Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Conversation with Annette Watts

Coming off of a disappointing loss to UNC-G this past weekend, the Davidson Women's Basketball team is faced with some big contests against WCU and Chattanooga over this coming weekend. They will need to win at least one of these games if they hope to stay in contention for the regular season conference crown. I recently had a chance to sit down with head coach Annette Watts.

Will Bryan: Talk about the success of this season in the context of the pre-season expectations going in. Also, briefly touch on Saturday's setback at UNC-Greensboro.

Annette Watts: We didn't know how the chemistry would come back together with Katie Hamilton returning from injury. One would think that with a terrific player coming back, it would help everything on the whole. Yet I feared that the people who had stepped up last year would not maintain their game when she was back. I feared that they would stand back and watch. We are such a better team when you have to guard all twelve of us. I think that has determined our success. Those folks who stepped up last year have continued their play with Katie back in the lineup.

However, it is a process because we have never been on this side of the fence. We have never been first in the conference for consecutive weeks. We have always been the underdogs. We have always been David against Goliath. Right now we are struggling a little bit being Goliath, as we are playing not to lose instead of playing to win. We will get through this, but the question remains how rapidly that process will take place.

To read the rest of the article click here

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Moving On

You knew it was coming. You know that a die-hard Clemson fan like myself doesn't just let such a situation as the ".6 controversy" go by without a blog entry. Around the blogging world right now, there are talks of conspiracy, positing that Coach K is satan incarnate, and repeated jokes about Duke Lacrosse.

In the midst of everything that has gone down, especially the recent press release from the ACC stating that a mistake was made, I have some self-congratulatory thoughts about Oliver Purnell.

Back in the fall, there was a huge controversy in college football over an onside kick call in the Oklahoma-Oregon game. The Sooner faithful were convinced that they had been screwed and video evidence confirmed that they were right. Everyone in the entire state, from the fans to the coaches to the political leaders, were so outraged that they made public calls for justice, including an official reversal of the game's outcome.

Although the Duke-Clemson should have gone to overtime, Oliver Purnell has not said anything to anyone. The Clemson administration have shown their displeasure and vowed to move on. The Clemson players will show up on Sunday against Virginia and will play their game. All of this is because of a coach who truly understands the game. Purnell knows that there are always 13 players on the basketball court. While some of them are held to higher and more official standards of success, they are still players. Coach Purnell knows that you can't reverse a game's outcome because an opponent made an impossible play, or because a teammate missed an easy play. Why, then should a game be reversed because the officials messed up? They are part of the game, and that's what every player, coach and fan accepts when their team walks on the basketball court.

Coach Purnell demonstrated to the nation that he and his players were above whining and moaning over a mistake. They set an example for youth leagues, parents, and athletes everywhere. Whining isn't a virtue, and sporting outcomes shouldn't be the business of government officials and school presidents. They let it go, and by doing so, they have helped me to let it go. Thanks Coach.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The J-Rich Game

"There's just something about J-Rich."

My mom repeated this line over and over when she called me on Tuesday night to talk about Davidson's come-from-behind 101-92 win over Georgia Southern. Jason Richards had just recorded a career-high 32 points, 20 of which had come in the first half. At the nine minute mark in the first half, Jason hit a layup. He would go on to score every single basket (14 points) that the Wildcats produced in the next 5 minutes as Georgia Southern attempted to pull away.

For a point guard who is second in the nation in assists (7.9 apg), the ability to consistently put up double digits in points means that the Wildcats are imposing their gameplan on their opponents. Or at least scoring a whole lot of points.

Coming into this season, Richards knew that this Wildcat team was his to lead. He still had a sour taste in his mouth after last year's loss against Ohio State, a loss in which several of his turnovers sparked the Buckeyes' second half run to victory.

This year, Jason has shown himself to be both the sparkplug and the engine on a team that is full of hype. Whether it's Stephen Curry putting up soft jumpers, Max Paulhus Gosselin rejecting shots on the fast break or Will Archambault hitting threes from out-of-bounds, this team has a lot of highlight reel players. Sometimes Jason Richards would rather you not always look at his replays.

Against Appalachian State, Richards kept pushing to the Mountaineers to the brink of their mental patience. Whether it was driving the ball to the lane and drawing the foul or constantly being physical with the man he was guarding, Richards knows each step of the dramatic performance that he weaves on the basketball court.

Some of his opponents think Richards plays cheap. Opposing fans might call him dirty. Richards knows that there are 13 players out on the court at any one time. He doesn't see the referees as agents of evil, but only what they are: regular people that are trying to call the game right. At the end of the day, Richards takes what they give him (and sometimes even what they don't) and it is really beginning to fluster his opponents. Richards' ability to distribute the ball, put himself on the free throw line, and hit clutch shots from nearly anywhere on the court, has led to one of the best seasons in recent memories for a Davidson point guard.

