Davidson's head men's basketball coach Bob McKillop was quoted in the New York Times this past weekend with an appreciative simile that coaches and sport psychologists are bound to savor. "Confidence is very fragile. It's like glass. When it drops it can break into a lot of pieces."
Fortunately for McKillop and his hoopin' Wildcats, the only traces of anything shattered were the hearts of the highly favored Hoyas from Georgetown and the attempted defensive schemes of Gonzaga. When it came down to shutting down Davidson, opponents were left with fragments of glass in themselves. Everyone knows that Stephen Curry dropped 70 in two games, but what about how his teammates handled the pressure? Try these numbers: 18 assists and 14 turnovers in the first round and then, against one of the nation's top defenses, 10 dimes and only 5 TOs! Five! In fact, in round two, Davidson created 16 more field goal attempts for itself via valued possessions and offensive boards.
Most importantly, though, the team looked and played confidently. And the red-hot Curry was the five-star spice. In the same article, McKillop went on to say that sometimes during the year his team was "more plastic" and "didn't break into pieces." Well, they now resemble hints of armor and will need their newly-created coating as they head into the round of 16 to face yet another highly rated defensive team in Wisconsin.
Confidence can come in waves. As Davidson discovered, there was a splendid splash of it in North Carolina over the weekend. The team didn't drown in the 17-point deficit against Georgetown. Somehow, as all solid teams do, it managed to play each possession and create opportunities. The physical action influenced the psychological play, and shifted the momentum. But it was the mental stability to stay with the game plan that allowed the plays to manifest.
Confidence is critical for the 16 teams left, and the further away from fragile they are the more likely they are to advance. Easier said than...well...thought.
Doc's order of favorites, based on the weekend's performances, from armor to plastic:
North Carolina - a well-balanced diet
Kansas - hungry and fast munchin' 'hawks
Louisville - Pitino's pieces are sweet
West Virginia - out to prove they aren't crumbs
Michigan State - well prepped Spartans
Washington State - structured meal
Wisconsin - a foundation too good to pass up
Davidson - upgrade the dishes from plastic