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David McKnight

Davidson, established in 1837 one year after Texas independence in 1836, came oh so close to seeing its basketball team make it to the Final Four "in Old San Antonio, down by the Alamo," as the Larry Lucas song, "Taxi to Texas," phrases it.

And the Wildcats did well to adjust to a situation in which the refs were obviosuly intending to call the game much more "closely" than some of the other regional finals over the weekend. Kansas definitely benefitted from these officiating trends because it was able to use more players from its bench over the course of the game.

Thus it ensued that the Cats lost one key player to fouls and were unable or unwilling to substitute for their star player along the way as he had to work through an inevitable second-half "dip" which one often experiences when competing in the most critical stages of a contest just after sundown. Yet another player who found his way to a hot streak could perhaps have taken more shots to jumble up the Jayhawks' defensive game plan.

Duke and Carolina never have to play each other between the waning hours of 5-7 p.m.

Even so, Davidson came close to beating not only Kansas but also "The System," a series of trademark strategies which have emerged over decades of coaching exchanges between the great Kansas and North Carolina basketball programs since the 1950s. Whenever you go against "The System," whether it's in basketball, journalism or education, you have to involve your supporting cast of players in the offense more than usual because the one thing they are going to do is try to wear down your best scorers even at the expense of leaving other players more open than they otherwise might be.

So look for those unexpected clearings and don't pass up good shot opportunities in those temporarily open spaces. Indeed, Davidson's political science and English departments should instruct students on just what it takes to keep "putting points on the board" when you're being double- and triple-teamed throughout life's journey even in your own home state!

But a tip of the hat to all the good-hearted Carolina fans who cheered enthusiastically for Davidson in the first round tournament games in Raleigh, for they showed that the Southern Part of Heaven reaches all the way across the Tar Heel State and then some. No wonder they have such a great player from the "Show Me State."

And kudos as well to The Observer for its excellent coverage of the Davidson and North Carolina tournament runs.

Unfortunately, in the sports media around Raleigh, we heard far too much talk over the weekend about how interesting it would be for the Tar Heels' coach to go up against his former Kansas Jayhawks team in San Antonio and not enough chatter about how marvelous it would be for the state of North Carolina if Davidson could make "a sentimental journey" to join UNC in the Final Four.

Even apart from sports, that's one of the biggest challenges in this state today--finding ways in which more sections of the Old North State can "share in the dream."

So while it is a keen disappointment not to see the Wildcats go on to the Lone Star State for basketball's final hoedown, the lasting impressions of the Davidson Wildcats' own special chorus to Bob Wills' "San Antonio Rose" are sure to warm the hearts of folks from Michigan to Florida who are no doubt hoping they can achieve a similar success in getting their votes for President "put on the board" sometime between now and the end of the summer.

This Wildcat basketball team has given the Davidson community many wonderful gifts, including a thrilling experience at the highest levels of collegiate sports as well as a most timely metaphor for reminding us that no matter fast technology keeps changing. you still have to study out all the concomitants to the two-stepping progressions of life, from personal metabolism, the weather and the elbow room on the main floor to starting times, lap speeds and team re-inforcements, regardless of whether your original historical goal was to establish a college, create a new republic or upset a television network's un-springlike obsession with covering four No. 1 seeds in an NCAA Final Four.

We hope CBS is truly happy to finally get four No. 1 seeds through the Sweet 16. Let's just hope that David Letterman doesn't have to dig too deep to get a laugh or two out of that awesome lineup of roundball might. Somebody may have to call in Awesome Bill from Dawsonville to give us something to grin about before that last moonlight stroll along the storied Riverwalk of San Antonio.

Mac

Barr got hot about the time that Curry went cold. Curry kept shooting as great shooters do. I wanted Davidson to feed Barr more at that point. I was reminded of what one of the long ago Hornets players said of the senior Curry(Dell) in a post-game interview. He said that when Dell was hitting like that that "you need to feed him 'til he pukes". At that time in the game, it was Barr that should have been fed....

David McKnight

I agree with Mac. If the Wildcats had made those adjustments in their distribution of the basketball for scoring purposes, Davidson might have had the best team at the Final Four, Barr none.

And with CBS covering the NCAA Final Four in San Antonio, it might have been a case of Katie Barr the door--Katie Couric, that is.

As it turned out, Kansas was able to apply the same player rotation defensive pressure to North Carolina in the NCAA semifinals that it did to Davidson in the regional finals, so our teams need to work on protecting the middle defensively and perhaps using some stretches of zone defense against the burly inside game of teams like the Jayhawks.

On offense, whether your favorite team is North Carolina, Davidson or anybody else, you simply have to involve more players in the scoring opportunities in order to keep a defense like that of Kansas from bearing down on one or two of your leading players.

To a certain extent, both Davidson and North Carolina were able to accomplish this task of offensive diversity, but it's a part of the game that both programs may wish to work on extensively going into next season. And while you don't want to rush your shots against a great team like Kansas, you should try to make sure you get at least one good shot at the basket on every possession rather than try to pass the ball around to the point of getting bottled up for a turnover.

But it's easier for us observers to preach about this when in fact the coaches and players on the floor have to go out and get the job done every week. So congratulations to both Davidson and North Carolina on outstanding seasons in 2007-08, for both the Wildcats and the Tar Heels were deserving of a handful of roses in Old San Antonio.

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