I must say that I am continually amazed by the significance of the new print media over the internet that takes the form of blogs, message boards and updated newsflashes (the irony is not lost on me that I state this in a blog). Every day it seems that I am searching the internet and my Favorites list for new content, thoughts and viewpoints. While I love to read interesting articles and catch up on the news, I am astounded by how often I am merely looking for opinions that reaffirm my own ideas. I am always interested in reading and finding more content on Davidson basketball, not because there is anything I don't know, but that I just love to read other people come to know what I understand as important truth. As long as I am living, I will never tire of reading an article that proclaims Bob McKillop as the epitome of all things good about college basketball. I love to read blogs by Thomas Friedman that point out the ignorance of partisan politics in regards to the world political, social and environmental status. I feel empowered to say "Ha, in the end, your rhetoric gets you nowhere." But neither does mine. The internet reflects our society's impatience with nearly everything. We want to have a say now, and we want everyone else to affirm us now. Now get on here and tell me I'm right.
Sunday, January 29, 2006
Sorry for the posting lapse. I decided to write here tonight because the Davidsonian denied me my basketball writing rights for the weekend. The new Editor-in-Chief, not sports editor believes that I have a conflict of interest by writing for the Wildcat Report and essentially being around the team a lot. Her claims are a load of bull for several reasons:
-There's no such thing as unbiased reporting for a school newspaper's sports section. I'm sorry but any Davidson student will be at least as biased to their team as I.
-I have plenty of experience of writing for different audiences and presenting information and stories that are appropriate for those audiences, far more than any one of their other writers.
-Essentially, no one can write the type of article that I can when they don't have access to the interviews, statistics and media releases that I am given. Working with Sports Information lets me know more than what this week's writer will have to use, a one-page press release and their game experience.
-Finally, the editor-in-chief is the only one making this decision and she's an outsider. She has no clue what I really do, despite a long expose that I sent her about my roles. My sports editor supports me, my fellow writers support me and my readers do too. Unfortunately, no one cares enough about Davidsonian politics for any of this to raise an eyebrow.
So, in light of all that, I will write anyway:
Coming off their second conference loss of the season at the hands of Chattanooga last Monday. The Wildcats needed a shot in the arm. They were struggling to hold onto their second place conference standing and were playing inconsistent, excuse me, uninspired basketball. Everyone said that losing a close game to Furman would take the pressure off and allow us to work harder, knowing that we're vincible. However, losing to Chattanooga proved that not only can we be beatable on any given night, we can be torched. With all of that baggage hanging over them, the Wildcats faced the #1 ranked Elon Phoenix who had won 8 straight games and 6 in the conference. For the first time all season, Davidson's foe tried to beat them at their own game. Davidson had nothing of it. Trying to play conservative, fundamental basketball with strong outside shooting and tough interior rebounding, Elon became one of the first legitimate conference opponents that didn't try to exploit Davidson's lack of quickness. In fact, the Wildcats proved to be quicker than Elon as they scored 22 points off turnovers including 8 in transition. The Phoenix couldn't stop Ian Johnson who once again found his home on the block and the lefty let it rain, scoring a game-high 18 points. Jason Morton also found his home outside the arc, hitting 4 killer three-pointers. The Wildcats rolled to a 79-60 victory securing their home-court dominance by extending their home conference winning streak to 21 games.
With the Phoenix disposed of, the Wildcats next turned to a potential trap game against Princeton. Having only one day off, and without the help of Southern Conference POY Brendan Winters who had a stomach flu. The Wildcats came out flat, holding only a 5 point lead with 3 minutes to go in the first half. But unfortunately for the Tigers, their outside shots would not fall and since their offensive philosophy does not allow them to score very quickly, they began to dig their own grave as they repeatedly took 35 seconds to force up one bad shot after another. With a 12 point halftime lead, all the Wildcats had to do was convert a few times on the offensive end and Princeton would fold. But somehow the Tigers hung around, thanks to some sloppy play by Davidson and several controversial calls that broke the Wildcat's tempo. The Tigers continued to frustrate Davidson by continually running the defense through 30 seconds worth of physical screens and pushing our post players when they got the ball on the block offensively. But Davidson was able to hold on for a 15 point victory. Boris Meno led the team in rebounds for the 12th time in the last 14 games. Thomas Sander has seemed to be a mystery as a starter as he's only scored 4 points in two games as a starter after averaging 7.0 ppg all season.