Maybe there is just something about J-Rich.

When the Wildcats face Western Carolina on Saturday, they will be looking for their ninth conference win of the season and for Bob McKillop's 300th win of his career. The Wildcats only home loss last year came at the hands of the Catamounts and they are hoping to exact some revenge. Western will be playing without the services of Kyle Greathouse who was seriously injured in an accident earlier this week.

In Tuesday's win over Georgia Southern, Davidson forward Thomas Sander had a breakout game with 19 points and eight rebounds. The junior from Cincinnati had been struggling of late, averaging only 7.5 points and 3 fouls in the last two games.

The Wildcats overcame a halftime deficit of nine points and a first half hole of 14 points en route to their victory over the Eagles. The only comeback from a larger deficit this season came in the opener against Eastern Michigan when the Wildcats came back from 16 down to win it.

The last time that the Wildcats lost to any sort of animal mascot was back in November against the Missouri Tigers. Since then, they have beaten the Phoenix, the Bobcats, the Broncos, the Cougars, the Terriers, the Bulldogs, and the Eagles. Davidson hopes to keep it going against the Catamounts.

**photo by Richard Shayegan (**

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I Can Be Me

I apologize for the recent lapse in posting, I really do. Citing the old excuses about how much work Davidson students have really gets old after a while when you realize that everyone has a ton of work to do, and I'm pretty darn lucky that a lot of my work revolves around sports. A lot of people in this world have to suffer through endless meetings about efficiency and productivity while trying to juggle the text messages about broken pipes, kids needing rides from day care, and food that needs to be acquired for the night's dinner.

As of right now, all that I have to worry about is sports. That is, excepting the fact that I have four classes, but even one of them is about sports and the other one is a speech class, so everything is looking good.

In posts that precede and will follow this entry, you will see all kinds of analysis about Davidson basketball and the wider range of SoCon and maybe ACC hoops. You will get your insider look at some of my thoughts on the Davidson Athletic program and be kept up-to-date during games in the future. For a brief second, however, I would like for you to take a quick step back and ponder the role that sports have in your life.

I think that most people that read this blog would share my sympathies that sometimes we feel dirty about our love for sports. We devote a lot of time and energy to following games and reading box scores, and every once in a while, something happens that makes us feel guilty. We experience a significant emotional event outside of the sports realm, and we are left feeling guilty. Sports feel superficial and fake entertainment. We usually rationalize our way out of these thoughts and return to our previous states, but sometimes the thoughts linger nonetheless.

As you might have guessed, I recently experienced a situation that made me take a hard look at all of the time that I devote to sports writing. A Davidson tennis player, Jay Chitty, died in a plane crash at the end of last December. Most Davidson students did not know Jay and felt sad in the same way that you feel sad when a friend tells you that their grandparent died. You feel bad for the friend, but don't really feel bad that the person died.

I found that Jay's passing left a lot of questions in my mind. He was a college student, who like every other college student, had his vices and his virtues. Jay had a great heart and he always challenged everyone to look outside of the little box that they had created around themselves. But Jay also lost sight of things sometimes. He sometimes spent just too much time watching TV and not doing homework. Above all else, he was radically committed to sports and the UNC Tar Heels.

During his memorial service, his roommate, Wilson McCrory, said that you can't talk about Jay Chitty without talking about sports. As soon as he said that, I wondered whether that was a good thing. I wondered if a love for sports was a legitimate summation of someone's relationship with someone else. Ultimately, I wondered if people would have thought the same thing about myself.

After wrestling with these questions for a long time, I realized that I would never be able to prove a right or wrong answer to myself. These sorts of things don't have final answers. I did, however, contemplate a particular love for sports. I realized that you can outwardly spend a lot of time in and around sports and have it be a bad thing. It can blur your interactions with your friends and family; it can cause you to become a talking head that is a PTI-wannabe; it can boil everything down to a box score; it is a force, like so many others, that can make us so cynical that we don't enjoy anything anymore.

I realized that I don't have to be that way. I can be myself and still write a blog. This doesn't have to be Deadspin or Tony Kornheiser or (fill-in-the-blank). Jay Chitty really loved sports. More than that, he really loved sharing sports with the people around him. I hope that one day, I might be remembered as someone who tried to approximate that.

To read Wilson's article in this week's Davidsonian, navigate to the new Davidsonian website.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Streaks prove hazardous to Wildcats

Back on February 4, 2006, Coach McKillop walked into the post-game media conference after Davidson lost to Western Carolina at home. The loss snapped Davidson's 19-game home winning streak. The first question from the press asked McKillop whether ending the streak helped release some pressure on the players. McKillop quickly answered that ending a winning streak is never a good thing.

