After watching the Dayton Flyers dismantle the North Carolina Tar Heels last night in the Men’s NIT Championship, it became obvious that the Flyers did more than expose the Illinois State Redbirds a couple weeks ago.
Turns out Dayton’s 21-point win over ISU might not have been such a big deal. They followed that victory with impressive and commanding victories over Cincinnati and Illinois. They then won a hard-fought game over Ole’ Miss before fairly easily handling North Carolina to win the NIT Championship. Certainly it was not the same UNC that won the Big Dance last year, but still Roy Williams and North Carolina — a team that beat the likes of Ohio State (on the road), and Michigan State … and battled hard in several ACC conference games.
Randy Kindred wrote following the Dayton victory over Illinois State that “except for a three-minute stretch of the second half, the Redbirds were outmanned and, in every way, out of their league in a first-round National Invitation Tournament game at Dayton’s UD Arena”.
Certainly it’s true that the Redbirds took a beating from Dayton. But, in hindsight, it perhaps said more about the ability of the team from Dayton than it did about the failings of the team from Normal.
I usually really appreciate Kindred’s words, like these following the ISU women’s loss in the Final Four of the Women’s NIT, and certainly it’s not his job to only write glowing stories about local teams or athelets. But, in this case, I think his article was perhaps a bit narrow-minded and short-sighted. Going so far as to essentially mock coach Tim Jankovich when he said the loss showed them a lot of the weaknesses they need to improve and that they’ll be back next year a better team migt have been too much.
Sure, the Redbirds have a lot to work on, and a lot of pieces to replace. But, as Northern Iowa showed the Nation, well-coached teams that work hard, play together, and do the little things well can beat the best at the Big Dance when given the opportunity.
Afterall, Dayton did more than expose the Redbird men in the first round of the NIT. They were simply making a statement … a statement they continued to make against Cincinnati, Illinois, Ole’ Miss and even North Carolina.
What Dayton really did was expose themselves as a better team than anyone, including Randy Kindred, gave them credit for, a team that likely should have been dancing at the Big Dance.