David[son] Poised to Slay Goliath: Men’s Basketball

Davidson men’s basketball scrimmages in preparation for a competitive season. Photo by Emma Brentjens ‘21

Deen Haleem ‘21

Men’s basketball correspondent

Every basketball team has an identity. The Golden State Warriors are a Hydra: ferocious, killer from range, and able to bring in two heads for every one you cut off. The Duke Blue Devils are Goliath: big, skilled, and powerful as can be. Davidson? We’re David… but different. We can’t hammer Goliath down with blows in the post. We can’t outrun him on a fast break, and we can’t face him one-on-one on the perimeter. Like David, we have to keep our space and shoot from range, but unlike David, we have at our disposal a cohesive team that can bring down giants together.

When the Wildcats start their offense, they’re in prime giant-killing formation. Instead of using a traditional blend of guards, forwards, and big men, Coach Bob McKillop has opted for a starting lineup of 4 guards and one center. This allows the ‘Cats to put 4 three point shooters on the floor alongside a center that can also shoot threes if necessary. More importantly, it allows them to be quicker and more mobile than opposing teams.

If you’ve seen Davidson’s offense, you already know it’s a flurry of quick cuts, sprints, and screens. The plays start with two shooters set in the corners, pulling the other team’s players away from the basket and getting ready to capitalize on basketball’s most efficient shot (the corner three). From here, the primary ball handler, big man, and another guard will come up the middle of the court within about 3 feet of each other. This immediately puts opposing team’s defenses in an awkward position. If they keep too much space, the ball handler can drive. If they come too far out, they’re vulnerable to quick dives to the basket, and if they stay too far back, they risk giving up an easy three. But even when the defense gets it just right, Davidson can still find ways to attack. McKillop’s system requires everyone to be moving and screening, commonly resulting in an open lane, a well-positioned post-up, or an open shooter.

Defensively, the Cats are just as well positioned. Adapting to modern defensive trends, they switch defensive assignments with teammates when put into a vulnerable position. Though this can be exploited by teams like the Rockets, (who used the Warrior’s switching to force defensively average Steph Curry into guarding offensive savants James Harden and Chris Paul) Davidson has the personnel to make this system work. All of their starters are at least 6’4’ and are, at the minimum, solid individual defenders. Because of this, there’s no player offenses can “pick on” in order to get scoring in bunches.

These schemes, along with a deeply talented team, will give Davidson a fighting chance against any opponent. How this materializes is anyone’s guess, but what’s clear is that there’s no ceiling on how far this team can go. Don’t be surprised if you see Davidson back in the tournament this year, and don’t be surprised if you see them slay some giants while they’re at it.

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