MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — After Dayton’s best postseason run in 30 years, coach Archie Miller is confident it won’t take the Flyers nearly as long to repeat that success.
No. 11 seed Dayton knocked off Ohio State, Syracuse and Stanford before falling to top seed Florida 62-52 Saturday night in the NCAA tournament’s South Regional.
The scrappy team from the Atlantic 10 was the tournament’s favorite underdog by the end of its run — blasting past big-name programs and all the way to the Elite Eight with a deep rotation that specialized in defense and energy.
The architect was Miller — an intense 35-year-old from Pennsylvania who comes from a coaching family. Older brother Sean guided Arizona to the same point in the NCAA tournament, exiting just hours after his sibling when the Wildcats lost to Wisconsin 64-63 in overtime.
“I think the blueprint is now set that we know how to do it, and we can do it,” Archie Miller said after Saturday’s loss. “That’s going to be a credit to these guys who have taken us across the bridge, so to speak.”
The Flyers’ success also has made their coach a hot commodity. Dayton athletic director Tim Wabler announced earlier this week that Miller’s contract had been extended through the 2018-19 season, though a bigger-name program could be interested in the coming weeks.
Dayton should be good again next season. The Flyers expect to return three starters, including sophomore Dyshawn Pierre, who scored 18 against the Gators. Five more from the bench who saw regular minutes also will be back.
One of the three departing seniors — guard Vee Sanford — said those who view Dayton as a small-time program are misinformed. Dayton was one of six teams from the Atlantic 10 that received an NCAA tournament bid this year.
“Nothing about the University of Dayton is Cinderella or small,” Sanford said Friday when talking about the team’s unexpected run. “We have the best facilities and we’re on top of our things academically.”
Junior Devin Oliver scored 12 points in Saturday’s loss to Florida. He said Miller’s work ethic has been crucial to the team’s development.
“(He’s) a guy who comes to work every day and that trickles down to his players,” Oliver said. “He’ll get in a drill and box you out — whatever it takes. He’s just a guy that loves to win more than anything. He never wants to be looked over or anything like that. It’s just a toughness and a passion that has trickled down to his team.”
Miller said he appreciated the sacrifice his players made to play his style. The Flyers used 11 or 12 players on most nights and playing time could vary widely depending on who was being productive on a given night.
The approach has been successful, and the expectations for the program have risen exponentially.
“The vision will never change,” Miller said. “We’ll try to get back here and break through one day.”
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