Sunday, December 31, 2006
Posted by Will Bryan at 3:47 PM
The Wildcats are averaging 81.9 points per game, and their leading scorer, freshman Stephen Curry, is 21st among mid-majors with an average of 19.3 points per game. That number is 3 points higher than Brendan Winters' four-year average of 16.0 points per game. As a team, the Wildcats are sixth in the country with a clutch FT % of 76.9, and Jason Richards ranks third in the country with an average of 7.1 assists per game.
The highlights of December have come in the form of a tremendous trubbing of rival Charlotte in front of a record crowd in Davidson, key road SoCon road wins in the homes of conference contenders UNC-Greensboro and Chattanooga, and a tremendous effort to win the ASU Sleep America Classic with wins over Ohio University and Arizona State. The icing on the cake came this past Saturday as the Wildcats' defense forced 26 turnovers to pull past Western Michigan, despite shooting only 33% from the floor.
Although detractors might claim that Davidson's claim to success is undermined by the less-challenging scheduling that was formed this year due to the Wildcats' loss of 4 starters, Davidson has shown remarkable maturity as they had chances to beat both Michigan and Missouri in the final seconds. This team has played a very tough schedule and has responded in kind.
This year's early success has been the result of a combination of Wildcat staples and new ingredients in the milkshake of success. Hanging their hat on every players' ability to shoot from anywhere on the court, Davidson has maintained a wide open offense that relies on screening, passing, spacing and shooting. When big guys Thomas Sander and Boris Meno have shown the ability to hit the outside three-pointer, defenses have been less willing to double team and leave anyone open anywhere. It also helps when you have players like Curry and Archambault who can hit jumpers when double-teamed falling backwards out of bounds.
But Davidson has also been much more effective in the transition game as they have the guard and small forward speed to grab loose balls, contest every pass and dribble, and run the fast break. All of a sudden, half-court defense is not enough to slow down one of the program's highest scoring offenses in recent history. Davidson's 7.5 steals per game is enhanced by their +1.6 turnover differential in a defense that has held opponents to only 42% shooting and an average of 70 points a game. The offense starts with the defense, and this defense is good.
With remarkable spikes in attendance, media attention, and game success, this Davidson Wildcat basketball program is heading to new heights. Starting in next week's showdown against the College of Charleston, the Wildcats will now have to prove that they are the best in the Southern Conference. If they don't, then this December will become a passing memory.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
I will be out of town for the next few days as we travel up to see Clemson take on Kentucky in the Music City Bowl. I will be attending Saturday's game against Western Michigan so there will be no previews or in-game notes this time. Look for some recap and thoughts on Sunday night.
Monday, December 25, 2006
On this Christmas Day eve, the Davidson Wildcats got a little love for their efforts in the ASU Sleep America Classic as they moved up to #9 on the Mid Major Top 25 poll. The poll is run by CollegeInsider.com, and is voted on by respective mid-major coaches. Fellow Southern Conference team, Appalachian State, made their first poll appearance of the season at #24 after defeating Vanderbilt and UVA in the San Juan Shootout.
Click here to see the rest of the Top 25.
Friday, December 22, 2006
The Wildcats are shooting over 50% here in the first part of the first half. That is really good news when thinking about fatigue and opportunities and so forth. Unfortunately, ASU has also hit a few shots of late. Like to see Coach going to the bench so early, although we need to do better with rebounding. It's also good to see Max scoring a little bit early.
Arizona State is dominating Davidson on the boards (18-6), and foul trouble has Curry, Sander and Boris in a little bit of a pickle. Once again, it's good to see Barr and Gosselin getting some points on the offensive end.
Jason Richards just made a big-time drive and teardrop to help build the Cats' nine-point lead. After a Gosselin block in the interior, Archambault found himself open for another three-pointer. I have a feeling that Arizona State is not going to be able to score very quickly, although they are getting a lot of second-chance points. This lead has been built, by the way, with Curry on the bench with two fouls.
Arizona State hit two free throws to end the half as Archambault picked up a foul with the buzzer expiring. Quick half-time stats show Sander leading all Davidson scorers with 12 points, followed by Richards with 9. Meno and Curry have as many combined fouls as they do points (4). Although our assist/turnover ratio is a cool 3.00 (9:3), the Wildcats are getting outrebounded by a margin of 23-7. ASU has 10 offensive rebounds so far. Davidson is shooting 52% from the field while ASU is only shooting 37%. ASU has been to the line five more times than Davidson, hitting 10-11.
The Wildcats certainly need to find Boris and Andrew for a few points inside, and have to make up the rebounding margin by not letting the Sun Devils get second chances. It will also be interesting to see how aggressively Stephen Curry plays after fouling out last night and having two quick fouls in the first half.
Boris Meno starts the second half out strong with a turn-around jumper and a dunk. Curry gets the sixth point and Herb Sendek has had enough.
16:44 to play, and Curry gets his fourth foul. We need to get back to the east coast when they let Stephen play his style of defense. Sander picked up his third foul. This is going to be a long hard 16 minutes.
We have outscored them by 10 in the second half and have outrebounded the Sun Devils. Jason Richards has really stepped up with Curry on the bench. He now has 14 points.
Sander now has 4 fouls and Lovedale finally gets his first points of the game. Both teams are now in the bonus with 10:47 to play. With an 18 point lead, I feel pretty confident right now. The Sun Devils don't seem to be able to score quickly at all. We can't slow down the game by fouling.
I like our defensive strategy right now. Our 1-3-1 zone with the bigs really has ASU worried about every pass they make. Richards now has 19 points. And Archambault gets a steal and a basket. This is looking good.
Arizona State making a little bit of a run. One interesting stat right now is points off turnovers: 19 for Davidson, and 7 for ASU.
Check that. Make it a terrifying run. 10-0 run after a 3-pointer, turnover and an offensive rebound. Thankfully they can't shoot free throws.
Richards is having a big game with 21 points, but after an ASU 3-pointer, they have some confidence. It's about time to see some Sander and Curry. And here they come. This one is going to come down to it.
Jason Richards hits a big-time three pointer. I propose a marketing plan to call us "Dagga Nation!"
Sun Devils refuse to give in. Meno fouls out after a turnover and Sendek's full court press is reaking havoc. I should not have said anything about having this thing in hand. What a game so far. Davidson has really choked at the free throw line at the end of this one. That's not usual for us.
What a huge win for Davidson. That 16-0 team from two years ago won most of their games after giving up a lead and holding on at the end. If we would have shot a little better from the FT line (14-23), things wouldn't have been so dicey.
Incredible game for Richards who finished with 25 points, 3 assists. Stephen Curry and Thomas Sander both got double figures with 10 and 14 respectively. Otherwise, there weren't too many good statlines as far as rebounding, FT shooting and fouls. But you have to win the ugly games. This was a big win for the program and it's time for Christmas.
Countdown is under two hours now for the championship game of the Sleep America Classic between the Davidson Wildcats and the Arizona State Sun Devils. ASU is coached by Herb Sendek who instituted a Princeton-style offense while at N.C. State. In the past few seasons, some of Davidson's toughest games have been against teams that have slowed down the offensive flow of the game and limited the Wildcats to fewer shot attempts. Davidson will either have to go crazy on the offensive boards, create transition points off of turnovers, or raise their shooting percentage. They won't be scoring anywhere near 80 points in this game if they shoot under 40% from the field.
The Wildcats showed some fatigue during last night's game as there were stretches in the first and second halves when they allowed Ohio to work their way back into the game through turnovers and missed rebounding opportunities. Davidson can't afford to be sloppy against a team that slows the game down and limits opportunities to score. It will be interesting to see how fatigue affects this one.
Look for increased minutes from Steve Rossiter, Bryant Barr, Andrew Lovedale and Will Archambault as the Wildcats try to use their depth to counteract fatigue and (if we get the same whistle-happy refs as yesterday) foul trouble. While Coach McKillop might try some pressure defense to create turnovers in the passing lanes, don't be surprised to see the Wildcats briefly come out in zone looks after timeouts. They have been very effective in messing with set plays and keeping the offenses off guard.
Final Prediction: Davidson 70 Arizona State 62
Thursday, December 21, 2006
OK, so I caved. I'm young and have no reason to get up before noon tomorrow. So here we go, we'll have up-to-date comments during the game tonight.
It seems that we have Dick Snyder on for the halftime show. Let's hope I can stay awake til 1 AM. Kilgo has also talked about some travel problems with getting the team flown out to Arizona. I'd be interested to know if Ohio ran into the same bad weather.
Only on Davidson Basketball radio do we get to hear Alien Ant Farm introduce John Kilgo from a commercial break. Pretty sweet. It feels really cool to think that most everyone on the east coast is sleeping right now, while we have a nice little group of Davidson diehards on the internet here.
In the pre-game interview, Coach McKillop talked about the offensive prowess of Ohio. He also mentioned the need for Davidson to use a little zone tonight. I'm hoping that we utilize it a little bit in the first half. For the first time in many years, we have a group of guys that are long enough to make passing very difficult when we are in a zone. It also makes scouting a little more difficult when SoCon squads have to put in a zone offense in their short weeks of practice.
Things seem to be going pretty well for the Wildcats right now. We have been strong on the rebounds and defensive pressure as Ohio has missed quite a few shots. Big man Leon Williams already has two fouls for the Bobcats and is now on the bench. We have turned the ball over 4 times so far, but without seeing the action, it is kind of hard to know how they happened.
Ohio seems to be having a lot of trouble inside against our big guys. With the junior Leon Williams with 2 fouls, and 6-9 freshman von Kempen now with 3 fouls, let's look to see Sander get some looks on the blocks. We have already hit 4 three-pointers, but I would like to see us continue to attack the paint. Curry leads all scorers with 6 points. Coach seems to be rotating Steph and Jason at point. That's an interesting arrangement, especially this early in the game. Bobcats just picked up their seventh team foul.
