Neither team was expected to win their first 2014 NCAA Tournament Game. After two upset victories each, No.10 Stanford and No.11 Dayton will meet in the Sweet 16.
It’s been a long time since either Stanford or Dayton has experienced much success in college basketball. The Cardinal were a staple in March Madness for much of the 1990’s and 2000’s. After reaching the Sweet 16 in 2008, though, the club went five seasons without an appearance in the Big Dance. Dayton’s tournament drought was one year shorter, but the Flyers haven’t made it this far, since the field was expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
Johnny Dawkins's squad entered as a three-point underdog in their opening round game against No. 7 New Mexico, but prevailed, 58-53. Two days later, the Cardinal defeated No.2 Kansas, pulling off one of the biggest upsets of the tourney. Stanford survived on the strength of a tough defense, holding opponents to 55 points per game. Projected top draft pick Andrew Wiggins only managed to attempt six shots against Stanford, scoring four points. In their 35 games, Stanford ranks just 116th nationally in points allowed.
Dayton didn’t waste any time upsetting No.6 Ohio State, winning the first game in the Round of 64. They forced senior guard Aaron Craft to commit five turnovers and miss the final shot of the contest. Archie Miller's squad wasn't done, though, beating No.3 Syracuse, who also failed to score on a last-second shot.
Chasson Randle leads Stanford with 18.7 points per game, while Dayton lacks one dominant scorer. Three Cardinal players average more points than the Flyers’ Jordan Sibert, who puts up 12.4 points per contest. Devin Oliver and Dyshawn Pierre aren’t far behind, at 11.9 and 11.2, respectively.
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The key for Dayton might be containing Randle. In their victory over Ohio State, the Flyers held leading-scorer LaQuinton Ross to 10 points on 12 field goal attempts. Against Syracuse, Tyler Ennis finished with 19 points, but he only shot 33 percent from the field. It won’t be easy to slow down Randle, who scored 23 points against New Mexico, and has reached the 20-point mark in five of his last seven tries.
The two teams had similar roads to the NCAA Tournament. They each defeated four tournament teams, before the field of 68 was set. Stanford and Dayton were consistent for most of the season, though the Cardinal suffered a three-game losing streak, and the Flyers lost four in a row in 2014.
Both teams bring a lot of experience to the table. Dayton relies on mostly upper classmen, with Kendall Pollard leading the team’s freshmen at two points per game. No freshman or sophomore gets significant playing time with Stanford. Over 96 percent of the team’s scoring has come from juniors and seniors.
Most Las Vegas casinos have Stanford favored by three points. Both teams have 19 wins and 12 losses against the point spread in the 2013-2014 season.
No matter what happens on Thursday, neither team is expected to advance to the Final Four. The winner will go on to face No.1 Florida or No.4 UCLA in South Regional Finals. Bovada.lv lists Stanford’s betting odds of winning the title at 50/1. Dayton comes in at 100/1, with the worst odds in the entire field.
Prediction: Stanford 70, Dayton, 61