At some point reality always hits, and the truth is that Florida are a much better team than Dayton. The final score of 62-52 might not suggest that there’s such a huge difference between the teams, but there wasn’t a single person watching Scottie Wilbekin go off and thinking that the Flyers were somehow robbed of a place in the Final Four.
Because eventually, #11 seeds aren’t good enough, not when they meet a team that’s solid all over, and has been work in progress for the last four years in order to win the national championship. Dayton came out of nowhere this season, at least when you think about the teams that are expected to reach the Elite Eight. Florida presented a defense that Dayton hasn’t really seen this season. No team in the mid-majors has actually, and it turned to be a bit too much for them to handle.
Dayton did have a 21-19 lead early in the game, but that was about it. Wilbekin and Michael Frazier started hitting 3-pointers, most of them contested but shots the two guards are used to making, and Dayton didn’t really have an answer for the Gators crashing the boards, with Dorian Finney-Smith grabbing six offensive rebounds. Florida outscored Dayton 13-1 on second-chance points.
But above all it was the defense. Jordan Sibert was held to 0 points, and he was able to take only three shots during the game. Florida limited Dayton to 39.6% from the field and made it almost impossible at times to get off a shot in time unless it was a tough three pointer. The Flyers weren’t bad with those (8-of-18), but too many times seemed to be in the wrong place during their possession when the shot clock was about to go off.
Dayton were held to 17.6% from the field when Florida where using their full court press, and on seven of the 15 possessions that the Gators pressed, the Flyers did not attempt a shot until there was 6 seconds or fewer on the shot clock, making one such attempt. Dayton scored only 8 transition points, making them with 30% from the field.
The big difference was really seen when Patric Young was on the court. Not a huge night for the senior offensively, finishing with 12 points, but his 4 blocks and pretty much clogging the lane and steering Dayton away from there might have been the most important piece of the defensive philosophy for Florida in this game.
So Florida move on to the Final Four for the first time since 2007. They’ve won all their games in the tournament by Double Digits, and five of the last 6 teams to win each of those 4 games by double digits went on to win the National Championship. The only team to reach the Final Four with that kind of resume and still not win the national championship were the 2008 North Carolina Tar Heels.
In a lot of ways, outside the Michigan game, we were close to being in three out of four Final Fours right now, and that says a lot about these guys. But I think those experiences maybe helped us be a better team this year than maybe we would have if we’d have gotten to a couple of ones earlier.