What is Dispatches from Blogfrica? Pretty simple: I ask questions of an blogger for an opposing team; he (or she) answers. A truly revolutionary idea, no? Today: Ben from Mid-Major Madness, SB Nation's fine blog for all things mid-major hoops.
1) Davidson went 5-4 through the first half of Atlantic 10 play, but then rattled off 9 straight wins to end the regular season and win the conference title. What clicked for Davidson in the second half of the conference season?
BEN: I think that the record for Davidson in the first half was pretty deceiving. They could have easily been 7-2 in the first half of the conference season as the losses to St. Joe's and St. Bonaventure happened late in the game. They lost those games by a total of six points, and then didn't face those teams again in the second half. So it wasn't like Davidson was playing different or playing poorly in the first half. They just had one of those strings of bad luck.
Also if you look at the schedule after those back-to-back losses, they really had a run of three games that were very winnable, although they match up badly with LaSalle and just squeaked out the win (and did it again in the A-10 Tournament). Getting a three game run like that can work wonders for confidence in what is a really young team.
Remember that this is a team that is moving up to the A-10 this year, and they are led by one senior, two juniors and a bunch of underclassmen. They should have been intimidated at the start of the conference slate, and suddenly they are winning left and right.
2) According to advanced stats, this is Davidson's best offense since 2008, when they happened to have some guy named Steph Curry running the show and making jaws drop. What makes this year's offense so lethal and so difficult to stop?
BEN: It is almost the same thing that made Curry's teams so deadly. This offense really runs off the 3-point shot, and unlike when Curry was with the Wildcats, everyone on this team can hurt you from deep. They drive the offense off of that shot.
When Curry was there, they had him to shoot the 3-point ball, and a bunch of guys to pull it down and get it back out if it didn't go in. With these guys, they don't need to worry about that, because they go in an amazing 39.3 percent of the time. It is 40 percent of the offense.
When you shoot the three that well, and do it so often, you are going to have an offense that looks like it can be a world destroyer.
3) Davidson is on the faster end of the tempo rankings; is it fair to say that they're going to want to push the pace and make this a fast-paced, up-and-down game? Since Fran McCaffery arrived at Iowa five years ago Iowa has often comfortable in fast-paced, high tempo games, but this year's team is playing at the slowest tempo (by far) of any of his Iowa teams, so they might be more comfortable in a slowed down game. How important will tempo be in this game?
BEN: When your offense drives off the 3-point shot, you are going to want to keep it running as quickly as possible so that you get more attempts because you know there will be cold spells. Davidson needs to go quickly to ensure success (assuming they hold onto the ball unlike that loss to VCU in the A-10 Tournament).
If the game slows down, they can still succeed, but that puts a lot of pressure on the shooters like Jack Gibbs, Tyler Kalinoski and Brian Sullivan, to be on. Misses become more critical and the games get a lot closer.
So I would say it is pretty damn important.
4) On paper, Iowa appears to have a pretty significant size advantage on Davidson, especially down low. How has Davidson handled other opponents with a size advantage this year? How important will Iowa's size advantage be in this game?
BEN: You know, it is funny. Five of the six shortest teams in the league were the top five teams in the standings at the end of the year, so the A-10 was really dominated by these shorter teams (including Dayton who was really close to the league title despite topping out at 6-6).
For a team that relies so much on shooting the three, you would think they would need the extra size. But they don't succeed by banging inside. They take the long shot, and they get the long rebounds when they can.
If you look at the stats for Davidson, they haven't done well just in general in things where size would help. They don't rebound offensively. They don't block shots and are prone to get their own shots blocked. They don't get to the line much because they shy away from size.
So size could get Iowa some advantage in this one, but Davidson's style of play isn't going to play into the hands of that. Maybe the biggest advantage will be on the offensive end because inside you will have pretty much the run of the lane.
5) Who are Davidson's key players? Which guys should Iowa fans be wary of in Friday's game?
BEN: Tyler Kalinoski is the guy who you are going to see and hate to see most often. He is the main offensive component of the Wildcats, and he is deadly from 3-point range, shooting 42.4 percent with more than 200 attempts. He is no slouch on defense either, even if the stats don't show it.
The under the radar guy that you might not expect to come after you is Peyton Aldridge. He is the guy with the size for Dayton, even though he is only 6-7, 205. But watch out for him because he has range that can extend the defense, going 40-for-102 from 3-point range this season. You can't leave him open like you might be able to against other power forwards / centers.
Jack Gibbs on the point might be the X-factor. He is a close defender, and isn't the kind of player that can be goaded into cheap fouls out on the perimeter. He has only made committed 48 personal fouls in 700-plus minutes this year. He will be the guy with the ball in his hands late to make the free throws if the Cats are ahead. I guess your fans should get their chants prepared.
6) OK, prediction time -- who ya got?
BEN: I would really love for Davidson to win this can keep rolling but it seems unlikely given the way that Iowa plays defense. I am going with the Hawkeyes, but it will be close, and with the 3-point threats, I wouldn't be surprised if this has one of those Jermaine Wallace moments (sorry, had to go there).
Thanks for being a good sport, Ben, but I still hope your team gets mollywhopped tomorrow. You can check out the Mid-Major Madness crew at Mid-Major Madness. You can also follow MMM on Twitter at @mid_madness. The Iowa-Davidson game is in Seattle, WA on Friday, March 20, and is scheduled to start at approximately 6:20 pm CT, with TV coverage from TNT.