It might be a bit of an insult to UConn to call their win over Villanova an upset, but when a #7 seed beats a #2 there are quite a few stunned people in the room. There’s no arguing that Dayton carrying on with their incredible tournament as they beat another prestigious program in Syracuse, making it into the Sweet Sixteen.
In a day that was about the favorite teams dominating, the Flyers and Huskies provided a little change of scenery from the expected results. It also proved that anyone suggesting Syracuse and Villanova to be way overrated and seeded way too high weren’t too far from the truth, seeing a disappointing early exit from the former Big East rivals.
Dayton are now the potential darlings of a nation thanks to wins over Ohio State and Syracuse. Not just higher seeds, but two schools that are among the most successful and consistent of basketball programs in the nation. Against the Orange it was another close affair, with Tyler Ennis surprising everyone as he took a tougher shot than he had to with time running down and Dayton leading by two. He had time to get a bit closer to the basket, without anyone really capable of stopping him, but chose to pull up for a tough three pointer, allowing Dayton to come away with the 55-53 win, making it into the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1984.
Another Atlantic 10 team, if Coach K is listening. There is no star for the Flyers, but simply excellent defense and some big time shooting, this time coming from Jordan Sibert with three huge 3-pointers. Dean Oliver scored 7 points, but also had 10 rebounds and 3 steals against the formidable Syracuse frontline. The Orange had Ennis with 19 points and C.J. Fair with 14, but not anything from anyone else, missing out on a third consecutive Sweet Sixteen appearance.
UConn and ‘Nova renewed their former rivalry in Buffalo, and Shabazz Napier, who has been the main reason UConn have looked much better in Kevin Ollie’s second season, put on quite a show. He scored 25 points, 21 of them coming in the second half, making it to the regional semifinal for the first time since 2011, when it ended with a national title. Napier isn’t exactly Kemba Walker, but it’s not bad to draw comparisons between them when looking for signs of hope.
The Wildcats had a great regular season, but the new Big East is weaker, obviously, than the one they’ve left behind, and having only three losses this season doesn’t begin to tell how good or not this team is when compared to a bigger pool. They shot only 35.3% from the field and once again, just like in the two Creighton losses, found themselves struggling to contain a player who can score from every range in more than just one way, losing 65-77/
No one is looking at the Huskies or the Flyers and says: National champions. However, those who get this far in the tournament can’t be taken lightly, and although both offer something very different to the neutral fans, it’s no longer wise to overlook their chances, no matter who they play next.