With 7:54 left in the first half, you have to love the depth that this team is displaying. Steph has become a pretty solid backup PG, which was a point of weakness earlier in the season. Barr has hit a three for Davidson, Lovedale, "the Big Cat" (I guess it's better than Anthony Lovedale) has been very strong inside and Archambault continues to provide speed on the wings. Ohio is in some major foul trouble right now with van Kempen and Williams both having 3 fouls inside. I am a little surprised that Sander hasn't been seen more on the offensive side of the court so far. These refs aren't scared to blow their whistles tonight. Double bonus already for Davidson.
Davis has been very good for Ohio so far. He has 13 points right now. Turnovers are really hurting us right now as the Bobcats are being able to get some transition points and keep their size disadvantage minimized. They seem to be doubling down inside, and Davidson needs to continue to work their inside-out game. Barr got open on the last possession and hit a three off of an inside feed. Over 17 total fouls in the first half.
Pretty good first half for the Cats. They always go through a stretch of offensive inefficiency, but the Bobcats couldn't get closer than 5 points. It is always important to be able to hold off runs when you aren't getting points on offense. This team looks to be headed towards another 80+ point performance tonight. Although Kilgo might not completely testify to it, I think that these players are really playing loose right now, which is something that we struggled with last year. Playing loose allows you to be a little more aggressive on defense and relaxes the offense to a point where they are not pressing to create baskets.
Good to see that we're attacking the paint so far in the second half. Although our 14 turnovers are beginning to get on my nerves. Ohio is finding some scoring on the inside right now too. The Bobcats can score quickly. Kilgo hasn't mentioned it yet, but I wonder if we utilized any zone tonight. McKillop might put it in right after this timeout.
HAHA! I called it. The Wildcats come out in the 1-3-1 zone, before switching back to man.
"Curry's in a hurry!" Wow, there are some real Kilgo moments tonight. Like to see Archambault get a nice basket inside and seeing Curry run transition.
The offense seems to be slowing up just a little bit in the last few minutes. Ohio refuses to relent in the frontcourt and the three-pointers are not falling like they might for Davidson. However, our depth still seems to be causing them problems.
Curry just picked up his fourth foul with 10.5 minutes to play. This might not be so good. We'll see how this affects our offensive flow. Meno and Sander might be getting some more looks inside. Gosselin just committed our 16th team turnover. Momentum is definitely in the favor of the Bobcats. We need to do more than just hold on. We need to be keeping the pressure on.
Both teams are really starting to feel some major foul trouble. Ohio has hit some big time shots, and have pulled this thing close. In these last few minutes of the game, Davidson needs to be careful about fatigue. Ohio has a lot of momentum and have been beating Davidson to the glass on the offensive end. The Wildcats need to take some pride in their defense.
With Curry on the bench, Sander steps up big. With two three-pointers and some big rebounds on the defensive glass, he's going to have lead this team in the next five minutes.
Curry comes back in to hit a big three. Then subsequently fouls out. A little over 3 minutes to play, and Davidson will need to look to its big juniors to carry this team for 3:18 more. But after a Meno turnover, Ohio pulled the game to within five under 2:30 to play.
Sander hits a clutch basket with under a minute to play. Williams fouls out and this game looks to be in hand. You gotta love the play of Sander and Richards late in this game. Boris finished with a double-double on 17 points and 16 rebounds. Juniors stepped up big tonight.
Big win tonight. I'm going to bed. Whew. It's a great night to be a Wildcat.
As fun as it was to provide blog updates during Monday's win over Chattanooga, I won't be doing that tonight due to the 11 p.m. start on the east coast. For those that are up at that hour on the internet, you can just as easily tune in to John Kilgo. Although, I can't guarantee you that he will provide cursory bits of information to your liking. "Grant to Winters. Winters to McKillop. McKillop to Grant. Johnson Scores!"
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Although it won't remain there too long, Stephen Curry and the Davidson Wildcats are the front page article on ESPN.com's Men's Basketball page. The article, written by Midmajority.com's Kyle Whelliston, is a testament to the success and integrity of the program. Although I'd wish that Curry's arrival at Davidson wouldn't always have to be constructed as a result of Virginia Tech's mistake, I will take the press.
See here for story.
Coming off of an impressive 12 point victory at Chattanooga on Monday, the Davidson Wildcats will travel out to Tempe, AZ to play in the Arizona State Sleep America Classic. Their first round matchup on Thursday comes against a top mid-major program in the form of the Ohio Bobcats. The Bobcats are currently ranked 27th on the Mid-Major Top 25 poll (yes, 27th). Their last NCAA tournament appearance came in 2004-2005, when they lost their first-round matchup to fourth-seeded Florida by a mere 5 points.
This year's team enters this game at 6-2 and, like the Davidson Wildcats, have five players averaging in double digits for points scored. They are led by 6-6 senior forward Sonny Troutman who has been averaging 16 points and four assists per game. They have been shooting lights-out on their home floor, including a 60.4% shooting performance in their most recent win over St. Josephs.
Ohio has very good depth with eight players averaging over 20 minutes played per game. This team also knows how to draw the fouls, as they have gotten to the free throw line nearly 100 more times than their opponents this season. The Bobcats only have one top scorer over 6 feet 6 inches which would imply some sort of height advantage for Davidson. The 6-8 junior starter Leon Williams looks to be the Bobcats' main threat in the paint with 13.3 ppg and 7.5 rpg.
In order for the Wildcats to be successful in this one, they must learn from several of the things that Chattanooga did to them. The Mocs upset nearly all of our post offense by doubling down and applying pressure to our perimeter passing game. Instead of being patient and finding the open man, our bigs routinely dribbled to the sideline and gave up position, and sometimes possession. We have to do a better job of feeling the pressure, anticipating where it's coming from and executing our inside-outside offense. We cannot be content with passing the ball on the perimeter and jacking treys the entire game.
I also think that Davidson needs to be more ready to switch to a zone defense. The Mocs exposed our man defense by making simple screens and executing the entry passes. Ohio doesn't seem to shoot nearly as many three-pointers as Davidson or even Chattanooga, so we should force them to make skip passes and to shoot one-timers (no opportunity for rebounds).
Both teams will be traveling a good distance for this one, so expect a little bit of offensive sluggishness in the first half.
Prediction: Davidson 85 Ohio 78
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Call it an immature act of showmanship, but I sometimes like to look at message boards the morning after Davidson beats a team. Overall, the fans over at Chattanooga Mocs were pretty gracious. There was a little bit of McKillop hating and ref hating, but that is very understandable. If you watched the game, I think that you would say that the refs were not very accurate overall. Thomas' last two fouls were obviously not on him, and the Mocs got away with some huge pressure pushes early on in the contest. What's even more unfortunate was that the refs seemed to be making up for those calls late in the game by allowing Davidson to literally barrel roll anyone that lept into the air. There were some horrible no-calls that should have gone the Mocs' way.
I spent the last two summers coaching basketball camp, and have a feel for what it is to be referee. It is never easy to know that you missed a call and have everyone tell you about it. It is easy to start second guessing yourself and to try to find a way to make up for your mistake. I did this once or twice and found that it made matters much worse. I'm a firm believer in not attempting to call things fairly, but rather trying to be accurate throughout the game. If you miss a bad call, that should not make you call another bad call to even things out. You only begin to start cheating both sets of players out of playing the game they love.
So refs out there. No matter what coaches and fans might yell at you, call what you see in front of you. Don't make things up, and don't ignore what you see in order to make the game even. To do that is to violate the honor code of all referees and make the game about your performance, instead of the players and coaches.
Monday, December 18, 2006
When analyzing a big win like this one, it is always helpful to look at the pre-game points of emphasis and rate Davidson's performance in those areas. Regardless of the opponent, Coach McKillop always stresses the need to rebound and take care of the basketball.
Quantitatively, Davidson won the game in all aspects of the stat sheet. They outrebounded the Mocs 44-42, and the team assist/turnover ratio of nearly 1.5:1 completely outdid Chattanooga's 1:1 performance.
The Cats benefitted from a scoring outburst from Max Paulhus Gosselin who put in 22 points on 9-15 shooting, including 4-5 from behind the arc. They were led by the unflappable freshman Stephen Curry who finished with 30 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists. The second half also saw Jason Richards heat up, as he hit 3 second half treys along with 8-9 FT shooting to end with 19 points.
But, this victory cannot be summed up in quantitative measurement. The Wildcats mostly played without one of their captains in Thomas Sander, and went for a stretch without either Sander or Meno in the game because of foul trouble. They withstood several offensive runs by the home team and continued to mature in their "trial by fire." It is not often that the term is associated with a winning team, but I would contend that these wins are just as torturous and educational for these young players. McKillop has let his young guys take some lumps and they are maturing quickly as a result.
On the ride back to North Carolina, this group needs to think a little bit about some places for improvement:
They need to be a little more aware with offensive time management and game situation. Veteran teams don't fire first-look three-pointers with a single digit lead in the final minutes of a road game.
They are going to need work on communicating on defense and calling out screens. This is usually a plus for the Wildcats, but sometimes the Mocs would get ridiculously open as Davidson players were caught out of position.
Finally, although Thomas and Boris were both in foul trouble a lot, Davidson needs to not abandon the inside game. When a team can score from the perimeter and from the block, they are very difficult to stop. If a few of those second half threes hadn't fallen, we could have been in trouble.
Overall, though, you always take a conference win on the road. Davidson has already vanquished two North division opponents early in the season and we will be very happy about those victories come February.
Posted by Will Bryan at 10:47 PM
The Wildcats have started the game strong. Chattanooga's pressing D had the offense a little on their heels for a bit, but some big blocks by Boris on the defensive end have led to some run-out baskets.
