Michigan Kicks off the 2014 NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament with Wofford. The game is on CBS.
[EDIT: Normally, I don't dabble in making decisions about diary-worthy stuff, but I definitely think this is worthy - LSA]
Wofford – A First-hand preview - I didnt realize how much I wrote until I was done... If this should be a Diary or something, I am so, so, sorry.
I made the drive from Atlanta up to Charlotte for a Davidson game about a month or so ago. We chose the Wofford game, as they seemed to be one of the more competitive teams in the conference, and were close enough to the end of the schedule that Davidson would be playing with something on the line. I had signed to play athletics at Davidson back in November (humble-brag alert!), but had not attended any athletic events, as my recruiting trip was on a Friday-Saturday when the football team was out of town. So we wanted to go see a game to get the feel of the campus on a big weekend, and watch some good basketball. It was a great time, Davidson ended up prevailing in what was a low scoring affair, 59-49. At the time I would have thought that Davidson would be playing Michigan in a hypothetical tournament game, not Wofford. But that is not how it all worked out, as Davidson was bounced by Western Carolina in the semifinals of their conference tournament.
Here are some general facts to know about Wofford:
Name: Wofford College
Type of School: Private, Liberal Arts
Location: Spartanburg, South Carolina. About 45 minutes east of Greenville.
Size: 1,600 students (approximately)
Conference: Southern Conference (from here on referred to as the SoCon)
Wofford has a very nice, tree-filled campus, and is very academically challenging. I visited there, and was very impressed with the nice, small campus feel, and the mix of old and new buildings. They have a great student body, and a spirited and devoted alumni base.
Athletically, Wofford has been very competitive in the major sports within their conference, and nationally, especially within the last few years. Their football team is always a tough game in the SoCon (the conference that produced Appalachian State and Georgia Southern, who are now going FBS), and won conference championships in 2003, 2007, and 2010.
Their best sport is by far baseball, where they have put a good deal of players in the MLB.
Wofford was never good in basketball until very recent. In the ’09-’10 season, they won the SoCon, and made the NCAA tournament for the first time. They got a 13 seed, and almost knocked off Wisconsin, losing 49-53. The next year, in the ’10-’11 season, they made the tournament once again, this time losing by 10 to BYU. This year will mark their third appearance all time.
The game: To truly understand the Davidson-Wofford game, a little background is needed. Wofford came into that game (at Davidson) having won 9 straight games, all of them in-conference. It must be noted that the SoCon was particularly horrid this year, with 3 or 4 decent teams, and then just a bunch of horrid teams for those 4 decent ones to feast on. Davidson entered that game equally hot, having won 12 of their last 13 games (the lone loss being in OT against Elon). This game also held conference championship impliactions.
The atmosphere was pretty hyped up, as this was one of the best home games of the year for Davidson. Davidson has a small lineup this year – they run a 4 guard lineup, and their starters are by height: 6-7, 6-7, 6-6, 6-4, and 5-11, with nobody with any significant height on the bench. They have a bunch of 3 shooting stretch 3.5 types. The only exception is senior De’Mon Brooks. At 6’7”, 230lbs, De’Mon won the SoCon player of the year award. He absolutely dominated inside all year, and the Wofford game was no exception.
The first half started out great for Davidson, with a couple of threes bookended around some layups and dunk, and Wofford was forced to call a timeout at the 13:00 mark, down 13-3. The Terriers had no ball movement, and would often get the ball “stuck” on one side of the court without moving it around. They relied almost solely on individual creation by their guard Karl Cochran, as he started off cold from the field. On the defensive end, they left a couple trailing shooters open for good looks, which Davidson capitalized on. Most of the buckets Davidson made early were either off turnovers, in transition, or just off of transition before the Wofford defense could get set. Davidson runs an offense with 4 guards around the perimeter and De’Mon down low, but with hardly any ball screen action from the big, unlike Michigan. After that timeout, Davidson made a few more buckets, and then began to get sloppy, and a lid went on the basket. Wofford did three things with the score at 6-19:
1: They went right at De’Mon Brooks three straight trips down the floor, got him with two fouls, and forced him to the bench
2: They began foregoing offensive rebounds in order to get back in transition, and
3: started running Davidson off the three point line. Davidson doesn’t have superior athletes to drive the paint a lot, and their offense sputtered.
