Wednesday, February 28, 2007

SoCon Coaches Awards

The Southern Conference Coaches have named their awards winners for the 2006-2007 season. The media will announce theirs tomorrow.

Player of the Year: Kyle Hines
Freshman of the Year: Stephen Curry
Coach of the Year: Bob McKillop

All SoCon Team:
Kyle Hines (UNCG)
D.J. Thompson (ASU)
Dontaye Draper (CofC)
Stephen Curry (Dav)
Nick Aldridge (WCU)
Jason Richards (Dav)
Donte Gennie (GSU)
Moussa Diagne (Fur)
LeVonn Jordan (Elon)
Robby Bostain (Fur)

SoCon Freshman Team:
Stephen Curry (Dav)
Nick Aldridge (WCU)
Jake Robinson (WCU)
Junior Salters (Wof)
Ben Stwall (UNCG)

SoCon Tourney Coverage

Just a reminder that I will be doing live blogging throughout Davidson's games in the Southern Conference tournament. If you can't make it to Charleston, be sure to check out the blog in-game for analysis, updates, and live stats. I will also be doing writeups after each game with quotes and analysis.

For those of you traveling to Charleston, remember that there will be a tailgate in Lot B for all Davidson fans. This will begin 90 minutes before each game. Thursday's 2:00 game against Wofford/UTC will be televised on and that will be shown in the 900 room in the student union.

For more Davidson coverage, check out Well's Blog and the message board.

Will's SoCon Awards

If I were to turn in a ballot for the end of season Southern Conference awards, this is how I would have done it:

1st Team
Stephen Curry (Davidson)
D.J. Thompson (Appalachian State)
Dontaye Draper (College of Charleston)
Jason Richards (Davidson)
Kyle Hines (UNC-G)

2nd Team
Jeremy Clayton (Appalachian State)
Thomas Sander (Davidson)
Shane Nichols (Wofford)
Nick Aldridge (Western Carolina)
LeVonn Jordan (Elon)

3rd Team
Boris Meno (Davidson)
Donte Gennie (Georgia Southern)
David Lawrence (College of Charleston)
Kevin Hammack (The Citadel)
Keddric Mays (Chattanooga)

Player of the Year: Stephen Curry (Davidson)
Freshman of the Year: Stephen Curry (Davidson)
Coach of the Year: Bob McKillop (Davidson)

All Freshman Team
Nick Aldridge (Western Carolina)
Stephen Curry (Davidson)
Tony White Jr. (College of Charleston)
Kendall Tone (UNC-G)
Kellen Brand (Appalachian State)

Vote for Stephen!

by Wilson McCrory

I was planning on writing my "Steph Curry for conference player of the year" article for two weeks now, but each time I sat down to write it, I couldn't convince myself it was worth the time. I mean, the guy was a lock, right?

He pours in a conference-leading 20.7 points per game, averages 4.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists and shoots better than 40 percent from beyond the arc. More importantly, in the last 10 games, he's averaged more than 25 per contest while oftentimes putting the team on his back.

And this for a team that has defied expectations to run through the conference at 17-1, including hammering opponents by an average of 18 points over the past 10 games.

I honestly didn't think the argument for Curry was worth my ink, but that opinion changed Tuesday morning when I woke up to see Chattanooga sportswriter David Uchiyama's picks for all-conference honors.

Not only was Curry not listed as the SoCon player of the year, he wasn't even on this guy's first team ballot. Instead, he was hanging out on the second team with guys like Ricky Hickman, who dropped all of zero points on the Wildcats the last time his UNC-G Spartans came to Belk Arena.

See the rest of this article at The Davidsonian.

Wildcat Record Book

Stephen Curry-Most points freshman year (621)
-Most three-pointers made in one game (9, vs. Colby)
-Most three-pointers made in one season (104, six away from the NCAA record)

Jason Richards
-Most assists in one game (19, vs. Mt. Saint Mary)
-Most assists in one season (224)

The Team-Three-pointers made in one season (289)
-Three-pointers made in one game (19, vs. Colby)
-SoCon attendance at Belk Arena (5,580 vs. ASU)

-Stephen Curry ranks second among freshman in the NCAA with 20.7 ppg
-Stephen Curry ranks ninth in the NCAA for three-pointers per game average (3.5)
-Jason Richards ranks second in the NCAA with 7.5 apg
-Davidson ranks sixth in the nation rebounding margin (8.1)
-The Wildcats rank seventh nationally in scoring offense average (81.8)
-Davidson ranks fifth in the nation for their winning percentage of 86.7%
-The Wildcats rank 1st in the conference for average home attendance (3,721)

Wildcats Aiming For Back-to-Back titles

The men's basketball team heads into the 2007 Southern Conference tournament with their second top seed in three years after the Wildcats set a new conference record with 17 conference wins in the regular season. Winning the tournament will not be easy, however, and so this section notes some of the teams that will try to knock Davidson off of the top.

Appalachian State (24-6, 15-3)
Appalachian State has put together the most impressive 2006-2007 campaign in recent SoCon history. With their quality wins over top 25 teams like Vanderbilt, Virginia and Wichita State, the Mountaineers have made ripples throughout the basketball world as a team to watch for in March.

