Monday, March 31, 2008

Davidson vs. Goliath

After a wonderful Sunday at church yesterday (sermon will be on-line soon) I spent the afternoon relaxing and watching March Madness college basketball. Deb, our Director of Member Services, already had won our office pool, in which, I hasten to add, no money was at stake. My bracket was already busted. I had picked both Duke and Michigan State to make the Final Four. I admit that I picked these two schools because whenever I root against these teams, they play amazingly. Therefore, having no money at stake I decided to pick them in my bracket on the basis of avoiding them winning fickle victories against teams I would have otherwise selected. Duke got knocked out in the first weekend while Michigan State got trounced in their third-round loss to Memphis. (I actually thought Michigan State would use their experience and tenacity to knock off Memphis, which shows how little I know.)

Yesterday afternoon I managed to catch the second half of the Memphis-Texas game, in which the second best Big 12 team in the tournament got absolutely trounced by Memphis. This wasn't at all surprising. Texas relies on the marksmanship of a pair of undersized guards, D.J. Augustin and A.J. Abrams. Memphis contested every shot these two attempted and forced them to alter the trajectory of every single 3-pointer and fade-away jumper. Forced to attempt uncomfortable shots, the pair couldn't adjust. Game over.

Of course, all of this was just preparation for the afternoon's main event: Kansas vs. Davidson. Now in my fifth year in Kansas City, I am a KU rooter. However, there is always a soft-spot in my heart for the underdog. And, what an under-dog Davidson was! Located 20 miles North of Charlotte, Davidson is a small liberal-arts college with 1,700 students. Their team includes six international players from five countries including Canada, England, France, Turkey, and Nigeria. Their tallest players who log any time on the court are only 6'8". By contrast, KU features a pair of 6' 11" centers, 6'9" and 6'8" forwards, and a 6'6" guard.

Outsized, Davidson played a frenetic and physical game fearlessly taking the ball at KU. For 40 minutes they fought for every rebound, chased every loose ball, and threw their smaller bodies around with reckless abandon. And they nearly pulled it off. Down by two, Davidson elected not to foul on KU's final possession, confident that they could get a stop. They got the stop and got the ball back with 16 ticks left on the clock.

It was only in these final moments that the Davidson Wildcats looked like the team everyone expected them to be. They drew up their final play as if they felt like they didn't belong in the game: Burn time off the clock. Get KU to commit to double-team their best player above the arc. Feed the ball to their far inferior second-best shooter and let him launch a deep 3-pointer. Hope and pray for a miracle. The rock from Davidson's sling-shot missed the eye of the basket, clanking harmlessly off the right cheek of the backboard.

Unfortunately, Davidson hoped for luck rather than playing with the confident tenacity they had displayed all afternoon. They should have played to tie and designed a play where they drove the lane with plenty of time for a second shot, a tip-in, or even a kick-out to an open shot from beyond the arc.

Best of luck to KU in the Final Four! Bring the National Championship back to Kansas!

[One final thought: Only a minister would think this, but wouldn't it be more appropriate for a small, selective liberal arts school to name themselves after David's son rather than to name themselves Davidson? After all, Solomon is the Biblical figure most regarded for wisdom. I propose they change their name to Solomon College.]