Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
Based on our preseason expectations, Davidson and Gonzaga should have been a closer game. But this Wildcats team is struggling with its identity, and this Bulldog team is proving to be one of the best in the country. We look ahead through the prism of the Old Spice Classic championship game.
At the beginning of the season, everything just seemed right for Davidson. The team had all five starters back, so much of the offense returning, a pair of player of the year candidates. You could go on and on.
At the beginning of the season, there was a set of questions surrounding Gonzaga. Could the team deal without the joining force of Robert Sacre? Could the two fabulous freshman continue in their second season? What would happen with Elias Harris? How could the two big men fit in?
Consider the questions answered, or maybe transferred from one team to the other after the finals of the Old Spice Classic in Orlando. Gonzaga walked away with a 81-67 victory that really wasn't that close. The loss dropped Davidson to 2-3 on the season, with a strange set of teams making up the list on both sides of that record.
Meanwhile, the Zags are loudly proclaiming themselves as one of the deepest and strongest teams in the country, reaching 6-0 with little issue, and probably rocketing up the rankings come Monday.
Davidson is just struggling at this point -- maybe with expectations. The shooting still hasn't come together, as was witnessed by a 29 percent first half performance by the Wildcats.
That was after starting hot from the floor and challenging the inside presence of the Bulldogs. But once Davidson each 13 points, the lid fell down onto the basket. And the Wildcats started fouling, and fouling, and fouling.
In some ways, the buildup of fouls that plagues the team was a blessing and a curse. It meant that the team had to finds its way without Jake Cohen, and then without De'Mon Brooks. It couldn't count on the two stars to bail them out of the whole the collective group had dug.
It begs the question of what is wrong with Jake Cohen, who hasn't exactly been himself in the middle for the Wildcats. He has been prone to foul trouble, not just in this game, but in so many of the games throughout this tournament. Against West Virginia, it didn't cost Davidson.
But against a taller, deeper squad, it was a clear disadvantage as there was no opportunity to put anything together inside.
Brooks needed the help from Cohen to distract the defense, and he hasn't gotten that yet. When that happens, Davidson will once again be the dominant team that had me convinced they could challenge deep into the NCAA Tournament.
This is a team that has already let its at-large bid chances slip away, while its conference rivals have racked up the wins that should have belonged to the Cats. Now it is all about the Southern Conference season, and finding its way through this odd storm to begin the year.
That is the opposite case with Gonzaga. When the first computer rankings are released here tomorrow, it is entirely possible that the Bulldogs will hold one of the top three spots.
Part of that is being undefeated. But a lot of that is how that undefeated record has come about. This has been a dominating team that has had very little to worry about.
The only blip on the radar so far came when Olynyk joined the team for the first game of the tournament against Clemson. The offense struggled to find a way to include the big man in its plans. As a result, the whole team suffered.
But three days later, that is not an issue. The offense has found its groove with multiple players finding ways to contribute. Tonight belonged to Kevin Pangos (23 points, including four deadly second half 3-pointers), and Elias Harris (24 points).
But through the tournament, that player has shifted around the team. The depth of this team is unstoppable, especially in the paint.
You can't even get one man into foul trouble; you have to get three or more for it to have an impact.
Talk about the first impressions of this team being incorrect. This is a squad built to take on any team in the country. It can run. It can shoot. It can defend the post.
As a result, they go home as the champions of the Old Spice Tournament, and should have a head full of confidence. With so much heft still to come on the schedule, this could be a team that is more than special given what it has accomplished so far.
This group could be headed for the No. 1 ranking overall.