ASU is led by firebrand point guard D.J. Thompson, who has gone largely unnoticed in his four years at ASU.

When opponents aren't worrying about Thompson driving the lane, they have to keep the ball out of the hands of big UVA transfer Donte Minter and athletic forward Jeremy Clayton. Clayton ranks sixth in the conference with seven rebounds per game and he is shooting a league-leading 61% from the field.

The second-ranked Mountaineers handed Davidson its only conference loss this season, and the Wildcats will be waiting for revenge if both teams make it to the finals.

College of Charleston (20-10, 13-5)
The College of Charleston entered the season with high hopes after hiring former Georgia Tech Coach Bobby Cremins in the offseason. The Cougars returned a core group of players from last year's squad and the preseason polls picked them to win the conference handily.

The Cougars were unable to defeat the league's top teams this year as they dropped two contests to both Davidson and Appalachian State and enter the tournament as a three seed.

See the rest of this article at The Davidsonian.

A conversation with Bob McKillop

Will Bryan: Davidson was picked to finish fourth in the media’s preseason poll and many fans wrote this team off after losing seven seniors. They have all been very surprised by this year’s success. Has anything surprised you about this season?
Bob McKillop: I believe that the consistency of our players’ getting better as the season has progressed has been a pleasant surprise. Usually there are bumps in the road. Usually there are days where fatigue sets in, or where a lack of focus presents itself. But these guys have been consistent in their approach to practice and in their desire to get better. We have seen the results, and that’s why we have had that success on the court.

WB: Talk about the emergence of this year’s sophomore and freshmen classes as being major contributors to this team’s success.
BM: I think you have to look at the emergence of all three classes contributing significant playing minutes. You look at Jason Richards ’08 who averaged only 10 minutes a game last year. Thomas Sander ’08 was a starter, but clearly the fifth option in the rotation, while Boris Meno ’08 came off the bench. Those guys have not only emerged as major players but great leaders. The sophomore class has been an energizer. Andrew Lovedale ’09 and Max Paulhus Gosselin ’09 have played their roles well, which allows the freshmen to fall right into place. Bryant Barr ’10 and William Archambault ’10 come off the bench and give us microwave offense; they can heat it up real quick. Of course, Stephen Curry ’10 has been as good as any player that we’ve had at Davidson.

See the rest of this story at The Davidsonian.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Wildcats finish season 17-1 in conference

As Davidson rolled over The Citadel by 17 points on Saturday afternoon, they secured a league record of 17 conference wins in a season. These 'Cats have done some incredible things in the last several years. Here are some quick thoughts from my trip down to Charleston:

-The Citadel seniors were honored before the afternoon game and in the morning paper. Several quotes from the paper talked about how these players had enjoyed success a lot when they were in high school, and they have since played four hard years at The Citadel. They said that it's just been really hard, period. During the presentations, the Davidson fans were louder in their applause than The Citadel fans.

-Stephen Curry started off the game with three straight three pointers. All of his family, mixed in among the Davidson contingency were hysterical as they counted down to the NCAA record with each trey: 8! 7! 6! Unfortunately, Curry would not hit another three-pointer after the first media timoeout of the game.

-Davidson did a pretty good job beating The Citadel press. The Bulldogs had used their relentless press to outscore College of Charleston in the second half of their Thursday night game. At one point when the Bulldogs were trying to set it up, coach Ed Conroy yelled to Kevin Hammack who was guarding Jason Richards: "He's just like Draper. Think about guarding Draper!" I'm not sure if that is a complement or an insult.

-At one point, Thomas Sander got a run-out opportunity with absolutely no player near him. The entire stadium watched him slow down to think about how he was going to finish the play. Most of the Davidson faithful murmured: "not a layup, not a layup!" To our grateful admiration, Sander slammed the ball home with two hands and Davidson fans everywhere sighed relief.

-Bryant Barr loves to shoot. As you know, he went 7-9 from three-point range for 21 points. One Charleston friend sitting behind me asked me why he doesn't start over Stephen Curry. I took a few minutes to laugh about that one.

-Once again, the referees don't seem to know what to do when Davidson gets together with a scrappy team trying to stay close. The Citadel initiated contact throughout the entire game, and the referees were having a hard time drawing a consistent line between letting the game progress and maintaining order. For the second time this week, I witnessed a double foul as both a charge and a blocking foul were called on opposite teams in the same play. The repetition of this means that these refs really have no idea what is going on on their court, so they just hedge their bets. As a result, Will Archambault finished the game with four fouls for the first time in his career.

-Everyone in the conference talks about the talent of Dontaye Draper, the quickness of D.J. Thompson, or the playmaking ability of Stephen Curry. However, I believe that two of the most underrated guards in the league are Kevin Hammack and Donnie McClendon. Neither players has a consistent jumper which leads to lower scoring totals, but both players were routinely able to take Davidson defenders off the dribble with their incredible speed. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, neither player was able to find a teammate when the double-team came. The Bulldog frontcourt vastly underperformed and the two starting guards were often left out to dry.

-Kevin Cary loves his message board. All of the fans could nearly see everything that he wrote as we watched over his shoulder. We could always tell when graveline posted as Kevin's computer would be filled with an orange glow.