Sander just picked up his second foul. Gosselin hit his second 3.
There doesn't seem to be much of a crowd there tonight. That will help us some.
Max now has 16 points for us. Hogewood is baffled. We aren't getting as many post looks as I would like. The Mocs are doubling down on every entry pass and our last few possessions has seen us give up on the post. The Mocs are hitting some outside shots to keep this one close. This is going to be a good one.
With 7 minutes to play, Chattanooga has cut the lead to four after retaking it. They pulled back off of some key open looks on offense created by simple screens. Davidson just switched to a 3-2 zone with Boris, Steve and Stephen at the top. Mays can really shoot from the outside, and the Mocs have hit some big free throws. Curry now has a quiet 10 on a couple threes and some putbacks. Davidson is really missing Sander right now. His two fouls have kept us from establishing any type of post offense.
With under 4 minutes to play in the first half, this is a pretty ugly game. Neither team is doing much on offense. Curry is now 3-8 from the field, and Boris seems to have no offensive touch whatsoever. Archambault also had a quiet few minutes. Davidson needs to start creating some easy baskets out of transition or offensive rebounds. The halfcourt isn't working right now.
Keddric Mays leads all Mocs' scorers with 16 points, including 5 three-pointers. Compared to their paltry numbers, coming into this game Chattanooga has been shooting very well from the line.
For Davidson, I think that problems begin and end with Thomas Sander. He hasn't been in for so long. Certainly the 16 points from Max and 12 from Curry help out, but the Wildcats are jacking threes like nobody's business, and their percentages are not too good. Boris missed two front ends of 1-in-1's and Andrew's been caught out of position a few times.
I think that Coach might go back to the zone a little bit in the second half and force Chattanooga to get open without screening. Davidson has not switched on defense well at all, and they need to force the Mocs to make a few more difficult passes. Hopefully the Chattanooga bigs will cool off from the line and Davidson will get a few more easy looks. They need to let the offense come to them.
Sander is back. In the last several possessions, he has assisted on two three-pointers and scored one of his own. After coming out with a third foul and a turnover, McKillop pulled him over on the sideline, told him to "catch and see," and put him back in. The offense is motoring again. With Sander anchoring it, Curry gets better looks and so does Meno. Doaks has three fouls for Chattanooga.
Just walked back to the TV to watch Sander pick up his 4th foul and Meno pick up his third. Damn.
The bad news: Boris and Thomas are on the bench with four fouls. The good news: Stephen Curry is heating up. The Wildcats have slowed them down with a 1-3-1 zone and some strong play from Max, Andrew, J-Rich, Stephen and Steve have built a 10 point lead. This is the last update until the end of the game.
Game Over: Big victory for the Wildcats. They held on well in the last part of the second half after Sander fouled out. Max had a career day and Stephen continued to hit outside shots like nobody's business. Look for a new entry later on when the stats are published.
Posted by Will Bryan at 5:52 PM
The Davidson Wildcats play at Chattanooga tonight at 7 in one of the season's best early conference matchups. The Wildcats are 2-15 all-time in Chattanooga and the Mocs still want revenge for last year's 80-55 drubbing the SoCon championship game.
The Mocs return two key starters in Keddric Mays and Ricky Hood to a team that somehow stumbled into last year's championship game. Mays leads the team with 15 points a game on 31 minutes. Hood recently made some big shots down the stretch as the Mocs pulled off an impressive four-point victory over mid-major great Oral Roberts.
In the conference, the Mocs only game was a close loss on the road to a peculiar College of Charleston team that doesn't seem to have established an identity yet this season.
With the return of Will Archambault from injury, the Cats should have an advantage in overall personnel. Sander, Meno, and Lovedale have become one of the best frontcourt trios in the conference and the Mocs really don't have any one up front with the power to stop them. They will try to push the floor a little bit with their fast guards and forwards and hope to keep Davidson off balance.
On any given year, that strategy would be very effective. But this Davidson team is most unlike any Wildcat team that the SoCon has seen in many years. You combine toughness and great shooting with speed and aggressiveness in the passing lanes and this team defies pigeonholing. They are just really good.
That being said, however, the Wildcats have always struggled in big games over the Christmas Break. They have been all alone on campus all week and it can be daunting to go up to an enemy court without having been around your friends and with having small fan support when you get there. Hopefully, this group can leave that behind them and pull out a victory. Chattanooga certainly will not hand it to them.
Prediction: Davidson 72 Chattanooga 68
Posted by Will Bryan at 10:25 AM
Thursday, December 14, 2006
I will be away from a computer until Monday and will not be posting anything over the weekend.
In the meantime, check out some of the following links:
ASU gets big help inside
Curry wins player of the month
I will see you guys on Monday. Have a good weekend.
Posted by Will Bryan at 6:36 PM
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
The Davidson Wildcats have only lost 1 conference home game in regulation to a current SoCon member since February of 2002.
Although it doesn't seem to have any technical advantages as far as crowd placement, Davidson has placed very well on their home court throughout the course of their history. When you put a good team with a relatively supportive fanbase you get a pretty strong result. Although, in some ways, it does surprise me a little that Belk would be such a homecourt advantage. I guess other teams just don't travel here as well.
Through 10 games this season, the Wildcats have hit 98 team three-pointers. Last year’s team, who had the top 2 three-point shooters in Davidson history, did not surpass that mark until January of that season.
This year has marked a few more license distributing as Coach has really let some young guys take shots from the outside. Notice that I didn't include our 3 point shooting percentage in this stat.
In all-time records, Davidson is only 2-15 playing at Chattanooga, and 13-30 all time, while they are 4-1 at Kresse Arena and 41-9 all-time. And yet, since the College’s inception into the Southern Conference, both Chattanooga and the College have only won one Tournament championship since the late 90’s.
The College of Charleston has sported some very competitive teams in the last decade and yet Davidson has always seemed to have their number. Compare that to Chattanooga and you really have a reversal of fortunes. The Wildcats don't travel very well to the roundhouse, where basket perspectives are off and visiting fans are placed in the rafters. Let's hope we can change that misfortune on the 18th.
Despite their recent program success, Davidson has beaten Duke nearly as many times as they have beaten Clemson (17, 18).
OK, so I'm just trying to say that Clemson hasn't always been "mediocre" at basketball. And Duke used to be pretty bad.
Although Davidson is only averaging 2 points more per game this season than last season, they have 5 players averaging in double figures, compared to only three last year.
It's no surprise that the Wildcats are opening up the offense this season with all kinds of players shooting outside shots, getting transition points, and finding openings in the lane. This isn't the shutdown Brendan/Ian show anymore. Every player has to be guarded on the perimeter. Nearly all of our bigs can take a one-on-one to the basket. And Stephen is drawing double teams off the dribble. Don't ask me how I'd defend this bunch.
This season the Wildcats have averaged only 34.4 points in the first half, compared to an impressive 44.8 points in the second half. They have outrebounded their opponents by an average of 9 boards a game, including an average of 5 more offensive boards per game.
I'm not quite sure why, but this team has had some incredible second-half surges this season. Although we have had some depth problems at times, Coach is not scared to go to his bench for quality minutes. This whole team is getting some great experience right now, and they are all quick enough to keep up with a high-pace gameplan for 40 minutes.
Feel free to post corrections and additions to this list in the comments section.
Posted by Will Bryan at 1:00 PM
Monday, December 11, 2006
It isn't often that complaining really changes much in professional sports. It seems like we have stumbled upon an exception. In a stunning move today, NBA commissioner David Stern decided to revert back to the old leather ball. Throughout the season so far, NBA players have been complaining about the new composite "outdoor" ball, and it seems that Stern has finally listened. The change will take place on January 1st.
Posted by Will Bryan at 9:59 PM
Well here was my week; I'll let you review it.
-The Southern Sports Awards invaded Davidson for two days. Last minute columns were written, interviews were held, and beers were drunk by Chipper Jones. When it was all over, I got a couple of cool pictures and the 2nd Annual SSA's officially became the last ever SSA's. See post.
-Every once in a while, I tune into the NBA just to see what is going on. I've never really followed the league but I appreciate basketball. I was shocked to find that the team I loved growing up, the Orlando Magic, had the best record in the Eastern Conference. That was quite shocking. I'm going to make an attempt to follow this team a little bit this season, especially with the story of Grant Hill and his remarkably frustrating career. He has an incredible heart. If only he hadn't gone to Duke.
In other NBA news, AI is leaving Philly. I remember when he was really spectacular back in those NBA Finals a while ago. Wow, I am getting really old.
-I finished tied in the Davidsonian Pick'ems competition with my section co-editor. We were square going into this week and only picked two different games. I had a huge win on Vince Young's OT scramble, while she picked up the tying point as New Orleans clobbered Dallas in Irving. I really haven't gotten any satisfaction from this year's NFL season. My fantasy team finished 10th (although I would have been fifth place if it ranked on cumulative points). The Panthers wasted the league's best wide receiver and defensive end on a team that can't score three TD's a game or hold down Jason Campbell or Jeff Garcia. Pathetic. For the rest of this season, I'm gonna pull for the Saints, if only because of that U2 song.
-Davidson laid the smack-down on Charlotte in both men's and women's basketball. Both teams are really pumped and everything seems to be going right. Every year that the Carolina Panthers have a chance to make the playoffs, but have the Saints spoil it on the last game of the season and finish 7-9, the Davidson Wildcats will go undefeated in the conference. Just throwing it out there. Let's hope that doesn't also mean losing to the Spartans in the second round of the SoCon tournament.
-I had a conversation with a friend about how Sylvester Stallone could possibly survive the filming of Rocky VI. We then had a very public demonstration of what it was to punch in slow motion, and then speed it up. It's movie magic!
