The NCAA Tournament will have a true home team for the first time in 28 years.
The Flyers were assigned to the First Four on their home floor Thursday night, matched against Boise State. The NCAA Tournament committee decided that’s where Dayton belonged even if it means giving the Flyers a big advantage.
“Well, I think our travel’s going to be a little harder than theirs,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “You get to the NCAA Tournament, you’re going to play somebody really good. That’s what we’re going to do. Now we’ve got to play a road game, too.”
Rice wasn’t complaining. Boise State (25-8) was worried that it wouldn’t even make the tournament after losing to Wyoming 71-55 in overtime in the semifinals of the Mountain West Tournament.
“We’re grateful, very grateful for this opportunity,” Rice said.
The Flyers were the last team picked for the field of 68 by the selection committee, meaning it was automatically slotted for a game at the University of Dayton Arena.
“We had decided that if Dayton was an at-large, we would move that way without prejudice,” said Scott Barnes, head of the committee. “It is obviously something folks will talk about.”
The winner of the game on Wednesday night will go to Columbus, Ohio to play Providence on Friday.
Since 1989, teams haven’t been allowed to play an NCAA Tournament game at their on-campus arena. The last time teams did so was 1987, when Arizona and Syracuse played on their home courts, according to STATS.
The First Four is an exception because there’s no alternate site for an opening game. UD Arena has been home to the First Four since it began in 2011. Before that, it hosted the tournament’s play-in games — called the Opening Round — from 2001 to 2010.
This is the first time Dayton wound up in one of those games.
The Flyers (25-8) were surprised to be relegated to it after they finished second in the Atlantic 10 during the regular season and lost in the conference tournament’s title game to VCU 71-65.
The Flyers went 16-0 at home this season and have won their last 21 games at UD Arena, tied for the seventh-longest active winning streak in Division I.
It’s the second year in a row that a local team played in Dayton. Xavier lost to North Carolina State 74-59 in the First Four last year, with Dayton fans in the crowd cheering against the rival Musketeers.
Dayton reached the Elite Eight last year by beating Ohio State, Syracuse and Stanford. It’ll be the Flyers’ 16th appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Dayton also played an NCAA Tournament game on its home floor in 1985, before the NCAA changed its rules. It didn’t help Dayton much that time, as Villanova pulled out a 51-49 win on its way to the national championship.
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