Ending a winning streak is never a good thing. You play the game to win the game. But on Saturday afternoon, Davidson did not win the game. Their 81-74 loss to Appalachian State ended the nation's second-longest winning streak and dropped the Wildcats to 7-1 in the conference. Although many fans of the Black and Red left Belk Arena feeling legitimately dejected, I assure you that this game is not a complete loss. Last year's seniors, to a man, pointed at the home loss to Western Carolina as the turning point in their season. They realized that, despite their accomplishments and talent, more was expected of them. It is time now for this young group to get a little bit older and the rest of the season will defined, one way or another, by this game.

A hard-fought game throughout, Davidson was unable to hit the big shots in the end and Appalachian State was accurate from the free-throw line. Davidson shot 29-69 from the field and 7-27 from 3-point range. Both teams forced double digits in turnovers, and Appalachian State had four players score in double figures. Davidson was led by Jason Richards and Stephen Curry with 15 points. Richards kept his outrageous pace for assists going as he had eight on the day.

With an attendance of 5,580, Davidson put up another record-setting day as they now have two of the top 3 attendance records in Belk Arena in one season. It seemed like there wasn't an empty seat in the building. I know that there were more students in the section behind the basket than seats allotted.

The game was emotional. The crowd was into it. The refs were not on their game and allowed the game to get out of hand in many instances. I don't think that they were unfair, I just thought that there were too many bad calls against both teams. Overall, I think the game exhibited everything that the Southern Conference hopes to accomplish: great crowds, intense play, close competition, and great basketball being showcased. Davidson basketball is an experience that should be envied around the Southeast. I am glad that Appalachian State added to the experience this afternoon, and I know that the Wildcats will be ready for the rematch in the Conference Tournament.

Throw out all the conjectures on at-larges and RPI's, this team has three days in March as its ultimate focal point. It is time to pick up the broken streaks and prepare for Georgia Southern.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Weekend Predictions

I apologize for the posting hiatus. I have been readjusting to the tempo of life as a Davidson College student, and it sure does take some time to readjust. But it is Friday afternoon and we have a great weekend ahead of us with plenty of great action in the world of sports. Let's kick things off in the Southern Conference:

Appalachian State at Davidson
The crowd is expected to reach near capacity as Davidson faces off against the North Division heavyweight, Appalachian State. Although the Mountaineers are a team that have knocked off the likes of Virginia and Vanderbilt, they have also lost two games in conference so far, the most recent a 80-76 defeat at the hands of UNC-Greensboro on Thursday evening. Although the Mountaineers will be looking for revenge on Saturday afternoon, conditioning will factor into this one as the Mountaineers will be on their fourth game of the week. Appalachian State has been led this season by jitterbug point guard D.J. Thompson. Thompson is averaging 14.1 ppg and 5.4 apg. Another name that Mountaineer fans love is Jeremy Clayton who leads the conference by shooting 60% from the field and averages 7.7 rebounds per game.

For Davidson, the pace of this game will be totally different from last week's game against The Citadel. With speed and pressure, App State will try to push Davidson out of its half-court sets and force them to play transition ball. Unfortunately for most Southern Conference teams, Davidson is one of the best transition teams around. No longer a team that is content to sit back in the half-court, Davidson will push the court as Jason Richards penetrates and big men like Boris Meno and Andrew Lovedale create mismatches for Appalachian's forwards. Expect to see various zone looks from Davidson as 6'6" Max Paulhus-Gosselin will be pressuring the passes of the 5'8" Thompson.

If Davidson gets separation early, this game could get ugly for an Appalachian State team that had NCAA At-Large thinking going on at the end of last week. They now sit in second place in the conference and after this game they might fall even further. Look for Davidson to move to 8-0 in the conference and extend their second-longest winning streak in the country.

Prediction: Davidson 82 ASU 70

Western Carolina at Furman

Western Carolina has quietly climbed to a 4-2 record in the Southern Conference with a team that has drawn fairly little media attention. They have wins over Chattanooga and UNC-Greensboro and are currently right behind Appalachian State in the North standings. The Catamounts are led by Nick Aldridge and Antonio Russell. They will be playing against a very talented Furman squad that is still trying to find its identity under new head coach Jeff Jackson. If the Paladins can make it rain from downtown, this game could be very closely contested.

Prediction: Furman 76 Western Carolina 72

Boston College at Clemson

This game could be one of the best matchups this Saturday when Boston College travels down to Clemson to take on the 16th-ranked Tigers. The Eagles are currently in first place in the ACC with a perfect 5-0 spot, but they will be playing without the services of 6-10 center Sean Williams who ranked 3rd in the nation in blocked shots (5.0 per game). Williams and a walk-on teammate were kicked off the team during the week for repeat violations of team rules.

