Monday, November 27, 2006

Thanksgiving Thoughts

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.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Up Next: at #9 Duke

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."

Monday, November 20, 2006

Updates and Changes

-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.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Missouri breakdown

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.

Intangibles: B+
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.

Final Thoughts:
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.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Official Missouri Preview

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.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A Niche

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, 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 ( 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.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I'm Baaack

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 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.