Davidson returns to action next Saturday against Western Carolina.
Posted by Will Bryan at 9:48 PM
Sunday, January 22, 2006
During the last week and a half, there has been a lot of talk of streaks surrounding the Men’s Basketball team. Going into their matchup with Furman on January 14, the Wildcats were sporting the nation’s longest conference winning streak at 27 games, a mark that tied the all-time record for Davidson basketball history. The Wildcats lost that Furman game 70-66, causing a stir among Davidson fans as their Wildcats dropped out of the division lead. Davidson shot a measly 38% from the field while allowing Furman to connect on 11 three-pointers. Davidson was no longer perfect.
Losing to Furman only allowed Davidson to get better, and that they did. Pushed to the limits at the College of Charleston on January 17, Davidson was able to alter its offensive philosophy in a successful manner. The Cougars pushed the Wildcats on the perimeter and in transition, but Davidson was able to respond by driving to the basket, and getting open on backdoor cuts. Brendan Winters ’06 led Davidson with 25 points, and yet only attempted one three-pointer. “Brendan read the defense and took what it gave him,” said Coach Bob McKillop. “That’s something the team is getting better at doing.” Boris Meno ’08 also retained his emerging presence on the interior as he led the team with 9 rebounds. The game was tight throughout most of the first and second half, with the College of Charleston forcing a tie with just under five minutes remaining. But Davidson went on a 8-0 run that was capped by a Thomas Sander ’08 three-pointer with the shot clock winding down. It was Sander’s first three of his career.
Coming into the game last Saturday, Davidson sported the longest home conference winning streak in the Southern Conference at 19 games. The last team to beat them was none other than their Saturday opponent, Georgia Southern. But if the College of Charleston game marked versatile and responsive strategy, the Georgia Southern victory was a return to Davidson’s tried-and-true philosophy of strong defensive rebounding, crisp passing, and inside-out scoring. Davidson was able to get the ball on the block for Ian Johnson ’06, who followed his 20-point output against the College of Charleston with a 11-point performance last Saturday, as the Wildcats cruised to 83-58 victory. Combined with Sander and Meno, the interior trio accounted for 29 points and 21 rebounds. More importantly they drew double teams from the Eagle defenders and players like Winters and Eric Blancett ’06 found open looks from the outside. Winters finished with 15 points, surpassing Mike Maloy ’70 for fifth place on the all-time scorer list with 1,667 career points. That accomplishment was overlooked by Blancett’s performance as he had a career-high 17 points on 6-7 shooting, and 3-4 from beyond the arc. “I couldn’t be happier for a player than to have him have a game like today,” said Coach McKillop. For Blancett, the performance was perfectly timed as he had been struggling to find a rhythm all season. Blancett has a history of injuries that have pocked his otherwise productive Davidson career. It was special for a sometimes overlooked 5th-year senior like Blancett to have a breakout game and lead his team to victory.
Posted by Will Bryan at 9:46 PM
I will be posting a new article later today about Men's Basketball but I thought I would share some Sunday morning thoughts:
Before yesterday's game against GSU, I was discussing with former DOB Will Roberson about the performance of Eric Blancett this year. I was commenting on Eric's lethal three-point shot and yet his inability to get more than 4-5 minutes PT this year and only one attempt. Will said, "if he hits his first, then he will get more chances. This year, he has just been missing his first shot." Well yesterday, Eric hit his first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth shots en route to three 3-pointers and a game-high 17 points.