Posted by Will Bryan at 11:00 AM
Sunday, December 10, 2006
My roommate and I invested in several Panther banners at the beginning of this season. I am proud to say that we won't take them down now (although I kind of want to). This team started off slow without a running game to fit into their running gameplan. Then they got injuries on the defense. Then Jak starts losing games and everyone's confidence. Then, Chris Weinke throws for 400 yards and we still lose by two TD's.
"F them,"* says my roommate.
Posted by Will Bryan at 9:57 PM
Saturday, December 09, 2006
While I could easily talk for a while about "fan conduct" and what not (apparently there were a couple of students who took it upon themselves to go up to the Charlotte student section), I'm going to take a break from that until January and stick to the nitty-gritty.
One of the biggest keys to this double-digit win over Charlotte were the daggers that we jabbed in their hearts at the very beginning. Stephen, Max, and Thomas hit threes. Max and Curry both get a fastbreak basket, and before they know it, they are down 21-9. And they were only shooting a little bit under 50% at that point. When you feel like you are out there playing your game and then you are down by 12 to a team that you don't feel is any better than you are, you are really challenged.
Overall, I thought the coaching was absolutely excellent from two standpoints. The Wildcats came into the game without their fireball 6th man, Will Archambault. But McKillop instilled a lot of confidence in his team during this week, and he gave Max his shooting "license" back. After Gosselin had scored eight big points early, everyone knew that he would no longer be an offensive liability at the 3 spot.
I also give credit to the in-game defensive coaching, as our team defense was really threatening with zone switches and the "bigs" in the lineup (Andrew, Boris, Thomas, Max and J). Charlotte was a little thrown off, and their half-court O really suffered. If you would have told me that Goldwire and Alexander would have combined for as many threes as Stephen, Jason, Boris and Thomas, I would have wondered how we could have beaten them by double digits.
Give credit to the hustle on this team and the willingness to get on the floor. We had several possessions that were reignited by Wildcats not quitting on long rebounds and loose balls. It is so demorializing when you get outhustled by someone, especially when you initially had position on them.
There had been a little bit of banter over on Davidsoncats about whether this team is better than last year's SoCon championship group. I think that it is becoming harder to say that this year's team isn't completely better (no disrespect b/c I loved those guys). But look at the matchups.
Last year's frontcourt of Ian, Thomas and Boris. Obviously Ian was incredible with his post shots and outside looks, but his rebounding wasn't as spectacular as consistent. Thomas is developing his touch inside as well as finding three-point range now. He and Boris have already combined to hit 16 three-pointers this season. Throw in Andrew's rebounding prowess and Steve's solid depth, and you have a much improved frontcourt.
In the backcourt, you look to replace a Matty Matt's three-point shooting prowess and we can already look at Barr or Archambault, both of whom are taking the outside shots and really forcing the defense out on top of them. You then open up the middle for Curry and J-rich, something that Brendan and Kenny weren't always privileged to, and our guards start knocking down some big baskets. We are much quicker in transition, and Richards could very well be on his way to challenging Grant's assist records with his 72 assists on the season so far.
You look at these guys out there and you see all of them smiling and you see that hop in their step, and you can't help but think that this team is really ready to go slay some giants. They had chances against Michigan and should've beaten Missouri. I can't wait to see what the SoCon holds, especially with spring signing period in the middle of that. If we get a signature from JJ then there's no telling where this program can go.
Posted by Will Bryan at 10:01 PM
Huge game against Charlotte tonight. There is plenty of coverage over on Davidsoncats.com. Both fans are really ready for this one. Unfortunately for the Davidson contingent, the Wildcats will be without a key element tonight. Davidson will have to step up to make up for his absence.
More on this after the game.
One thing to watch tonight will be the fans in Belk Arena. Davidson has had more turnout during the last few home games than they have had in a while. With a bunch of junk already going down online and 1,000 Charlotte fans expected, this could be the type of athletic event that Davidson has not witnessed in quite a while. Expect a full report late tonight/early tomorrow.
Do not forget to check out the Southern Sports Awards on TV.
Posted by Will Bryan at 3:00 PM
Friday, December 08, 2006
I apologize for the recent printing of several articles that I wrote. I wanted to publish something, and it was all I had time for at the moment. Now back to a little more relaxed style.
As many of you know, the Southern Sports Awards filmed their second annual awards show at Davidson College on Wednesday night. As a reporter, I was able to take a few pictures with some of the celebrities and interview a few people. You can find those pictures through that link.
Overall, I think that the awards were great exposure for the college with Bob McKillop presenting the Best Coach award, preceded by a clip on Davidson basketball coaches of the past. You can't help but think that anyone who watches the show (see their website for showtimes) will come away impressed with that small college in North Carolina that they'd only vaguely heard of.
Otherwise, I will admit that the show was a little underwhelming. First off, do we really need an awards show for sports in the south? Using that initial bit of doubt, we run to the awards show itself where nearly every award winner was based off of who could make it to the taping. Of course, all of the NASCAR contingency lived only a few miles down the road from Davidson, and so they won some pretty outrageous victories, over the likes of George Mason, Reggie Bush, and the Carolina Hurricanes.
I can't wait to see the actual show to see if they dubbed in applause for the NASCAR victories. Nobody in the Hall was clapping. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not prejudiced here (although I am not a NASCAR fan), but I did find the overwhelming NASCAR presence very sketchy.
The highlights of the show have to be split up into two categories: that which will be on TV, and the behind-the-scenes.
ON TV: Julius Peppers. He was definitely the elephant in the Duke Performance Hall (even over Evander Holyfield). Throughout the show, people were constantly walking up to his seat to get an autograph. When he won the Fan Favorite award, the entire place erupted, only to have Julius give the worst speech I had ever heard. It's ok though.
I also have to give it up to Bob McKillop. He was so composed on camera even with the entire student section chanting his name as he walked to the podium. I really don't know how he is still at this school.
OFF-CAMERA: The three hosts: James Carville, Finesse Mitchell and Jon Reep were very funny, especially when they messed up. They made the show so much better when students started getting worn down.
I know that I heard about it, but I now have proof that Billy Packer is the biggest deuche-bag alive. He took every chance he had to make a crack on Davidson and even flicked off the crowd at one point. I swear that James Carville was about to beat him up on stage. If it weren't for the "Davidson Gentleman" attitude, our group of students would have booed him out of the county.
Overall, I think that the awards show was a nice event, but it probably won't be going on to 20th and 30th anniversaries. The Edge Marketing company has talked about returning it to Davidson next year, but if the obvious lack of market and "settling" for NASCAR stars is all that they can do, this show will be finished in the near future.
Posted by Will Bryan at 7:39 PM
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Back in the fall of 1968, the United States was going through some of the most tumultuous and significant events of this century. In the spring and summer, dual assassinations had taken the lives of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy. It would be less than a year before the first man landed on the moon. Throughout the country, the cultural tumult over draft-dodging, racial toleration, and gender equality continued to preoccupy a generation. Even small Davidson, NC counted itself as being part of the national picture of the 1960’s. However, down here, the name of the game wasn’t necessarily civil rights or foreign policy. It was college basketball.
In the history of Davidson basketball, the 1960’s played out like an Oscar-winning movie script. Lefty Driesell arrived on campus at the beginning of the decade, and when he left nine years later, the school’s basketball program was transformed forever. Davidson reached the NCAA tournament three times in those years, they finished the season in the Top 25 six times, and three players in that decade were named All-Americans.
Davidson finished the 1967-1968 season with a heart-breaking four-point loss to North Carolina in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament. Armed with a returning frontcourt of Mike Maloy, Jerry Kroll and Doug Cook, Driesell knew that 1969 could be the year to challenge UCLA for the national championship. Driesell and his staff never expected less than perfection, and his drive influenced the players and the community.
Even the thought of speculating about a national championship in Davidson seems mind-boggling in the current context. In 2005-2006, Davidson sported one of its best teams of the Bob McKillop era which included four players who finished in the all-time leaderboards in points, three-pointers and assists. Yet, after winning the Southern Conference championship game by a recordt ying 25 points over Chattanooga, Davidson was only given a million to one chance to win the NCAA tournament.
In 1969, Davidson was not a surprise team. In the Charlotte Observer’s season preview, Davidson and North Carolina were heralded as the East Coast challengers to UCLA. Davidson’s Mike Maloy was on the cover of the December issue of Sports Illustrated along with Mike Casey and Charlie Scott. Throughout the season, Davidson played 10 of its home games in Charlotte Coliseum because the smaller Johnston Gym would not hold the large crowds.
“When we stepped on the court, winning was the expected outcome 100 percent of the time,” said forward Jerry Kroll ’70. ’“Each of us expected the highest level of intensity and performance from each other and we counted on and trusted each other to
deliver, regardless of the opponent.”
During that season, Davidson handily defeated schools like Maryland, South Carolina, Texas, Michigan, Duke and Wake Forest. Their average scoring margin of 16.5 points per game ranked sixth in the nation by the end of the season. Davidson won road games in such locales as Madison Square Garden, Ann Arbor, Michigan and Morgantown, West Virginia. By season’s end, Mike Maloy was named the Southern Conference Player of the Year. Maloy averaged 24.6 points per game, while Kroll had 16.0 ppg and Cook had 14.6 ppg. At point guard, Dave Moser averaged 8.3 ppg and led the team with 155 assists.
Despite its size, the small college town did its best to support one of the nation’s top basketball programs. Games were always sold out and fan support equaled the intensity of Coach Driesell and his players.
“There were students who, having hitch-hiked in some cases, showed up in New York and Chicago to see us play,” said Kroll. “The atmosphere was powerful…it was electric.”
