VCU hosts Atlantic 10 newcomer Davidson on Wednesday. The 3-point shooting, defense-deficient Wildcats promise plenty of offense and entertainment.
- What: VCU (11-3, 1-0) vs. Davidson (10-2, 1-0)
- Where: Stuart C. Siegel Center
- When: Wednesday, January 7th at 7:00 PM.
- Watch: MASN
- Listen: Rams Radio
Davidson joined the Atlantic 10 this season, and like Rodney Dangerfield, they just couldn’t get any respect. A-10 coaches and media picked the Wildcats to finish 12th and The Blue Ribbon Yearbook picked Davidson to finish 14th, dead last, in the Atlantic 10. That means one of the most respected preseason publications thought Davidson was worse than George Mason, Duquesne, and Fordham.
HOW THEY GOT THERE
Davidson has a strong history of success, but this season was stacking up to be the ultimate rebuilding campaign. The Wildcats started 2014 4-10, but steamrolled a weak Southern Conference before losing in the semi-finals of the SoCon Tournament and finishing the season 20-13. With three invaluable seniors graduating, Coach Bob McKillop had many more question marks than answers while taking a huge step up from the Southern Conference to the Atlantic 10.
HOW THEY GOT HERE
Since 1989, Coach McKillop has 482 wins as a head coach and 11 Southern Conference titles and seven Southern Conference Tournament titles. Even outside of the Elite 8 team led by NBA sharpshooter Stephen Curry, Davidson has been incredibly successful. Seriously, all Coach McKillop does is win, win, win, no matter what.
Add superior coaching to a young, talented group of players with an unquestionably talented senior leader, and those wins will start to pile up.
The Wildcats are an offensive juggernaut. Their starting five players are 99-247 (.401) from 3-point range including 24-of-50 (.480) from Jack Gibbs and 34-of-80 (.425) from Tyler Kalinoski. On top of that, they rank 13th nationally in 2-point shooting percentage and 5th nationally in offensive turnover percentage.
Despite giving up size and athleticism at almost every position, Davidson boasts the 6th most efficient adjusted offense according to KenPom.com. Last week they scored 72 points on UVA, a team that allows 46 PPG, and they beat Richmond 81-67 in their Atlantic 10 opener on Saturday.
The good news for VCU: Davidson is terrible at defense. They rank 246th in adjusted defensive efficiency and have given up 86 points to Charlotte, 90 points to UNC, and 99 points to Montana.
But the Wildcats have made up for all of their defensive deficiencies by straight up outscoring every opponent on their schedule not named North Carolina or Virginia. If the running and gunning, up-tempo, non-defense playing Wildcats aren’t the most fun opponent imaginable for VCU, then you don’t have a pulse or you’re a Wisconsin fan.
THE STAR: #12 Jack Gibbs
17.4 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.8 SPG
The sophomore guard has been the difference this season. He’s shooting 64% from 2-point range, 48% from 3-point range, and 91% from the free-throw line while boasting the third highest offensive rating in the country. On Saturday, he dropped 32 points on Richmond. Gibbs promises to be one of, if not the premier, scoring guard in the Atlantic 10 for the next 2.5 seasons.
#4 Tyler Kalinoski (G, Senior) • The lone significant senior on this team, Kalinoski deserves close to the same level of respect as Gibbs. He’s averaging 16.8 PPG while remaining the unquestioned leader of the Wildcats.
#3 Brian Sullivan (G, Junior) • A Miami (Ohio) transfer, he’s the third piece of Davidson’s three-headed back court monster. He and Gibbs are undersized at 5-foot-11, but they are incredible scorers.
#23 Peyton Aldridge (F, Freshman) • This team wouldn’t be lapping expectations without the contributions of its freshmen front-court. Aldridge is a talented stretch four in the midst of a freshman shooting slump, but he is highly capable of dropping 20 and 8.
#1 Nathan Ekwu (F, Freshman) • He’s the lone starter that doesn’t demand being chased off of the 3-point line. Ekwu has the tools to be a four year starter at Davidson depending upon the health of Jake Belford.
Bench: Davidson’s starters get a lot of run and the bench is typically short. Most of the players are “allen wrenches”–their key contributions depend upon match ups.
KenPom picks VCU to win 88-78 with an 80% chance of victory. While Davidson can score, VCU should be able to score more easily than usual, which means more full-court pressure, which means more offense. Expect VCU to win but Davidson to score plenty.
- Location: Davidson, NC
- Enrollment: ~1,850
- Conference: A-10
- All-time Series: VCU trails 0-1.
- Last Meeting: March 16th, 2005. Davidson won 77-62.