Davidson will next play on Thursday afternoon at 2 p.m. in the Southern Conference tournament. They should play the winner of the UTC-Wofford game. This blogger will be live at the tournament with up-to-date postings of analysis, quotes, and insider content.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Wildcats run to 16-1 in conference

When the Wildcats found themselves down 10-2 nearing the first media timeout, they knew that this wasn't going to be another easy home win against Furman. Last year in Belk Arena, the Wildcats held Furman in single digits for the first 10 minutes of the first half. Davidson found themselves trailing at halftime after the Paladins outmuscled and outshot the high-powered Wildcats. It was the second time in as many games that Davidson was beat out of the blocks by a lesser team.

Unfazed by Furman's clutch shooting, their physical exertion in the paint, and several questionable calls by the referees Davidson responded in the second half by pushing the floor and making some of the most spectacular plays in recent Davidson history. Possession after possession showcased another juke, jive and readjustment within the air as Davidson streaked out in front of the stunned Paladins.

Stephen Curry finished with 24 points, four assists and six rebounds as he extended his 23-ppg streak to 9 games. With his 3 three-pointers, he pulled closer to the NCAA record for threes by a freshman in one season. He is now only nine threes away.

The Wildcats were able to pound the ball into the paint, oftentimes through the drive, as they scored 46 paint points and had 10 second chance points. With the 75-57 victory, Davidson is now 25-4 on the season and 16-1 in the conference, as they clinched yet another conference championship. With only one more game before the Southern Conference tournament, this team looks to be putting on the final touches for a long run into March. Even if they lose in the conference tourney, they are guaranteed a spot in the NIT per the new rule of automatic qualification.

"When you respond like we did against Furman, it's an important statement of courage when you are looking into the Southern Conference tournament," Coach McKillop said afterwards. "We are playing courageous basketball right now."

Other highlights of the game included increased playing time for Lamar Hull and John Falconi. Both walkon seniors started the game and saw some time near the end of the contest. Neither player scored in their final game in Belk Arena, although Hull had one layup attempt that barely rimmed out. Can Civi, however, scored the first field goal in his Davidson career.

Davidson will next head to The Citadel for their fourth game in the last week. The Citadel has played the Wildcats tough in McAlister Field House over the last few seasons and Davidson will need to be prepared for another physical team that will try to push Davidson out of its system. The Wildcats will have to overcome their fatigue and put away a scrappy Bulldog team that played the College of Charleston very tough tonight.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Wildcat Sports Pulse

Davidson Basketball might be getting all of the attention this time of year, but there are some other student-athletes who have been putting up incredible performances in the last week.

Baseball sweeps Georgetown

In three games, the Wildcats drove home 42 runs as they blasted the Hoyas in the opening series of the 2007 campaign. The most dramatic game came on Sunday as Davidson found themselves down early after giving up 10 runs in the second inning. But the Wildcats slowly crept back into the game, led by Rob Wilson's impressive batting performance (4-5, 1 HR, 4 runs, 4 RBI). Davidson reached the 20 run mark and was able to cap Georgetown's scoring at 16.

Zach Kayne had an impressive weekend as he hit two home runs and drove in seven batters over the course of the series. Bobby Demuro pitched well from the bullpen as he gave up only one earned run in three appearances and recorded four K's. In his first career starts, Matt Webb played impressively tallying six RBI's over the weekend. Davidson will next face Ohio University this week at home.

Photo by Brian Westerholt

Track Sets New Records at Indoor Championships

Davidson's Brenna Burns was named as the Conference's Indoor Track Runner of the Year. She finished first the 3,000 meter race (9:53.83) and set a new school record with her second place finish the 5,000 meter race (17:08.63)

Freshman Kristen Meister was named Freshman Performer of the Year after she set a new conference record with a height of 1.81 meters in the high jump. That number was an NCAA provisional qualifier.

The women finished in eighth place overall while the men's team finished in a school-best third place.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Wildcats Escape Wofford 80-73

Davidson didn't look pretty in their eighth straight conference victory. The Wildcats missed numerous shots near the basket as they finished 29-70 from the field. Thomas Sander had a rough night finishing plays inside, as he scored only four baskets on 17 attempts.

Stephen Curry led Davidson with his eighth straight game with at least 23 points. The freshman now leads the conference in ppg average with 20.7. Curry went 10-20 from the field with 4 three-pointers and 4 free throws to finish with 28 points.

Although Wofford ended up shooting a better percentage from the field including 14-32 from three-point land, Davidson was able to hold off the onslaught by limiting Wofford's second-chance points and outrebounding the Terriers by a margin of 48-29. Jason Richards finished with six assists in his persistant slaughter of Davidson's assist records.

Despite the score, the Wildcats were able to control much of the game's tempo. The frontcourt had repeated good lucks at the basket, while the defense did not give up many easy looks. This game was much closer than the 19 point spread for the simple reason that Wofford hit some big shots and Davidson missed several.

In one sequence, the Wildcats missed 4 straight layups in the same possession before Thomas Sander was fouled. He missed both free throws but the Wildcats recovered the rebound and Will Archambault hit a two-pointer. That sequence epitomized the flow of the game: Wofford was not able to impose itself on Davidson's rebounders, but the Wildcats often seembed incapable of delivering the knockout blow.

