Yes, we don’t have March Madness, but because of great minds like Joe Lunardi at ESPN, we can have a glimpse at what the bracket might have looked like. In the latest State News series, we analyze and project what the NCAA tournament might have looked like round by round, region by region.
Here is our projection of the East Region Elite Eight:
#1 Dayton vs. #2 Florida State
Preview: Dayton and Florida State are two teams that don’t find themselves in contention for a Final Four appearance very often, so it’s safe to say their fanbases are living for this game.
By now, we’ve learned that Dayton’s secret weapon is Obi Toppin. However, that doesn’t make every lob he slams down or layup he stretches through a mob of defenders any less shell-shocking. As mentioned before, the Flyers have the highest field goal percentage in the nation. Their shooting from the inside has been essentially unstoppable thus far, however they haven’t seen a defense like FSU yet.
Florida State has one of the best defenses in the country, and they’ll need that in this matchup. Their strategy will be keeping Dayton out of the paint, that’s where their shooting is most consistent. Florida State can make a big statement if they are able to force some turnovers on the Flyers and capitalize on the fastbreak.
Prediction: Florida State has the size advantage here, and they’ll win the jump ball to start. The Seminoles will keep the ball moving on offense. As the shot clock winds down they’ll feed it to their leading scorer, Devin Vassell, who will put down a jumper for the first bucket of the game.
Dayton, on the other hand, will play it slow on offense, trusting their consistency in the paint. The Flyers will try to drive one up to the basket, but FSU’s defense will tighten and force a turnover. Trent Forrest will bring it back for a swift layup, giving the Seminoles the early lead.
With under a minute left until the half, Dayton will start to pick up the pace. With the Flyers down by 5, Toppin will block a shot from FSU, and hand it off to Jalen Crutcher on his way back to offense. Dayton will move the ball as the shot clock winds down, until he finds Toppin and lobs it. Toppin secures the lob and drains it through the rim just before the buzzer. FSU leads at halftime 30-28.
It’ll seem like Dayton never stopped at halftime. The energy exerted in Toppin’s dunk will carry over for Malik Osborne to put down a three from the corner to give Dayton back the lead and mark the first points of the half.
As FSU puts up a jumper on their next possession, Toppin will snatch it from mid-air, carry it over to the Flyers side, stop and put down another three for the Flyers from the center.
FSU will tighten their defense again and start to tire Toppin out midway through the second half. With three minutes remaining, the teams will stand with just one point separating them, Dayton 74, FSU 73.
Florida State will snatch one away from Dayton’s Rodney Chatman and Forrest from FSU will carry it up on the fastbreak, racing alongside Dayton’s Trey Landers. Forrest will put up a layup and draw a foul on Landers block, converting for a four point play.
Crutcher will grab the rebound for Dayton and bring it back to sink a three from the corner to tie it back up. Toppin will come back alive to work his magic under the basket and FSU’s defense will be too worn out to stop it.
Dayton 85 – Florida State 79
Final Four matchup:
#1 Dayton vs. Midwest Region Elite Eight winner.