(1) VITAL SCHEMATICS: A year after romping through the Southern Conference en route to a 25-8 record (16-2 in conference) and a No. 13 seed in the Dance (where they lost a close game to the Final-Four-bound Louisville Cardinals), Davidson is back up to its old tricks in 2012-'13, laying waste to all comers in the SoCon - the Wildcats ended the year with a 17-1 conference mark, losing only to Georgia Southern in the middle of January - and entering the NCAA Tournament as a potential Cinderella.
(2) PRIMARY WEAPON: COHEN AND CO. CANNONS (damage rating: 8.0 out of 10): Davidson's most fearsome weapon is senior big man Jake Cohen, who stands 6'10" but has the touch of a 6'3" shooting guard. Cohen's numbers are impressive across the board: his eFG% (55.5%) is outstanding for a near-seven-footer who shoots as many 3s as he does, he rarely turns the ball over (14.7% turnover rate), he draws 5.9 fouls per 40 minutes, he's a cinch at the free throw line (83%), and he's shooting 38.7% from distance. For frame of reference for Marquette fans: he's Brian Butch, only he's really good at basketball.
Cohen is complemented by junior wing De'Mon Brooks (drop that apostrophe and fully embrace the dark side, baby), who's a holy terror in the paint, gobbling up Davidson's (rare) misses on the glass (11% offensive rebound rate) and drawing fouls like a mofo (5.5 fouls drawn per 40 minutes). He can't fill it up from deep like Cohen, but he doesn't really need to, because senior sniper Nik Cochran takes care of that job: Cochran shoots an absurd 48.5% (for emphasis: FORTY-EIGHT-POINT-FREAKING-
So. This should be good times.
(3) DEFENSIVE MATRIX: (armor rating: 4.5 out of 10): Here's the part that's (somewhat) reassuring for MU: the Wildcats aren't nearly as good defensively as they are offensively. KenPom tells me they play man-to-man defense almost exclusively, which is comforting because (a) Marquette's got a healthy advantage athletically, which is easier to exploit if the opponent plays man, and (b) if Davidson opts to play zone, they'll be playing a defense that they (presumably) haven't practiced all year. And, despite what Jim Boeheim would have you believe, playing good zone defense ain't easy.
Davidson's defensive numbers, for the most part, are yawners: they don't steal the ball very often (8.8% steal percentage, which ranks 259th nationally), they don't force a ton of turnovers (18.9% turnover percentage, which ranks 234th), and they don't block many shots (7.1% block percentage). Opponents don't shoot especially well against the Wildcats; their opponent eFG% is just 45.5%, which ranks 53rd nationally, but ...
(4) EXPLOITABLE WEAKNESS(ES): Here's the thing: while their numbers on offense are gaudy, and while some of the defensive metrics are impressive, it's tough to get a read on how good the Wildcats are when they've been playing the Georgia Southerns and Western Carolinas and Woffords and The Citadels of the world for the last two months. They most impressive opponent Davidson has faced since January 3 is Montana, and the Wildcats scraped by in overtime (at home) in that contest. Davidson hasn't seen a team the likes of Marquette since Duke eventually ran away from the ‘Cats on January 2, and you'd think - hope? - they'll take a few minutes to adjust playing to a squad that has players who stand taller than 6'5".
Plus, they somehow managed to lose to UWM.