The 2023 Asheville Championship is the first of many early-season college basketball tournaments. The four-team event is one of the most competitive.
- Clemson (1-0)
- Davidson (1-0)
- Maryland (1-0)
- UAB (0-1)
First round (Friday, Nov. 10)
- Davidson vs. Maryland – 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
- Clemson vs. UAB – 9:30 p.m. (ESPN+)
The Clemson Tigers are a sleeper to win the ACC and they showed why with a 22-point win over an always solid Winthrop team. Syracuse transfer Joe Girard III only had 3 points, but PJ Hall asserted his dominance with a game-high 20.
Four Tigers had at least 10 points in the win, but more impressively, they went an efficient 11-of-12 from the line and only committed 10 turnovers, to 21 assists. This Tigers team is smart, has experienced players, and won’t back down from any team they face.
Davidson’s lone win in the early season came against DII Washington and Lee, so we still don’t know much about this Wildcats team.
We do know that Davidson won’t be afraid to jack up threes – they took 36 of them in their first game. Only 10 went in, and that number will have to be higher, or at least a better percentage to come away with a win against Maryland.
The key player for Davidson is David Skogman. The 6-10 forward transferred from Buffalo in 2022 and had a solid first year with his new team. However, Skogman looks to be a bigger part of the Wildcats this year, putting up 13 points on 75% shooting in game one. Former Villanova guard Angelo Brizzi also shined in his Davidson debut, posting 15 points and 3 assists.
Kevin Willard’s squad started 1-0 with the win against Mount St. Mary’s, 68-53. It was a bit too close of a win for comfort, but as expected, Julian Reese and Jahmir Young were key in the victory. Reese led the team with 18 points, while Young chipped in 12 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals.
Freshman DeShawn Harris-Smith was the most positive surprise, also scoring a dozen points in the win. However, the Terps bench went only 4-of-12 from the field for 15 points. While not terrible, they must be more effective in the Asheville Championship, especially if Maryland meets Clemson in the championship game.
With Jelly Walker’s college career over, UAB has to find scoring, and playmaking elsewhere. While the Blazers attempted a whopping 74 shots against Bradley, they only made 33.8% of them, ultimately losing to the Braves, 73-71 in overtime.
There is still talent on this UAB squad. Eric Gaines was a key contributor last year and although he struggled from the field against Bradley, still put up 16 points. Javian Davis only averaged 6.1 PPG last season, but had 20 against the Braves. If UAB can find a way to hit shots at a higher rate, they have a fun offense to watch and could knock off a few teams this year.
Asheville Championship Predictions
First round: Davidson vs. Maryland
I think both teams will improve once we reach conference play, but it’s clear right now that Davidson is still searching for an identity. Foster Loyer and Sam Mennenga were two major losses, combining for 31.5 PPG, 11.0 RPG, and 5.8 APG. It’s one thing to lose scoring, but it’s another to lose multiple aspects of production.
While Maryland didn’t impress me much against Mount St. Mary’s, I can’t see anyone on Davidson doing enough to compete with Reese and Young.
First round: Clemson vs. UAB
UAB’s scoring potential could make this a close game, but Clemson’s basketball IQ should outweigh it, especially if it is a close game during crunch time. Girard had a painfully awful debut with his new team, and should play much better this time around, setting up a championship game between former ACC foes.
Championship game: Clemson vs. Maryland
While neither will is ranked, the winner would come away with a non-conference quality win, always a bonus on Selection Sunday. The biggest key for me in this game for me is offensive fluidity. Young is a solid distributor, and Harris-Smith has potential, but the Terrapins only had SIX total assists in their first game. That won’t fly against a Clemson team that nearly quadrupled that number against Winthrop.
Maryland has some things to figure out and has time to do so before Big Ten play. But in mid-November, the Tigers have the clear advantage of a group who already play well with each other.