Is Davidson the team to beat in 2016?

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Anyone remember the Davidson Wildcats? I remember those guys. The team who joined the league last season and lost just four games in an 18-game conference schedule en route to a regular season A-10 championship with “SoCon players”. It feels to me as though they have already become a forgotten team in the Atlantic 10.

We are knee deep in offseason, meaning the news, tweets and general college hoops coverage has slowed to a near halt outside of some late recruiting info, but already I can’t help but notice the Wildcats are once again a bit of a sleeper heading into their second A-10 season from the chatter that remains. I’m not saying people will be picking them 12th again, lord no. But I’m not hearing a lot of first place talk either and that’s a problem.

Dayton and Rhode Island are sure to grab some early hype heading into next season, and rightfully so. But I’m here to tell you that Davidson most likely deserves to be ranked within the top-two to start next season, if not No.1.

Why? Well, for starters, did you know they lose just one player this offseason? That compares quite favorably to the likes of Rhode Island and VCU, two teams who should expect to see their names toward the top of next season’s preseason rankings.

Yes, Tyler Kalinoski is a heck of a loss as the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, but even with his departure the Wildcats return not one, not two, not three but four players with offensive ratings of 114 or better. That means the Cats had five of the top nine players in terms of offensive rating last season and return four of the top six heading into next season. That seems to suggest that Davidson should once again be the conference’s top scoring offense. And I’m not just suggesting it, I’m telling you right now, Davidson will be the A-10’s best offense next season and it ain’t even close.

Bob McKillop’s squad dumped a league-best 79 points per game this past season, a solid 6.5 points ahead of the rest of the pack. During conference play, Davidson led the league on offense in efficiency, effective field goal percentage, turnover percentage and three-point percentage and checked in at No.2 in two-point percentage in and free throw percentage. Long story short, if they threw that round orange thing in the air, odds are it had a great chance of going through the net. Better than most other teams at least as the Wildcats ranked 12th nationally in effective field goal percentage and 20th nationally in two-point percentage with no dominant post presence.

Sure, they were mediocre to bad on defense (ranked eighth in conference-only defensive efficiency), but that didn’t stop them from reeling off an impressive 23-6 record by the end of the regular season.

Think of these guys as a basketball version of the 2006 Indianapolis Colts. Sure, you can score ON them. But can you score MORE THAN them? And that’s partially what makes them so much fun to watch.

Davidson however looked downright awful in their last two games (not to mention in a near A-10 tourney loss to La Salle), losing by a combined 51 points to VCU in the A-10 semis and Iowa in the round of 64 of the NCAA tournament. I think this is where the hype trained died for them. Prior to those losses however they had reeled off 10 consecutive wins including a road dub at Rhode Island and a 27-point shellacking of the eventual tournament champ, VCU. Earlier in the season the Wildcats notched an impressive 17-point home win over the then No.22 ranked Dayton Flyers as well, not to mention led a very good UVA team on the road 36-32 before losing control late.

Davidson might not be this offseason’s hottest squad, but I’m telling you now they should be and in my view are the league’s top team heading into next season…in a coin-flip over Dayton, of course.

 

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About Author

Mat Shelton-Eide has been involved in college athletics since 2007, starting as a co-founder of VCURamNation.com where he covered the Rams all the way to Houston as the one-time CAA darling shocked the hoops world with a historic run to the Final 4. He has worked within two Atlantic 10 athletic departments, first as a graduate assistant in the VCU Sports Information Department during the '09-'10 basketball season, then after receiving his M.Ed. from VCU's Center for Sport Leadership, as a ticketing and marketing intern in the University of Richmond's athletic department during the inaugural season of Richmond's Robins Stadium, months before the Spiders 2011 Sweet 16 run.

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