For those who have followed Davidson basketball closely, this performance was less unlikely than just well-timed. EB was a solid 8th man last year and this year has merely provided a body to give Brendan Winters or Matt McKillop a rest. But with breakout games against the Citadel and Charlotte last year, everyone knew that EB had a stroke from outside. This year it just took 17 games to find it. Hopefully, this will continue to help EB's teammates as opponent scouts will try to apply more pressure defensively on #30, making other Wildcat weapons more lethal. When you have five guys on the floor who can hit shots from anywhere, you are very difficult to defend.
In the NFL side of things, I think the Panthers are sitting in the driver's seat. "How is this possible?" one might ask, when so many starters are hampered with injury. Well apart from Deshaun Foster, all of our injured players are going to play. It is the playoff's and they have the fortitude to play through it. Also, everyone says that the run ends here. The Panthers had to lose games at the end of the season so they would be an underdog in the playoffs and going on the road. As much as I love Bank of America stadium, our guys do better when it's just them by themselves and the whole world is against them. The Panthers are the ultimate underdog team and this is how we play. Nick Goings and Jake Delhomme? Boys out of the south who drive JEEP's. Nick's license plate? GONE. Steve Smith is reputed as one of the best wide receivers in the NFL this season. His response? "I may be in the top 20." These guys don't care about the hype and that's why they are one game away from their second Super Bowl in three years.
All of these thoughts and more will be furthered explored on my radio show tonight which you can find on iTunes podcast. Search Davidson Sports.
Posted by Will Bryan at 10:38 AM
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
As Davidson was tied with Furman at halftime at 33, the Wildcats knew that at least one streak was going to come to an end. This season, the Wildcats had not won a game where they weren’t leading at halftime. They also hadn’t lost a conference game in almost two years, a streak of 27 games that led the nation for active D-I squads. As time wore down in the second half, a Wildcat deficit of two points slowly grew to nine at the four-minute mark, as Davidson seemed unable to hit open shots or force turnovers on the defensive end. This trend has been a familiar one since the last publication of the Davidsonian with the only Wildcats’ D-I victories coming against Wofford and the Citadel, as they stumbled to a 9-6 overall record and 3-1 in the Southern Conference. Davidson mounted a comeback to pull the game to within three points, but several missed shots on the offensive end put the final nails in the coffin, and the Furman crowd began celebrating their upset of 70-66. The 27-game conference winning streak was broken, one game shy of setting the school record.
After a start with incredible victories over St. Joseph’s, Massachusetts, and Missouri, perhaps only one word can sum up the season so far: inconsistent. The Wildcats dropped tough losses to Syracuse and Illinois-Chicago after playing both teams close throughout most of the contests. They were then dealt a critical loss at North Carolina as fans’ initial hopes of a possible at-large bid to the NCAA tournament went down the drain. “We are normally a team that stays in the center of the ring and keeps fighting,” said Coach McKillop after the 82-58 loss to the Tar Heels. “Tonight I felt like we were on the ropes too much.”
The Wildcats have shown flashes of brilliance as players like Boris Meno ’08 found his rhythm for grabbing boards, leading the team in rebounds for seven straight games going into Saturday’s loss at Furman. They proved Southern Conference domination in the beginning of January as they embarrassed division-rivals Wofford and The Citadel at Belk Arena by a combined score of 165-111 for an average victory margin of 27 points. Kenny Grant ‘06 hit a career-high 4 three pointers against Wofford and then added three more three nights later. Brendan Winters ’06 combined for 35 points and 10 rebounds in the routs. He also continues to lead the Southern Conference, and ranks in the top 25 nationally, in free throw shooting percentage with 93.2%.
But as Coach McKillop has always reiterated: "I think we’re right in the midst of a conference that can present you problems any night of the week." The Wildcats had seemed to have been able to handle those problems for 27 straight regular-season contests and a windy Saturday afternoon in Traveler’s Rest, South Carolina looked to be another notch on the board. It was anything but.
