NCAA tournament diary: Day 1 covering the Flyers in Salt Lake City

Flyers talk to media and practice Wednesday at the Delta Center

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

10:58 A.M.

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Tom Archdeacon and I walked into the Delta Center minutes ago. I took a selfie of the Dayton Daily News team in front of the statues of Utah Jazz greats Karl Malone and John Stockton. Arch, obviously, is the Malone in our group. I’m a point guard. We both have ugly broken fingers that didn’t heal correctly — souvenirs of our basketball careers.

We’re thrilled to be back at the NCAA tournament covering the Dayton Flyers for the first time since 2017. Both of us survived a long day of travel from Ohio on Tuessday. I boarded a plane in Columbus at 6 a.m. Then we all had to get off the plane because it needed a new tire. That was a two-hour process, so I had to redo my whole itinerary.

I found a new flight to Denver and got to Salt Lake City three hours later than planned — not a big deal and the only significant travel delay I’ve had all season. I’ve been blessed, as they say.

Today we’re covering press conferences and open practices featuring the Flyers and their opponent, Nevada. Dayton players will also appear at a press conference from 12:35 to 12:50 p.m. (Mountain Time). Coach Anthony Grant will follow them from 12:50 to 1:05 p.m. The Flyers then practice from 1:15 to 1:55 p.m. They’re getting a police escort from their hotel to the Delta Center at noon today.

This will be the first time I’ve seen Dayton practice — although we won’t see much more than the players getting up shots and running the weave — for more than a few minutes in the Grant era. He usually lets the media into practice for 15 minutes in the summer and again in the preseason.

The NCAA opens practices to media and fans the day before games. The locker room is also open, so my goal is to talk to some of the players I haven’t had a chance to talk to this season, such as Malachi Smith, Marvel Allen and Jaiun Simon, to get a sense of how their season away from game action has gone.

I make the most of my time on these trips. Still on Ohio time, I was up at 5 a.m. today and immediately set out on a run/hike past the Utah Capitol building and then onto the top of Ensign Peak, the place where Brigham Young first surveyed the valley. It has an elevation of more than 5,000 feat. A winding single-track trail took me to the top. It was worth every step for the view of downtown and the peaks to the east and west and the smell of the sagebrush.

Hopefully, Dayton wins Thursday against Nevada, and I can find a few more moments here and there to be a tourist.

5:02 P.M.

Media covering the NCAA tournament love to make fun of the NCAA’s rules about only using their paper cups if you’re taking drinks out to the court. You can’t take a can of Coke out of the media work room, for example. You have to pour it in a March Madness cup.

Big signs remind you: “Only NCAA cups allowed beyond this point.” I joked Wednesday I was going to steal one of those signs for my kitchen.

I just wrapped up a long day in that media work room at the Delta Center. Tom Archdeacon walked over to the arena around 10 a.m. and left around 4:30 p.m. It was a whirlwind of interviews and photos for me. He’s working on a story about Dayton associate head coach Ricardo Greer, who’s in the tournament for the first time as a coach but also keeping an eye on high school basketball back home because his son R.J. Greer plays for state semifinalist Alter.

I’m going to do a story tomorrow before the game on the three Dayton players sitting out this season: Malachi Smith; Marvel Allen; and Jaiun Simon. I talked to each of them in the locker room today.

The most interesting thing I saw at the Dayton practice was its free-throw routine. At the end of the practice, the players split into two groups, one at each basket. One side would shoot a free throw. Then the other. It appeared to be a contest. They made most of them. I only saw a few misses. This went on for at least five minutes.

Whatever Dayton does is working because this is the best free-throw shooting team (73.4%) of the Anthony Grant era.

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