Armed with the confidence of an undefeated conference season, a hometown audience, and the charge that only one conference team made it to the NCAA tournament, the Wildcats rolled through the Southern Conference tournament being held in Charlotte, NC. In the championship game, the ’Cats defeated East Carolina by a margin of 26 points. For the third time in four years, Davidson earned a bid to the NCAA tournament to take on Villanova.
Not only did that game mark the final time that Lefty Driesell coached a Davidson team in Charlotte, it was also the final college game as an East Carolina Pirate for an ECU guard named Bob McKillop. As McKillop watched the talented Wildcats celebrate in mid-court, he knew that there was something special about that program: “They owned the town,” remembered McKillop.
A 14-point win over the Villanova Wildcats in the NCAA Tournament’s first round allowed Davidson to advance to the East Regionals in College Park, MD where they faced St. Johns. The Johnnies had pulled out a 75-74 overtime win over Davidson earlier in the season, and the Wildcats wanted revenge.
The Wildcats led the game at halftime and pulled away in the second half due to the suffocating defense of Mike O’Neill who held the prolific St. Johns’ scorer, John Warren, to only four second half points. Maloy added a career-high 35 points to give the Wildcats a 10-point win and a place in the Eastern Regional championship game against North Carolina.
“The Davidson dressing room was quiet and confident,” wrote the Charlotte Observer’s Mel Derrick on March 14, 1969. “The mood was one belonging to a team that honestly thinks it can win a national championship.”
On March 15, Davidson took on the University of North Carolina in what was arguably the most important game in the history of Davidson basketball. The Tar Heels had beaten Davidson in the same Regional Championship game the year before by four points. The game featured two of the nation’s best players in Mike Maloy and Charlie Scott. It also featured two young coaches in Lefty Driesell and Dean Smith who would go on to epitomize the standard of basketball excellence in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
At the time, it was a battle for revenge, it was a battle for the Final Four, and it was a battle for bragging rights in the state of North Carolina. The writers of a blockbuster movie could not have written a more compelling script.
The game featured numerous lead changes and many foul calls as the teams fought back and forth. With under a minute remaining, the score was tied and, as it was before the invention of the shot clock, Davidson was determined to hold for the final shot. But a North Carolina defender found himself in the right place at the right time after Kroll reversed his dribble in the middle of the court. The ensuing charging call gave the Tar Heels the ball and Coach Smith called a timeout.
Coming out of the timeout with under a minute to play, everyone in the fieldhouse knew that UNC wanted Scott to take the final shot. After receiving the inbound, Scott was able to go to his right and find himself open at the top of the key. Scott sunk the shot, and all the hopes of Davidson fans everywhere.
Davidson finished the season with a record of 27-3 and the Associated Press ranked them third in the country in their final poll.
Since 1969, Davidson has not won a game in the NCAA tournament, despite winning another five conference tournament championships. The storybook years of the Driesell era when Davidson and North Carolina battled for state bragging rights are long gone.
To a new generation of basketball fans, those teams seem rather exceptional and compelling, but rarely realistic. Instead, the past success of Davidson basketball has begun to take on a mythic feeling that hides the true beauty of how important those successes were. Although Davidson remains a school of 1,600 students, many still believe that national prominence is not just a dream.
“Success starts at the top, from the administration down to the coaching to the players and fans,” said former point guard Dave Moser ’69. “I really believe that we can compete with some of the best teams in the country.”
In the same way that Lefty Driesell transformed a program of mediocrity into one with national title aspirations, Bob McKillop continues to push the Davidson basketball program to new heights. In the last five years, McKillop has put together three postseason teams that have helped raise Davidson’s national recognition level.
Davidson continues to believe in success on a national level, and will never forget the heights they have reached in the past.
Posted by Will Bryan at 1:47 PM
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
-published in the Davidsonian, December 6, 2006-
On Wednesday night, the Southern sports culture and all of its fanfare will descend upon Davidson College. The Lincoln Financial Southern Sports Awards are hosting the annual taping of their awards show in the Duke Family Performance Hall. For Davidson College, the event represents an incredible opportunity for regional and national exposure. For the athletes and performers, it represents the opportunity to gather with their peers and celebrate their achievements.
This year will represent only second ever presentation of the Southern Sports Awards and it aims to begin creating a niche in the end-of-year awards schedule. Last year, the show was held in Atlanta, GA on the week after Thanksgiving. While the presentation went off without a hitch, the producers came away realizing that they wanted more of an energetic audience.
“We really aimed to create a collegiate feel in this year’s show,” said co-executive producer Ken Neal. “We hope that students will wear their Davidson gear and be excited throughout the show.”
Neal represents one of the main reasons that this year’s show is being held at Davidson College. A Davidson grad from 1987, Neal owns his own sports production company in Charlotte and pushed the small liberal arts college as a prime venue.
For Davidson, the show will be an incredible opportunity to showcase not only the academic but athletic prowess of one of the nation’s smallest Division I schools.
One video piece will feature some of the famous Davidson men’s basketball coaches of the past including current George Mason coach Jim Larranaga, former UNC coach Matt Doherty, former Maryland coach Lefty Driesell, and even NBA coach Larry Brown. The Southern Coach of the Year award will which will be presented by current Davidson coach Bob McKillop.
There will also be several commercial lead-ins that will feature the Davidson campus and students.
Aiming to capture the full aura of Southern Sports, the show will feature a traditions section to pay homage to the South’s passionate and crazy fans, tailgating, mascots, and stadium traditions.
This year’s show will be co-hosted by political pundit and avid Southern sports fan, James Carville. He will be joined by Southern comedian Jon Reep, who gained national press for his famous line in Dodge truck commercials: “that thing got a hemi?”
Although not all of the presenters and award winners will be revealed before the show, Neal did say that fans could expect a fair share of star power. Along with local NASCAR personalities, Davidson students can expect to see former boxer Evander Holyfield, former SNL star Finesse Mitchell, musical performers Chris Doughtry, Monica, Rodney Atkins, and Bubba Sparxx, and a couple of Carolina Panther players.
“If you come to the show expecting star power and quality musical performances, you will not leave disappointed,” said Neal. “However, I think that students will be most impressed by the visual setup of the show. It should be unlike anything they have ever seen done on campus.”
Despite the looming presence of exams and final projects, the Davidson community has already shown that it is willing to support such a high-profile endeavor. Several weeks ago, students camped out in the freezing night just to get tickets to the live taping. Many people were astonished that tickets went so quickly and opted to attend one of the two run-through sessions on Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon. The Union Board received over 350 faculty and staff requests for an alotted 60 tickets.
“I have been really impressed with the support of the community for this event,” said Neal. “If we had a 2,000 seat venue in the Union, we could have easily sold it out.”
Although the anticipation for the event has greatly increased in the last few days to the construction in the Union and the rumors of attending stars, Davidson students have been encouraged to appreciate their proximity to the event and not harass the presenters and nominees.
“We really have very little in place to keep the student body away from the body of celebrities for this event. We are trusting that Davidson students will act maturely and ensure the success of the event.”
The awards show will be shown in its entirety on various Southern cities over the next two Saturdays. Charlotte, NC will air the show December 9, 2006 at 8 p.m. on WJZY.
Posted by Will Bryan at 2:03 PM
Friday, December 01, 2006
Dorm Ping Pong
This is what we do late at night, instead of studying.
Posted by Will Bryan at 11:48 AM
I apologize for the lack of posts. We are entering into the week of hell here at Davidson. As far as basketball goes, here are some quick thoughts for the next week and a half:
-College of Charleston lost last night against Charleston Southern. The SoCon South race is officially wide open.
-Elon comes in tonight without their star player in LeVonn Jordan. Expect a strong Wildcat showing and a comfortable victory.
-Ugg, I hate exams. I will be back soon, I promise.
Posted by Will Bryan at 11:42 AM
Monday, November 27, 2006
It has been a long Thanksgiving break for me, with so many sports stories swirling around and so little time to work on my end-of-semester papers. Sigh. But I have decided on this Monday morning to at least provide some cursory comments on the events of the last week.
-College Football obviously needs a playoff system. Everyone agrees on it now right? We all know that USC and Michigan should have a chance to play each other for the chance to play Ohio St. What I haven't heard anyone talk about is how/why it is going to happen. Cases have been made about how the bowls can host the games and money still goes in. No one can ignore college basketball's success with March Madness. I want to know who is holding this up.
-Davidson basketball confounds fans. After getting trounced by Duke at Cameron, no two Davidson fans has the same feeling from this game. I have heard that we were killed inside, and that we held our own. We played together for most of the game, and yet we had no chemistry. What I do know is that Jason Richards needs some help. We really have no adequate back-up at the point and there are many teams in the SoCon that are going to give us ballhandling fits. We will only emerge into a conference contender if we can effectively get into our half-court offense.
-With their offensive line not as good as it could be, the Carolina Panthers are fading back into the rest of the pack. The Panthers have been streaky all season as they have demolished good teams and been beaten by lesser teams. The common denominator for this season, however, is that Jake Delhomme is nothing special. The Panthers have shown that they have some great elements with Smith, Johnson, Williams, Peppers, Lucas...but they cannot rely on Jake anymore. In the Panthers' five losses, three of them came as direct results of late-game Delhomme turnovers. The only times that Weinke has gotten any substantial playing time in the last few years, he has led the Panthers to late-game victory drives. If Parcells can do it with Romo, why can't we do it with Weinke?
-For all of last week, Post and Courier beat writer David Caraviello wrote tomes on the character and insight of Bobby Cremins. After finding fault with his big inside presence Josh Jackson, Cremmins sat the forward so he could think about his attitude. According to Caraviello, Cremmins doesn't worry all that much about schemes and plays, rather he spends his energy worrying about the character of his team. At the outset, I think it is great that these CofC players realize that they won't play if they don't get their head in the game, but somehow all of Charleston is trying to convince themselves that Cremmins really does know what he's doing out there. They are trying to forget how he always only played 6 players throughout the season and how his players never really seemed to do more than what seemed natural for them. Apparently, it's all about brawn, speed and athleticism without a plan. Somehow I don't think that even Cremmins is going to get this bunch back into the SoCon title game.
