Kansas plays its third of hopefully 8 games at the Sprint Center this season Saturday when it takes on a feisty and fun Davidson team. Of course much will be made of the 2008 game when Kansas outlasted the Wildcats in the Elite 8, but of course Davidson knocked off the Jayhawks in Kansas City almost exactly 5 years ago, defeating the team that eventually went to the national title game.
This year’s team is no slouch either, most recently losing by just 9 at North Carolina. Under Bob McKillop, Davidson has become known for its offense, and this team is no different. Currently the Wildcats attempt over half of their field goals from three, but they’re making just 31 percent of those attempts. Obviously this lends itself to a lot of variance. If Davidson takes 30 threes on Saturday and makes 15 of them, they’re going to have a really good chance to win. On the other hand, if they make 10 or fewer of them, it will probably be a rout. That said, these types of teams are the scariest to face as an opposing fan, because it is almost entirely out of KU’s hands on that end of the floor.
Davidson has actually been pretty good defensively as well this year. Opponents are shooting just 40.5 percent from two, which ranks 16th nationally, and it is not all a schedule quirk either: North Carolina shot under 40 percent on twos in their matchup. They also do a pretty good job at limiting 3-point attempts. I think Kansas will be able to score on them, however, because Davidson never turns teams over, so Kansas will get a lot of opportunities, in the games in which Davidson has faced an opponent with any size whatsoever they’ve given up a ton of free throws, and this is obviously the best three point shooting team they have faced so far.
Players to Watch
Jack Gibbs, senior guard
Gibbs is as fun to watch as Steph Curry was when he was at Davidson. He had 40+ points three times last season, and his efficiency has gone up from where it was last year. He currently is shooting 51 percent on twos and 36 percent on threes, and he also has an assist rate over 30 percent and a turnover rate of just 17 percent. Oh and he’s 22nd in the country in drawing fouls. I vote we make everyone else leave and let him and Frank Mason go 1 on 1.
Peyton Aldridge, junior forward
Aldridge has actually played more minutes than Gibbs this year, and is taking almost the same number of shots, percentage wise. The 6-8 forward is shooting 55 percent on twos and 35 percent from three, so he should be a fun matchup for Josh Jackson.
Jordan Watkins, junior guard
Watkins is the shooter Kansas needs to watch out for. He doesn’t really do anything else, but he’s shooting 39 percent from deep this season on 33 attempts.
Things to Watch
- 3-point shooting - Obviously Davidson is going to take a ton of them. They’ll probably have a stretch where they make 5 in a row or 6 out of 8 or something like that. Bill Self will have to be judicious with his timeouts and also vary the defensive coverages to limit their good attempts.
- Carlton Bragg - Mostly because I want to see how he does in his first game back. But this is a good game for him because Davidson doesn’t have a ton of interior scoring.
- Mason v. Gibbs - I can’t overstate how much fun this should be, assuming Self lets Mason guard Gibbs (though it will likely be more of a team effort).
These ones are tough to predict because who knows how many of the 25+ threes Davidson will make. They lost some great shooters off the previous two teams, but still have some guys who can fill it up. Kansas might come out a bit sleepy thanks to finals, but also might want to just get out there and play some basketball. Psychoanalysis aside, the Jayhawks have just too much of an advantage everywhere, even if Gibbs and the KU backcourt cancel eachother out, so I’ll take Kansas 79-70.