Davidson will face a dangerous Furman team on Thursday in their final home game of the season. If the Wildcats win, they will secure the top seed in the conference tournament and another regular season conference championship.

Pinch Me Now

With the latest release of the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Top 25 poll, Davidson received 31 votes overall, placing them 31st in the nation. They are only two votes behind the ACC's Boston College and only four places behind Virginia Tech. I never thought I would see the day when Davidson was officially voted above the likes of Indiana, Kentucky, Arizona and Maryland. Lefty Driesell would be proud.

As we look forward to tonight's game against Wofford, we should keep an eye on a few records. Stephen Curry is only 15 three-pointers away from setting a new NCAA record for threes by a freshman in one season. Curry is averaging 20.4 points a game which is second amongst all NCAA freshman behind Texas' Kevin Durant who is sixth overall with 24.9 ppg.

Davidson is also closing in on another record of note: most wins in a season. With their win over Western Carolina on Saturday, the Wildcats set the record for most wins in the regular season with 23. If they win out this week and advance to the Southern Conference tournament final, the Wildcats will set a new record for most overall wins in a season, besting 68-69's 27-3 mark.

It's a great day to be a Wildcat!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Thoughts from WCU-Davidson game

Here are some quick observations and pictures from Davidson's romp over Western Carolina in league play.

-These Wildcats could very well be some of the most prolific scorers at Davidson in a long time. Stephen Curry scored 25 points, hit 5 threes and now holds the record for most three-pointers in a game. But even beyond Curry, the Wildcats had a total of four players score in double figures, they hit 16 shots from the beyond the arc, and they cracked 90 points for the seventh time this season. These guys can really score.

-Bryant Barr likes to shoot. The freshman came in for 10 minutes in the second half and jacked nine field goal attempts, including six from behind the arc. Thankfully, Barr hit three of those shots to finish with seven points.

-Be glad that Davidson isn't worrying about average road attendance. The official attendance was marked at over 1,000 but most of those were people who worked at the stadium in the concession stand or at the media bench. Western Carolina did try to motivate their small fanbase by throwing out shirts after every three-pointer and by having a grand dance show on the floor immediately after the game. Although nearly everyone had left by that point, I think that Kilgo probably enjoyed the post-game festivities.

-Davidson seems to have gotten much better with their "mittens." Throughout nearly all of last year and some of this year, the Wildcats have had trouble securing loose balls and rebounds. It almost seems as if they had slippery mittens on their hand which made the ball just bounce away. I felt like our forwards really secured the ball well on a number of occasions despite the pressure that WCU constantly applied to getting rebounds (they always knew there would be a rebound since the Catamounts only shot 1-15 from 3-point range in the first half).

-Davidson really seems to be peaking at the right time. At this point last year, the Wildcats were struggling on the road against teams like Wofford, The Citadel and Georgia Southern. This year it looks like they are really gaining confidence in their offensive system and don't get frustrated when teams put on the pressure. Hopefully this will bode as a sign for things to come in Charleston for the tourney.

Friday, February 16, 2007

I Hate February

I hate this time of year. For the past three years, the entire month of February is nothing but easy academic assignments, preparation for spring break, warming NC weather and NCAA tournament projections that say that Davidson has a chance to make some big-time noise.

You might think that I'm being ironic, but I'm serious: I really hate this time of year. In the next two weeks, Davidson will face four teams who have a combined conference record of 22-35. Since 2000, Davidson has a record of 33-11 against The Citadel, Wofford, Western Carolina and Furman. That's pretty good, right? Well, the sad part is that seven out of those eleven losses have come in the months of February and March when Davidson sorely needed to be collecting victories.

Since the 1993-1994 season, Davidson has a conference record of 157-59, and yet they have only won 3 conference championships. The Wildcats always seem to underachieve in the conference tournament. So while some Davidson fans are thinking about Stephen Curry's player of the year honors or hotel reservations for the NCAA regional in Spokane, Washington, I'm being pulled into the "coach-speak" for once. Let's take this one game at a time.

The Wildcats travel to Cullowhee, NC tomorrow to take on the Western Carolina Catamounts. WCU is 7-8 in the conference, and is one of the few middle teams. They are not flat-out horrible, nor are they dangerously good. They are not a team that inspires incredible anticipation as ASU, CofC and UNC-G do. Yet they aren't a team that is so inept that they can't even find who they are guarding, like Chattanooga is. Western Carolina is a beatable team that has enough weapons to make these last few weeks interesting.

Although they have a two-game lead in the race for first place in the conference, Davidson cannot afford to lose more than one game or else Appalachian State will hold the tie-breaker and wrest the conference championship away from the Wildcats. Once Davidson gets to the conference tournament, they will need all they can get (including the top seed) in order to come away with the conference's automatic bid. All of the top three teams in the conference certainly has the firepower to upset Davidson, and as we have seen from season's past, anything can happen on any given day. Although this team is younger and had fewer expectations coming into the season, a Davidson rejection from the NCAA tournament this year will strike even harder than losses in past seasons.