Posted by Will Bryan at 11:19 AM
Friday, November 24, 2006
Last year, Davidson brought one of its most experienced team in several years up to Durham, NC to play Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Wildcats were utterly defeated. Why then, with a team that has averaged 20.7 turnovers per game, am I interested in previewing Davidson's chances against this Duke team? Well, why not? They are going to lose anyway right? Or are they?
This year's Duke team does not have a starter with more experience than junior DeMarcus Nelson. That inexperience was exposed last Tuesday as Marquette got hot in the second half and the Dukies panicked. For years, Coach K has lived off of momentum, but he might not always a crew to generate it. For four years, J.J. Redick was instant momentum as he could seemingly hit three-pointers from anywhere on the court. In last year's matchup, Shelden Williams thwarted any hopes of Davidson establishing an inside game as he reached double digits in blocks.
This year, however, the Dukie playmakers are wrong and unproven. It also seems that they know that they are beatable. For Davidson, there is never a good time to play Duke, but I will take this opportunity as it is. The Wildcats have a group of players that admittedly aren't experienced to enough to handle Bob McKillop's intricate system. As a result, they set new school records for three-point attempts against D-III schools. This team, turns the ball over a lot and shoots too early on possessions. But they are also very explosive. They overcame double digit deficits against Eastern Michigan, Michigan and Missouri, although they dropped the last two. With freshmen like Stephen Curry and Will Archambault having the potential to score 20+ on three-pointers alone, this group can upset anyone.
The Wildcats have nothing to lose in this game, whereas the Dukies have an identity to reestablish. The Blue Devils will not take it easy on Davidson early on, but Coach McKillop likes it like that. He knows that his legendary coaching counterpart in blue respects the Wildcats way too much to take it easy on them.
If Davidson is to win, the Wildcats will have to shoot like they did against UIC, rally like they did against EMU and protect the ball like they didn't do against Missouri. Most importantly, they have to adopt the moniker on Steve Rossiter's shoulder and play "with the heart of a lion."
Posted by Will Bryan at 11:12 PM
Monday, November 20, 2006
-Make sure to mark your calendars for January 10. The men's basketball game against Furman has been moved to that date. The schedule has been updated on the Davidson website. That game will be held in the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville, SC.
-On a day when the Men's basketball team was vying for their third straight victory over Big 12 foe Missouri, the Davidson Women's basketball team came within 6 points of upsetting the no. 9 ranked Bulldogs of Georgia. The Wildcats had four women score in double figures including 12 from Danielle Hemerka and newcomer Julia Paquette. The Wildcats shot 6-12 from 3 land in the second half to build and sustain a six-point lead. But the Bulldogs hung around and made a surge at the end to clip the Wildcats and maintain their ranking. Like the men, the women turned ball over too many times (18) and the Bulldogs scored 12 points on the fast break. Look for this women's team to continue turning heads this season. They are really good.
-The Men's swimming team beat the College of Charleston in the Davidson Invitational over the weekend while the Women's team came in third place in front of the University of North Florida. Merritt Peale continued to lead the Men's attack while Alanna Ream set a new meet record in the 200 butterfly with a time of 2:07.71.
-Prediction for the BCS national championship game: Ohio State over USC, 28-21.
Posted by Will Bryan at 4:34 PM
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Here are some grades from the Davidson-Missouri game.
Davidson Frontcourt: B-
These guys had really been anchoring the Cats' strong play so far this season, but they were unable to be effective against the Missouri defensive schemes. Sander did not score in the first half and he, Boris and Andrew combined for only 24 points against 10 turnovers. The Wildcats also gave up 30 points in the paint, and the big men became thorns in our side against the press. On the bright side, Boris did not get into any foul trouble and the Wildcats were able to outrebound the Tigers 40-29. I think that from here on out, either Boris or Thomas is going to have to have a big game for the Cats to win. It's kind of like the Ian Johnson effect, except with two people.
Davidson Backcourt: C+
The theme for this group continues to be turnovers and inconsistency. Despite the 17 points put up by freshman newcomer Will Archambault, this group was unable to make sure that Davidson broke the press on a consistent basis. They weren't distributing the ball as well as they could have (11:18 assist/turnover ratio for the guards) and Jason Richards' foul trouble plagued the team's flow in the second half. This team really needs a natural backup point guard as only Curry and Gosselin are backing up Richards. Look for some future opponents to be taking advantage of this weakness.
It's easy to look for moral victories when you're playing against big schools, but I would say that the Wildcats really did not deserve to win this game. They were not playing their best basketball and they don't have the experience and talent to win close games on the road yet. Coach McKillop is famous for saying that he'd always rather win a game, but I think that this loss will continue to be an important motivator throughout the season. It meant that you were good enough to play close despite mistakes, but that you're going to have to eliminate those mistakes in the games that really matter.
This team really has a depth problem right now. It is kind of a new idea for someone like me, who's only watched for the past two years, where you always had a guy like Eric Blancett to come off the bench, but there really isn't anyone like that right now. We are playing 7 guys and that is it. This team could get into some major foul trouble against more physical teams and that can really hurt you down the stretch. Coach McKillop is going to need to develop players like Rossiter, Barr and Civi into playable backups. He also might think about giving Falconi some minutes.
Posted by Will Bryan at 9:58 PM
Friday, November 17, 2006
In the third meeting between Davidson and Missouri in the last three years, the Tigers will look to oust the fiesty Wildcats who have pulled off two consecutive "upsets." Each loss to Davidson during the past two seasons have the set the tones for mediocre Missouri seasons that have routinely underachieved with great raw talent.
Although it would seem that all of these Missouri Tigers will be itching for revenge against Davidson on Sunday, there aren't that many players on this team that have actually gone through those losses. The Tigers will be looking for help from a talented group of transfers and freshman in order to set a new course under new head coach Mike Anderson. To this day, many fans still blame the firing of former coach Quinn Snyder on the back-to-back losses to some "po-dunk small-time NC school."
Frontcourt: In the frontcourt, Missouri will have a small height advantage behind the 6-9 Lyons and 6-9 Grimes, but they will also have some trouble fitting into coach Anderson's new fast-paced offense. Last year, the Davidson interior torched this same group of Missouri players as the Davidson frontcourt outscored Missouri 47-10. This year, Sander and Meno have more than made up for the loss of Johnson as the rebounding numbers are up (+20 rebounding over UIC this week), and so are the trash put-back points. Now that Sander is hitting the three-pointer and stretching the defense, this Missouri group will have a hard time containing Davidson's big men in the half court.
Backcourt: Missouri will miss the early departure of Thomas Gardner who scored 30 points in the Tigers losing effort in Davidson last year. Although they return Horton at the point, the Tigers are will still be trying to their rhythm in their new hurry up schemes. The depth is young and the experience may become an issue if this team gets down. However, on paper, Missouri will probaly have the speed and athleticism to get out in front on the fast break. For Davidson, this might be the game where their bubble finally bursts. The Cats have been riding the hot play of freshman Stephen Curry who has put up 90 points in his first four games, including 32 against Michigan and 23 in the second half against UIC. Curry has a propensity for playing outside of himself so far, and if he starts turning the ball over and missing shots, Davidson will have to look for Jason Richards to spend more time at the point creating shots. The Tigers should also look out for freshman Will Archambault who has been a force off the bench. His three-point range seems to be infinite at this point.
Keys to the game: For Missouri, this game is about revenge and pride. They know that they have been embarrassed in the last two seasons by a team playing in a mid-major conference. If the Tigers can get their crowd behind them they might be able to create a big-league early off of quick scoring and transition baskets. They will have to play smart however, because the Wildcats have just come off a 100-89 win over a team in UIC that also thought that they could outrun the Cats. Davidson needs to continue to find a happy medium between playing loose and playing within the system. If the Wildcats cut down on turnovers, score easy baskets inside and hit a few three-pointers, they could make it interesting.
Posted by Will Bryan at 10:52 AM
Thursday, November 16, 2006
As some of you may or may not know, keeping up an active blog is very tiring and can frankly be a lot of work.
If you look at some of the blogs with the highest impacts and hit counts, almost all of them are blogs that have no nearly no original content (take www.deadspin.com, arguably one of the biggest sports blogs in the country). These blogs make their living on finding the crazy and dirty of the sports world and giving us more of it every twenty minutes.
On the other hand, you also have blogs like Mark Clayton's and Ricky Dimon's (www.clayandricksports.com) that publish exposes on different subjects and require a little more dedication from their readers. Moreover, they claim to represent the point-of-view of young, passionate sports fans for whom ESPN doesn't write and who are most completely represented by two college students playing Beer Pong on their "About Us" page.
I hope to continue to blaze a trail for sports fans, especially those in the Davidson community, who want to have a little more than the AP story, a little less of the YouTube videos of athletes picking their nose, and something that continues to transform and inspire us about the world of sports.
After seeing the crowds of students during last night's Davidson/UIC game and hearing people talk about Davidson basketball today, I am reconvinced that this whole sports stuff is more than just the lust of the crowds for competition, fighting and victory. Humans have a particular knack for orienting themselves in terms of teams and seeing things in the duality of win/lose.
Throughout this winter, while Davidson basketball will drive most of my commentary, and I want to use my newfound motivation to talk about such things as race and sports (I am actually taking a class on it next semester), business in sports, and the psychology of success.
As always, please leave me any comments if you have thoughts and look for some pre-game thoughts before Sunday's Missouri game.
