Monday, December 03, 2007

Kruse Thoughts on Davidson/Duke

The St. Petersburg Times' Michael Kruse attended Saturday's game against Duke in Charlotte. Kruse is a friend of Will's World and a common alum of The Davidsonian and The Wildcat Report. Here are his thoughts from Saturday:

I stood in the back of K’s presser Saturday afternoon and listened to him say what he said and thought to myself: I’ve heard this before.

“They’re really good.”

Heard it.

“They’re an NCAA team.”

Heard it.

“They’re a very, very good basketball team, coached by one of the best coaches in the country, no doubt about it.”

Heard it.

But something I HADN’T heard post-Duke, not working for the Davidsonian, not working for the ACC Basketball Handbook or or Basketball America, not watching or reading from afar as nothing more than an interested alum, not EVER:

“Davidson could’ve won.”

So Carolina and Duke have come and gone. I would argue Carolina was a coulda SHOULDA. Duke was just a coulda.

From the haphazard notes I was keeping during the game: shotmaking … Boris miss, miss … Sander miss … Sander missed layup … charge on Steph at 14:00ish … uh oh … Lovedale missed runner … charge at 8:39 Steph … then Paulus 3 … Scheyer 2 … 22-17 … TO McK at 8:02 … good TO.

And so on.

Now I see all the predictable gripes about the refs on this board, but the fact of the matter is this, too: Steph scored 20, yes, but also turned the ball over eight times. Jason was great for the most part but also missed six of his eight free throws. Boris missed a dunk.

That halftime score of 43-32 Duke? It was appropriate.

The most striking thing to me about the Carolina and Duke games, and I watched Carolina on TV, and Duke in person, obviously, was that we played … the way we play. We didn’t play freakishly, flukishly great, or anything close to it. We just played. We played normal.

And yet No. 1 Carolina needed a pro move from a future pro to finish it.

And No. 7 Duke needed a joke of a shot from Paulus. That THING he threw in on the baseline, he makes that once out of 10 times, maybe twice. It was ridiculous live. It was totally preposterous later that night on the highlights on TV.

But my question for all of you here, and ultimately, I suppose, the point of this post, is, well: IS THIS GOOD ENOUGH?

Let me put it another way:

Still having fun?

I started really thinking about this after talking with Kyle Whelliston at halftime. He said he was there to do another something on Davidson. The two possibilities heading into Saturday’s game: (1) Davidson as “conquering hero,” to use his term, or (2) “What’s the matter with Davidson?”

See the end of Sorensen’s column Sunday?

“Here’s the best thing about Davidson.

“There was a time when almost beating the Blue Devils and Tar Heels would have excited the team and its fans. That was long ago.”

Kinda makes me happy to read that. Also kinda makes me sad.

This IS exciting. This SHOULD BE exciting. We lost by a combined 10 points, on a neutral floor, to two of the best teams in the country. What’s the MATTER with Davidson?

Don’t get me wrong. I want them to win, get over that hump, whatever. I want McKillop to win one of these games because I think he’s an awesome ambassador for my alma mater, and because we’re lucky to have him, and because all three of his children decided to go to Davidson, and because I think that’s maybe the coolest thing about the man and his relationship with the institution. I want Matheny to win one of these because he went to Davidson, and because he’s been at Davidson, and because he’s STAYED at Davidson, and because that’s worth a lot, because it’s stuff like that that makes a place what it is.

But I don’t want them to win for me. They owe me nothing.

Maybe that’s splitting hairs. I don’t know.

One last thing, though: Last Thursday night, I went to a Davidson alumni event in Tampa. Tom Ross was there. These things are always the same, a little cheesy, totally formulaic, but at the same time I’m always glad when I go, because while you’re eating shrimp and drinking wine and meeting doctors and lawyers and watching that parade of blue blazers and khakis, you listen to the president give his little status update, about how smart and accomplished this year’s freshmen are, and how good Chambers looks now, and somehow it’s exactly what I want to hear, because it makes me think about things that make me feel good.

I was born outside Los Angeles. I grew up outside Boston. Since I graduated, seven years ago, I’ve lived in Charlotte, Chapel Hill, Durham, Wellesley, Mass., Warwick, N.Y., Spring Hill, Fla., Tampa and Land O’Lakes, Fla.

Which, bear with me, is my way of explaining why I got in my car Friday night to drive 569 miles to go see the Wildcats play, win or lose, past the palm trees, away from Florida’s loose, sandy soil, up toward all that rich red dirt.

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