Even though they are an 11 seed, the Dayton Flyers don't feel like an underdog in the NCAA Tournament.
There were no motivational speeches about David vs. Goliath before the Dayton Flyers took on the Ohio State Buckeyes in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at Buffalo's First Niagara Center Thursday.
The Flyers did not need such a speech because they eliminated all of the outside distractions of being the "little brother" of Ohio basketball next to Ohio State and focused on proving to everyone that they belonged in the NCAA Tournament.
And that approach to the game helped the No. 11 Flyers earn their first NCAA Tournament victory since 2009, as they upset the sixth-seeded Buckeyes, 60-59.
"It was just another game to us. Honestly, it was," said senior guard Vee Sanford, who hit the game-winning shot with 3.8 seconds left. "Coming into the game, we weren't thinking about who they were. It was a game. It's five-on-five and it didn't matter who it was. We just wanted to advance. That stuff was irrelevant, and we put that stuff out the door."
Forward Dyshawn Pierre added, "We tried to cancel out all of the noise and focus on this game. With this win, we're happy with it, but now, we've got to focus on moving forward, the next game mentality, and we're happy we got the win."
If anything, Thursday's game against Ohio State was more difficult for Flyers coach Archie Miller than it was for his players.
Miller served as an assistant for Buckeyes coach Thad Matta at Ohio State from 2007 to 2008, before he moved on to coach with his brother, Sean, at the University of Arizona. The elder Miller brother replaced Matta at Xavier when he left for Columbus.
"For me, it's tough," Miller said. "You line up against somebody who gave you a lot. He thinks a lot of you. He helped us just as much as anyone. He's pulling for us at the end of the season, and then, you play him.
"But at the end of the day, it is what it is. If he would have won, obviously, he's going to say it's tough, but the name of the game right now is advancing. This is the biggest stage you can be on. This is where our program is supposed to be. We've gotten here, and we want to stay."
For the Flyers to stay in the NCAA Tournament, they will have to overcome something of a home-court advantage for their next opponent, the Syracuse Orange.
Syracuse's campus is a little bit more than two hours East of Buffalo, and the Orange are coming off of a 77-53 victory over the Mid-American Conference champion Western Michigan Broncos in their first game of the tournament.
The winner of Saturday's game will advance in the South Region to the Sweet 16 in Memphis, Tenn. next week.
"We're going to have another one that's going to be very, very similar," Miller said. "I want our guys to go enjoy it. This is the greatest thing in the world when you win the 12 noon game because you've got a lot of ball, and you can sit and watch the replay a lot."
Now, the Flyers are on to the third round after not knowing they would make the field of 64.
Dayton (23-10, 10-6 Atlantic 10 Conference) earned an at-large bid to this year's NCAA Tournament despite losing to St. Joseph's, 70-67, in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament.
The Flyers were one of the six Atlantic 10 Conference teams to make the NCAA Tournament this year, along with St. Louis, St. Joseph's, Massachusetts, Virginia Commonwealth, and George Washington.
"(The) A‑10 is great," Miller said. "Coaches are great. I've said it a couple days ago, there's great players in our league. The seniors in that league have been through it. The fact we got six bids, we earned all six.
"Now if we'd have lost and someone says they shouldn't have gotten in? Probably. It's all irrelevant. We are in. We earned the right to be in. The other teams in the A‑10 not only earned the right to get in, I thought they were seeded pretty (well). I wouldn't expect anything less of our league but to keep advancing."