Posted by Will Bryan at 5:50 PM
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
I'm baaaackk! The Davidsonian and all of these darn classes have really been taking my time. But that's no excuse, I'm back in business and it's time to start talking basketball. I'm hoping that I can start making this thing a little more Deadspinish and a little less articlish. The Davidsonian will have a website next semester, so you can read articles there.
Before we get to Davidson basketball, we look at the rest of the country and we see the common trend of November: scared giants and hopeful mid-majors picking up their game on the road. In the past, it really wasn't a big deal if Duke or North Carolina lost to a nobody because their NCAA seed wouldn't reflect it and the nobody would go .500 in their po-dunk conference anyway.
However, I think that we are seeing the continual flow of the mid-majors at the start of this season. I see no ebb in sight. On the night, Oral Roberts picked up a huge win over #3 Kansas on the road, while Winthrop almost stunned #2 UNC after leading at half.
Winthrop and Oral Roberts are joining the teams like Creighton, SIU and George Mason that refuse to see themselves as cinderellas and are coming to play against the boys. Notice I didn't say big boys, because as we are continually seeing they really aren't that big anymore. Especially when great coaches like Gregg Marshall, Jim Larranaga, and Bob McKillop are out there.
But on to the good stuff, Davidson beat UIC 100-89 tonight behind the, dare-I-say, "flat" play of Stephen Curry who scored 27 points. Curry missed some very good shots in the first half and made some poor decisions with the ball throughout the game. And yet he still led this team to victory. If he continues to mature and strengthen, Curry could very well be the best player in Davidson history.
But enough about Curry, we have four years to develop that subject. I was most impressed with Thomas Sander and Boris Meno who continue to improve within McKillop's system. They have both taken lessons from Ian and started to perfect their short hooks and tip-ins, and they both have an excellent knack for rebounds. The great rebounder always does the fundamentals well, but he also has an intuitive sense about shots and these guys really seem to have that.
Finally, I'm impressed with William Archambault. He has really evolved into a dynamic small forward who can play above the rim, hit the outside shot, and play defense.
Although we definitely have some trouble with holding onto the ball, and we need some more PT and consistency from Richards, I love the way that our underclassmen are contributing while learning. In my few years here at Davidson, the "system" of Bob McKillop has handicapped the underclassmen and not allowed them to play while learning. Now we are getting contributions from players who are improving and learning at the same time.
This team is also going to cause some matchup problems in a way that we haven't in the past. Not only are we building an inside-outside offense with outside shooters and power players in the paint, but now we have the ability to run-out on teams that aren't as quick as UIC. The Flames shot the lights out tonight and yet they couldn't beat us because of our +20 rebounding margin.
The crowd was excellent tonight and I really think that we are building on our support base. The Davidson Basketball Blog is getting some great hits as well as www.davidsoncats.com. I'm excited to see what this year can bring and hope that this will be the year when we begin to separate ourselves from the rest of the SoCon. We want to be Gonzaga, Memphis, SIU, Winthrop, .....etc. Davidson belongs in that list. We have been there in the past and we deserve to be there again.
Posted by Will Bryan at 10:31 PM
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Playing a sport at Davidson takes a certain kind of personality. It demands intricate time management, dedication, and a love for the game that will most likely end after graduation. The Davidson life is rigorous by most accounts and the demands of the athletic win/lose mentality can often be quite high. However, despite these perils, many Davidson students undertake an athletic commitment in their four years here. This commitment can range from being a scholarship athlete with year-long training and dedication to a backup on a Freshman flickerball team. Most people at this school try to understand the beauty of competition, teamwork and sportsmanship. Throughout the rest of the year, the Davidsonian sports section will periodically cover the pursuits of all of our student-athletes, from intramurals to club sports to the varsity. This week we cover the Club Soccer team.
In Davidson club sports, it is all about numbers. If a team doesn’t have enough players, they can’t have practices and they can’t play games. As would be expected, the numbers for club teams are always fluctuating depending on each particular class, who goes abroad and the relative popularity of the sport.
If that is the first criteria for having a successful club team at Davidson, then Club Soccer gets an A for the fall. In the last few seasons, the numbers have been up as the team routinely has over 20 players at any given practice. In some games this year, the team has had to field two different squads in order to allow everyone to play. While preference is given to older players and those who regularly attend practice, the philosophy of Audrey Cundari ’08, the team’s coach and captain, proclaims that this team is about having fun not finding the most talent.
“This is a place for people to just go out there and kick around,” said Cundari. “Obviously we want to compete and play good soccer, but winning isn’t our ultimate goal.”
For many Davidson girls, that philosophy is imminently appealing. The team’s makeup of players is predominantly taken from high school soccer players who decided not to compete on the Division I varsity level. However, within that group there are also former Davidson varsity players as well as girls who hadn’t played the game since middle school. The mix is diverse, but the girls make it work.
“We have an assistant coach/manager in Mark Cebul who really keeps things fun. If a certain drill isn’t working in practice, he switches things up and keeps it lively.”
Another struggle for every club team is the handling of funds. Scheduling roadtrips, buying jerseys and providing food all cost money, and the club teams have to show progress and organization in order to be approved for more moneys.
This year’s Club Soccer team has already played at Virginia Tech and has acquired new jerseys. After starting the season 1-3-1, they will host N.C. State and Wake Forest during Parents Weekend.
Ultimately, Club Soccer provides an environment for girls to still play the sport they love. The infrastructure of the program provides more reliability than any pickup game, but the players don’t have to sacrifice too much in order to gain a lot. For those girls, the game of soccer still goes on, long after they thought it had ended.
Posted by Will Bryan at 1:27 PM
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
(published in The Davidsonian, October 4, 2006)
During last Saturday’s football game between Davidson and San Diego, I walked into the home stands 10 minutes before kickoff and sat down amongst an excited group of community families, alums of every age, families of players and coaches and students. Although the stadium filled up, there was room for everyone who wanted to watch the game. Tickets were affordable, and the atmosphere was enjoyable despite the eventual 50-21 outcome.
This scene was quite different from the college football experience of three weeks ago when I went to Death Valley to watch the Clemson-North Carolina game. The entire campus was packed with families and students and boosters, 84,000 strong. There was something very special about being in the midst of so large a social organism rooting for my Tigers.
However, as I look back on that day as compared to Davidson’s homecoming, I wonder whether there wasn’t something missing at Clemson. Or, more specifically, whether there was a little too much of a good thing.
The consensus attitude towards everything in college football these days is that more is better. More facilities, more people, more pageantry, more yardage and more money. As a matter of fact, a lot more money. Over the last decade, revenues of college football have exploded exponentially and universities have become caught up in a spending war to attract recruits.
It doesn’t baffle us when schools like Texas and Michigan pour millions of dollars into stadium renovations every few years, but even schools from smaller conferences are beginning to spend in astronomical increments.
In his Oct. 9 article in ESPN the Magazine, Peter Keating articulates this notion by supplying evidence from various research firms showing no correlation between spending and generating university profits over the last eight years. In other words, expanding facilities and offering a better college football experience isn’t bringing any more money into the program. Perhaps the only real consequence is felt by the average fan, who has steadily had to shell out more and more money for game tickets.
Three weeks ago, I began to realize what kind of institution college football had become. I had to purchase tickets to the game on eBay because the game had been sold out for months. I ended up paying nearly three times the face value, a face value that was already higher than a comparable seat in Bank of America stadium for an NFL game. When did Clemson-North Carolina become such an exclusive affair?
During the game, I noticed around the stadium that students were the only non-VIPs to have seats that didn’t need binoculars. Many season ticket holders are required not only to pay exorbitant prices for mere upper deck seating, but also have to give more and more money to the school’s athletic foundation in order to remain eligible to season ticket purchasing. That money inevitably goes to building more facilities, which only seem to then increase ticket prices.
When one looks at the elite schools of college football, they are not necessarily defined by excessive spending, but rather generations of success. Schools with losing traditions might allocate incredible budgets for college football and still not find success on the scoreboard.
Certainly, facilities and media exposure as a result of spending help to improve recruiting, but sound coaching, principled administration and commitment to success can go a lot farther. Effective investment in meaningful projects is a required tenet of good administration. In that sense, it is not that money has nothing to do with success, it is rather that spending should have consequence and be seen as investment.
In the end, college football should be about the players, the fans, the coaches and the families. All of these groups are benefited by greater access to tickets through principled pricing. The best seats shouldn’t always go to the highest bidder. Universities should spend more money in player development and community building, ensuring that players are actually educated. Finally college football should be about football. I might seem ignorant to believe that players and fans still believe in the spirit of the game. But I saw it exhibited last Saturday at Davidson, and I know that what is good and right always has the power to succeed.
Posted by Will Bryan at 12:15 PM
Thursday, September 28, 2006
As evidenced by the expansive number of pseudo-professional sports blogs that are out there right now, a lot of people think that they know a lot about sports. For many years, I have understood there to be an expanding culture of sports "laymen" (those that invest a lot of time and thought in sports without a professional link) that take themselves very seriously when it comes to their opinions about their favorite sports and favorite teams.
This dynamic has progressed from the days of call-in radio shows (which still exist, I think) to internet chatrooms to blogs to reality shows that take ordinary people and make them sports anchors. For many reasons, this reality can be very intimidating to a young amateur who thinks that he has the gumption to try to make this stuff into a living.
I bring up my own personal immersion into the world of sports dialogues to connect to a growing reality surrounding Davidson sports. Although Davidson sports, basketball in particular, are thoroughly behind the curve in terms of media saturation and auxiliary fan involvement, there are some growing trends that I believe that, although they might be common, are not good for Davidson.
As one who is presently involved in the proliferation of Davidson sports media as well as connected to the voices of leadership that are claiming to speak for students and local alumni, I believe that Davidson has become a monolithic entity in many people's minds.