Furman came out firing in the first half, as they shot 41.9% from the field behind the impressive performance of Robby Bostain, who finished with 18 points for the Paladins. Davidson was unable to pull away as they could not seem to string together many successive scoring possessions. Furman turned a nine-point deficit into a three-point lead thanks to a 15-4 run near the end of the half. Davidson responded with a Jason Morton ’06 three, but the Paladins kept maintained a tie going into halftime. Like all close halftime games in the last month, Davidson came out strong but quickly found themselves in a war of attrition: trading baskets and getting entangled in questionable calls. Thanks to hot shooting from the outside by Furman, the Wildcats found themselves down by as many as 9 with four minutes remaining. But with under a minute remaining and the Wildcats down five, Grant pushed a steal ahead to Winters who cut the game to three and gave Davidson new hope. Three points was the closest Davidson would get, however, as a steal attempt by Grant turned into a foul and Furman was able to keep it a two-possession game on free-throws.
Posted by Will Bryan at 2:42 PM
Thursday, January 12, 2006
In the style of several of Bill Simmons' (The Sports Guy) internet articles, I have decided to take to a journal style for this one of my first week back.
Three classes in the morning, all of which explained to me how much my ability to attend would reflect in my final grade. This ranged from 20% down to 6.5%. I guess some teachers don't really care. After a brief lunch in Commons revitalized me, I headed over to the Union to again try to buy books. No luck as the line went out the door for the third straight day. Students at UNC will scoff that I complain about 40 students trying to get their books at the same time. But our bookstore is small, I promise. A brief afternoon of putting up Chaplaincy posters (there's always a race to refill the blank boards) left me watching the end of basketball practice. Nearly on cue, all of the coaches came over to ask about my break and ask for a favor. Good to see you too.
Went to my final new class where I learned that history writing is all about perspective and that everyone has one. In that case we should all make A's right? Or something. Joel's for lunch at Bread for the Journey made me feel young again as the Juniors flocked to the scene to tell of stories of being abroad. Ambiguity ensues as the newly returned reintroduce themselves to people they knew in the spring but have conveniently forgotten. I, on the other hand, am distracted. It's game day after all and I was trying not to get shrimp sauce on my white mesh Davidson Basketball shirt. After a little more homework, I went over to Jenn's to watch the end of a movie where Kevin Kline is a gay teacher and Matt Dillon comes back to his high school to present him with his Academy Award. The town all admits to be gay in an act of solidarity and the movie ends with the renewal of Kline's parents' wedding vows. On to basketball. The Citadel came to town and all of a sudden the years of loyalty and dedication were reflected in the new light that I was supporting the team that would beat them by 36. I wonder if I would have gone to Bob McKillop basketball camp whether I would have made the 6th and 7th grade basketball teams. Hmm, things could have been very different.
Notes from classes:
-Vietnam is tropical. South Vietnamese are like southerners, destined to lose.
-We can't experience or rationalize God. Faith has become its own justification. Atheism ROCKS!
-America is always about freedom of opportunity to believe that we can have success. And Blogs!
Rest of the week to follow soon!
Posted by Will Bryan at 2:33 PM
Saturday, January 07, 2006
There's not too much to say that is eloquent or insightful, which itself might be insightful. Life is the here and the now. It concerns writing about basketball, watching basketball and playing video games. If I need to get a grip on reality then so be it. But I think that I'll wait until tomorrow. Here's what my cognitive impulses have sensed in the last 24 hours.
-There really are more people on campus than I expected. I dined with my old hall counselor last night and then found that one of my good friends who has been abroad for a semester is living below me. The abroad thing is so weird. You create a new lifestyle compensating for the absence of all these people and then, one trip to Europe later, they're all back and ready pick up where they left off. At 11 pm last night I talked to a friend who said that they wouldn't trade their experience in France for anything: studying abroad is crucial. 30 minutes later I talked to a friend who stayed who said that they wouldn't have traded this Davidson time for anything: being here is crucial. So much for cut and dry.
-Girls are weird.