A couple of threes later, and Wofford’s offense was clicking. They channel their offense through three main players: guards Spencer Collins, Karl Cochran, and forward Lee Skinner. These three players played 35, 35, and 36 minutes respectively, which was 10 more than any other player on the team. Those three accounted for 13 of the next 20 points for Wofford, who went on a 20-2 run. Davidson was able to beat the buzzer with a three to keep it tied at the half, 26-26. Davidson had several good looks from the outside, but was unable to knock them down. If the Michigan big men go out or aren’t playing well, our ability to stretch the floor and shoot will be crucial, as Wofford ran both man-to-man, and a 2-3 zone. They ran kind of a sagging man to man that didn’t switch a lot. It was definitely a man defense with some zone elements incorporated. They did not display a tendency to pressure the ball on the way up until late in the game, which is something everyone does.
In the second half, with De’Mon Brooks back in the game, Davidson was able to play their game. The went inside out, throwing it into Brooks, and letting him shoot or kick. He is much better finishing version of Jordan Morgan. I can’t help but think that Mitch could tear this team up if he was healthy, with his distribution skills out of the post position. Davidson started on a 20-10 run over the first 10:00 of play in the second half. Brooks was the key here, registering at least 4 “hockey assists” on passes out of the post.
But with 5:00 to play, Wofford brought it back to a 3 point game, down 45-48. A key block inside by Brooks fueled a Davidson run, and they would hold Wofford to only one point for the next 4:30, with the final score being 59-49. Down the stretch, Wofford turned into a “Karl Cochran go do something while we stand here” team, and after a lot of late shot clock attempts didn’t go in, the game was all but over.
Key Stats and Notes:
· Guards Karl Cochran and Spencer Collins are the guys for Wofford. Wofford’s success goes as those two go.
· Cochran is 6-1, 175, but looks bigger. Collins is an accurate 6-4, 195, but plays most of his game on the perimeter. Cochran, while smaller, is a much better rebounder.
· In this particular contest, Cochran and Collins went a combined 11-29 from the field.
· Karl Cochran had a particularly bad night from three, hitting only 1/8, while Collins hit 3/5.
· Wofford isn’t a particularly big team- the rest of their starting lineup is 6-8, 6-6, and 5-11. Their most used benched players are 6-6, 6-6, 6-2, and 6-3. Not tiny, but no dominating force.
· Davidson’s De’Mon Brooks finished 6-6 from the field, 6-7 from the line, and with 18 pts, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists.
· Wofford shot free throws at a 67% clip (10/15)
· Davidson was able to take 14 threes, and make 6 of them. These were mostly wide open looks.
· Wofford is well coached, doesn’t turn it over or foul a ton, and their coach isn’t afraid to make adjustments.
· Wofford doesn’t have names on the back of their jerseys.
The tips for Michigan:
· Penn State is the closest comparison I can make to Wofford on Michigan’s schedule with two good guards that run the show and not a lot of size and skill on the inside. Granted, Wofford is a worse version of Penn State. A slightly worse version of Penn State that’s won 11 of their last 13 games.
· Morgan, GRIII the keys. GRIII will be matched up against someone he can physically take to the rim and push around a little. Morgan will have to play a role of rebounding and distribution- not looking to score. This is something he can do.
· Put LeVert on Cochran. Let LeVert guard him. Davidson had a slow, Albrecht-esque defender on him, and time and time again had to rely on a double team because he was blowing past the defender. LeVert shouldn’t have an issue.
· Unleash Irvin/Stauskas. Let it rain from deep! Death from above! Let the threes happen! Both of these guys will have plenty of opportunities especially if Michigan is able to
· RUN! Get out in transition! Davidson did that very well until Wofford shut it down, and they are a relatively slow team.
· Finally, let Walton use his speed. I was not impressed by the Wofford point guard, a guy named Eric Garcia. They let Cochran run the show most of the time, but Walton should be able to take Garcia to the hoop and finish/distribute. Also would like to see some of that extended 1-3-1 to harass these guards.
I hope this covered it! I wrote literally everything I could remember. If anyone in the comments has questions about this game or anything else, please ask, and I’ll be happy to respond! I probably missed something. Go Blue!!! (and go Davidson in the NIT. Yaaaay!)