In this light, I look at the Davidson basketball program and the way in which different people and groups tend to see it. There are different groups of students on campus that want to claim ultimate fandom of this "unheralded" team. Last year, student groups attempted to outdo each other with cheers from different parts of the stadium, often refusing to join in with a cheer started by a different group. Different figures of local alumni are often in disagreement over what their team needs to get to the next level. Even the athletic department itself has a particular agenda over how fandom should progress and who should know about Davidson.
Everyone thinks they know what's best for "their" team. They all claim ownership in different ways, whether it's owning season tickets, or starting student fan groups with T-shirts, or riding to so many away games, or even being paid by the school to make the season function. Just like callers on a weekly radio shows, Davidson fans can express different opinions on the message board in everything from "Night with the Cats" to starting lineups to fan conduct.
Usually, I would end this by saying that this is all OK because a plurality of opinions are good for us, and it's helpful to hear everyone else, once in a while. But there is "something in the water" at Davidson. We don't like to think that there is a differing opinion about something we so dearly cherish in a unique way.
Well, perhaps we aren't all that unique after all. Maybe Davidson can get some things wrong sometimes, and maybe we aren't the coolest little school that is so perfect at everything. Maybe there never was a "secret" because it wasn't that important if we told someone.
Davidson basketball and Davidson sports in general will help provide me with distinctive and unforgettable memories of my college life. It is special in that sense. But we need to be careful of making our understanding and opinions be about something so special that we don't accept its differing importance in others. We should all be a little more supportive of that this year, and if we are, we might actually become as special and unique as we have already imagined.
Posted by Will Bryan at 7:25 PM
Thursday, September 21, 2006
(published in The Davidsonian, 9/20/06)
Back when I was in high school, I participated in a program called Youth in Government. I acted as a lawyer in a mock court, and had to try several made up cases. As one might imagine, the scope of the cases were limited to only several pages of background and written testimony. As a result, my team learned of a very important strategy that many lawyers use to influence the jury: Say some objectionable things. The judge might strike it from the official record, but the human jury could never get it out of their minds.
It is through this example that I bring up a very important issue in the current national sports scene. What really counts for greatness now? That which we witness, or that which is ultimately kept in the record books?
The developing controversy surrounding Reggie Bush brings this issue to the forefront. Bush and his family are facing allegations that they wrongly accepted over $100,000 in gifts and cash from two marketing agents. While Bush has adamantly declared that he is innocent of the charges, there is some substantial evidence to the contrary.
If this whole thing goes down and Bush is fully implicated, his Heisman and the Southern California national championship could be taken away. However, I will never be able to believe and accept that USC was not the best team in the country for that season. You can take those trophies away from them, but that National Championship season exists in its own right in our memory.
The NCAA has a lot of power, but they can’t control our minds. Not yet anyway.
When pertaining to issues of unrelated grievances, such as illegally taking money, the issue seems relatively cut and dry. Guys like Pete Rose and Reggie Bush might not be upstanding citizens, but they are still incredible athletes. In their own right, their accomplishments affected the sports world in an irreversible way. We might try to have them tainted in the name of justice, but their memory will never be erased.
This argument starts getting a little more hairy when we run into athletes whose “cheating” actually had a direct influence on their athletic accomplishments: Barry Bonds, Floyd Landis and practically everyone in the NFL.
Barry Bonds has hit home runs unlike any in our generation, and yet I’m told that I have to ignore it. It’s kind of not really supposed to count. Or something. As a sports fan, the present conundrum with steroids has handicapped our ability to recognize accomplishment and garner strength in victories and records.
For my part, I still remember watching Bonds’ 73rd home run of the 2001 season. I won’t be able to forget Floyd Landis’ incredible one-day comeback putting him in first place in the 2006 Tour de France. This is like asking me to forget the Bills’ 32 point comeback in 1992 playoffs because Frank Reich and Don Beebe shot up before the game.
Our nation’s sports watchdog institutions need to better understand what they are getting themselves into. Surely it is a noble cause to try to maintain the amateur status of college sports.
However, just last week, the NCAA opened itself up to further problems by having a sense of sympathy. They allowed for the creation of a trust fund for Clemson CB Ray Ray McElrathbey, who had gained custody of his little brother over the summer. McElrathbey is trying to raise his brother in a positive environment and the NCAA ruled that it had no problems with a member institution sponsoring this personal endeavor.
But what if an athlete is married in college and is struggling to support his spouse? What if one has lost all of his familial and personal belongings in a natural disaster? Can an NCAA institution allow an athlete to receive charity then?
Lines are becoming blurred, and our tangible entities, like championships and records, are the only things that we can use as collateral and punishment.
Ultimately, however, all that these institutions can do is to put an asterisk in the record books. In trying to punish the offenders, the sports fans and their culture are also punished. All of a sudden, the historical map of champions and records has become blurred and ambiguous. For all of our passion and support, we, the sports fans, deserve better.
Posted by Will Bryan at 10:54 PM
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Friday, September 15, 2006
Week 2 Picks
(S, W, C, P, J) Carolina at Minnesota
(W, C) Buffalo at Miami (S, J, P)
(S, C, J) NY Giants at Philadelphia (W, P)
(S, W, C, J, P) New Orleans at Green Bay
Houston at Indianapolis (W, S, C, J, P)
Detroit at Chicago (W, S, C, J, P)
Cleveland at Cincinnati (S, W, C, J, P)
(S, J) Tampa Bay at Atlanta (W, C, P)
Oakland at Baltimore (W, C, S, J, P)
(S) Arizona at Seattle (W, C, J, P)
(S, C, W, J, P) St. Louis at San Francisco
Tennessee at San Diego (C, W, S, J, P)
(S, W, C, P) New England at NY Jets (J)
(C, J) Kansas City at Denver (S, W, P)
(W, P) Washington at Dallas (C, S, J)
(C, S, P) Pittsburgh at Jacksonville (W, J)
Posted by Will Bryan at 12:08 AM
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Thursday, September 07, 2006
For this year's NFL pick em, I have decided to include the picks of several friends of mine to make it more interesting. I hope to find time to publish some more original writings, but this is all I got for now. Here is the key (W=me; S=Suzie Eckl, my Davidsonian co-editor; C=Chris Burton; J=Jenny Jenn; P=Philthy, my roommate)
(S, C, J) Miami at Pittsburgh (W, P)
(S) Baltimore at Tampa Bay (P, W, C, J)
(C) Atlanta at Carolina (P, S, J, W)
(C, W, P) Denver at St. Louis (J, S)
(W) Buffalo at New England (P, C, S, J)
(C, W, P) Philadelphia at Houston (S, J)
(C, W, S, J, P) New Orleans at Cleveland
(C, W, S, J, P) Seattle at Detroit
(S, C) NY Jets at Tennessee (J, W, P)
(S, W, J, P) Cincinnati at Kansas City (C)
(S, W, C, P) Chicago at Green Bay (J)
(S, C, J, P) Dallas at Jacksonville (W)
San Francisco at Arizona (C, W, S, J, P)
(W, C, P) Indianapolis at NY Giants (J, S)
(S, C) Minnesota at Washington (W, J, P)
(W, P) San Diego at Oakland (S, C, J)
Posted by Will Bryan at 8:07 PM
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
(published in The Davidsonian, 8/30/06)
Fall is upon us. A new school year has started. The days are beginning to get shorter, and the leaves will soon be turning. For the past 20 years of my life, this has signified one thing: it’s football season. Somehow, that fact always seems to get overlooked at Davidson. Maybe it’s because we don’t have all the pageantry of our neighboring Southern colleges and universities. Maybe it’s because we don’t have to actually go to the football games, but can rather watch them from the union while we do our Saturday afternoon studying. Or maybe it’s because somewhere along the line we collectively agreed not to care about Davidson football.
When Tripp Merritt agreed to become Davidson’s head football coach in the summer of 2005, he knew that there was work to be done. It had been five years since Davidson’s perfect 10-0 season, and a combined record of 5-15 over the last two seasons had created a pall over the program. Merritt knew that his football squad needed to establish a positive image both on and off the field.
“I talk the guys all the time about our image,” said coach Merritt. “There are certain things they should be doing on campus to put this team in a positively light, both academically and socially.”
Last season, Coach Merritt re-ignited the ride-in program where football players had to ride alongside campus police for their nightly patrols. Not only did players garner a greater appreciation for the responsibilities of law enforcement on campus, they were also able to cultivate a greater sense of community and better image.
This season, the ‘Cats will unveil a new helmet design that references the design from several decades ago while still being trendy and energizing. The white helmets with the block D will be a bold statement that this team embraces Davidson’s rich football history while at the same time looking forward and not accepting an image of mediocrity.
“The design harkens back to the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, but it’s also us putting a physical mark on this program and on this campus,” said Merritt. The uniforms serve as physical reminders that Davidson football cares about image and the success that is required to cement that image.
Like all sports at Davidson, Wildcat football has always fought an uphill battle with financial support. Several teams in Pioneer Football League have recently opted to supply scholarships for their players and move up to D-I scholarship football. With every one of our football players essentially being a walk-on, one has to wonder about the success potential for this program. How much can they really achieve?
When major college football is plagued with excessive scandal, bribery, and sanctions, perhaps playing good football for its own sake is good enough.
“Davidson needs to be the beacon for non-scholarship I-AA football,” said Merritt. “Our kids do it because they love the game and the academics. That’s something that is hopeful and appealing in and of itself.”
Underneath all of the talk of image and ideology, Merritt knows that his team will speak for itself when it goes on the field this year. With 15 returning starters from a team that upset Georgetown in its final game last season, the Wildcats look to link their off-field images with on-field improvement.
“You don’t change negative perceptions overnight. We’re just trying to put ourselves out there a little bit at a time.”
If the pre-season confidence and image can translate into victories on the field, those perceptions might be changing more quickly than we thought.
Posted by Will Bryan at 1:16 PM