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4th Watts & Base Rich
After an extended trial with WordPress, we’ve decided to return to Tumblr for good.
Find us back at http://leftyslegacy.tumblr.com.
4th Watts & Base Rich
Last year at this time, I was with my family in Charleston, a city that my family has often favored during the holidays, and preparing to write a post on the infamous “Triangle and Two” defense that Loyola Maryland devised to stop Stephen Curry. This year, with my parents having recently made a recession-influenced decision to move from Atlanta to Houston, our house in Charleston is perhaps the closest thing to home that I have. This week, however, we’ve descended on Houston, eager to see my parents try to assimilate themselves to the Texas state of mind, but nostalgic for the familiarity and historic comfort of the lowcountry.
I considered making the drive from Washington, DC to Charleston last weekend to see the team in action, cognizant of the fact that Davidson hadn’t lost in Charleston in more than five years. Indeed, the city had become a sort of idyllic destination for Davidson basketball teams over the past few years. Winning came easily, and the scenery was far more palatable than Socon trips to Boone or Greensboro.
But last weekend’s trio of losses down south, excepting the promising play of the freshmen, ushered in the stark reality that Davidson is in something of a “rebuilding” mode, having gone 0-4 for the first time in 10 years.
The term “rebuilding,” despite its ubiquity in the context of sports parlance, is not something we’re used to as Davidson fans. Davidson’s recruiting, while obviously less glamorous than bigger schools, has been remarkably consistent and stable over the last decade. When Seniors graduate, underclassmen, having undergone rigorous mentoring and practice, are usually able to step in rather seamlessly and assume their new role. This year, obviously, things are different.
When Stephen Curry left for the NBA, I didn’t think much about how his premature departure would upset the cyclic and fragile nature of Davidson’s recruiting schedule. In fact, Steph’s presence as a Senior had been counted on far before he became an NBA prospect. Sure, Kuhlman looks great, and Cohen is quickly becoming one of Davidson’s best scorers, but these guys weren’t supposed to have to assume so much of the offensive workload so early in their young college careers.
Going 0-4 hurts, but it’s hard to be too surprised. With great success comes new challenges…and in this case, Davidson is facing a rare gap in recruiting that should be fixed within a year or two (especially considering some of the excellent recruits headed to Davidson in the near future).
Next week, Davidson returns to Charleston for two tough conference games against the Citadel and C of C. I’d love to be there, but instead will be following remotely in any way that I can — like last night, when my family gathered in Texas to celebrate the holiday, imbibing various cocktails and munching hors d’oeuvres, all the while tolerating my insistence on maintaining the John Kilgo internet feed crackling in the background.
Happy Thanksgiving to my friend Base Rich, still enduring a year-long writer’s block, and to any other hapless fanatic who finds himself perusing this blog during the holiday.
Could this year’s Davidson basketball team be better than last year’s? That was one of a flurry of anxious thoughts that raced through my head as I watched Saturday’s unexpected performance against Butler. And there’s that whole expectations thing again. Last year, Davidson lost to Butler by nearly the exact same score (actually, we did a bit better this year…on the road, against a supposed better team). But my post-game emotions this year are basically opposite from last February.
The result against Butler last season provoked a hopeless feeling; last Saturday’s game, on the contrary, made me feel significantly hopeful. Last year’s game was a sloppy version of Davidson basketball, too reliant on one player who was off his game due to injury and fatigue; this year’s game featured more than a few moments of perfect Bob McKillop basketball — an energized and balanced offense, crisp passing, smart cuts, excellent rebounding, and tough defense. I could be biased given the negativity that pervades my reflections on last season, but the team on Saturday reminded me more of 2008 than last year’s team ever did.
I want to be careful here not to lay the blame for the lost 2009 season on #30. We all know that Bob McKillop’s successful incorporation of Steph’s greatness into the Davidson system was what made 2008’s team one of the very best in the nation. Last year, we got away from the system, and relied too much on one guy. From the beginning, I attributed this more to the void that Jason Richards’ graduation created, rather than Steph being a ballhog in any way. Realistically, there was no one to replace Richards other than Steph. Unfortunately, there was no one to replace Steph either — so he had to do it all. Out of necessity. Without him, last year’s team might have been mediocre.
This season, things are different. Base Rich would advise me to temper my enthusiasm, but it’s already apparent that JP Kuhlman and Jake Cohen are ready to make a major impact. I kept reminding myself that this was the first collegiate game…ever…for these guys. They looked confident and prepared, and obviously very skilled. Kuhlman was the biggest surprise for me. I knew he could shoot. I didn’t know he could play the point the way he did. Cohen was as advertised…tall, quick, and offensively gifted.
