Everyone will be looking at Davidson’s individual statistics this week in the hopes of gaining confidence that Louisville has what it takes to get out of the first round. However, given Davidson’s lack of difficult conference competition, I thought it would be a great opportunity to look at the Wildcat’s three toughest non-conference games: Kansas, Vanderbilt and Duke.
Although these contests were played at the beginning of the year and much has changed with each team (especially Kansas), it is interesting to look at each game and see what exactly Davidson’s strengths and weaknesses are against good competition. Hoping to find flaws with our Thursday opponent, I found otherwise. Davidson is a good basketball team and we will have to play well Thursday to avoid another first round exit.
1. The Big Upset: Davidson v. Kansas.
A. The Game You Will Hear About For the Next Four Days.
This is the game everyone will be pointing to as why Davidson could potentially upset Louisville. There is not a more impressive place to win than at Kansas, and this Davidson team did it (kind of...the game was in Kansas City). Although Kansas held a sizable advantage on the glass, they choked at the free throw line (58% on 31 attempts) and Davidson guard Nick Cochran made four of five three pointers for 21 points. Davidson putting up 80 points in this type of environment while shooting 76% from the line is admirable to say the least.
B. Davidson Statistics.
1. FT: 19-25 (76%)
2. 3p: 7-20 (35%)
3. Rebounds: 34 to KU 41
4. Turnovers: 12 to KU 14
5. Total Points: 80
2. Davidson at Cameron Indoor.
A. Davidson Can Shoot Free Throws.
Don’t let the final score fool you. Had Duke not had a great offensive second half, this game could have been close. In fact, Davidson had a 35-34 lead going into the locker room. However, Duke came out solid in the second half, putting up 48 points and shooting over 53% for the game. Although Duke closed out the Wildcats and won by double digits, it can’t be said enough how good this team is at shooting free throws. 100% percent from the line (14-14) in Durham—yes, you read that right—100%. One good thing about this game is that Duke turned them over 17 times, the highest of any of the three.
B. Davidson Statistics.
1. FT: 14-14 100%
2. 3P: 7-20 35%
3. Rebounds: 32 to Duke’s 33
4. Turnovers: 17 to Duke’s 12
5. Total Points: 69
3. The SEC Champs and Davidson.
A. Festus Makes His Debut.
This game was played only a short time after Louisville’s triumphant overtime win against Vanderbilt at the Yum!. The difference was that Vandy had arguably its most important player back after a long hiatus: Festus Ezeli. Although Festus was still trying to shake off the rust, John Jenkins went off for 30 points and Vanderbilt shot 46.7% from the three point line. However, the game was close, as Davidson had chances to get back into the game and win in the second half. Vandy holding them to 22.7% from three was likely the reason the SEC Champs won the game.
B. Davidson Statistics.
1. FT: 24-30 (80%)
2. 3P: 5-22 (22.7%)
3. Rebounds: 30 to Vandy’s 31
4. Turnovers: 10 to Vandy’s 15.
5. Total Points: 83.
4. KenPom Offensive and Defensive Efficiency Ratings.
A. Louisville (122) (2)
B. Davidson (37) (134)
C. Kansas (8) (8)
D. Duke (9) (62)
E. Vanderbilt (17) (31)
5. Not an Ideal First Round Matchup.
As you can see, those of you hoping Louisville would be rewarded for its run in the Big East Tournament are likely disappointed. The good news is that this team’s makeup is dissimilar to those teams that have given us problems all year. Louisville has struggled against really good defensive teams and teams that have been able to slow them down. Davidson is neither, so hopefully we can expect Louisville’s offense to get going by picking up the pace and executing well in the half-court.
However, there are four things to be concerned about. First and foremost is rebounding, which is, in my opinion, the most important statistic in college basketball. Although Davidson is not overwhelming on the backboard, they also are not a team Louisville will outrebound by a sizable margin. Second, is Davidson’s ability to knock down the three point shot. There are a number of players for the Wildcats that can shoot it from the outside and Louisville will have to guard the perimeter much like it did against Cincinnati should it want to win.
Third, is not only their ability to hit free throws, but the fact that they get to the line so often (at least in the games mentioned above). If Davidson is at the line, they are going to make their shots and Louisville has been prone to commit a significant number of fouls all year. Finally, Davidson is not prone to turnovers and we all know Louisville’s offense is much better when it can create possessions on the defensive end.
The deciding factor in this one isn’t related to statistics, but Louisville’s overall mindset. Having players that have been through two first round losses over the past few years, Louisville’s will to win should be an advantage. Let’s hope for a quick start, so that way we won’t have to sweat this one out like we have in years past. See you Thursday.