In 2014, Dayton beat Syracuse, 55-53, to advance to the Sweet 16. This year, the seventh-seeded Flyers (25-7) will have to beat No. 10 Syracuse (19-13) to advance to the Round of 32.
But don’t bet on it.
Doug Gottlieb saw Dayton in person last Friday and Saturday and came away feeling, well, a tad underwhelmed. So did Seth Davis.
“I agree with you there,” the CBS college basketball analyst said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “I would say Dayton probably has a higher floor than Syracuse but a lower ceiling. Syracuse has been pretty inconsistent, especially with their shooting. You never know when (Trevor) Cooney is going to go 2-for-14 or he could go 6-of-9 from three and they could beat almost anybody, including the Michigan States of the world. But Dayton has not played well over the last month.”
Indeed, the Flyers started the season 21-3 but are 4-4 over their last eight games.
“I think part of it was the (Kendall) Pollard injury and part of it was (Steve) McElvene not (developing offensively),” Davis said of the 6-11 freshman center. “They get beat up in the paint, they don’t throw it in the post as much – they are definitely going in the wrong direction. So if by some chance they do get by Syracuse, Michigan State would have to play its worst game of the season to lose to Dayton. I definitely wouldn’t foresee that happening.”
That’s right. if the Flyers get by Syracuse, their reward, almost assuredly, would be a date with No. 2 Michigan State (29-5) on Sunday.
The Spartans, who won the Big Ten Tournament, have a Player of the Year candidate in Denzel Valentine, who is averaging 19.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 7.6 assists per game. They’re also the best three-point shooting team from a Power 5 conference in the last 20 years, as four Sparty regulars shoot at least 41.0 percent from distance.
Gottlieb wondered if Syracuse could beat Michigan State, especially if the Spartans jack too many threes against Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone.
“Well, yeah, once you get in the second round, I think almost anything can happen,” Davis said. “I picked Michigan State to win the championship for a reason. Early on, they were falling in love with the three and they fell in love with it a little bit last year, which was their problem at times. But this time of year, Izzo knows better than anybody else (that) toughness, rebounding (and) points in the paint (can be the difference). As good as that zone is, if you can’t defend posts, then it all kind of falls apart. That’s been the one area (where Syracuse has struggled). It’s soft inside and of course they have no bench. So it’d be a pretty tall order if Syracuse got (by) Michigan State.”