Take the following statement to the bank: Davidson College’s Men’s Basketball team will finish higher than 12th in A-10 play this year. In the A-10 preseason poll, head coaches and writers decided that 11 conference teams were better than the Wildcats. I understand that nobody likes a newcomer, but less than 20 days into the college basketball season, I am having a hard time finding any A-10 teams who look better than Davidson so far.
At 4-1, Steph Curry University (kinda catchy, right?) is one of four A-10 teams with just one loss. Other than an 18-point loss to then #6 North Carolina, Davidson has won their other four games by an average of 30 points. Their most impressive victory was a 95-69 road thrashing of AAC opponent Central Florida, also a 4-1 team.
Davidson will play an evenly matched game at home against Charlotte on December 3rd, and three cupcakes (Stetson, at Montana, Niagara) before the schedule picks up for real. The Wildcats could very well be 8-1 before heading to College of Charleston and #7 Virginia to round out non-conference play.
I am not going to pretend that I placed Davidson firmly in the A-10‘s upper middle class during the offseason. Thus, the underrating of Davidson can be viewed two ways.
Last year, Davidson won the Southern Conference regular season title with a 15-1 record. The Wildcats looked to be guaranteed its third straight NCAA tourney bid until a two-point overtime loss to Western Carolina in the SoCon semfinals ended any hopes of duplicating that magical 2008 run. Sure, they only went 4-10 in their non-conference slate, but that gauntlet of games included Virginia (1 seed), Wichita State (1 seed), Duke (3 seed), North Carolina (6 seed), New Mexico (7 seed), and even Milwaukee (Horizon League champs), Georgia, and Clemson. Not to mention, the Wildcats played six games without leading scorer and rebounder De’mon Brooks (19.0 ppg, 7.1 rpg), which might have prevented losses to Niagara and Drexel. Still, Bob McKillop’s crew rallied to a 20-13 record and NIT berth.
Which leads me to the other side of the argument. After graduating Brooks, third-leading scorer Tom Droney, and fourth-leading scorer Chris Czerapowicz, how could Davidson possibly replace 43% of it’s offense?
Sophomore guard Jack Gibbs has given the red-and-white a tremendous in-house boost, with 15.8 ppg so far, up from 6.8 ppg last season. Senior guard Tyler Kalinoski is (again) proving to be one of the nation’s best 3-point shooters at 42.9%.
But really, it is the addition of two special freshmen who could help this underrated Davidson team hang with the conference’s best. Peyton Aldridge, a 6’7 freshman forward has poured in 12.0 ppg, and leads the team in both offensive and defensive rebounds (6.8 rpg). At 6’9, Oskar Michelson gives the Wildcats (does every high school and college team need to be named the Wildcats?!), another boost in the post, with 7.8 ppg. Aldridge and Michelson are more than just a welcome addition. With junior Jake Belford being the only other frontcourt player receiving meaningful minutes, strong play from these two young Cats is absolutely necessary for Davidson to succeed.
Add returning junior guards Jordan Barham (9.0 ppg) and Brian Sullivan (12.9 ppg last season) to the mix and you have a deep-ish Wildcat team primed to turn some heads.
So, you can react to Davidson pounding a few small conference teams by wanting to put them on the NCAA bubble. Or, perhaps you’ll wait until they venture up to Virginia to form an opinion. But when Davidson is holding their own late in the A-10 season, don’t say I didn’t warn you.