Midway through the second half, my heart started racing rapidly. I had that feeling again…the what if? What if Davidson could pull off this shocker? There were points in this game when I felt almost cocky, as a fan. The team had a swagger that everyone in the world told them they ought not have, and it felt good to see that again.
Davidson Basketball is back, and I’m psyched to see where this team can go.
Recently, my silent compatriot and I have wondered…what to make of this season? And, less importantly, but perhaps more urgent for our selfish purposes, what to make of Lefty’s Legacy? As Davidson’s men’s basketball team draws closer to its season opener on the road against a top ranked Butler team, a momentary existential pause seems appropriate. Base Rich is in a tortured state, remembering that the final result of the game against Butler last February effectively stamped out the unrealistically hopeful flame that had burned in Davidsonians’ hearts since that magical run in 2008. Our expectations had gotten the better of us, and perhaps the team as well, according to some post-season interviews. When that game ended, Base Rich, having traveled the distance from Boston to DC to watch in my tiny efficiency, declared half-truthfully, “I believe in nothing.”
In the sports world, writers and fans futiley spend the preaseason trying to make sense of the unknown by offering up a myriad of tired predictions and cliches. I’ve read far too many already about this team. The standard line from the sports writers, that uneducated lot, foresees a season of utter disappointment for a team that just lost the best player in school history to the NBA. Some predict that Davidson will finish in the middle of the pack in the Southern Conference…something that I have yet to witness since my first days as a Davidson student, more than eight years ago.
And then there are the “true” fans who point to Bob McKillop as a God among men, a coach who can turn water into wine, much like he did after losing an entire starting roster of Seniors in 2005 (nevermind the fact that that was the year that Curry arrived). Michael Kruse, perhaps the most prolific and dedicated of all Davidson basketball writers, urges that these are the times when Coach McKillop does his best work.
I guess I have to identify with the latter camp here. As an alum, and current obsessive fan, I can’t help but dream of this team shocking the world tomorrow in Indiana. Then again, the last two seasons have taught me to be wary of looking too far into the future. Part of what made 2008 so enjoyable was that it was so unexpected. As fans, we jumped on the ever-ascending roller coaster of that season and enjoyed every minute of it, not taking anything for granted, and refusing to look too far ahead. Last year, on the other hand, our minds fast-forwarded to March before the season even began. Every game, every moment, was a means to an end. We no longer cared about the journey, but instead wanted that instant gratification — we craved the high of NCAA Tournament success, and lost perspective on the importance of the unique path that could get us there.
This year, I don’t know what to expect, but I do know that I will try to watch and follow this team the way I did prior to 2008. At the risk of sounding tacky and dramatic, there is something about this program, about being part of this story, that makes my allegiance to this team feel oddly important to my life. Perhaps it is that persistent existential self-reflection, so common to my generation in these tough times, that forces me to derive meaning from places as contrived as a basketball court. Or, maybe there really is something to this whole Davidson basketball thing…something inherently good and purposeful, that makes dedication to this team feel almost like a higher calling.
Then again, to return to earth, it could just be that I’m sick and tired of watching those damned Golden State Warriors on channelsurfing late at night.
Tomorrow…I think we’ve got a shot.
Fearing the worst, I began packing lunches a week ago, forgoing my midday Baja Fresh burrito for a risky salmonella-tainted PB&J and a fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt (you can buy about 10 of these for $3 at the local Teet). Becoming increasingly desperate last weekend, I walked past my staple Sam Adams and Magic Hat in the beer aisle, and hastily grabbed a six-pack of vomit-flavored Rolling Rock, knowing that those $3 saved could be the difference between a fully-loaded sausage and a stale pretzel during halftime of Davidson’s Sweet Sixteen game.
I know that Davidson, and all dominant teams for that matter, maintains its success by adopting a game-by-game approach to the season, but with the Wildcats achieving win #20 last night against UNC-Greensboro, I’d be foolish not to start prepping for the road that lies ahead.
After spending recklessly on a couple of draft brews after watching the Wildcats’ ugly romp in the Coliseum last night, I returned home determined to renew my focus, and forced myself to suffer through the recap of last season’s final loss to Kansas.
With the pain from that bitter defeat recalled, and my March fervor for Davidson reawakened, I e-mailed my long-lost partner Base Rich, asking:
can we do it again?
Expecting little in return to appease my now rabid obsession with avenging last year’s disappointment in Detroit, I arrived at work with a six-paragraph reply in my inbox. I’ll save the nitty gritty details for Base Rich’s next post, but his conclusion was apt:
We can definitely do it again. We won’t if we shoot like we did last night.
Last night. The ugly: 38% from the field, 6-27 from three, 15-27 from the line, 13 turnovers. Can’t get much worse. Still won by 21 points.
Last season, the Socon regular season yielded a total of eight 20+ point wins for Davidson. This season, six of our last seven Socon games have resulted in 20+ point victories. Still seven games to go. I like where this is headed.
