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How similar is BYU to the 2007-2008 Davidson Wildcats?

Submitted by on January 26, 20112 Comments
Jimmer Fredette and Stephen Curry are similar, but are their teams similar?

Ask any college basketball fan what the best game of the week is and you most likely will not get “BYU vs. San Diego State” as a common answer. Even though it is a matchup of two Top 10 teams, the college basketball world’s focus has not necessarily been on the Cougars or the Aztecs so far this season. BYU’s star guard Jimmer Fredette has gotten a lot of attention, however his team has not gotten the credit it deserves. San Diego State, one of only two undefeated teams in college basketball, also has flown under the radar. They do get press, but tell me the last time the 4th ranked team in the country has flown under the radar as much as San Diego State has. That being said, I have already dissected San Diego State in a post I wrote back in early December. Now we turn to the 19-1, Jimmer Fredette led and 9th ranked team in the country BYU.

The best team to compare BYU to may in-fact be the 2003-2004 St. Joe’s squad led by Jameer Nelson that lost in the Elite Eight to Oklahoma State. That team lost only one game (a week before the NCAA Tournament) and became just the third team since the expansion of the NCAA Tournament to clinch a 1-seed from the Atlantic 10 conference. St. Joe’s may be the better comparison overall, but the 2007-2008 Davidson Wildcats are a more relevant comparison due to the stars players that are pictured above together. Jameer Nelson was good for St. Joe’s, but he was not on the level that Stephen Curry was when he nearly took Davidson to the 2008 Final Four. Curry and BYU star Jimmer Fredette are just one of many similarities that this year’s BYU team, and the 2007-2008 Davidson team have in common.

TALE OF THE TAPE

Before we begin to break down the key elements in comparing these two teams, we need to take a look at the big picture. Below is a chart that compares the two teams as of January 23rd of their respected years.

The only part that may seem like a stretch is the area of comparing schedules. Davidson played one of the hardest non-conference schedules in the history of college basketball back in the 2007-2008 season. Even though they lost all of the games, Davidson had chances to knock off all four of their non-conference juggernaut opponents. Due to their strong out-of-conference schedule, it makes both teams schedules easier to compare. Some of the categories, including schedules, are similar and easy to compare between the two, but three areas of the chart above contain the biggest similarities between BYU and the 2007-2008 Davidson Wildcats. The three things to look at when comparing these two teams are their past NCAA Tournament experiences, their star players, and their important yet unheralded supporting casts.

PAST NCAA TOURNAMENT EXPERIENCES

Both teams are similar in the aspect that they were, and are, led by experienced coaches, and more importantly were and are only a year removed from a tough early exit in the NCAA Tournament. Davidson was just another team for Maryland and legendary coach Gary Williams to knock off back in the 2007 NCAA Tournament. This is when the nation learned who Stephen Curry was. Curry, a freshman at the time, lit up 4-seeded Maryland for 30 points in a hard fought battle in a first round game in Buffalo. Unfortunately for Davidson, they didn’t have the experience and depth required to knock off a top team in Maryland.

How will BYU use its tough second round loss in 2010 to fuel its 2011 run?

In Jimmer Fredette’s first two NCAA Tournament games he scored a combined 28 points, in two losses in the 8-seed vs. 9-seed matchup against Texas A&M. The breakout game for Fredette came last year as he led BYU with 37 points as the Cougars knocked off 10-seed Florida 99-92 in double overtime. Against Kansas State, much like Davidson against Maryland, BYU was overpowered by the relentless up-tempo attack of Frank Martin’s Wildcats. Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen were the best players on the floor that day, not Jimmer Fredette and his 21 points. BYU would get blown out of the gym in the second half as they lost 84-72 to 2-seeded Kansas State. Davidson returned in the 2008 NCAA Tournament with a deep and battle-tested team led by a star in Stephen Curry. The result? Well the result was Davidson nearly upsetting eventual National Champion Kansas in the Elite Eight.

Past experiences fueled Davidson’s magical run as a 10-seed all the way to the Elite Eight. Had Davidson knocked off Kansas, they would’ve had a rematch with North Carolina and a chance to make the National Championship. Even though Jason Richards game-winning shot against Kansas didn’t go in, the Wildcats will always be one of the most memorable teams in college basketball history. Just like Davidson, BYU will use past NCAA Tournament experiences to spark their run to eternal glory in March.

BYU AND DAVIDSON’S STAR PLAYERS

Jimmer Fredette has shown that no matter what a defender does, he will score

An “I” does not exist in the word team, but there for sure can be a “star” in team. That is exactly what Stephen Curry and Jimmer Fredette were and are to their teams: star players. We will get into the depths of their respective teams, but without Stephen Curry and Jimmer Fredette, Davidson and BYU wouldn’t be relevant towards elite college basketball discussion. Both players can simply be described as a type of glue that keeps, or kept in the case of Curry, together. For those who don’t think star players are that important, simply look at the Cleveland Cavaliers of this current NBA season. After LeBron James left, the team went from the best record in the NBA to being on pace for the worst record in the NBA. There are good pieces on the team, but without the glue and the driving force, they are all but nothing in terms of winning basketball games. Sure teams can win with a team of well balanced players, but a team with a solid supporting cast led by an all-world star like Stephen Curry and Jimmer Fredette are pretty tough to stop. What makes these two players so good though?