Back in the summer of '06, I told several of my friends that this would be one of the most important seasons in recent Davidson basketball history. The Wildcats had just emerged as a familiar blip on the sport's world radar after holding tough with Ohio State, one season after making news for going undefeated in the conference season. Davidson was beginning to be as similar as Southern Illinois or Creighton to the public eye, they were on the verge of the mid-major Tipping Point.

The Tipping Point happens when a team puts together consecutive strong seasons with an effective system, incredible coaching and a new respectability along the recruiting trail. The Tipping Point is accelerated through ESPN's expert analysis, bracket mania, and distinctive characters. George Mason has Jimmy Larranaga, Gonzaga has the 'stache boy, SIU has those interesting dogs for mascots. All of these schools have been to sustain success within their conference, challenge for higher NCAA tournament seeds and attract the all-important attention of talented recruits who are looking for a place where they can be successful.

I wanted Davidson to be at the edge of the basketball kettle when it tipped this year and all of the mid-majors started to flow out. The media exposure has been enormous as players like Stephen Curry are heralded all throughout the internet and fans are now calling in asking for his autograph. Davidson has gotten votes in the Top 25 polls as more writers around the nation are willing to put faith in the small school. And Davidson is distinctive: it has a very respected coach, a great history, and incredible academics. The formula was set up to become a mid-major power; what we needed was the repetition.

Davidson could not afford to slip back into the oblivion of the underachieving Southern Conference after putting their name on the public consciousness over the past two year. The Wildcats needed to stay on the scene this year, and that they did, in a big way. The Wildcats could very well set a new record for most victories in a season. Stephen Curry is in the process of ripping open record books and making fans remember the exploits of Mike Maloy, Fred Hetzel and Dick Snyder. The community fanbase has shown up in record numbers as they are seemingly addicted to basketball again in Mecklenburg county.

All of that brings me back to why I hate this time of year. Davidson shouldn't have to sweat out Western Carolina; or Furman, Wofford, or The Citadel for that matter. The Wildcats shouldn't have to play near perfect basketball for 120 minutes over the course of three days. But that is the challenge set before them. The prize is the potential to be one of the few. The reward for overcoming these hurdles is a place in basketball history and a prominent place in the new landscape of college basketball. However, that journey has to go through Cullowhee first. So let's get this journey started. It's a great day to be a Wildcat!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Curry Shows off the Big Guns

Davidson made several things strikingly clear in their 73-63 victory over the College of Charleston on Monday. At the outset, they showed that they weren't afraid to play in big games on the road. The Cougars packed Kresse Arena to the tune of 3,784, the fifth largest crowd in arena history. Despite the intimate environment and the charged student section who had been called out in the morning's paper (Gene Sapakoff gets down and dirty), Davidson never let the Cougars intimidate them in the first half as the game was tied 8 times before the Wildcats took a three-point lead into halftime.

Only five minutes into the second half, College of Charleston took a five-point lead on Tauras Skripkauskas' three-pointer. Davidson responded by going on a 15-point run that was capped off by a three-pointer from William Archambault. Davidson would never relinquish the lead as Stephen Curry scored nine points in the final nine minutes en route to a 24 point game (21 of which came in the second half).

Although Davidson was able to shut down the Cougars' offense in the second half (they only shot 34% in the last 20 minutes), it is questionable how much of that can be attributed to the Davidson defense. Max Paulhus Gosselin created matchup problems at the top of the key, but the Cougars were unable to hit the open shots that needed to go down. On the game, Davidson recorded nine steals and six blocks while forcing 17 Cougar turnovers.

Coming off the bench, Andrew "Big Cat" Lovedale had an impressive game, contributing 12 points and seven rebounds with 25 minutes of work. He helped to alleviate the foul trouble that plagued Boris Meno throughout the game. Andrew created mismatch problems for the shorter and slower CofC big men, as he routinely outleaped them for second chance points and rebound opportunities.

The biggest storyline of the night might have come in the matchup between Stephen Curry and Dontaye Draper. Draper, the much heralded Cougar superstar who is battling UNCG's Kyle Hines for POY honors, was kept out of the lane for much of the second half. He finished with only 13 points on 5-16 shooting. Curry, on the other hand, was able to create penetration opportunities for his offense and he also hit several key outside shots to prompt the second half run. Finishing with 24 points, Curry upped his season average to 20.3 points/game as he has scored over 20 in the last six games. He certainly has made a strong case for himself being the conference player of the year. If he won, he would be the first Davidson player to win the honor in his freshman season since Fred Hetzel did it in 1963.

With four games left in the regular season, it seems that Davidson has passed its toughest test. They have beaten all four remaining opponents earlier in the season and hope to finish out the conference with an 17-1 record, 26-4 overall. As long as Davidson does not lose two of their last four games, they will clinch the conference championship and an automatic trip to the NIT. For Davidson fans, however, they don't want this season to end for a long time coming and it better be in the NCAA tournament.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Countdown to Rivalry

Yesterday afternoon, the College of Charleston knocked off UNC-Greensboro by a large margin as Dontaye Draper went off, hitting 8 three-pointers and finishing with 28 points. The Cougars outmatched the struggling Spartans and put on a second-half offensive barrage to beat the band. OK, I will get off my ol Charleston metaphors of alliteration and get right to the big one.

