STANFORD, Calif. — Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins has had good reason to keep a close tab on Dayton because coach Archie Miller is recruiting his son to play there next season.
Dawkins will see the Flyers in a different light on Thursday night in Memphis, Tenn., when they play the Cardinal in a surprising Sweet 16 matchup between a pair of double-digit seeds.
With a spot in the regional final on the line, the recruitment of Aubrey Dawkins will be put on the back burner for a few days.
“I think both staffs will be focused on the task at hand but it is a neat thing that he’s being recruited by them and the success they’re having,” Dawkins said Monday.
“He really likes them. I’m just really happy for Archie and his program because I know how hard he’s worked to get this opportunity so I know he’s making the most of it.”
Aubrey Dawkins, who is attending a prep school in New Hampshire, is planning to come to the game. He is also being recruited by Pepperdine, Montana, Utah State and the College of Charleston and is expected to make his decision next month.
For now, the focus is on his dad’s team, which is proving to be a very tough out in the NCAA tournament after spending most of the season just fighting to get into it.
Stanford (23-12) used wins over higher-seeded New Mexico and Kansas to make it past the first weekend of the tournament for just the second time since 2001 and give Dawkins his most significant victories in six seasons on The Farm.
The 10th-seeded Cardinal had little time to celebrate after knocking off No. 2 seed Kansas 60-57 on Sunday. They got home late Sunday night, held a film session and practice on Monday before flying the following day to Memphis, Tenn., where they will play 11th-seeded Dayton (25-10) in the only Sweet 16 matchup between double-digit seeds.
“We celebrated yesterday after the win and on the flight back,” guard Chasson Randle said. “But once we woke up this morning and got to the gym it was strictly about preparing for Dayton.”
The Cardinal are playing some of their best basketball at the most important time, winning five of their past six following a three-game skid that put their tournament hopes in peril.
This success has come after five years of struggles under Dawkins, whose job was in jeopardy had he not gotten Stanford to the tournament this season.
“We’ve been working for this since we got to the school,” forward Dwight Powell said. “We put a lot of hours into preparing for the experience we’re having now and the games we’ve played and the game we have coming up. It’s been a work in progress.”
It paid off last weekend. They beat the seventh-seeded Lobos 58-53 on Friday despite getting no field goals from Powell, their second leading scorer.
Stanford then used stellar defense to silence talented freshman Andrew Wiggins to beat Kansas 60-57 and get national recognition for the first time under Dawkins.
“You’re able to put your program in a different light when you’re competing on a national stage and everyone is watching,” Dawkins said. “You get a chance to show not only how well your players perform on the court but who they are as people. That’s what excites me. You get a chance to learn about my players what I already know. I have an unbelievable group of kids to coach.”
The Cardinal hadn’t even made the tournament since 2008 under former coach Trent Johnson, when they also won two games before losing to Texas in the round of 16.
Stanford has gotten past that round just twice since winning it all in 1942: losing in the Final Four to Kentucky in 1998 and the regional final to Maryland in 2001.
But none of this is new to Dawkins, who played in a national title game as a player and won it all as an assistant at Duke.
“The good thing about this for me is this isn’t the first time I’ve been doing this,” Dawkins said. “I’ve been here as a player and fortunately I’ve been here a number of years as an assistant coach. I’m just excited for our kids to have this opportunity.”