Posted March 27, 2014 12:26 am - Updated March 27, 2014 01:01 am

Dayton fans treating NCAA Sweet 16 berth like bowl game

MEMPHIS, TENN. | Attention Florida Gator fans. Please pick up the white courtesy phone.

On the eve of the NCAA Tournment South Region semifinals at the FedEx Forum, this city's famed Beale Street was taken over by the fans of the University of Dayton, this year's designated Cinderalla. The Flyers will play Stanford at 7:15 p.m. on Thursday, followed by the top-seeded Gators against UCLA.

"This feels like being at a major bowl game," said Mark Boemker, a sophomore bass drummer with the Flyers band.

Dayton's band walked to Beale Street from its hotel and set up shop opposite B.B. King's Blues Bar to play several numbers -- including the Paul Simon song "You Can Call Me Al," a popular number by the Florida pep band during basketball games.

Indeed, when the few Gator fans who had ventured onto Beale Street head the music, their first impulse was that it was their band.

Not the case.

Among the Dayton fans getting the party started early were Rick and Mary Jo Scalzo, two retired educators from that area who also have owned a condo at Amelia Island for the past 15 years.

"We vacationed all up and down the east coast for years," Rick Scalzo said. "We tried Charleston, Wild Dunes, St. Simons Island and Amelia Island was the place we settled on. We love it. But we're always going to be Dayton fans."

How deep do their Flyer roots run? The two have combined to earn five degrees from the school, with Mary Jo Scalzo adding a doctorate in education to her bachelor's and masters degrees.

"The University of Dayton is the best story of the tournament," she said. "We've been waiting for this moment for a long time. This is a special team."

There weren't many Florida fans but two of them from St. Louis, engaged couple Brandon Stoltz and Jennifer Brown, were heading to Beale Street while the night was still young.

They went to New York to watch the Gators play Memphis last fall in Madison Square Garden and have been holding their breath since the post-season began -- they bought NCAA tickets to the Memphis regional last year and have been anticipating their Gators being there.

"They kept winning," Stoltz said. "At a certain point, we were pretty sure they'd be here."

Several Gator fans said there would be more blue and orange-clad fans hitting Beale Street in earnest Thursday afternoon and evening, before Florida plays UCLA.


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