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Some General Thoughts on the Davidson Wildcats

Just like before, here are some general thoughts on our next opponent, the Davidson Wildcats, derived from their KenPom page.

  • Their offense is pretty incredible. 8th in the entire country in offensive efficiency without adjusting for schedules, and still 15th even after the adjustment. Their defense isn't much worse, ranking 20th in the country in defensive efficiency, and 37th in the nation after schedule adjustments.
  • Taking a closer look at their offense, they don't the turn the ball over. At all, really. Only 11 teams turn the ball over less often than them, as they turn the ball over on only 17% of their possessions. Despite all of the Stephen Curry love, all of it deserved of course, they are a better shooting team inside the arc, making 53% of their shots (good enough to rank 26th). Beyond the three-point arc, they shoot "only" 37%, good enough for only 76th. Still impressive, sure, but not the stellar mark they have inside the three-point line. They are also incredibly proficient at now allowing their opponents to block their shots (13th in the country) and steal the ball (25th in the country). They are in the triple digits rankings-wise in only two categories; offensive rebound % and free throw rate. Not free throw %, free throw rate. So, basically, the Wildcats struggle to pull down boards on the offensive side of things, and they don't get to the free throw line all that often. But other than that, they are a fantastic offensive ball club.
  • Going back to the defensive side of things, they are really awesome in one category. A category they can't really control, that is, unless they have some secret chant to say while the opponent is on the free throw line. Only two teams, VMI and Sam Houston State, have had their opponents shoot a worse combined percentage from the line, as the Wildcats' opponents have only shot a combined 63.6% from the charity stripe. Moving on to things they can actually control, a couple of things stick out. One, they are very good at boxing out on the defensive glass, 31st in the category in opponents' offensive rebounding percentage, and forcing turnovers (ranking 32nd). Two, they aren't so hot on the field goal defense side of things. They are worse when the opposing team is shooting from behind the arc, at least in terms of national rank (190th to 109th). Another thing I thought was curious was they don't steal the ball a ton, and block shots even less, but they rank so high in forcing turnovers. They play pressure defense, kind of, so that forces some turnovers I'm sure, but it still seems a little odd.
  • Pace-wise, they are about as middle-of-the-road as it gets. Which, among other things, leads me to this conclusion:
This might sound kind of funny, but in the limited amount of time I have been able to see them, they remind me a little of our Jayhawks. They don't have the talent or athletic ability that we have, but they are really a chameleon like us. They can push it up-and-down the court, running with you step-for-step, but can also slow it down and play possession basketball. Plus, they share the ball tremendously well and, nine times out of ten, whoever has the open shot takes it. Obviously, the whole Stephen Curry variable throws off the equation somewhat, no one on our team has shown the pure ability to carry this team on their back like he has, these teams are a lot more similar than most think.

The media, and rightfully so, will be painting the game as David vs. Goliath; Cinderella looking to beat the tradition-rich powerhouse. And I'll be honest, if their opponent tomorrow was anybody besides Kansas, I would be jumping-and-screaming right along with the rest of America, making such a big deal of tiny, little Davidson (enrollment: 1,700) taking on big, bad Kansas (enrollment: 21,912). But it is Kansas taking on the Wildcats, and I will be hatin' on Cinderella. Because, despite the Disney title, they really aren't a Cinderella. Before the NCAA Tournament, if forced to give an answer, nearly everyone said 'Davidson' would be this year's George Mason. This is a team that lost to North Carolina by a whopping four points, to Duke by six points and held a 32-14 advantage over UCLA before relinquishing the lead and losing by twelve.

This run by Davidson, as epic and awe-inspiring as it has been, didn't come from way out in left field. Sure, maybe the shortstop was on the outfield grass, barely outside the expected Elite Eight participants, but certainly within reach. And yes, Stephen Curry really is this good. This isn't some random, three-game barrage of threes against high-end competition in his first chance at America's heart. He put up 30 last year against Maryland in the NCAAs, and averaged 25.5 points a game while shooting 49% from the field and 45% from three-point range. He is a baller, a should-be-All American and is probably the best shooter in all of college basketball.

Not that anybody is taking this game lightly. This is the Elite Eight, and almost everyone in the world understands that once you get this far, every game is a flat-out war.

Just a little bit of forewarning, as those are the thoughts that keep entering my head. I want to get to the Final Four so bad, that I am almost expecting us not to make it. Almost.

More on the game later tonight and tomorrow morning.