Puerto Rico Tip-off Preview: Davidson

Puerto Rico Tip-off Preview: Davidson

West Virginia opens the Puerto Rico Tip-off against Davidson as it tries to win a second consecutive in-season tournament.

SCOUTING THE WILDCATS

Davidson, 0-1 after an opening loss at Penn, is trying to build on a 16-15 season last year as four of the top six scorers return. The still-youthful Wildcats start three sophomores, a senior and a freshman, but do have solid experience at the point guard slot where upperclassman Brendan McKillop (6-1, 173 lbs.) is back after starting all 31 games last year and averaging 10 points. The senior plays an intelligent game, typically managing 2.5-plus assists for each turnover and distributing the ball well. He can shoot the three (37.9 percent last season), but is a bit streaky from behind the arc and tends toward extremes. If he is on, West Virginia must take note of where he is and challenge all shots. An average defender, McKillop isn't extremely quick laterally and could be hurt by the driving ability of WVU's Truck Bryant and Joe Mazzulla.

Backcourt mate J.P. Kuhlman (6-4, 190 lbs.) scored nine points in the season opener, his first of what many expect to be continued starters. The SoCon Freshman Player of the Year last season, Kuhlman played 33 minutes per game and averaged 12.6 points, 3.3 assists and 3.3 boards. A pure shooter, Kuhlman made 41 percent of his threes last season. Another player who passes well and knows the game, the sophomore is still developing on the defensive end. He won't challenge the rim often, and indeed seems content to involve teammates via stretching the defense outside or opportunistic passing.

The third guard starter is freshman Tom Droney (6-6, 194 lbs.). The Pittsburgh native averaged 21.6 points at the Class A (lowest) PIAA level last season. He plays a bit above his age and experience, and his strength is solid for a newcomer. He isn't likely to be able to muster the muscle to bang with the Mountaineers, though, and this will certainly be the toughest competition the 19-year-old has faced. He'll be asked to provide some rebounding in the tournament opener, but should not be a significant factor against superior, more-developed talent.

The frontcourt shows some promise, but is still developing with a pair of sophomores – one of which sat out last season after transferring. Still, power forward Clint Mann (6-7, 225 lbs.) and center Jake Cohen (6-10, 220 lbs.) netted 12 and 10 points, respectively, in the opener and combined for 11 rebounds. Mann, who originally signed with and played at Iowa St., averaged less than one point and one rebound for the Cyclones. He was a Class 5A first-team all-state player in Kansas as a prep senior, and appears primed to have a breakout season. He isn't a great outside shooter, and most of his game comes midrange in. Again, like some other Davidson players, the potential is there but some development is needed. Cohen is more heady and honed after a freshman college season in which he was named to the league's all-conference team and a summer playing in the European Under-20 Division B championships for the Israeli team. He averaged 20 points per game in Europe and ranked first in free throw percentage and sixth in overall shooting. He has good range and is a better defender than his strength would indicate. He has a typical Euro style – a more polished offensive game that lacks some toughness and defensive execution. He will bang on the interior, though, and isn't afraid to challenge foes on both ends. West Virginia needs to continue to attack here, as Cohen will attempt to block shots and can get into foul trouble.

BlueGoldNews.com
Game Info
Thurs. Nov. 18
11:30 a.m. EST

Coliseo de Puerto Rico
Records
WVU 1-0
Davidson 0-1
Series
WVU 18-16
TV
ESPNU
RPI
WVU - 4
Davidson - 299

Forward De'Mon Brooks (6-7, 223 lbs.) came off the bench in the opener to score 11 points in just nine minutes before getting into foul trouble. The freshman flashed a mix of ability and aggressiveness, the latter a trait that will need to be controlled a bit because of the foul situation. Guards Jordan Downing (6-5, 194 lbs.) and Nik Cochran (6-3, 184 lbs.) played 16 and 13 minutes, respectively, versus Penn and combined for six points. Cochran amassed five quick fouls, something that should not have happened to a player with 28 games of experience trying to help lead a young team. Cochran shoots well (47 percent last season) and will get to the line, but he needs to up his energy level at times. Downing, another freshman, adds some length and rebounding as McKillop continues to fiddle with the line-up and rotation. Downing's father played for Washburn University, winning an NAIA national title in 1987.

OUTLOOK

Despite losing its top two players, West Virginia has far more experience and depth than Davidson. The Wildcats could be very good in a few seasons, but the roster is too long on freshman and sophomores and lacks a go-to scorer who is proven. It won't help that the schedule is frontloaded with 10 road games in the first 13, a record in McKillop's 22 years at the school. WVU should be able to outrebound and out-defend Davidson while showcasing better depth and numbers. The ‘Cats can shoot, though, and they won't often turn the ball over. Don't expect a lot of run-outs or fast break scoring for the Mountaineers. This one will have to be earned, but isn't nearly the difficult match-up of the last series game.

INJURY REPORT

WVU: None.

Davidson: None.

FAST BREAKS

WVU won the 1997 San Juan shootout in its only other games held in Puerto Rico. It is 218-141 all-time in tournament games, 95-61 in in-season tournaments. The Mountaineers won the 76 Classic last year in Anaheim.

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West Virginia is 3-1 all-time on Nov. 18. It is 69-19 all-time in November.

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Davidson and West Virginia last played in the 2008 Jimmy V. Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York. Davidson won 68-65. Twenty series meetings came when both teams were members of the Southern Conference. WVU is 60-22 all-time against current SoCon members.

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Huggins is 0-1 all-time against Davidson and head coach Bob McKillop. McKillop is 1-1 against West Virginia; the ‘Cats coach lost 85-69 in the first round of the 1994 NIT. If the Mountaineers win, the loss would be McKillop's 250th against 383 wins in 22 years at Davidson.

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Puerto Rico (translated from Spanish as ‘Rich Port') is a territory/commonwealth of the United States. Its citizens and those born there are granted U.S. citizenship, though they have no votes in national elections. Americans do not need a passport to travel to the island as long as they go directly from the United States. It's alleged the Pina Colada was invented in San Juan, and one of the commonwealth's zip codes – 00601 – is the lowest number assigned to any US area.

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