Clemson is coming into the game after enduring an embarrassing thrashing at the hands of the UNC Tar Heels on their home court in front of a capacity crowd. The Tigers were shown to be a team that simply could not shoot the basketball, whether from 3-point range, the foul line, or 3 feet from the basket. Even without their star forward, the Eagles will be able to push the Tigers to their limits if they can break Clemson's press and not allow easy-run out baskets. The Tigers will have to find ways to score in a half-court situation or else be prepared to steal the ball every time down the court.

Prediction: Boston College 78 Clemson 68

Other predictions for the weekend:

UNC-Greensboro 80 Citadel 65
Elon 50 College of Charleston 72
Chattanooga 62 Wofford 67
New England Patriots 21 Indianapolis Colts 38
Chicago Bears 24 New Orleans Saints 17

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Wildcats Down Bulldogs From Outside

Playing college basketball in the conference season is all about preparation and execution. Teams come into games with loads of film on their opponent. Coaches face each other year in and year out, and teams maintain a competitive familiarity with each other.

The Citadel came into Davidson tonight with a gameplan and a mind toward execution. Far from being the conference doormats that they have largely been stereotyped as, these Bulldogs have already won three conference games and pushed pre-season favorite and cross-town rival College of Charleston to their limits. They came into Belk Arena without fear or trepidation despite their nine-game losing to these Wildcats including an all-time record of 1-9 at Belk Arena.

The Bulldogs got off to a fast start in the first half as they shot 50% from the field and only had one less rebound than the home team 'Cats during the first half. Davidson seemed stagnant coming out of the block as their oft-heralded defense allowed the Bulldogs open looks, and their offense turned the ball over seven times. The Citadel's zone defense kept the Wildcats out of the paint and the Bulldog team speed effectively slowed down Davidson's transition offense. With only a little over a minute remaining in the first half, Davidson held just a slight 5-point edge.

It was that last minute of the first half that made all the difference. Davidson took what The Citadel gave them, 3-point looks, and turned them into "bolts of lightning." Two made three-pointers before the half catapulted the Wildcats to a double digit lead and a second half sequence that opened with Bulldog bricks on one end and 3-point daggers on the other led Davidson to their eventual 79-54 victory.

On the game, Davidson hit a total of 12 three-point field goals, including four from freshmen Stephen Curry and Will Archambault. The Wildcats only averaged around 5 three-point field goals in their last four games. At 16-3 and 7-0 in the conference, Davidson boasts the nation's third longest winning streak at 12 games. As the Wildcats proved on Tuesday, they are ready for the challenge of the conference schedule where opponents know every tendency and work to explout every weakness. The Citadel made Davidson beat them from outside and the Wildcats did just that. Let the winning continue.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Sunday Morning

Some pretty remarkable things happened in the basketball world yesterday. Appalachian State fell to lowly Elon. Davidson overcame Wofford with freshmen. And UNC got killed by Virginia Tech. Then came back and almost won. And then lost again at the end. Here are some "observations" (Kevin Cary-style) from Saturday:

-Despite what you might hear about SoCon refereeing on Saturday nights, one undefeated home team (App) had a big call go against them late in the game. After clawing their way back into a low-scoring contest, Elon fouled the heck out of an App St. player driving to the hole with under a minute to play. The Mountaineers turned the ball over and Elon was given the chance to win. Sometimes the home court isn't so much of an advantage.

-Virginia Tech became the first team in a long time (perhaps ever?) to knock off both Duke and North Carolina in one week in basketball. Right up the highway in College Park, Maryland shot over 60% to down the once-undefeated Tigers of Clemson. It looks like ACC basketball might have some parity after all.

-In an NFL-related note, I am still apalled by Andy Reid's decision to punt the ball on 4th and 15 last night. The Eagles were down by a FG with two minutes remaining, and they had just gone for it on 4th and 10, but the play was called back for a false start penalty. If you are willing to put yourself on the line on 4th and 10, why not 4th and 15? The Saints were then able to run out the clock. Not that I wasn't pulling for the Saints all along, but it was a still a stupid move by Reid. Maybe the whole thing was rigged after all.

-After Saturday's games, The Citadel moved into third place in the South Division of the Southern Conference, only one game behind the College of Charleston and ahead of both Furman and Georgia Southern. In the North division, Western Carolina is now tied with Appalachian State for first place. I was definitely the only person who predicted Western Carolina to be this good, although I just about screwed up on everything else.

-Finally, I am very upset at the Davidson housing operation. I am burning up in my room because the system can't turn on any cold air until at least March. This 70-degree weather isn't doing much for my new winter wardrobe. Oh well.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Tiger Cagers Moving On Up

On a lukewarm day in Nashville just before New Year's, a remarkable thing occured. Clemson football fans started chanting "Let's play basketball!" as they were getting pummeled by the Kentucky Wildcats in the Music City Bowl. What is even more ironic is that the Clemson Tiger faithful were not being facetious by any stretch. They wanted to play basketball, and by most estimates, this 17th-ranked Clemson Tiger basketball team could probably beat the unranked Wildcats from Kentucky. With the exodus of several key players from a football team that finished the season 1-3, maybe it is time for a new sport in Clemson.