Fredette and Curry are very similar players, even Stephen Curry has gone as far to say that he thinks Fredette’s game and skills will allow him to succeed in the NBA. Before going into the NBA Curry had a lot of question marks on whether he had the necessary set of skills to be as successful at the professional as he was in college. The knock on Curry was that he didn’t have the athleticism or explosiveness to succeed at the NBA level. That along with his his slim build and lack of knowledge of the point guard game made him a slight risk in the NBA Draft. The Golden State Warriors “gambled” on Curry with the 7th pick in the 2009 NBA Draft and they would go on to not regret that decision. In his one and a half years of NBA basketball, Curry has started almost every game he has played in, averaged just under 20 points per game and has shot nearly 50% from the floor. For a 20-year old still playing in his second season, it sure seems like those “weaknesses” aren’t quite holding him back. Obviously Curry’s strengths have made him a force in the NBA, the same strengths that made him nearly unstoppable in college. Curry had outstanding ball control and passing ability, but it was his shooting ability that separated him from the rest while at Davidson. There was no fear in the eyes of Curry when he shot the ball, only fear in the eyes of his defenders. Using a lightning quick, yet consistent, release, Curry made it hard for his defenders to contest any of the shots he took. What also made Curry so dangerous was his ability to create his own scoring opportunities. Whether it was threading two defenders in the paint or taking a long-distance three off the dribble, it was simple – Curry found ways to score. No matter where Curry was on the floor, he could score, and that ability made his defenders crumble into nothing. Just ask Wisconsin about how hard it was to guard Curry in the 2008 NCAA Tournament.

Stephen Curry made defenders hesitate with his incredible ball and shot fakes, but his quick and precise passing skills were always a worry for his defenders. With teammates who could also find ways to score, Curry had no problem distributing the ball and getting others involved. The skill set he possessed in college was one of a kind, and was a big part of the 32 points per game he averaged during Davidson’s run to the Elite Eight in the 2008 NCAA Tournament. The question is however, how similar is Jimmer Fredette to Stephen Curry? The answer to that is pretty clear: very similar.

The “weaknesses” that NBA scouts say Jimmer Fredette has are virtually the same as the ones Stephen Curry apparently had during his college career. Fredette is said to have sub-par athleticism and lateral quickness while on the court. If you watch a BYU game, though, you’ll see that if those are indeed his weak points that no one has learned how to exploit them. Jimmer Fredette has consistently found ways to light teams up over the span of the last year as he averaged just under 25 points per game. Just like Curry, Jimmer Fredette finds and creates ways to score on every area of the floor. His range is unlimited when he is shooting. Not just unlimited “with the shot clock winding down” range either, no matter what the clock says, if Jimmer thinks he will make the shot he will take it. TCU learned that the hard way in a game earlier this season.

Much like Curry, he also uses an accurate, consistent and quick release that throws his defenders off and makes him nearly impossible to guard. However, once again much like Stephen Curry, it is Jimmer’s ability to force defenders to guess if he will pass or shoot it when he has the ball. With fast developing point guard skills, Jimmer has turned into a top notch passer and is able to get his large supporting cast involved at any given moment of a game. The only difference between Stephen Curry and Jimmer Fredette is that they have very different builds. In college, and even now in the NBA, Curry had a very slim build and didn’t have the ability to over power any of his defenders. This is not the case for Jimmer Fredette who compliments his precise shooting and passing with superior strength. One of the reasons Fredette can be a force driving to the basket is because he explodes, not just with speed but, with size that allows him to score even with contact. NBA scouts have pointed out that Jimmer is one of the best conditioned players in college basketball, something that has become evident late in games. Jimmer is able to wear down his opponents with his strength and power, while at the same time keeping up his unmatched intensity and consistent shooting.

The biggest similarity between BYU and the 2007-2008 Davidson Wildcats appears to be Jimmer Fredette and Stephen. Both players have similar statistics, similar skills and a similar ability to lead teams to victory. The biggest key in Davidson’s run to the Elite Eight was Stephen Curry’s ability to dominate and take over any game, with Jimmer Fredette, BYU has that same exact opportunity.

