By virtue of being a College of Charleston alum and living in the same city as Wofford College, I’m pretty familiar with the Southern Conference. It’s possible, therefore, that I’m overly concerned by Davidson due to my personal bias. But objectively it can be said that in recent history, no one has been as consistently competitive in the SoCon as Davidson. So it would behoove Duke to be as prepared as possible for their season opener against the Wildcats.
In truth, Davidson and Duke have a lot in common. Beyond both being private schools in North Carolina, both basketball coaches have coached Team USA. Bob McKillop recently served as the head coach for Team USA at the World University Games. His assistants were Michigan’s John Beilein and South Carolina’s Frank Martin.
While it’s unlikely that the SoCon’s all-time winningest coach will adopt Beilein’s trapping defense the way Mike Krzyzewski briefly utilized Jim Boeheim’s 1-3-1, the Team USA connection illustrates how skilled and well respected McKillop is in the coaching world.
In 2012-13, McKillop had five returning starters on his squad. He and the Wildcats rode that experience to another SoCon Championship and made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament. This season Davidson has only two returning starters, but the roster is anything but short on guys with playing experience.
Last season eight players averaged at least 18.8 minutes-per-game. Of those eight, four returned and figure to lead the way for the Wildcats (Davidson stats via ESPN).
De’Mon Brooks will be among the best post players in the SoCon. Last season he averaged 13.7 points and 6.2 rebounds. At 6’7” and 230 pounds, he isn’t the tallest of guys, but his strength and size will test just how much tougher Amile Jefferson got in the offseason.
Brooks is Davidson’s only true post player. Around him, McKillop enlists wing players with good height and excellent outside shots. Sound Familiar?
Chris Czerapowicz is 6’7” and will ostensibly play the four position. However, he’ll live his basketball life outside the three-point line. Czerapowicz averaged 9.1 points last season and led the Wildcats in three-point attempts.
Tom Droney is a 6’6” wing who didn’t demonstrate much of an offensive game last year, but is a capable defender. He’ll likely draw Rodney Hood on defense and it’ll be his job to at least slow the player that has thus far proved to be the Blue Devils’ most reliable scorer.
Tyler Kalinoski is a prototypical shooting guard who may occasionally be pressed into point guard duties. Sophmore Brian Sullivan is the most likely option to play point for Davidson, but his lack of experience and the possible desire of McKillop to play another post player alongside Brooks—someone like freshman Andrew McAuliffe—might make it necessary for Kalinoski to run the offense.
Whoever is running the point for Davidson, it will be imperative for Duke to press the ball and prevent the Wilcats from setting up in half-court offensive sets. McKillop’s squad will be one of the more talented groups in the SoCon and he’ll rely on a precise execution of the methodical offense that he so expertly imparts upon his players.
Davidson’s half-court offense will test Duke’s team defense as the Wildcats will force the Blue Devils to make good switches and have excellent defensive communication. Duke will also need to show an ability to force opponents into a more up-tempo style of play that befits the Blue Devils’ roster.
In all, the Blue Devils will get an NCAA tournament caliber opponent in their opening game and the Wildcats likely won’t let things get out of hand. That will make for a perfect opportunity to see how Duke’s strengths and weaknesses shape up early in the season.
Time: 7 p.m. EST
Prediction: Duke 86, Davidson 72