On Monday, the Wildcats and Cougars will meet for the second time this year in what has become one of the best rivalries in the Southern Conference. At least for Davidson anyway. The Wildcats have won 6 games in a row and have an all-time record of 42-9 against the College of Charleston.

Despite the domination in the win-loss column, the Cougars always seem to make second-half runs to make the games interesting and then Davidson wins in the end. In this February 12 matchup, the Cougars will be playing without the services of Marcus Hammond who is out for several weeks with a serious injury.

Davidson has worn down their recent opponents with their improved guard-play, and it will be interesting to see how Draper and back-up guard Tony White Jr. do against Steph Curry, Jason Richards, and pseudo-guard Max Paulhus Gosselin. If Davidson can continue their hot outside shooting and get some easy looks from Boris Meno and Thomas Sander inside, this game could be another notch in the Wildcats' belt.

However, as the UNC-G game demonstrated, it seems that these Cougars are peaking at the right time in the season. Draper is hitting outside shots and taking the soul from his opponents while the interior defense held all-conference forward Kyle Hines to only 11 points. It took four fouls before Davidson was able to contain him.

It will be interesting to see how this young group responds to playing on the road in front of the season's most hostile crowd (outside of Michigan). If you are surfing the internet on Monday night between 7 and 9, make sure to come to the blog for the most-up-to-date scores and analysis of the big game in progress.

Friday, February 09, 2007

NCAA Football or NFL Development League?

Recently, there has been an incredible buzz around the Clemson football community surrounding the sub-par recruiting class that they pulled in this year. Most recently, several internet stories leaked out about the workings of the Athletic Department's Academic Review Board which oversees all recruits and informs the coaching staff whether or not the Department will accept and admit them.

Many Clemson coaches have been more than frustrated at the handicaps that his Board puts on their ability to out-recruit their regional ACC and SEC rivals. They have also claimed that several players that the Board has turned away were actually distinctive victims of such things as academically rigorous private high schools, GPA ambiguity about JUCO/prep school incomers, and economically challenging social conditions. The Board has come under great criticism for not allowing the athletic teams, especially football, reach the goals of excellence that the university has insisted on achieving.

More interesting about this recent controversy has been the dialogue and conversation amongst larger fan groups, and how some of these issues relates to the interaction between the Davidson Athletic Department and its admission office.

Throughout the entire week, blogs, radio talk shows, and message boards have less than delicately phrased the question as such: Do we aim for academic mediocrity with the chance of keeping a handful of athletes above a 3.0 GPA, or do we stop being paranoid stuffy pricks and go for a National Championship?

For many fans of the program, they see such academic restraints as being totally irrelevant and ridiculous for a school with the size and national athletic notoriety of Clemson. They don't want to be compared to the "stuffy know-it-alls" from Duke and are insulted that the administration is apparently attempting to do such a thing.

This blog helped to break the story in a way that exhibited more deliberation and precision than most talk shows. He seems to understand the difference between discarding all academic integrity and locking our doors to all that knock. He notes the ways in which the University can still admit particular athletes that can help strengthen the school's top moneymaker, football, while not letting every single recruit into the school's student body.

However, as the article progresses, one can't help but ask the question of this writer and of all the affirmative comments to his page: are college sports really just the minor leagues? If Clemson has fans that are actually envious of Alabama's situation and hateful towards NCAA compliance officers, what is the point of keeping up the charade? The athletic department should just go ahead and pay the 80 players what they are worth and stop taking taxpayers money to be pretending to provide them with a "scholarship."

It is remarkable to me how far gone this entire situation has progressed while no one has stood up to say that perhaps it is a good thing to weed out student-athletes who would not try or succeed in the classroom. Perhaps academics isn't just the hidden treasure of snobby, white kids that go to Duke or Davidson. What would happen if we encouraged the NCAA's crackdown on schools like Alabama or UGA or USC? What if we actually supported Clemson's decision to weed out recruits and force the coaching staff to build their team off of a new form of student-athlete. All of these writers claim that big schools like Clemson will turn into the patsies of the Dukes of the world who just "go through the motions on Saturday." I feel insulted that it is implied that students who work hard in the classroom and are naturally smart can do no more on the athletic field than go through the motions.

I am not ignorant, however, of the fact that schools like Duke, Davidson, Harvard, etc. do not sport football powerhouses. That is because a successful football program requires large recruiting classes, oogles of money, and support. Smart schools cannot find 85 4.0 kids that can also run a 4.5 40. That is not because they aren't out there. It is merely a law of averages and probability. It has nothing to do with smart people being athletically untalented.

Which brings me to Davidson's case. The school is currently more swept up in external pressure on the Admissions office to provide the basketball program with a few breaks. They believe that the basketball program is one of the school's greatest PR assets and that it should use the program to generate interest, success and money. The Admissions department and the wider faculty at Davidson have been very suspectful at loosening boundaries for academic exception, largely because of the happenings at schools like Clemson and Alabama. They refuse to allow basketball recruits to announce their decisions outside of the normal admissions calendar and rarely provide any widespread PR support of Davidson athletics outside of its quaintness ("ooh, smart people try hard in the classroom and on the court").

