Has there been a time when the Kentucky Wildcats were picked to get upset in the first round more than people are choosing to take the Davidson Wildcats to shock the world tonight? I get it, Davidson is the sexy pick. They’ve won 11 of their last 13 games, including knocking off top-25 Rhode Island twice during that span, and a conference tournament championship.
Somehow, they’re still getting some favor in the hearts of neutral fans from their improbable run to the Elite 8 in 2008 when Steph Curry was scoring from everywhere on the floor. However, the Wildcats haven’t won an NCAA Tournament game since Curry left, have only been in the tournament three times since then, and Curry ain’t walking through that door tonight.
Head Coach Bob McKillop has been manning the sidelines at Davidson for 29 seasons now, reaching the tournament multiple times during his tenure. Let’s take a look at the probable starting lineup for the Wildcats tonight.
#23 Peyton Aldridge, Senior Forward, 6’8″
Peyton Aldridge has started every single game for the Davidson Wildcats since stepping on campus nearly four years ago, and tonight will be start number 130 on his career. Aldridge was named to the Atlantic 10’s 2nd Team All-Conference last season and won Co-Player of the Year this season. Including this season, he’s led the team in rebounding for three straight years.
A top 20 scorer in the nation, Aldridge is leading the team with 21.5 points per game, to go along with leading the team in rebounds with 7.8 and blocks at 0.6. He can fill it up from anywhere on the floor, hitting 39.4% of his threes this season and 84.8% of his free throws. Aldridge has gone for 30+ points a total of five times this season, including a 45 point outburst in a triple OT game against St. Bonaventure.
It is clear that defending Aldridge is the most important match up for Kentucky in tonight’s game. At 6’8″ and 225 pounds, he has the build of a forward, but his skill set stretches all over the floor. Kentucky’s PJ Washington and Wenyen Gabriel will be tasked with not picking up fouls against the perimeter abilities of Aldridge. I think a bigger task is having Aldridge try to defend Washington in the post, which is a match up that Coach Cal may look to, to assert Kentucky’s post presence early.
#31 Kellan Grady, Freshman Guard, 6’5″
Kellan Grady was a four-star prospect coming out of Northfield Mount Hermon in Boston, but wasn’t even ranked in the top 100 by most services. However, Grady has made the most of his first collegiate season, earning the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year award, being named to the All-Rookie team in the A-10, and was named second-team all conference.
Any scoring that Peyton Aldridge doesn’t provide for the Wildcats usually comes from Grady. He’s second on the team with 18 points per game, to go along with 3.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists. Like most of the players logging minutes for Davidson, Grady can hit the outside shot, making 37.7% of his threes and 79.8% of his free throws.
As a freshman, Grady has stepped into the role of the starting two-guard nicely for Coach McKillop. He’s not the primary ball-handler, but he is heavily involved in the flow of the offense. He’ll match up with Kentucky’s Hamidou Diallo to start tonight’s game, but expect a heavy dose of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as well, when Quade Green checks into the game as the second guard.
#3 Jon Axel Gudmudsson, Sophomore Guard, 6’4″
Jon Axel Gudmudsson is now a two year starter for the Davidson Wildcats. The native of Grindavik, Iceland attended high school at Fjölbrautaskóli Suðurnesja (Say that 10 times fast), but played a lot of basketball for Iceland’s national team growing up. He has been one of the better point guards in the Atlantic 10 conference for two years.
The sophomore seems to be everywhere on the floor for the Wildcats, and he truly does it all. He’s scoring 13 points, dishing out a team-high 5.1 assists, and pulling down 6.1 rebounds per game. He also leads the team with 1.4 steals per game. Another strong shooter, as Gudmudsson is knocking down 39.6% of his threes and 79.8% of his foul shots on the year. Nearly half of the shots he’s attempted this season have been from beyond the arc.
Gudmudsson stands at just 6’4″ and 190 pounds, but that doesn’t stop him from having a nose for the ball coming off the boards. His match up with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Quade Green will be big today, as he’s the straw the stirs the drink that is this Davidson offense. Gudmudsson is a good defender, but if Shai can get to the rim the way he was able to in the SEC Tournament, Kentucky will have a stranglehold on the game, especially down the stretch.
#20 KiShawn Pritchett, Sophomore Guard, 6’6″
KiShawn Pritchett sat out his entire freshman season due to injury, but was able to use a medical redshirt to retain his eligibility. In his second freshman season, he was a part-time starter for Coach McKillop, starting 16 of 33 games on the year. This year, the redshirt sophomore from Lake Norman High School in Mooresville, North Carolina has been promoted to a full-time starter.
Outside of the top three starters, the statistical contributions for the rest of the Davidson roster take a huge dip. While Pritchett’s stats of 5.9 points, 3.4 assists, and 2.2 rebounds per game aren’t huge, he’s still a huge threat to knock down perimeter jumpers. Pritchett has made 42.5% of his threes on the year, as well as 22 of his 24 attempted free throws.
Pritchett is the third starting guard for the Davidson Wildcats, but he’s the biggest of the three at 6’6″ and 225 pounds. His match up will be with Kentucky’s Kevin Knox. This is a match up that Knox brings a 3-inch height advantage to, meaning he should be able to shoot over Pritchett from anywhere on the floor. Look for Knox to take advantage of the mismatch for easy buckets.
#15 Oskar Michelsen, Senior Forward, 6’9″
Oskar Michelsen had started a combined 21 games through the first three years of his career, but has eclipsed that mark with 32 starts in his senior season alone. The Helsinki, Finland native attended Makelanrinne Sports High, and also was the captain for the U-18 Finland national team.
Similarly to Pritchett, Michelsen’s stats aren’t going to jump off the page at anyone looking at the box scores. He’s scoring 5.5 points per contest and pulling down 2.5 rebounds. He’s the fifth starter who has the ability to spot up behind the three point arc, hitting 39.6% of his attempted threes on the year. He has made 19 of his 26 attempted free throws on the season.
Despite being 6’9″ and the tallest player in the starting lineup for the Wildcats, Michelsen weighs just 220 pounds and is the furthest thing from a back to the basket post player. He’s more of a stretch forward and his perimeter skills back up that notion. Kentucky’s Nick Richards will be the biggest player on the floor by far, but his inability to keep up with Michelsen away from the basket may keep him from playing big minutes tonight.
Go Cats. Beat Wildcats.