Archie Miller took Dayton on an expected run. Sean Miller came up just short of the Final Four again.
It was a great ride while it lasted.
The first brothers to lead different teams to the Elite Eight – in the same season, no less – Archie and Sean were ousted from the NCAA tournament within hours of each other Saturday night.
Archie’s Flyers had their bracket-busting run end in Memphis, Tenn., where they gave top overall seed Florida a run before fading down the stretch.
Out on the West Coast, Sean’s Wildcats played their second straight defensive grind, following a tight victory over San Diego State with a disheartening loss to Wisconsin.
“The thing about the NCAA tournament is its exhilarating when you win and equally devastating when you lose,” Sean said after the Wildcats lost 64-63 to the Badgers in Anaheim, Calif.
Sean and Archie learned the basketball ropes from their father, John, a legendary high school coach in Western Pennsylvania. They were both great shooters in college; Sean at Pittsburgh, Archie at North Carolina State.
Sean, who’s 10 years older, got started in coaching first, working his way up as an assistant, then leading Xavier to prominence before resurrecting Arizona’s program after the retirement of Lute Olson sent the program into disarray.
Arizona has been one of the best teams in college basketball, reaching at least the Sweet 16 three times in four years. The Wildcats spent two months at No. 1 this season and were the No. 1 seed in the West Regional, reaching the Elite Eight by beating Weber State, Gonzaga and San Diego State.
Arizona (33-5) came up a few seconds short of the Final Four in 2011 and did it again this year, losing to the Badgers by a point after Nick Johnson failed to get a potential game-winner off.
“Our five losses (this season) all were pretty much like that game right there,” said Sean Miller, who has yet to reach the Final Four in 10 years as a head coach despite coming close several times.
Dayton’s season ended on the same day, but this was more of a step forward than a neutral move.
The Flyers (26-11) were given little chance of making an NCAA run, pegged as a No. 11 seed in the South Region. Dayton became the darlings of the bracket, taking out Ohio State and millions of brackets on the first game of the first full day of the tournament.
The Flyers kept the upsets rolling, beating Syracuse and Stanford to reach the Elite Eight for the first time since 1984.
Dayton couldn’t keep up with the Gators in the end, but boy, what a ride it was.
“It’s always hard to lose the last game of the season, but in the back of my mind, I’m not sure a team in the nation captured more people’s hearts than these guys did, and they did it the right way,” Archie Miller said.
Now that Archie and Sean have both lost, at least there’s this consolation: Neither will have bragging rights when the family gets together again.
They both ended in the same place.