Davidson is one of those teams which is defined by a single player. No, I don't mean Steph Curry. I'm talking about this year's team. I'm talking about a 6-0 guard named Jack Gibbs.
Gibbs is the 5th highest scoring player in the nation (23.6 ppg), and since he plays at Davidson, he draws constant comparisons with Steph Curry. But where Curry in college was a skinny shooter, Gibbs is built like a running back, and his game is predicated on getting to the rim.
He always has the ball in his hands. He uses over 34% of his team's possessions (8th most nationally), and three times this year he's gone for 40+ in a game. He's only made 34% of his 3s this year, but made 42% last year, so don't be surprised if he starts popping a bunch.
Florida State has had tremendous difficulty handling quick guards, and it is safe to say that much of FSU's prep for this game will be focused on handling him. And Davidson is coached by one of the all time greats, who will be sure to exploit this opportunity. Head Coach Bob McKillop has been at Davidson since 1989, and their court is named in his honor.
Gibbs leads an uptempo attack, which Matt covered in his quick assessment of the Wildcats on Selection Sunday. They love to attack early in the clock. This could be good or bad against an FSU team which wants to run as well. Knock down shots, and Davidson will have time to set up their defense. But if they start missing their 3s, then the game could snowball. Last night I watched their replay from play Pitt earlier in the year, and saw how quickly their 7-point first half lead became a thing of the past when their misses piled up and the Panthers were able to role on offense.
Aside from Gibbs, they have two other players in double figures. Peyton Aldridge is a "big" who can stretch the floor. He's 6-8, and so FSU can go big and overwhelm him on defense, but Aldridge loves to pop the three when Davidson has the ball, and has made 36% of his attempts this year.
Senior Brian Sullivan is the other player to watch. He's made 40% of his 3s, and 70% of his shot attempts have been from the arc.
If the 3-ball seems featured heavily in this preview, it's because 44% of Davidson's shot attempts are 3s.
The good news about this high octane team is that their defense is just awful. They are 250th nationally in defensive efficiency, which is considerably worse than any ACC team. They don't force turnovers, and because they're so small, they are 303rd nationally in 2-pt% defense. They played 13 top 100 teams this year, and 12 scored significantly more than a point per possession against the Wildcats.
This should be a fun, high tempo game. If the Noles win the 3-pt lottery, then they'll roll. If not, they could easily be one-and-done and looking to next year.
The game tips at 7 PM from the Tuck and will be broadcast on ESPN2. The first 1,000 students get in free (the NIT mandates that schools charge students, so FSU is picking up the tab), and all seats will be general admission.
The winner advances to play whoever prevails in the 1/8 game (Valparaiso vs Texas Southern). The complete bracket is here.