As #9 seeded Davidson enters the Atlantic 10 tournament, they hope to put together a run that ends with a postseason berth. As it stands, the Wildcats (15-14, 8-10 A-10) are unlikely to continue their season unless they make a ton of noise in Pittsburgh. The bookend to the excellent career of First Team All-Conference guard Jack Gibbs hinges on the capability of Davidson to defy expectations and run the table all the way through Selection Sunday. Before they open up tourney play against #8 seed La Salle, here are the three keys for Bob McKillop’s team to contend for an A-10 title this weekend.
1. Gibbs and Peyton Aldridge need to be their All-Conference selves
Together, Gibbs and Aldridge are one of the best offensive duos in the entire nation. While Gibbs is quick, can create shots, and wreaks havoc all over Davidson’s end of the floor, Aldridge is smooth, methodical and rarely makes mistakes around the basket. Together they average 42.6 PPG and account for 57.5% of the Wildcats’ total offense. If Davidson is going to make a splash in Pittsburgh, these two stars will need to step up and play to their full potential.
The reality is, Gibbs normally needs the ball to be effective and this can pose a problem for the fluidity of the offense as a whole. However, he has shown the ability to work effectively in tandem with Aldridge, particularly on the kick and drive and in feeding Aldridge on the low post. Both of these game plans must be functioning effectively if Davidson is to succeed going forward in the tournament.
2. Who will step up as the third offensive threat?
Given the duo threat of Gibbs-Aldridge, there’s a vacuum to be filled for an alternative scoring option. As it stands, Will Magarity, who has been heating up as of late, is third on the team with 8.7 PPG. He’s followed by freshman guard Jon Axel Gudmundsson who averages 7.9. If the opposing defense doubles on Aldridge in the block and is physical with Gibbs, Davidson is going to need other guys to step up and contribute on offense. Magarity and Gudmundsson seem like the clear candidates to fill that role but their effectiveness heavily hinges on their ability to hit the three.
Magarity, while 6-11, likes to shoot the ball from outside but at times can struggle to be effective in that role. Gudmundsson takes 3.7 threes per game but hasn’t made one since the Wildcats’ loss at Richmond on Feb. 21. Davidson needs these guys to shoot well from beyond the arc as 37% of the team’s points result from three-pointers. Rusty Reigel and KiShawn Pritchett also have the potential to step up but will likely be in a more reserved role.
3. Defense. Defense. Defense.
Looking primarily at Davidson’s opening round game against La Salle, the Wildcats are going to need to find a way to keep the Explorers contained on defense. In their last matchup, La Salle put up 91 points beyond 29 from Jordan Price while the team as a whole shot 57.4% from the field. The majority of these points came from inside the paint on high percentage buckets driving the lane. Davidson will need Aldridge and Magarity to protect the rim at all costs to keep the scoring low. There’s no doubt that the Wildcats have the offensive power to put up big numbers, but they must get stops in order to turn the tide in their favor.