College Sports

Here are the top two things about Davidson that worry Kentucky’s John Calipari

Kentucky coach John Calipari is wary of how Davidson’s 3-point game could be the great equalizer Thursday. No. 12 seed Davidson plays No. 5 seed Kentucky on Thursday night in the 2018 NCAA basketball tournament.
Kentucky coach John Calipari is wary of how Davidson’s 3-point game could be the great equalizer Thursday. No. 12 seed Davidson plays No. 5 seed Kentucky on Thursday night in the 2018 NCAA basketball tournament. DavidsonPhotos.com

Kentucky coach John Calipari’s scouting report on Davidson Wednesday wasn’t long, but it sure made the point of how an upset could occur.

“They’re going to take 30 3-point shots. If they make 20, it has been a heck of a season for us,” Calipari said of what worries him about the 7:10 p.m. matchup Thursday on CBS.

Davidson is 28th among all Division I schools in 3-point percentage at 39.1 percent. They average slightly more than 10 3s made per game, attempting 48 percent of their total shots outside the college line. The 3-point shot can be the great equalizer in seeming NCAA mismatches.

But keep in mind Kentucky has been solid this season defending the 3, allowing just 29.9 percent made.

The other thing that concerned Calipari Wednesday was Davidson’s precision. Kentucky starts five freshmen (although all five were obviously elite recruits).

“They are a really efficient team. They are an execution team,” Calipari observed. “We’re an inexperienced team. We’re not an execution team.”

On the other end of that balance, however, is length and athleticism from Kentucky that Davidson won’t come close to matching.

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Davidson head coach Bob McKillop said he’s blown away by how dramatically Kentucky has improved this season. No. 12 seed Davidson plays No. 5 seed Kentucky on Thursday night in the 2018 NCAA basketball tournament. TIM COWIE DavidsonPhotos.com

“Length and quickness, whether you’re a guard or a big man, is going to create chaos for you,” Davidson coach Bob McKillop said of matching bodies with Kentucky.

“Now, we’ve got size, but we don’t have length and quickness. Those guys are wide receivers, those guys are defensive backs, the way they can make a break on the ball. We’re going to have challenges every position 1-through-5.”

Calipari unplugged

The NBA rule that says a United States player can’t make himself available for the draft until a year removed from high school graduation has come under fire of late. Calipari says he favors players having the option to enter the draft straight out of high school.

He doesn’t support a new system similar to college baseball, where a player either turns pro out of high school (based mostly on where he’s drafted), but if he does accept a college scholarship, he makes a multi-year commitment.

“If some kid like (former Kentucky star) Anthony Davis grows from 6-3 to 6-11, and he wants to leave (college) after a year, Ok, what’s wrong with that?” Calipari asked rhetorically.

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Davidson’s Rusty Reigel (32) knocks down a jump shot in Wednesday’s practice in Boise, Idaho. Davidson is 28 th among all Division I schools in 3-point percentage at 39.1 percent. TIM COWIE - DavidsonPhotos.com

Calipari also sees flaws in the NBA’s G-League (formerly the D-League) potentially becoming a significant alternative to college basketball for those not ready to make an NBA roster.

“A 17-year-old going to the D-League? Who is overseeing them?” Calipari asked. “What happens for these kids (compared to those who) come to college? They’ll tell you (college is) the best experience ever. I’ve never heard a kid say, ‘Man, what a great year I had in the G-League!’”

McKillop impressed

By traditional standards, Kentucky was somewhat a mess earlier this season, splitting its first 14 SEC games.

McKillop said he’s blown away by how dramatically Kentucky improved by last weekend, when they won the SEC Tournament in St. Louis.

“We’ve watched tape early (season). We’ve watched tape midseason. We watched tape late. And they seem to be getting better and better,” McKillop said. “That’s not easy. Everyone thinks, ‘If I had those kind of players, I’d have a great team.’

“But it’s not easy…and that’s why he’s a Hall of Famer, because he’s taken young men and put them together as a team.”

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Davidson head coach Bob McKillop talks to his Wildcats before Wednesday’s practice in Boise, Idaho. No. 12 seed Davidson plays No. 5 seed Kentucky on Thursday night in the 2018 NCAA basketball tournament. TIM COWIE DavidsonPhotos.com

NCAA tournament on TV

Game times and television information for Thursday’s games involving men’s basketball teams from the Carolinas:

1:20 p.m.: Gonzaga vs. UNC Greensboro, TNT

2:30 p.m.: Duke vs. Iona, CBS

4:20 p.m.: Seton Hall vs. N.C. State, TBS

7 p.m.: Kentucky vs. Davidson, CBS

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