THE SUPPORTING CASTS AT DAVIDSON AND BYU

As mentioned earlier, Stephen Curry and Jimmer Fredette have acted like the glue that keeps the pieces of their respected teams together. That is a key in the success of Davidson and BYU, however if those pieces being held together are nothing more than glorified bench warmers then nothing really matters. Without an incredible supporting cast at Davidson, Stephen Curry would most likely not have been as productive and would for sure never have made an unforgettable run through the 2008 NCAA Tournament. Just ask Stephen Curry was his final year at Davidson was like in the 2008-2009 season. With three of Davidson’s biggest contributors in Thomas Sander, Boris Meno and the nation’s leading assist man in Jason Richards all gone, the Wildcats struggled and failed to make the NCAA Tournament after they bowed out of the Souther Conference Tournament. Stephen Curry was, and Jimmer Fredette is, important to making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, but the supporting casts play just as big of a role.

Jason Richard (middle) and company were a huge part of Davidson's success

At first glance, BYU appears to be a stronger all-around team than Davidson was back in the 2007-2008 season. This may be true statistically, but that Davidson team has one edge over the current BYU team: Jason Richards. Passing was an art form for Jason Richards, he averaged over 8 assists per game in the 2007-2008 season along with a not-so-bad 12.7 points per game. In the NCAA Tournament, Jason Richards averaged 9 assists per game and even dropped 13 dimes against Wisconsin in the Sweet Sixteen. Jason Richards didn’t just dish the ball to Stephen Curry in that NCAA Tournament, though. When needed, players like Andrew Lovedale, Thomas Sander, Boris Meno and Max Pauhlus Gosselin all were key contributors when needed for Davidson in their run to the Elite Eight.

Did those players make consistent noise throughout games? No they did not, but that wasn’t required of them. When Davidson needed a bucket, Lovedale would supply them with a huge dunk. When Davidson needed a momentum shifting shot, Pauhlus Gosselin would rain threes down on their opponents. None of the smaller contributors outside of Curry and Richards would hurt team for big double-digit scoring games, but they hit teams where it hurt at the right moment for the Wildcats. Davidson was not a team that went six players deep loaded with double-digit scorers, but they were a team with the right amount of production from almost every guy on their roster. That was the ingredient for success at Davidson, and it was almost enough to bring them to the Final Four. The focus was never on Stephen Curry’s supporting cast, and when teams finally learned how good of a team Davidson was, it was simply too late.

BYU is the same, all you hear about in the media is Jimmer Fredette. The headlines, stories and sports reports always talk about Jimmer Fredette and his ability to take over a game and score boat-loads of points. This is what has made BYU so dangerous at this point in the season. Much like Davidson back in the 2007-2008 season, BYU’s entire team is being overlooked when talked about as a serious NCAA Tournament contender. As the saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me once, hame on me.” Well if people around the country don’t start to realize how good of a team BYU is, they will be saying “shame on me” come NCAA Tournament time.

Jimmer Fredette is good, but his supporting cast makes BYU a true contender

Where this BYU team differs from the 2007-2008 Davidson Wildcats is that they are as deep, but pack a lot more punch in the offensive department. Where BYU lacks in not having a world-class ball distributor in Jason Richards, they make up by having three stud offensive players in Jackson Emery, Brandon Davies and Noah Hartsock. Combined the three players have helped Jimmer Fredette guide BYU to an outstanding 19-1 start. Emery, Davies, Hartsock combine for an average of just under 35 points per game. Emery is a great compliment to Fredette at the guard position averaging 13 points and just under three assists per game. Standing both around six foot nine, Davies and Hartsock help BYU have a balanced attack inside and out on any given night. Much like Davidson had in Andrew Lovedale and Boris Meno, BYU has an outstanding shot blocker in Noah Hartsock, and a physical rebounder in Brandon Davies. Each player on BYU’s roster sees more than five minutes per game and contributes in their own way. What made Davidson so good in the 2007-2008 season, a deep team, is the same thing that is helping drive BYU to a serious contention for the National Championship in the 2010-2011 season.

FINAL THOUGHTS

There more comparisons between the Davidson squad of 2007-2008 and this BYU team, the more it becomes clear that their paths are very similar. From their stars in Stephen Curry and Jimmer Fredette, to their NCAA Tournament experience and to their very deep supporting cast of players, both teams pack an eerily similar punch. The difference for BYU is that as a whole, they might very well be a more talented, balanced and physical team. If Davidson could make a near Final Four run in the 2008 NCAA Tournament, there is no doubt that BYU could potentially make an even farther run the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

Tonight will not answer a lot of questions when it comes to BYU and San Diego State. Those questions will be answered when the two teams hit the floor for the NCAA Tournament in March. For now, we will watch and observe as they begin to fight for the title of top team in the Mountain West Conference. If you don’t get the CBS College Sports channel, then I would suggest you stream the game online somehow as it is a for sure “must see game.” San Diego State will square off against BYU in Provo, Utah tonight at 10:00pm eastern standard time.

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  • Rowlff Dogg

    Excellent job! Great in-depth comparison.

  • R. Net

    Great article. Facts and figures researced well