I think that much can be learned from both of these instances, schools like Clemson should maintain the Academic Review Board while examining character and contextual profiles to find out whether a potential recruits' academic struggles emanate from a source outside of his control. Clemson fans, however, should make more conscious efforts to realize the true beauty of the student-athlete, instead of disregarding the ideal out of cynical spite and ignorance.

Davidson should continue to remember the remarkable nature of its student-athletes and be more receptive to their needs for success while at the school. Admissions should allow the smart, honorable basketball recruits to publicly announce early, and the administration should put its full support behind the institution that attracts more attention to Davidson than anything else: Men's basketball. The school's academic reputation and standards for every one of its students will not be compromised by allowing Coach McKillop and the AD a larger budget and by creating the media support and infrastructure necessary to carry a team continually into the national spotlight and the NCAA tournament.

College athletics do not have to be minor league sports. And even if they have become minor league sports, we don't have to accept that this was a far-gone conclusion. We also don't need to be making high school seniors into prospective businessmen. At least let them enjoy the game itself for just a little bit longer. Don't take away the fun from the kids. Not yet.

UPDATE: Here are several articles written in SC papers that are addressing this issue: Post and Courier and The State.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Basketball reaching larger fanbase

by Wilson McCrory

This was supposed to be the year it all fell apart, right?
Coach McKillop & Co. have done an amazing job with Davidson basketball over the years, to the point that winning had become commonplace, but we all knew that the fall was coming.

After finally returning to the NCAA tournament and putting up a good showing against Ohio State last year, the loss of 77 percent of our scoring was going to set the program back a bit. We didn't know what mediocrity meant, but we were going to have to learn really fast.

Now, here we are in February, and I'm still trying to figure out quite what happened. Instead of regressing to mediocrity, the team has flourished and has returned to its rightful place atop the SoCon standings. Davidson has now registered its third straight 20-win season for the first time in 37 years.

More importantly, though, Davidson basketball might be on the verge of something far more special than another SoCon title or a chance to wear Cinderella's slipper this March.

Success for the program is nothing new, as Davidson has been a force in the mid-major ranks for the past few years. Despite the unwavering success, however, basketball always seemed to be an afterthought at this school.

The library was a far more popular destination than Belk on game night, and you would never hear students talking about the last-second win or the Boris Meno dunk unless they were walking back from the game. A crowded gym was one where most of the red seats were filled up by halftime, and the Pines residents were about the only consistent locals in attendance.

Read the rest of the story in The Davidsonian.

The Magical Ten Seconds

This is the magical sequence where Stephen Curry hit two three-pointers in under 10 seconds. The shot-steal-shot sequence pretty much put the nail in the coffin on UNC-Greensboro. The best part is that the top of my hat got on TV in the student crowd shot (00:46).

Enjoy! I will be moving this video into the UNC-G post at the end of the day. I just put it here now so that everyone will see it.

Under a Week and Counting!

We have less than one week before one of the biggest games left in this conference season: Wildcats-Cougars II. Be sure to follow all of the pre-game smack talk on the message boards (ours, theirs), blogs (Davidson, CofC), and of course, The Davidsonian.

To find all of my unique content for the Davidsonian, simply click here.

Finally, a reminder about those CofC videos that make Davidson look so incredible. You can find them here.

Steph breaks record; Wildcats trample Mocs

With 24 points in only 23 minutes of play on Tuesday, Stephen Curry set a new Davidson record for most points scored by a freshman as he now has 502 on the season. As John Kilgo carefully put it in the postgame, "this game never really was a game," with Davidson running out to a big lead in the first half and ultimately defeating the Chattanooga Mocs 87-57.

The story of the night was Davidson's defense spearheaded by 6-6 jitterbug, Max Paulhus Gosselin. Davidson forced 30 turnovers on the game, including 21 in the first half, and converted 37 points off of those turnovers. Chattanooga shot a respectable 54% from the field, however they didn't really take many shots.

As Davidson broke down the Chattanooga zone early on in the contest, the Mocs became very frustrated on both ends of the court and began to make stupid errors. Passes were thrown straight to Davidson defenders, Wildcat post-men were routinely left open as they cut through the paint. It was as if the Mocs just lost their soul and decided to wait for the Elons and Western Carolinas of the world. The game also featured a total of 47 combined fouls on each team.

With the victory, the Wildcats put even more space between themselves and second-place Appalachian State. With one game to play with (Appalachian State has the tie-breaker), Davidson has a little bit less pressure as they head into Charleston on Monday. That doesn't mean that the Wildcats won't play to win. They have had the Cougars' number in recent years and they know that the College of Charleston have been waiting on this game ever since January 6th.

**photo by Richard Shayegan**

Monday, February 05, 2007

Good Ol' Davidson

You gotta love the Davidson obsession with work...This was posted outside the only lounge in our dorm building during the Super Bowl. Let's hope that it won't be like this when Davidson makes it to the NCAA tournament.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Meno finds his touch, Richards battles for his life, Steph gets on TV

I had a bad feeling yesterday. As the pep band played their familiar tune and the Wildcats jogged to their locker room at halftime, I had a bad feeling. Davidson trailed UNC-Greensboro by four at halftime, and yet somehow the gap felt wider. The situation felt just like January 20th when Davidson trailed Appalachian State by 7 at halftime. I felt like the Wildcats were still one step behind. For all of the fundamentals and great coaching and hard work and incredible athleticism, I felt like we Davidson fans were overestimating this team.

