The viewing party at UD Arena started with music from The Dayton Pep Band. Then Dr. Willie Morris, the longtime director of the pep band, pumped up the enthusiasm by dancing with members of the Dayton Flyers women’s basketball team. Even coach Shauna Green joined him for a brief moment.
The fun ended when the NCAA tournament selection show began. That’s when everyone got nervous.
“I’m just a nervous person, not when it comes to playing but just in general,” Dayton senior guard Jenna Burdette said. “I was pretty confident we were getting in, but you never know.”
“I kept leaning my head on Jenna,” senior guard JaVonna Layfield said. “We kept trying to figure out where we were going to go.”
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As soon as the Flyers saw the Dayton name on the ESPN broadcast, the party began again with cheering from the season-ticket holders in attendance and players jumping out of their seats. Layfield was one of a number of players recording the scene with their cell phones.
“Just to hear our name called was a huge relief and like a weight lifted off our shoulders,” Layfield said.
“It was more exciting this year than last year, just the suspense of it and not knowing,” Green said. “We felt good about it, but seeing your name pop up, it was a great feeling.”
Dayton (23-6) earned a No. 9 seed and will play No. 8 seed Marquette (23-9) in the first round at 2:30 p.m. Friday at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky. ESPN2 will televise the game.
The winner will play No. 1 seed Louisville (32-2), ranked third in the country in the Associated Press poll, or No. 16 seed Boise State (23-9) in the second round Sunday at a time to be announced.
The Flyers will practice at the arena at 4:30 p.m. Thursday. It’s the second straight season Dayton has played in Louisville. It earned a No. 12 seed a year ago and lost 66-57 to No. 5 seed Tennessee.
For Layfield, it’s one more chance to go home. She’s a graduate of Ballard High School in Louisville.
“It couldn’t be any better,” Layfield said. “Senior year, and you get to play in the NCAA tournament in your hometown, I’m very excited.”
Dayton played Marquette regularly for decades, but it has been 15 years since their last meeting in 2003. Marquette leads the series 14-12.
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Marquette is making its 11th tournament appearance and second in a row. It has never advanced past the second round. Dayton will play in the tournament for the eighth time in nine years. It reached the Elite Eight as a No. 7 seed in 2015 when the current seniors were freshmen, beating No. 3 seed Louisville in Albany, N.Y., in the Sweet 16 before losing to No. 1 Connecticut.
Burdette played a prominent role on that team, starting 32 of 35 games, and hopes the memories of that run help this season.
“We don’t bring it up a whole lot actually,” Burdette said. “Coach Green brought it up the other day because that year we also lost in the A-10 championship game, so she was kind of comparing it and the lull we were in. Hopefully, it’s the same thing this year.”
Dayton vs. Marquette in Louisville, 2:30 p.m., ESPN2