed. Jerry Palm, of CBS Sports, predicted Dayton would be a No. 10 seed and play No. 7 seed Michigan State in the First Four at UD Arena.

Dayton and Nevada have never played. The Wolf Pack, coached by Indiana Hoosiers great Steve Alford, finished second in the Mountain West Conference. They won their last seven regular-season games but lost 85-78 Thursday to Colorado State in the Mountain West quarterfinals.

This will be the second time Dayton has played NCAA tournament games in Salt Lake City. It started a run to the Elite Eight in 1984 in the city with victories against LSU and Oklahoma.

Grant was a freshman on that 1983-84 team and remembers the games well but had forgotten they were in Salt Lake City. Now he returns for his first NCAA tournament appearance since his third season at Alabama in 2012. He also coached Virginia Commonwealth to the tournament in 2007 and 2009.

“I’m just grateful,” Grant said. “I’m happy for our guys. I’m happy for the university, for the program. There was a lot of work that was put into trying to make this happen.”


Dayton vs. Nevada, time and TV TBA, 95.7, 1290

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