Somewhere in the second half, this team decided to prove me wrong. In one eight-second sequence late in the second half, Stephen Curry hit an incredible three-point shot to extend the Davidson lead to nine points. He then raced down the court anticipating a long pass, intercepted it, and raced back up the court eyeing the three-point stripe. He hit another one. UNC-Greensboro was effectively dead.

The story of this game goes far beyond Stephen Curry, however. Jason Richards put up an equally remarkable performance as he took the beating of his lifetime taking the ball right at the heart of the Spartans frontcourt. Richards remembered the App State game and he knew that Davidson could not get comfortable in shooting three-pointers in the last seven minutes of the contest, no matter their lead. Although he had already picked up several charging fouls on the game, Richards never backed down from his attack. He only made it better. By manipulating his body around the defenders, Richards was able to draw some blocking fouls and get himself in position for easy layups.

The other remarkable story of this game involved the seemingly abrupt coming-of-age of Boris Meno. Although he has developed into an effective shot-blocker and rebounder throughout the season, Meno's offensive capabilities have been in flux all season. Against the Spartans, Meno found himself with opportunity after opportunity to score easy baskets inside. He hit his first nine shots and finished the game with 20 points. From the stands, it seemed as if Meno was finally learning the steps to effective inside manuevering, as he continually used a second step to get under his defender and create a short layup opportunity. Instead of moving away from the basket or forcing a tough hook jumper, Meno seemed comfortable in attacking the glass and making the ball bounce right in. While this might seem obvious and inane for me to be saying about a 6'8" starter, those who have seen Boris Meno know why this game seemed to be such an accomplishment.

It is hard to really believe that Davidson has escaped from its fate of being a well-coached team that just isn't athletic enough to beat everyone all the time. I have to believe, however, that this team wants to escape. This team wants to overcome a few stereotypes on the way. White guys can jump, and be quick and dunk the ball. Black guys can be smart and coachable and hard-working. Davidson can win the Southern Conference in an odd year. Welcome to February, we have 24 days and counting.

**photo by Richard Shayegan**

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Women Ballers Embody Spirit of "David"son

It all started with 10 minutes left in the first half against Appalachian State. The Wildcats were winning 26-8 and looked to be on their way to another easy victory over a lesser SoCon opponent. The women’s basketball team had only struggled twice in the last two months, and they were cruising along with no signs of stopping. All of a sudden, something happened. Shots began to rim out; the defense lacked intensity; the team was pressing and didn’t quite know how to play anymore. Although the Wildcats would hang on to win the Appalachian game (despite letting the Mountaineers pull it to a six-point game), they went up to Greensboro with the same scared mentality.

The Wildcats were blown out of the water by a Spartan team that had lost to Davidson earlier in the year. Coach Watts said that she was embarrassed by the performance because she thought that the team lacked intensity and desire. Tonight, Davidson returned to Belk Arena against a mid-level College of Charleston team. Coach Watts promised a renewed effort. She promised a Wildcat team that would play with pride.

By halftime tonight, Davidson was losing 40-25, and the team lacked pride. Over a week ago, this team was eyeing a possible NCAA at-large bid. By 8 p.m. on Wednesday, they were staring down the barrel of a fourth-place standing in a weak Southern Conference. Coach Watts had seen enough.

The Wildcats came out of the locker room with a renewed fire. They had the energy and intensity of a team that had their backs against the wall, and they played the role quite well. After all, these women have been playing the role of “David” against “Goliath” for many years now. It just so happens that this year they have the full assortment of talent to take down the giants.

The Wildcats stymied every offensive attempt that the Cougars put together, as they held them to a mere three points in the first twelve minutes of the second half. The Davidson offense began clicking as the Wildcats worked the paint for easy layups and hit Honna Housley for two huge three-pointers.

As the Wildcats cut into the lead, their spirit returned to their faces. Every Cougar pass was seen as an opportunity for a steal, every missed shot an opportunity for a big rebound. When the final buzzer sounded, Davidson had a 74-62 victory. They had scored 47 points in the second half, led by Tia Washington who had 19 on the game.

Perhaps the most defining image of the contest and of this season came when Danielle Hemerka returned to the lineup with under two minutes to play. She had been sidelined with a bloody nose and returned with a big protective facemask. With the Wildcats clinging to a six-point lead, a missed Jessica Mitchell free throw gave the Cougars a chance to cut into the lead. Three Cougar players went up for the rebound, but couldn’t secure it immediately. Hemerka jumped into the fray and pulled out the offensive board, forcing the Cougars to foul again and putting the game out of reach. With her 17 total points and team-leading six rebounds, Hemerka embodied the never-say-die attitude of a Wildcat team that is still learning to play in its new role: that of Goliath.

Even if they can’t beat everyone by thirty points, or trail to an evenly matched team down the road, look for these Wildcats to be resilient. Tonight they convinced themselves that they can win, and they even converted a few believers. The rest of the way isn’t paved with easy pit-stops, but I think that these Wildcats like it that way.

**photo by Richard Shayegan**