-Matt McKillop is 8 threes from being second on the All-Time 3-pointers list for Davidson players. He won't catch the leader because Brendan Winters makes more threes than Matt now anyway. Basketball is so fun and weird. You never really know what's going to happen on a court. In football, you can tell that a 350 lber will run over a 150. But in basketball, the hot go cold and the effort can't always be predicted. I say this because as I've followed Davidson basketball so closely this semester, the prognosticastors always seemed to know what was next. After our interior was exposed at Duke, everyone thought that UMass, St. Joe's and Mizzou would tear us apart on the interior. After we start 4-2 with huge wins in the A-10 and Big 12, everyone thinks we get a bye to the tourney and a franchise season. Three humiliating losses later, we're 7-5 but we're going to sweep the conference. I don't really know what will happen tonight. Matt may not make 8 more threes this season, or he might do it by Tuesday.
-There is a Gatorade commercial out right now that is seemingly ironic. Its message is: the small isn't supposed to play big, curses aren't supposed to be broken, etc. So that's why we play the game. Gatorade says hey, in the end, all the money, all the talk and all the hype don't matter until we play the game. Sport is sport without the money, but not entirely because you still need to buy our drink.
Posted by Will Bryan at 4:12 PM
Monday, January 02, 2006
Consistency. It seems that in the present cultural moral compass, consistency ranks right up there with pure love and universal brotherhood. What is it exactly that makes a consistent outcome so appealing? In the sports world, we see marks of this ratings index with the present evaluations of the careers of Brett Favre and Jerome Bettis. Heck, we love Brett Favre because he went out there and played every day for 11 years and was consistent. He was consistent with his TD's as well as the high number of INT's. How about Jerome Bettis, lovingly known as the "Bus." He was the consistent factor of the Pittsburgh offense that could always score a TD from four feet away. Well that's just great.
I personally don't have knocks on Bettis or Favre but I question the way in which consistency is heralded to an unprecedented extent in our culture. Heck, we love our President because no matter how wrong he continues to be, he will consistently keep turning the corner on Iraq and telling New Orleans that they can take care of themselves. In 2004, it didn't matter what the issues were, we couldn't be inconsistent with our world policy at such an important time. Yes, consistency rules our culture in an unrelenting headlock.
Perhaps it's because we are insecure. Think about it. Why are Americans so scared of Europe? (And we are). It's because the whole place is completely inconsistent with the core American value of doing the exact same thing every day for the rest of our life.
There is nothing that Americans love more than consistency. Thanks Boston Red Sox for throwing that off last year. We were perfectly happy with knowing that you were never going to win and planning our October vacation plans around it.
The Davidson Wildcats are having one of the best starts to a basketball season in recent memory and yet even now, on the eve with our huge matchup against UNC, fans are uneasy with the team's inconsistent play. The team's most heralded stat was it free throw percentage or ability to consistently make every single shot from a line 15 feet from the rim. The knock on Davidson right now? They can't consistently make threes. They can't consistently outrebound bigger teams.
Now before every single basketball fan, Pittsburgh Steeler or Republican writes me off as a jealous college student who supports losing politics and the schizophrenic Carolina Panthers, let me say that I have absolutely no qualms with the ability to perform at a similar level over a course of multiple opportunities. I simply question the need to put consistency in a blinding spotlight that overshadows the need to improve and react to differing circumstances. Life is not about consistency. It is not about creating inertia that results in the horrifyingly comforting solution of routine. I know this because for the first time in 5 months, I spent two weeks out of routine. Two weeks doing things differently with a different mindset and different goals. I won't lie when I say that things are much easier now, but I've certainly cultivated various skill sets that routine consistently squelches. College students thrive on routine, sports writers love to write about consistent performers, and politicians make a living on the need of Americans to hear the exact same thing over and over. Because God forbid that our Interstate highway system didn't always lead straight to an overpriced gas station or a McDonalds that has consistently served over 10 billion overweight drips. Consistency is not the answer to our world. Love? possibly. Perspective? maybe. Hard work? might help. But I promise you that it won't be the end of the world if these things don't come at a steady pace.
Posted by Will Bryan at 12:38 PM