So what is going on in Tigertown? When did Clemson become a basketball school? Well the answer is that it didn't happen yesterday. This talented team has been coming together for several years as Head Coach Oliver Purnell has recruited to a system of trapping defenses and talented players that can run the floor and play many different positions. He has also instilled a confidence and an intelligence that winning programs seem to inherently possess. All of a sudden, the Tigers are 17-0 and are making national headlines.

For an example of the dynamic quality of this team, take the Tigers' second leading scorer James Mays. At 6'9," he's Clemson's leading rebounder with 124 boards, including 51 offensive. However, he also leads the team in steals with 37. Mays plays at the top of a full-court pressing defense that has caused all sorts of problems for the Tigers' opponents this year. As a result, the Tigers have an overall turnover margin of +80 on the season, and get many of their points on broken plays.

This Clemson team, although it has struggled at times with three-point and free throw shooting, has a knack for keeping itself in big games and causing havoc for its opponents. The Tigers already knocked off Florida State and Georgia Tech on last second layups and extended their ACC record to 3-0 with a win at N.C. State this week. This team, the only unbeaten team left in D-I basketball, has pride, and they are going to prove to be a force in ACC basketball this season. With a defense that can mess with offenses of the highest caliber, this Clemson team almost seems to will itself into games that past Tiger teams would have lost. They hang around and eventually wear out the opposition.

Of course, no good basketball story is ever complete without a Davidson reference. In this case, we need look no farther than our own Will Roberson. Roberson was a Davidson manager and Director of Basketball Operations before becoming a graduate assistant on Purnell's staff. Angelo Lento ranks Will as one of college basketball's 50 most eligible bachelors (we'll see what his fiance thinks about that). He now sits at the end of the Clemson bench taking stats and every once in a while you can see him celebrate on national television when the Tigers hit a game-winning shot.

The Tigers face off against the Maryland Terrapins on Saturday at 2 p.m. That game will be televised on ESPNU.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Be A Saint For A Day

We have all heard that sports echo life and that life revolves around sports. Oftentimes these sorts of sentiments make really nice movies about overcoming racism or a tragic plane crash or a revived fighter during the Depression or a bildungsroman story of growth and trials. We read the book or see the movie. Maybe we'll cry. Maybe we'll buy the DVD. But eventually feelings wear off. Sentiment can only go so far as to spurn any real action.

This weekend, the U.S. will again be reminded that we have a long way to go before re-establishing the livelihoods of so many people along the Gulf Coast. The Philadelphia Eagles will visit New Orleans in an NFC divisional clash that has very interesting football implications. However, the question is not whether the Eagles defense can shut down the McAllister/Bush running attack or whether Jeff Garcia can keep the Eagle miracle going. The real story is about how America reacts when we are again shown pictures of the devastated Lower Ninth Ward.

Will we try to paint over our feelings of sadness and guilt by calling it too corny? Will we downplay the emotional crowd by saying that it's just another playoff game and it's unfair to the Eagles to play up against New Orleans whom all the country is pulling for? Maybe so.

Ever since the New Orleans Saints beat the Carolina Panthers on the second Sunday after Hurricane Katrina, I was upset that I had the country rooting against my team. When the Saints clobbered the Falcons this past September, I felt sorry for Jim Mora and Michael Vick having to play against those emotions of recovery and redemption. The Falcons and the Panthers didn't cause Katrina. It wasn't fair.

However, Katrina wasn't fair either. Over the past year and a half there have been many told and untold stories of pain, suffering, and utter desperation as lives have been totally destroyed. As Americans, our inner demons have come to the forefront as arguments over environmentalism, race, and partisan politics have left subtle but transforming rifts within the American population. September 11 brought us together against a common enemy. Hurrican Katrina made us cling to what we have and made us eventually turn off the TV.

Americans have a strong penchant for moving on. We don't like to dwell on things very much and "Carpe Diem" is used less as a call for today-seizing and more for yesterday-forgetting. I challenge my readers to take a look at this article by Gene Wojciechowski and challenge yourself to see if football really does matter this weekend. It certainly matters for all those people who had their lives taken away. Maybe it's unfair for me to pull against the Eagles. But Katrina wasn't fair either. And everybody deserves a little hope sometimes.

**photo by Jacqueline Larma, AP**

'Cats beat Furman 71-63; Extend streak to 10

Driving down to Greenville, SC on a Saturday afternoon last January, I was surrounded by a large group of quaint older Presbyterians in red sweaters, working mothers and their elementary school 'Cat fans wearing vintage Wildcat jerseys and three or four college students who made up the core of the traveling fanbase. That day we had high expectations for a Wildcat victory. Davidson had never lost a game in Furman, and the Wildcats were looking to extend their nation's best 27 game conference winning streak.

