Davidson

Davidson’s amazing NCAA tournament run came to an end today, as Kansas just squeaked past them, 59-57, when a shot at the buzzer went wide. The low score probably offends NBA fans, but to my mind, this game showed everything that’s right about the NCAA tournament.

If you watched the game, it was clear that Kansas was bigger, stronger, and faster than Davidson at pretty much every position. And yet the Wildcats were able to hang with them, and even had a four-point lead in the second half– not because they were chucking wild shots and getting lucky, but because they played excellent basketball. Their team defense was terrific, and they worked the ball well to get open shots for players who couldn’t begin to physically challenge the Jayhawks. (Not for lack of trying– but every time they tried to take the ball all the way to the rim, they got stuffed.)

As somebody who played the game for an old-school coach, back in the day, that’s what I’m looking for. Basketball isn’t just about amazing physical feats– it’s about knowledge and planning and execution, and a team that plays the game well can hang with (and sometimes beat) vastly superior individual athletes. That’s more impressive to me than any acrobatic highlight-reel dunk.

Of course, Davidson didn’t win, mostly because they didn’t execute quite as well as they needed to. To my mind, the key moment in the game came with about nine minutes left, when Davidson took a four-point lead, 49-45. They had momentum, most of the crowd on their side, and they had the ball with a chance to build their lead. And there was some mis-communication between the guards, one of whom ended up pulling a Fred Brown and throwing the ball directly to a Kansas player who went down the court for the easiest lay-up of his career. That killed the momentum, and Kansas rallied from there.

And that’s the thing– that’s how narrow Davidson’s margin was. If they don’t blow that play, the game is completely different. That momentary lapse, among others, broke their run, and let Kansas use their physical superiority to grind out a win down the stretch.

Anyway, it was a really good game. Not quite the same quality as the famous Princeton-Georgetown game in ’89, which was one of the best basketball games I’ve ever seen, but it was a fine performance. Congratulations to Davidson on a great season, and a great story.

The Kansas win puts all four #1 seeds in the Final Four for the first time ever. This is probably the ideal scenario for the NCAA– lots of upsets and a great run by a small team in the first two weekends, culminating in four big-name schools facing off for the title. They even get a Kansas-UNC match-up in the first week, pitting Roy Williams against his former school, which you can be sure CBS will milk for every last drop of pathos.

As a fan of the game, though, I was pulling for Davidson. Kansas-UNC will be more physically impressive, but I’d rather see the Wildcats on the big stage.

Comments

  1. #1 CCPhysicist
    March 30, 2008

    I agree 100% with what you say here, right down to the critical nature of a few lapses in judgment. A late friend would have really enjoyed that game, but the only way it would replace his all-time favorite (the defeat of Phi Slamma Jamma in the finals) would be if Davidson had won.

  2. #2 perry
    March 31, 2008

    that bad pass was when I started worrying a lot, they got just a wee bit tenative there for a spell. But Davidson had one hell of a run!

  3. #3 PhysioProf
    March 31, 2008

    Yeah, that was a great game. If Davidson had one, I would have had a great shot at winning a big bracket pool. Oh, well.

    I am no basketball expert, but I kind of thought that Davidson should have driven for the basket in the last seconds and hoped to either draw a foul or make the layup to tie it, rather than pass around the perimeter. What do others think about this decision (if it even was a decision, and not just an inability to take the ball inside)?

  4. #4 Chad Orzel
    March 31, 2008

    I am no basketball expert, but I kind of thought that Davidson should have driven for the basket in the last seconds and hoped to either draw a foul or make the layup to tie it, rather than pass around the perimeter. What do others think about this decision (if it even was a decision, and not just an inability to take the ball inside)?

    I thought it was mostly really good defense by Kansas. I was a little surprised, though, at how casually Curry brought the ball up the court– had he pushed it a little faster, I think they would’ve had a few more seconds to get a better look.

  5. #5 Dave Munger
    March 31, 2008

    It’s kinda fun being here in Davidson for this whole thing. There are banners everywhere in town — at least fifty and probably more like 100, spray-painted on old bedsheets in typical Davidson style.

    PhysioProf, I think that *was* the play — Curry just slipped up and wasn’t able to execute, so had to settle for the backup plan. Both Curry and Richards were absolutely exhausted at the end of the game, a testament to Kansas’ outstanding defense. I think the critical lapse might have been not resting Curry / Richards for at least a minute or two somewhere during the fourth quarter. Maybe Davidson should have just spent a time-out with around 4 minutes to go, to give its team a rest. If Curry was a little better-rested, he might have made some of those shots he missed down the stretch.

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