NEW YORK -- No one told
Dayton's victory came as the NCAA was discussing plans to expand the men's basketball tournament to 96 teams, encompassing the NIT and ending its 72-year run as an independent tournament.
If 2010's NIT is the last, Dayton is a fitting team to be its final champions. This year was the Flyers' 22nd appearance in college basketball's "consolation" tournament. Only New York's own St. John's has more NIT berths. The Flyers took home title trophies twice (1962 and 1968) before a single player on this season's roster was born.
"Obviously things have changed a little bit," said Dayton coach
Left at home on Selection Sunday, the A-10 team racked up victories over Big East, Big Ten, SEC and ACC teams en route to the title. But, while the media reaction might be to congratulate a mid-major on winning one for the "little guys," Gregory preferred not to label his team.
"We're not a mid-major program," said Gregory. "Our guys get shoes." (Marcus Johnson gets his from high school buddy and former teammate
If Dayton's a notch below, you wouldn't know it -- the Flyers improved to 11-4 over the past four seasons against BCS opponents.
Dayton's run to the title supports the argument for tournament expansion, since the Flyers proved their mettle against power conference teams late in the season.
North Carolina, meanwhile, was sloppy on offense (15 turnovers), slow and indifferent on defense (Dayton dunked early, and often).
This year, Thompson -- the lone returning starter -- again scored the first two points of Carolina's final game. Only, this time, it was on a smaller stage.
The Tar Heels seemed resigned to end to a nightmare season.
"It's been an unusual year," Williams said. "My dreams and goals are not to play in the NIT."