Preview & Prediction: By Fairway Jay
A terrific Tuesday at Madison Square Garden, as we'll be entertained by a pair of feature games on ESPN. Davidson (6-1) will tip-off against West Virginia (6-1) in the first game of the Jimmy V Classic. West Virginia was invited in part because of the appeal of head coach Bob Huggins. Davidson, of course, brings in the nation's leading scorer and one of the great talents in college basketball. A little guard at a small school, Stephen Curry burst onto the national scene during last year’s NCAA tournament. This year the superstar is averaging 31ppg and dishing out over 6 assists per contest while taking over at point guard. The great coaching mind of Huggins will test his team’s temperament and work a plan to slow the uncanny Stephen Curry.
One coach implemented a plan to stop Curry this season and it was Loyola Maryland’s Jimmy Patsos, who elected to double team Curry the entire game. Curry simply stood in the corner with two Loyola Maryland players keeping him company and watched his teammates win a game of 4 on 3 in a 78-48 win. Curry came back the next game and scored a career-high 44 points in the win over NC State. Huggins will not employ this tactic but like other coach’s who have faced the scoring machine, Huggins may apply a box and one defense against Curry. Huggins said he definitely plans on rotating players and using fresh bodies to guard Curry. Despite constant attention and contested shots Curry has still hit over 50% of his shots while piling up points. And keeping his teammates involved. Curry has increased his shooting percentage and scoring each season since averaging over 21ppg as a freshmen.
Against a solid Big East team Curry will need more help from his teammates to pick up a victory over West Virginia. Senior forward Andrew Lovedale has doubled his scoring and rebounding production this season (14ppg/10rpg), as has junior forward Stephen Rossiter (7ppg/7rpg). Rossiter has been in some foul trouble this season, and Davidson needs all starters to play more minutes against West Virginia.
West Virginia is led by its only two double-digit scorers in Da’Sean Butler (14ppg) and Alex Ruoff (14ppg). Butler is 6-7 and can play inside or out and Ruoff is a three point specialist that finished third in the Big East in 3 point shooting last season (41%). Like Curry these two need help to get wins for their team and it looks like freshmen Devin Ebanks is ready to step up. Ebanks fell into Huggins lap when Indiana let him out of his commitment after the Kelvin Sampson debacle and he looks like he could be a good one. He scored 10 points and pulled down 17 rebounds last game against Cleveland State, both season high’s along with 29 minutes played. He’s becoming more comfortable with his teammates, and coach Huggins is still working through a few different rotations. He used all 12 players in the first half versus Cleveland State. Starting point guard Joe Mazzulla remains day to day with a shoulder injury, and his backup Darryl ‘Truck’ Bryant was on the bench next to Huggins most the game against Cleveland State. Huggins wants to see more energy and inspired play from the touted freshman. Bryant, Ebanks and key reserve forward Kevin Jones are all freshman who play significant minutes and all three are New York area recruits. Whatever rotation Huggins uses, look for West Virginia to extend the passing lanes and rotate some bigger bodies to make Curry take harder shots.
Stephen Curry is no stranger to bright lights. Most fans remember him leading Davidson to NCAA tournament wins over Gonzaga, Georgetown and Wisconsin before coming up a basket short against eventual national champion Kansas. However, West Virginia is a rugged Big East team that relies on defensive strength and rebounding and has a depth advantage over Davidson. Both teams have been efficient offensively this season, and Davidson clearly likes to push the pace more. West Virginia did struggle in the second half against Kentucky with more pressure defense, and both these teams have been pretty solid on the defensive end in the early season. Coach Huggins will have a scheme to slow down Curry, and West Virginia will be more content with slowing the pace and using their aggressive defense and interior strength to grind out a close win.
Winner: West Virginia Margin: 2-5 points
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About Fairway Jay
Previews & Predictions
Jay Ginsbach, also known as "Fairway Jay’"joins the CHN team and staff this season from Sportsmemo.com. He’ll provide his insight and expertise covering the college basketball scene with periodic thoughts from a Las Vegas perspective.