Just a few days ago, both Stanford and Dayton were longshots to reach the Sweet 16. Now, the Cardinal is actually favored to make it all the way to the Elite Eight. Dayton likes its chances to advance, too, especially after a pair of heartrending upset victories over Ohio State and Syracuse. They've already been burning couches in Dayton's student ghetto, where university president Daniel Curran went crowdsurfing to celebrate the Flyers' successful weekend.
So, the stage is set for a surprising Sweet 16 match-up in Memphis.
According to Ken Pomeroy's college basketball ratings (which can probably be thrown out the window at this point, but they're still fun to check), No. 44 Dayton is the only remaining NCAA Tournament team ranked lower than No. 34 Stanford. As a tournament 10-seed, Stanford will don its home white jerseys on Thursday evening, whereas 11-seed Dayton will remain in road reds.
Scouting Report: Dayton
- Scoring-wise, the Flyers are remarkably similar to Stanford. Across the season, Dayton averages a 72-67 win. The Cardinal averages a 73-68 victory. Advanced efficiency metrics, though, show that the Flyers' offense has been better than Stanford's, while their defense has been significantly worse. KenPom ranks Dayton's attack as No. 38 in the country (Stanford is No. 63) and the Flyers' defense as No. 75 in the nation (Stanford is No. 35).
- It should be noted that Dayton, like Stanford, has upped the defensive ante in this NCAA Tournament. They held Ohio State and Syracuse to 59 and 53 points, respectively. That's proven to be the Flyers' magic formula: They're 11-0 when holding an opponent under 60 points. The Cardinal sputtered offensively against Kansas, though they did reach that 60-point mark. Dayton's pedestrian defensive rating (over the course of the whole season) indicates that this may be a chance for the Farm Boys to right the ship and establish consistent offensive efficiency. Then again, the Flyers turned it up defensively this past weekend, so recent data (albeit in a limited sample size) suggests otherwise. Stay tuned.
- Dayton plays at a methodical pace, though they are capable of burning down the court when transition opportunities open up. KenPom ranks the Flyers at 241st in average possession length, and their disciplined, patient attack against Syracuse's zone in the second round reflected that.
- The Flyers employ a true (and rare) nine-man rotation, which obviously differentiates them from starter-centric Stanford. Eleven players have appeared in at least 31 games for Dayton, while no player averages more than 30 minutes per contest. In comparison, Stanford features four players who average over 32 minutes per game, including two who average over 35. The Flyers' depth (coupled with Stanford's bumbling press break efforts against Kansas) may encourage them to pressure the Cardinal in the full court.
- Good cohesion throughout the extensive Dayton rotation has been a staple of this 2014 season. Three players on the Flyers' roster average double figures in scoring, while a fourth (Vee Sanford) drops in 9.9 points per game. The leading trio (Devin Oliver - 11.9, Dyshawn Pierre - 11.2, and Jordan Sibert - 12.4) offers roughly equal scoring capability, and this makes Dayton tough to defend. If one man has an off night, another one in the rotation typically picks up the slack. This has been a major boon in the team's late season run, which features 10 consecutive victories over teams not named St. Joseph's.
- While the Flyers are very balanced, they are not exemplary in any offensive phase of the game. Their 1.08:1 assist-to-turnover ratio is only slightly better than Stanford's (1.02:1) and ranks 135th in the country. Their 37.6 percent team three-point shooting clip is only a bit better than Stanford's 36 percent mark, while their 46 percent field goal rate is about even with the Cardinal's.
- Dayton features average height. Oliver (6-foot-7) and Pierre (6-foot-6) are the most dangerous threats from the forward position, while Sibert (6-foot-4) and Sanford (6-foot-4) are the leading guards. While there are no awesome strengths in this line-up, there are no glaring weaknesses, either, so Stanford must maintain defensive precision. Johnny Dawkins and his staff shined in this regard against New Mexico and Kansas, and they will be counted on to mix, match, and tweak the Cardinal defense again to account for Dayton's probing and numerous options.
- Stanford's Chasson Randle and Dwight Powell complimented Dayton's physicality on Monday. The Flyers are out-rebounding their opponents by over four boards per game, so the Cardinal's recent success on the glass will again be tested. The Farm Boys have been winning bar fights early in this NCAA Tournament. That's good news, because the numbers and film suggest Dayton will come out swinging in similar fashion on Thursday.
- The Flyers are clutch. Beating Ohio State and Syracuse by a combined three points has earned them headlines, but Dayton has been at it all season: They've gone 12-3 in games by single digits. They've also won four games on shots made in the final five seconds.
- Dayton and Stanford have had two common opponents: California and USC. The Flyers spanked the Bears 82-64 in Hawaii and lost to 79-76 at home to the Trojans. The Cardinal went a combined 3-1 against those teams, with their only loss coming to Cal at home.
- Dayton is coached by Archie Miller, who is the younger brother of Arizona coach Sean Miller. President Barack Obama acknowledged Derin Oliver in a congratulatory tweet from the White House's account following the Round of 32.
Similar numbers suggest that Dayton and Stanford have taken a nearly identical path to reach Memphis, but the details behind the statistics show that the Flyers and the Cardinal have done it in their own separate ways. Miller's squad has relied on balanced depth, while Dawkins has used his premiere front line to push to the Sweet 16. Because of this edge in starting talent, the Cardinal are slight favorites Thursday, but the result of this game may be ultimately determined by astute coaching adjustments. Stanford's consistency will again be put to the test.
David Lombardi is the Stanford Insider for The Bootleg. Check him out at www.davidlombardisports.com and follow him on Twitter @DavidMLombardi.
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