The Flyers, a Number 2 seed are in St Louis preparing for their first round game against 10th seed Syracuse Friday in the Midwest Region. Yes, it is “March Madness” and there is no telling how far Dayton or the rest of field will end up in two weeks in quest for a national championship.
However after a disappointing conference tournament loss, Smith, a Bronx native from the Edenwald Projects, says his team has an advantage. He scored 14 points in the loss to Saint Joseph’s and that momentum hopefully will carry into the game with Syracuse.
“The advantage we’ll have is doing what we do,” Smith said this week. “Just having the same mindset that we had coming into this tournament, just bringing it it to where we go next weekend. We just stay together and just keep doing what we do. We’ll be fine and have our own advantage.”
The 6ft.-2 junior guard played a majority of high school ball at Rice HIgh School in Manhattan and transferred to Putnam Science Academy in Connecticut after the closure of Rice. His play has received notice and if Dayton has a chance to make some noise in the tournament, Smith of course will be a catalyst to the offense.
Last year in the tournament, Smith averaged 12.7 points and scored 11 against Boise State and Providence. In a third round tournament loss last year he recorded 16 points against Oklahoma.
“We will build the confidence going into the next game,” Smith said after Dayton was eliminated Saturday and lost the automatic bid to fourth seed Saint Joseph’s. “We just move on and keep working and will be ready.”
So there is that experience of being in the Big Dance. As a sophomore,Smith started all 36 games for Dayton during the 2014-15 season when the Flyers went to the elite eight in the tournament. He led the team in assists (138) and ranked second in scoring from the free throw line, also shooting 38 percent beyond the arc.
“We didn’t make the shots today,” he said after the loss to Saint Joseph’s. “We’ll make them tomorrow and build our confidence. As long as we keep our confidence we build intensity. We just came up short.”
The coach, Ryan “Archie” Miller will not hesitate to see Smith get the ball.
“He gets things going for us,” Miller says. In late January, up at Rose Hill against Fordham, Smith scored 14-points in a Dayton win over Fordham. It was a homecoming of sorts with many family and friends sitting behind the Flyers bench.
Many in that contingent have made the trip to St. Louis and they become that added incentive for Smith. He says, family have been a vital part of the success along with the established coaching staff at Dayton.
“Getting back to the Big Dance is what it all about,” he says. And for the Flyers and Smith the journey and the unexpected once again begins Friday in the month that is known as “March Madness.”