Thursday, March 16, 2006

Another article from Charlotte Observer...surely you jest (no, I'm not jesting, and stop calling me Shirley)

Davidson aims to take down Goliath

DAVIDSON - Leading up to Davidson's opening NCAA Tournament game Friday against Ohio State, Wildcat forward Ian Johnson has been immersed in a psychology experiment.

For a school class, he's determining whether prior experience helps create better results.

He can use Friday's game as an example. Senior guard Eric Blancett is the only Davidson player to experience an NCAA Tournament game before, but the Wildcats know what it's like to face a powerful opponent.

Davidson has played national powers Duke, North Carolina and Syracuse this season, which gives the team confidence heading into Friday's 12:15 p.m. game against the Buckeyes.

"We're loose," senior guard Brendan Winters said. "You can tell the guys are feeling good."

That's in spite of long odds heading into Friday's game. Davidson is a No. 15 seed, and 15 seeds have won only four times in 84 tries against No. 2 seeds. Ohio State is an 11-point favorite, and the Buckeyes won the Big 10 regular-season championship.

The Wildcats aren't the only ones who say they can contend. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim told ESPN Radio on Monday that the Wildcats' game with Ohio State is one to watch, and ESPN analyst Jay Bilas considers the game a potential upset.

"We've tasted this kind of game in the past," Davidson coach Bob McKillop said, referring to Davidson's two wins in the NIT last season. "We know this is a do-or-die situation. ... But we are also realistic to know how talented Ohio State is. They have the complete package."

Ohio State (25-5) has five players averaging at least 10 points a game, led by center Terence Dials. Dials, the Big 10 player of the year, averages 15 points and eight rebounds a game.

But Johnson has faced that kind of player before. He's guarded Duke All-American Shelden Williams, and ACC Freshman of the Year Tyler Hansbrough of North Carolina.

"(Dials) is big and strong, but I know I have to make him do things that he doesn't want to do," Johnson said.

If Johnson can slow Dials, that could force Ohio State into taking more outside shots. The Buckeyes average eight 3-pointers a game, but Ohio State hasn't shot well in recent games. The Buckeyes have made 23 percent of their three-point shots (31-of-133) in their last five games.
"We have a lot of guys who can shoot it," Ohio State coach Thad Motta said. "As long as they are taking good, open shots, I encourage them to keep shooting."

Davidson will have to shoot well to win. The Wildcats (20-10) have eight players who can hit outside shots and can spread out the Ohio State defense.

"We won't do anything that will surprise Davidson," Motta said. "When you make a mistake on defense, they are good enough to make you pay."

That has helped the Wildcats earn national attention. USA Today featured Winters on Wednesday as one of five unknown tournament stars, and the guard said he's had at least 10 other interviews this week.

But is Davidson good enough to win Friday? USA Today analyst Danny Sheridan said the Wildcats face "25 billion to one" odds of winning the six tournament games needed to win the NCAA title.

Though the arena at the University of Dayton will have more than 10,000 Ohio State fans cheering against the Wildcats, Davidson will fight for its first NCAA Tournament win since 1969.
"Hey, at least we have odds," Winters said. "A lot of teams are sitting at home.

"Everyone expects Ohio State to win, so there is no pressure on us. But we've handled this before, there is no reason we can't do it again."

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