The first game of the Charleston Classic at 12:30 P.M. is a bit of a challenge to get to. It's in the middle of the work and school day in downtown Charleston next to the College of Charleston campus, so getting into TD Arena can be difficult. I tried to minimize my stops getting to the arena because of this, so I waited until I parked to visit an ATM for cash for the tournament. One parking lot a block from the arena I decided to not try at all because there are usually buses unloading next to the arena that block the narrow road. One parking garage I often go to in Charleston two blocks from the arena was full. As a result, I had to park on the roof of a garage four blocks from TD Arena on the corner of St. Phillip and Wentworth Street. But with this hassle, I can usually look forward to seeing a pretty good college basketball game with few people at the early game. But as I walked around downtown Charleston, I saw lots of Dayton fans. And pretty soon I noticed that everybody within three blocks of TD Arena was wearing a Dayton Flyers jacket. And when I walked in 30 minutes before game time, the lower deck sideline seating was already half full, mostly with Dayton fans.
I had known from last year that Ohio State
has a large fan base of traveling and relocated fans in South Carolina and nationally. Kentucky has the same as well. And last year I praised Dayton in my Ohio State recap for showing great support at home games for mid-major basketball. But I had no idea that Dayton fans also showed up in large numbers hundreds of miles from Ohio. Here is a photo of Dayton fans as their team took the court a few minutes before tip-off. What mid-major can bring over 1,000 fans to an afternoon game on a Thursday over 500 miles away a week before Thanksgiving?
That mid-major happens to be Dayton. You see these traveling fan bases in college basketball, and as they become synonymous with the big programs above the Red Line, you begin to dislike them. Yet Dayton is below the Red Line and does not have a storied basketball program, at least not within the realms of how most Americans view the top college programs. The Flyers made the national championship in 1967, only to lose to John Wooden's dynasty at UCLA. That was Dayton's only Final Four appearance, and the Flyers have never reached the Sweet 16 in my lifetime. Dayton has also made the NCAA Tournament only four times in the last 20 years. Yet Dayton would bring far more fans than their opponent in today's game, Colorado of the PAC-12. Even the East Coast major conference teams playing later on in the Charleston Classic would not bring as many fans as Dayton.
Dayton is in the Atlantic 10, which produces many of the replies to Kyle on Twitter of "That's not an upset!" whenever the A-10 (or A-14 and now A-16) pulls off a Red Line Upset. But the Atlantic 10 is only competitive in basketball, and is still not as competitive as the conferences above the Red Line. So why can Dayton bring so many fans? Perhaps it is because many Ohioans now live in South Carolina and the Lowcountry, which has irked many native southerners
. For that matter I could be considered one of them, since I was born in Cincinnati and moved to South Carolina when I was two years old. It seems that Midwest college sports teams might be similar to the professional teams in the Northeast, with national followings of loyal fans with ties to the region. Or maybe Daytonians love sports at levels below what is covered nationally more than anybody else in the country. UD Arena is always full for the now Quad P.I.G., an event that occurs before most of the country notices that the NCAA Tournament has started. The professional sports team with the games sold out consecutively is not a NBA team or the Boston Red Sox. Nor is it a NFL team, although the Green Bay Packers have sold out more consecutive seasons than anybody else. The answer instead is a Class A Minor League Baseball team in Dayton. In Southwest Ohio, you are far more likely to be able to get a ticket to see the Cincinnati Reds than to see their Class A affiliate up the road in Dayton.
As a result of this homecourt-like presence and their solid team in the Atlantic 10, I thought it seemed likely that Dayton could pull off the Red Line Upset. Colorado did win the PAC 12 Tournament last year, but have otherwise had a history weaker than that of Dayton. Dayton has some quality players such as Kevin Dillard, who transferred from Chris Lowery's sinking ship at Southern Illinois. I do not usually like predicting good things like a Red Line Upset to happen, because you feel let down if they do not happen. But with the crowd that much behind them, it seemed that Dayton just had to hold homecourt and beat one of the weaker major conference programs historically. It seemed that Dayton had to win, just to justify the amount of fans they had in Charleston. Dayton felt like they were above the Red Line at this game, so they would play like it, right?
Dayton started out okay on the scoreboard, and had a slight lead most of the first half. But despite their boisterous crowd, it never seemed right once the game started for a RLU to occur. Dayton never had those big moments you often see in a Red Line Upset, where everything goes right for a few minutes or some guard starts shooting lights out. They never had any real momentum even with their fans outnumbering Colorado's by at least 5 to 1. And more importantly, Kevin Dillard had to sit most of the first half with two early fouls. Even though Dayton led by four at halftime, I was less sure of the RLU at the end of the first half than I was before it.
But Dillard would return for the second half, and surely Dayton had survived the worst stretch, right? But even with Dillard running the show, Colorado's defense kept the Flyers from getting hot when they needed to. The Buffaloes with about 14 minutes left in the game went on a 13-0 run to go from Dayton being up 7 to down 6. Colorado's defense was able to keep a narrow lead the rest of the game. The Flyers remained in the game going into the final minutes. But Colorado was able to make its shots when it needed to, while Dayton still struggled on offense. Despite the best efforts of Dillard who had 10 points in the second half, there would be no Red Line Upset here as Colorado won 67-57.
We have Red Line Upsets on here. We also have what is called an ARRRGH, which is defined by Kyle as "when a team below the Red Line comes close to a landmark upset but falls just short at the end." Yet in thinking of our site's terminology
in conjunction with this week's challenge, I often think we need a term for when we think a Red Line Upset is going to happen, but does not. Colorado beating Dayton is not an upset in anybody's book, but there are times when there are games that could be considered upsets of mid-majors by schools above the Red Line by those who have a different definition of an "upset" than we do. If Creighton were to lose at home to Tulsa next month, many non-Mid Majority readers would call that an upset, even though we would consider any Missouri Valley win over a C-USA team to be the real upset. The problem with coining such a term is that it would be subjective like how most view upsets traditionally, rather than the definitive approach we take with Red Line Upsets. But this game here felt like a Red Line Letdown.
It felt like a Dayton home game here in Charleston, despite the Flyers being an 11 hour drive away. But the Colorado team with more financial advantages got the win as happens 85 percent of the time in Our Game. To see so many Dayton fans make the trip here only to be letdown by this individual game shows how committed Dayton fans are to the Flyers. The Flyers travel well even though they are not supporting a team publicized in the media nationally, or competing for a Final Four appearance. They have come to Charleston for the love of Our Game, and for the love of their Flyers. I was taken aback by how a mid-major could draw major conference levels of support. But it shows the kind of commitment our mid-majors need to have. To be able to pack an arena hundreds of miles away with risk of being let down shows that Dayton fans are more committed to the Flyers than most other fans of Our Game.