Davidson Game Preview and Q&A

Posted In News - By Alan Kelly On Tuesday, February 10th, 2015 With 0 Comments

Wednesday night at 7 pm, George Mason (7-15, 2-8 A10) will make their first-ever visit to Davidson College to take on the Charlotte-area Atlantic 10 newcomers in Davidson, NC. The Wildcats (15-6, 6-4 A10) will be a familiar foe for the Patriots, as the two teams faced each other less than three weeks ago in Fairfax, with Davidson winning 80-73 in overtime. This marks the first time this season that Mason will play an opponent for the second time.

The Patriots will hope for a healthy return to play for Marquise Moore, who has been limited by a sore ankle since the Wright State game back in December, and missed Saturday’s loss to St. Joseph’s entirely. Moore had 18 points and a team-high 3 assists in the first meeting with Davidson on January 24.

Belk Arena. (Gary Moore / The College Hardwood)

The Wildcats suffered their first home loss of the season a week ago against St. Bonaventure, 62-61, but rebounded with a 95-69 destruction of Duquesne at on Saturday. Senior Tyler Kalinowski, who fouled out late against Mason in Fairfax, leads the team with 16.5 points per game and has 11 straight double-digit scoring games.

Davidson College, founded in 1837, is a private liberal arts college loosely affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The Wildcats have played college basketball since 1907 and have appeared in 12 NCAA tournaments, including Elite Eight appearances in 1968, 1969, and 2008. Home games are played at the 5,223 seat John M. Belk Arena, built in 1989. Bob McKillop has been the head coach since 1989, with a 487-297 record and eight Southern Conference Coach of the Year awards.

Last month I asked Mat Shelton from A10 Talk to answer some questions about Davidson. Today, to get a second perspective on the Wildcats, I talked to Gary Moore, founder of The College Hardwood. A Hofstra fan recently transplanted to South Carolina, Gary follows men’s and women’s college basketball across the Carolinas and beyond.

masonhoops.com: The Wildcats’ best player, sophomore guard Jack Gibbs, is averaging 15.8 points per game, but has missed the last five games with a knee injury. How big of an impact has his absence had, and what is the latest on his status?

Gary: Well, you wouldn’t have known they needed Gibbs this past Saturday at home vs. Duquesne. The Wildcats absolutely demolished the Dukes 95-69. The offense was incredibly consistent as Davidson shot sixty percent in both halves. However, they’ve been 3-2 since he went down, with both losses being close contests; a five point loss at St Joe’s after being up thirteen at the half and a buzzer beater one point loss at home to St Bonaventure. Considering he shoots over fifty percent from the field, including over forty one percent from behind the arc, averages five assists per game and is their best dribble drive guard on offense, it’s definitely been an impact.

masonhoops.com: Even without Gibbs, Davidson has a very impressive offensive team. Beyond the raw statistics and percentages, what else should Mason fans know about Wednesday’s opponent?

Gary: Mason fans will see one of the hardest working offenses in college basketball. Davidson’s offense prides itself on movement, with and without the ball. Expect lots of screens, picks, back door cuts and good offensive post play. But what sets them apart is they have a lot of accurate long range shooters. The Dukes had such a hard time guarding the Wildcats. And if you double a Davidson post player, the Wildcat perimeter players will make you pay.

masonhoops.com: George Mason was able to limit Davidson to 65 points in regulation last month, largely by exploiting length and height advantages among the guards and doubling Brian Sullivan on the perimeter. Are there any other weaknesses that might be exploited this time around?

Gary: If Davidson has any weakness, they are not terribly athletic or tall, especially in the front court. I could see Shevon Thompson having a field day against the Wildcat forwards.

masonhoops.com: Davidson started out 5-2 in the Atlantic 10, but had faltered a bit in the last two weeks, losing on the road at St. Joseph’s and at home against St. Bonaventure. Given their body of work at 6-4 through their first ten A10 games, what are some realistic expectations for the final eight games?

Gary: I think the realistic expectation is for the Wildcats to split their last eight games, with a good chance to go 5-3. I think they will defeat Mason and Fordham for sure at home, Likewise, they will win their last regular season conference game at Duquesne. They have a home and home with GW, road games with LaSalle and Rhode Island and a huge home game vs. VCU. I think they win at least one of those four. The wildcard is Gibbs. There is no timetable I know for his return, but if he comes back down the stretch, they could perform better than I expect.

masonhoops.com: What do the Wildcats need to make to secure a top 4 seed in Brooklyn and/or an at-large NCAA resume?

Gary: With five teams ahead of them in the standings, Davidson really needs to go at least 6-2 to be in play for a top 4 seed. That would give them a 12-6 conference record, which gives the Wildcats a decent chance at that top four seed. They would need to win all of their remaining home games; Mason, Fordham, GW and VCU. That would also mean that Davidson would have to win two of their four road games vs. LaSalle, GW, Rhode Island and Duquesne. That’s a tough task.

However, their work wouldn’t be done there. I think for them to have a chance at a NCAA at large bid, they need to at least get to the A-10 Tournament semifinals. The Wildcats don’t have a big non conference win to hang their hat on. Davidson played well against Virgnia, scoring the most points any team scored against the Cavaliers in forty minutes of regulation this season. But they didn’t get the job done.

masonhoops.com: I asked Mat Shelton about this last month, but just how good is Bob McKillop? Aside from the Steph Curry years, he’s largely been hidden from the national stage while Davidson played in the SoCon. Is this move to the A10 going to be his coming out party on a wider national stage?

Gary: As I wrote in my article on Monday, Bob McKillop is the mastermind behind Davidson. People don’t realize that he has had seven NCAA tournament teams while at Davidson. He also had that heartbreak one point loss against Marquette in the second round of the NCAA tournament a couple of years ago. Now that Davidson is in the A-10, he can recruit better talent. And outside of Tyler Kalinoski, his entire rotation is back next season. The Wildcats are going to be good for the next several seasons.

About - Alan Kelly is a 2010 and 2013 graduate of George Mason University and a former member of the Patriot Platoon. He had the memorable experience of being in the middle of the college decision process as George Mason's Final Four run unfolded. He currently resides in Northern Virginia.

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