I will never forget the feeling of climbing back onto that bus nearly 2.5 hours later. These Wildcats weren't supposed to lose. They obviously had the best team in the conference and yet Furman beat them. I couldn't even tell you why we lost; somehow the scoreboard just kept putting a higher number under "FU." At the end of the day, that's how I felt too.

When the Davidson Wildcats traveled back down to Greenville yesterday afternoon, they had no intention of walking away with such a bad taste in their mouths. For only the sixth time this season, the Wildcats trailed at halftime by 1 point. By the end of the game, the lead would change 18 times and no team led by more than 10 points.

By most outward appearances this game looked to be favoring the Paladins nearly all night long. The Wildcats, becoming better known as a team that likes to continually push the floor, were continually thrown out of their rhythm through inadvertent official timeouts due to incompetent shot clock and scoreboard workers. Furman finished the game having hit 43% of its three-pointers, while Davidson only managed a paltry 28%. Furman also forced a +3 turnover margin in their favor and held the Wildcats to only three players scoring more than 9 points.

However, the numbers can only tell so much. In the last ten minutes, the Wildcats were able to maintain near a 6-8 point lead, and several key baskets by Thomas Sander led the Paladins to fouling in order to keep the ballgame close. Although the Wildcats played terrific team defense all night long, the ice cold end-of-game foul shooting has always been Davidson's key to success.

For the game, Davidson was led by Thomas "Big Cincinnati" Sander who had 25 points, nine rebounds, and three steals. Jason Richards contributed another double-digit performance with 18 points and eight assists, despite six turnovers. On a reputedly "off night" Stephen Curry only managed 15 points and 3 rebounds on 4-11 shooting. Max Paulhus-Gosselin also made good contributions with his eight points and nine rebounds including six offensive ones to continue to Wildcat possessions. As Coach McKillop said in the post-game interview,

"those offensive rebounds are like bolts of lightning to opposing defenses. They come down and strike you in the heart."

The Wildcats will have to look forward to two more "trap" games as they travel to Wofford on Saturday and then host the Citadel on Tuesday. Although the Terriers have not found the winning formula in the SoCon thus far, they have always played the Wildcats tough in that Spartanburg doghouse. Davidson also cannot look past another group of dogs in the Citadel, a team that is 2-1 in their last three conference games including a tough fight to the finish against the College of Charleston last Tuesday. All this will lead up to the biggest SoCon game on the schedule when the Appalachian State Mountaineers travel to Davidson on January 20th for a North-South showdown.

**Photo by Bart Boatwright**

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Florida applies Shock and Awe

We all said it couldn't be done. In fact, we knew that it couldn't be done. After Ohio State escaped its rivalry game with Michigan with a 3 point victory, no one thought that a Florida team that had just finished pounding Western Carolina was going to do any better. How could they? They couldn't even beat Auburn. But now, 9 days into 2007, we sit stunned, wondering which way is up or down.

Throughout the course of this BCS bowl season, we have learned several things. We have learned that even in the 60 minute game of college football where money and clout stack big teams with great players and the underdogs don't stand a chance, miracles can happen. Teams can play above their heads, and good teams can fall by the wayside with one key injury or a series of confidence-destroying mistakes.

Teams like Boise State, Florida, and Louisville have showed America that football is everyone's game again. You don't have to win the matchups in order to win the game. The point to consider now is whether the system needs changing. If Boise State can win a BCS bowl and Florida can knock off the runaway favorite, does the system need changing after all?

Yes. All night long the announcers talked about how long Ohio State's layoff was before this National Championship game. Team schedules need to be a little more closely regulated and some of these bowl games need to be compressed, or even eliminated. The runaway national champion shouldn't have to cool his heels for almost a month and a half, only to have his proving ceremony turn into a shalacking. I think we can all agree that no one really cares about the Meineke Car Care Bowl or the bowl outside of the money-grubbers of tourism industries and the head honchos of the conference offices. Ultimately, though, these bowls need to be cut back and the ones that really matter should be moved closer to the end of the regular season.

As Gator Nation celebrates around the country tonight, many of us can't help but wonder at some of the other matchups that might have come out of a playoff system. What about Florida-USC, LSU-Michigan, Ohio State-Boise State? There are so many other intriguing combinations that could have arguably represented the National Championship game at some point in the year. Back in November, we all agreed that the winner of Mich-OSU should be the winner. Why did Ohio State have to put that title on the line 50+ days later. I mean if we're going to be arbitrary about picking Florida as the best one-loss team at the end of the season, why not be arbitrary and just vote on Ohio State as the national champion? Heck, why don't we just look at the records right now and realize that Boise State is the only undefeated team in D-I football. What the heck does that mean? If anything?

