Southern Conference Championship


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by Rick Dimon
March 3, 2007

 



2007 Southern Conference Championship
March 3, 6:00 EST, North Charleston Coliseum
ESPN2

#1 Davidson Wildcats Wildcats (28-4, 17-1 SoCon) vs. #3 College of Charleston Cougars (22-10, 13-5)

Starting Lineups

Davidson                                                                         Charleston

G Jason Richards, Junior                                                 G Dontaye Draper, Senior

G Stephen Curry, Freshman                                           G Marcus Hammond, Sophomore

F Max Paulhus-Gosselin, Sophomore                              C Philip McCandies, Senior

F Thomas Sander, Junior                                                 F David Lawrence, Senior

F Boris Meno, Junior                                                        F Jermaine Johnson, Sophomore

Coaches

Bob McKillop, Davidson – McKillop is in his eighteenth season as the head coach of the Wildcats, and this year has arguably been his finest effort ever.  He’s already been recognized as the 2007 Southern Conference Coach of the Year.  And why not?  The Wildcats lost seven seniors from last year’s NCAA Tournament team and were subsequently picked to finish fourth in their half of the conference heading into this season.  McKillop and company scoffed at such a notion in the form of posting a 17-1 record in Southern Conference play and earning the #1 seed for this tournament.  McKillop is looking for his fourth NCAA Tournament bid (1998, 2002, 2006).

Bobby Cremins, College of Charleston – In just his first season as head man at the College of Charleston, Cremins has the Cougars in the Southern Conference Championship for the first time since 2000.  That’s the same year Cremins retired from Georgia Tech, where he led the Yellow Jackets to three ACC Tournament titles and one Final Four Appearance in 1990.  Ironically, Cremins landed the job at Charleston only after Winthrop’s Gregg Marshall accepted the job and then abruptly about-faced.  Cremins did the same in 1993 with Georgia Tech, as he bolted for South Carolina but returned to the Jackets three days later.  The only place Cremins will be going if the Cougars win on Sunday is the NCAA Tournament.

How They Got Here

Davidson defeated UT-Chattanooga 78-68 in the quarterfinals.  The Cats sleepwalked through the first half before star freshman Stephen Curry woke up in the second frame to help Davidson escape.  Davidson defeated Furman 91-68 in the semi-finals that was a blowout pretty much from the beginning.  Curry poured in 30 points on 9-of-14 shooting (6-of-10 from beyond the arc) while Jason Richards added 20 points and seven assists

College of Charleston defeated Georgia Southern 77-66 in the quarterfinals.  After a lackluster first half, the Cougars blew by the Eagles in the last 20 minutes.  College of Charleston defeated Appalachian State 89-87 in an instant classic semi-final, all but blasting the Mountaineer hopes of an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.  Senior Dantaye Draper turned in a performance for the ages, drilling eight thee-pointers en route to scoring 38 points and single-handedly carrying the Cougars to victory in overtime with two of the team’s big men already fouled out.

Previous Meetings

January 6 at Davidson: Davidson 81, College of Charleston 73

February 12 at College of Charleston: Davidson 73, College of Charleston 63

Keys to the Game

Davidson – Curry has started slow in each of Davidson’s first two tournament games, with nerves clearly affecting him in the quarters and foul trouble sidelining him against Furman.  He was the Freshman Player of the Year in the conference and narrowly missed out on outright player of the year to UNC-Greensboro’s Kyle Hines.  Sure to face a hostile pro-Charleston crowd, Curry will have to come out much stronger in order to take the Cougar faithful out of the game. 

Point guard Jason Richards, a first-team All-Southern Conference selection, just needs to keep doing what he has been doing.  Richards is second in the nation in assists, can score in bunches when necessary from both from long range and by slashing to the basket, and is the absolute glue of this offense.

Charleston – Draper will most likely have to produce another out-of-this world performance.  He has been the guy all season for the Cougars and while his supporting cast is solid, Draper has not been receiving loads of help on a consistent basis.  Forwards Jermaine Johnson and David Lawrence will have to shoulder some of the scoring load even if Draper goes off once again.  Both teams must stay out of foul trouble, but Davidson is the much deeper team, so this is especially critical for the Cougars. 

Decisive Matchup

You can bet Wildcat defensive specialist Max Paulhus-Gosselin will be hounding Draper all day.  If he gets the upper hand in this matchup throughout the day, the Cougars will have little to no chance at pulling off the upset.  Davidson played incredible defense against Furman (especially in limiting the Paladins to 15 first half points), so Bobby Cremins will have to come up with a way to beat Paulhus-Gosselin and the rest of the Wildcat wall.  It certainly won’t be easy, so the Cougars will have to be patient and wait to pull the trigger until they find good looks at the basket.

Decisive Factor

Davidson has to be feeling good about taking care of business with ease earlier in the evening, and then watching College of Charleston play an epic thriller.  Not only did it go into overtime, but it was one of the most emotionally-draining conference semi-finals I’ve ever seen.

If any team can recover from such a game in less than 24 hours, the Cougars are not it.  They’ve been going just seven deep the entire year and that will not change in the midst of the conference tournament.  Cremins will go with what got him here, whether they have gas in the tank or not.

Davidson will try to lure the Cougars into playing as hectic of a pace as took place throughout the Charleston-Appalachian game.  Charleston, meanwhile, will have to slow things down and keep everything under control.

Charleston must use the energy of the hometown crowd to spur them on to a good start.  If the Cougars fall behind early, it will tough to come back.  The Wildcats have absolutely worn teams down in the second halves of games this season, and they have a good chance of doing the same to the Cougars—especially if the Cougars find themselves trailing to begin with.

Prediction   

Davidson 79, College of Charleston 74

--Rick Dimon