Cheap bars are apt to engage in a familiar advertising ploy, namely, the “recession special,” for which they offer especially tasteless beer for even less money than usual (but still more than your nearby 7/11). During times of actual economic crisis, this little gimmick becomes more serious, as anxious citizens become more needy of alcohol and social bonding but less able to pay for it. Today, as the world struggles through these hard times, Davidson Basketball has become my personal salve — a recession (or depression) special that brings more lasting joy and less pain to my wallet than a trip downstairs for a 6-pack of something I can’t afford.
While I actually do pay a somewhat high fee for my twice-weekly dose of Wildcat euphoria, first in cash since I’m a subscriber to multiple online video feeds, and also in sleep-debt as thoughts of March delight and nightmares of Socon tragedy keep me awake late at night, the payoff is priceless. Tonight’s 75-foot Curry bomb at the halftime buzzer? It’s good for what ails you. Saturday’s romp over Wofford? Made me feel happy inside. Last week’s 40 point destruction of the poor Paladins? Gave me the giggles.
When I’m in a rut, I know where to turn. Feeling angry and frustrated at work? Remedy: Frank Ben-Eze super-swat and monster dunk. Hopeless and uncertain about the future? Impossibly long Curry three will set the world right again. Lonely and missing close friends? Highlights of a special night at MSG with my old Davidson roommates reminds me to be thankful.
Indeed, this once youthful team has grown up, showing a maturity and confidence that last season’s team was only just beginning to understand at this time a year ago. To be sure, 10 important Socon games remain, as well as what looks to be an enormous matchup with Butler in late February. But shades of March excitement have begun to creep back into my daily consciousness, rekindling a passionate and giddy sense of anticipation for what lies in the future for this year’s Davidson squad.
For now, I’ll continue to soak in each game, taking nothing for granted and remembering that the Davidson teams of yore (2 years ago) rarely pummeled Socon foes by 20+ points on a nightly basis. It’s hard to be an unhappy person for long when you’re a die-hard Davidson fan, continuously amazed at what this small school has accomplished, and cognizant that come March, its basketball team can do all things.
The reaction of the College of Charleston fans to last night’s loss to Davidson was priceless…well, maybe not priceless, but worth little more than the $2 or $3 that they charge for a hot dog down at that new arena in Charleston. The C of C mob launched hot dogs at the court just before the game ended, thereby suspending play briefly, whilst ruining a perfectly good frank. So much for southern hospitality.
Meanwhile BR and I were in our respective bars – BR in Nashville, and me here in Arlington, VA – trying to stomach a frustratingly close game, all the while texting one another furiously from possession to possession. As usual, BR got peeved at me when I nostalgically hearkened back to the steady hand of Jason Richards. “I don’t think about that,” he texted with obvious disdain. I know I can be a bit unstable during games, often riding an emotional roller coaster with each swing in momentum. One minute, you’ll see me leaping in the air with Curry admiration, the next, i’ll be slumped in my chair cursing negatively at an ill-advised Barr jumper or a ticky-tack Rossiter foul. Whenever my personality clashes with BR (as it so often does), it’s up to one of us to stoically remind the other: “Solidarity.”
Solidarity is easy to discount during a Socon toilet flushing, but it was a lifeline during and after that dismal loss to Purdue last week. With the game far out of reach, most CBS affiliates switched to UConn v. Gonzaga. The station at my location kept the Davidson game on, and in masochistic fashion, I watched till the final second had expired off the clock, believing in a Curry miracle until the end. BR’s feed was one of the many that switched, and I dutifully recounted the play-by-play for him and his family over the phone. That’s solidarity.
But having gone off-track by paying the obligatory lip-service to a loss that we all deserved (see, e.g., my most recent “Superstar” post), I return to the task at hand: castigating those hapless spectators who paid double disrespect to their hot dogs — first, by somehow not eating the things by the time the game was nearly over, and second, by flipping the uneaten beef and bun onto the hardwood. Seriously, did those fans really think Davidson would NOT win their 38th straight Socon contest? Yeah, we’ve been struggling recently…but…that’s 38 consecutive wins. 38. I don’t care if your frank is microwaved or even straight out of the refrigerator; it deserves more than a kamikaze flight path from row 35.
Admittedly, I’m a little bit concerned about the 79-75 margin of victory. But not as concerned as I am with BR’s habit of putting ketchup on his hot dog. As if the sodium dosage of a dog isn’t bad enough, spraying some liquid red salt on top generates more hypertension than watching Curry get hit with four offensive fouls before burying Duke with a trio of 35-foot daggers down the stretch. I prefer my dogs dressed “Chicago Style.” In fact, on my way out of Detroit next spring, I may need to make a stop in the Windy City to celebrate.