Florida beat Ohio State tonight in convincing fashion. However, I'm not convinced that this proves anything. It just means that there are more and more teams that can win on any given night in this sport. Which is ultimately why the top 10 teams should have to have a playoff. At least then we can agree to accept an unexpected vanquishing when it happens. Right now, we just don't know what to say. However, because they played within the system and did everything that was asked of them tonight, Florida gets the nod in my book. I'm not knocking their legitimacy as champion, I only wonder if there is a better way to do this.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Wildcats Tame Cougars, Again

Throughout the fall months, basketball prognosticators around the country made a big deal about the arrival of Bobby Cremins at the College of Charleston. With an experienced team of talented athletes returning, no one in their right minds voted against the Cougars as the pre-season conference champs.

However, at the beginning of January, the Cougars have now lost to both Appalachian State and now Davidson, a team that was expected to finish fourth in its division. In a highly anticipated matchup that drew 4,254 fans on a night when no students were on campus, the Davidson Wildcats ran past Cremins' Cougars for an 81-73 victory. The win was Davidson's ninth straight and their 4-0 conference mark has them nestled in first place in the South Division, directly ahead of the 2-2 Cougars.

Although the College of Charleston went on two big runs of 16-4 and 17-4, the Wildcats never let the Cougars take the lead. In almost mirror fashion of past College of Charleston/Davidson matchups, the Wildcats built a lead of as many as 16 points in the second half, only to have CofC cut it to 1 with little over four minutes remaining.

But, as they have done in past matchups, the Wildcats regrouped with strong defense and pulled out the victory thanks to a key three-pointer by Stephen Curry and a two-point follow by Thomas Sander. Sander led all scorers with 25 points, while Curry chipped in 19 points of his own. Pre-season Player of the Year Dontaye Draper scored 20 points for the Cougars including 4 three-pointers.

The Wildcats continued to be driven by the seasoned vet Jason Richards. Richards directed traffic in the half-court and repeatedly pushed the offense into the paint in transition opportunities. His ability to draw fouls and distract the defense gave him the opportunity to put up 18 points along with 8 assists. By the end of the game, College of Charleston had committed 21 fouls and Josh Jackson and Phillip McCandies both fouled out.

Although they combined for only 14 total minutes, the contributions of Bryant Barr and Steve Rossiter helped Davidson maintain a lead in the first half, as Boris Meno and Andrew Lovedale sat on the bench with two fouls apiece. Though they are not the most heralded freshmen on the team, both players have been very important in providing key rebounds and defensive stops when players like Meno and Curry are on the bench.

Although they don't always finish the flashy plays, the Davidson frontcourt has continued to emerge as one of the premier units in the Southern Conference. At times the heralded strength of Charleston big men Jermaine Johnson and Josh Jackson were not enough to stop the interior shots of Thomas Sander or to break through the seals and apply help-side pressure to dribble penetration. When Boris and Andrew continue to improve with their hands and catching ability, this frontcourt could emerge as one of the best in recent years.

The final key to this victory came in the coaching strategy of the second half, despite being able to force turnovers and create baskets off the dribble, the College of Charleston was halted in its offensive tracks when Davidson switched into a zone late in the game. With Boris Meno at the top of the key, the Cougars were unable to find space through screening and their passers were not comfortable enough to try to split the zone because of the ranginess of Meno, Curry, and Gosselin. It seemed as if Cremins had not drawn up an offensive set against the zone and Davidson forced several bad possessions at key points in the game.

The excitement of Davidson Basketball continues to build as more people in the Charlotte community are turning their eyes to a program that is setting the standards for success, and are doing it with good coaching, strong play, and exciting enthusiasm. Let's just hope that parking and tickets don't start becoming too much of a problem.

The Wildcats will carry their nine-game winning streak and 4-0 conference mark into the Bi-Lo center on Wednesday to take on the Furman Paladins. Last year, Furman played the giant-killer as they frustrated the Wildcats in a 70-66 decision that ended Davidson's nation-leading conference winning streak.

**photo by Tim Cowie**

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

College of Charleston Preview

As I will once again be spending the next few days out of town, I will present some pre-game thoughts and a few highlight vids to remind fans what Davidson has done against the Cougars in the last few years.

This game arguably holds more significance for the Cougars right now. The Wildcats are 8-2 in the last 10 meetings, and the Cougars are due for a couple of lucky bounces in this rivalry. The College of Charleston entered this year as the near unanimous favorite to win the Southern Conference and because of their mediocre performances in November and December, the moniker has now shifted to the streaking Wildcats. The Cougars are beginning to find an identity with the return of Josh Jackson from suspension and the elevated play of Jermaine Johnson in the frontcourt. Dontaye Draper seems to be finding some rhythm despite a cold stretch when Coach Cremmins moved the pre-season POY to point guard.

Davidson will be outmatched in terms of experience and lbs inside, but they will make up for it through coaching, outside shooting and a knack for the free throw line. The Wildcats pretty much did in the visiting WMU Broncos last week only by getting to the line 27 more times and hitting 85%. The Cougars might have a straight up mismatch in the paint, but the Wildcat big men will extend the defense and force some interesting matchups.

Going into this game, everyone is talking about the matchup between Draper and Stephen Curry. Perhaps a more intriguing and ultimately influential matchup will occur within the Dontaye Draper/Tony White Jr. vs. Stephen Curry/Jason Richards rotation. All four players have seen time at the 1 and 2 positions and it will be interesting to see where the coaches line them up at different points in the game. Both White and Curry have shown some freshman lapses throughout the early part of the season, but show a knack for shooting the ball. While Curry has been called on to be more of a primary scorer, White's play is just as critical to the success of the Cougars.

The more experienced leaders in Richards and Draper will be tested as they are battered and harassed up and down the court. Draper possesses a game-breaking mentality that always wants the ball. Richards, on the other hand, knows that he must continually keep the team together and keep the offense flowing. Whichever duo can play more effectively will certainly affect the outcome of this one.

Final Prediction: Davidson 75 CofC 73

Morton Downs CofC

BSU is Living the Dream

Throughout the past month, prognosticators have been trying to figure out the best combination of bowl outcomes to continue to put pressure on the powers that be to create a playoff system for college football. These scenarios often involved some sort of crazy blowout in the Rose or BCS title games, convincing everyone that Florida, Michigan, Ohio State and USC should have had the chance to decide it on the field. USC didn't have too much of an argument after losing to UCLA and Oregon State, while Michigan had already lost to Ohio State once and is now twice beaten on the season. Ohio State is assuredly the best team in the country and Florida gets their shot at them. Right?

Well, Boise State had a little bit to say about that last night. At the end of a remarkable OT triumph over the venerable OU Sooners who were playing with the one-time Heisman candidate Adrian Peterson, the Broncos made us question the BCS system in a whole new way. If you don't lose to anybody, how can you end the season without being the champion?

Two years ago, the similarly situated Davidson Wildcats went undefeated in their conference schedule, but did not receive a bid to the NCAA tournament after losing to UNC-Greensboro in the conference tourney. Meanwhile, many BCS schools got the opportunity to keep on playing despite losing 5 or 6 conference games and bowing out of their respective conference tournaments. The same argument made for Davidson's inclusion in the tourney could seemingly be applied to Boise State's inclusion in national title talk: undefeated teams should get to keep playing. Except for one thing: playoffs.
When Davidson entered the Southern Conference tournament two years ago, there was no question that they were the best team in the conference. They had beaten everyone in the conference. Surely they deserved the championship crown. But they entered the tourney knowing the rules of engagement: lose and go home with nothing.
For Boise State, there are no rules of engagement. Stuck in the WAC conference, they can only play the teams that schedule them. They can only beat them by so much. At the end of last night, they had beaten every team that was thrust at them, and they had done it in style, no less. But for the Broncos, the season is over and a bowl trophy and a final ranking in the Top 5 is all they get. That would be the equivalent of telling George Mason that they wouldn't get a chance to play Florida in the Final Four because everyone knows they are going to lose. The beauty of the playoff system is that, at the end of the day, only one team is left unbeaten. There is one undisputed champion.
The college football playoff argument cannot get caught up in whether or not a team is good enough to have been a national champion. Boise State wasn't good enough to beat Oklahoma. Even now, they have little calculable evidence to prove that they are better than Ohio State. The playoffs system is a matter of process more than anything else. The process of the playoffs gives the champion its legitimacy. It is not about the way it plays, or the caliber of its players, or its strength of schedule. Those might determine seeds, but at least teams have to defend their own seeding. And ultimately, you can't be undefeated and not be the champion.
At the end of the day, money might produce a champion from the SEC or Big 10, even within a playoff system. Elitism might keep the best players at the richest schools. But, money and power should be a little less insecure. They should give up their precious bowl rights and TV contracts. This country knows who to pull for, and they know how to make their voices heard. Live on Boise States and George Masons! They can't keep ignoring you for long.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Tragedy for the Davidson Family

The Davidson College family has once again suffered an emotional blow as one of its beloved members have been tragically and suddenly taken from us once again. Jay Chitty, a senior captain on the Men's Tennis team died in a plane crash Sunday morning in West Charlotte. The plane was a single engine and Chitty's parents and younger brother also died in the crash. They are survived by 25 year old Haley Chitty. The college is planning a memorial service once students return from break.

Chitty had a remarkable spirit about him, and his enthusiasm, passion and graciousness will be sorely missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Haley, friends and family, the Men's tennis team and the community at large.