Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Best of the Rest: Davidson Has Formula For Success

The long wait will soon be over when the first official NCAA basketball game of the 2012-13 season will tip-off on Nov. 15. Some of our favorite players have moved on the ranks of professional athletes, new recruits have been polishing their games in gyms with recognizable logos on the court, and schools have switched conference allegiances. Through a series of conference previews, the BDD crew will do its best to prepare you for the next 4.5 months of collegiate hoops.

We did not have the time and manpower to provide you with the brilliance of a conference preview for all 32 conferences. To make up for this, we've done the next best thing. Here is your Best of the Rest non-power six conferences and excluding A-10, MVC, MWC, Horizon and WCC in college basketball. We're covering a lot of ground in a little space, so if you disagree with a pick, let us know who you think should make the Best of the Rest.

Best Team: Davidson (Southern)
Davidson has the talent and experience to make another NCAA Tournament run. (examiner.com)
The Davidson Wildcats have the formula for a memorable season: senior leadership, winning experience, impressive offense and a mentality that they will not beat themselves. Coming off a 25-8 season (16-2 in conference) a year ago, the Wildcats have the pieces to duplicate last year's success. Davidson is returning seniors Nik Cochran and Jake Cohen as well as last year's leading scorer and rebounder, junior De'Mon Brooks. This team has played in big games and knows what it takes to win against the elite teams. Davidson will have the chance to make a statement early, facing New Mexico, Vanderbilt and Duke all who reached the NCAA Tournament last year in the non-conference schedule and should have no problems once conference play begins. Davidson can score averaging 78 ppg last season and are especially dangerous from 3-point range. But more impressive is the team's ability to rebound, which is another reason for its success. Davidson finished 19th in the country in rebounds per game with 38.9 last season. Teams better take advantage of making shots early, because they won't get many second chances. 

Dark Horse: Long Beach State (Big West)
LBSU will have to overcome replacing top players and a brutal schedule to repeat as Big West champs. (dailytarheel.com)
Last year's schedule made the country wonder if whoever schedules Long Beach State's games really hates the team. The 49ers faced five top-25 teams in the non-conference schedule a season ago, and all but one was on the road. Good luck with that. But then LBSU won two of those games (at No. 9 Pitt and vs. No. 15 Xavier) and lost two others by single digits and all of a sudden they were serious mid-major contenders. Credit coach Dan Monson for having the faith in his team to answer the challenge. The road isn't much easier this year with games against UNC, Arizona, Syracuse, Ohio State and UCLA and the job will be much more difficult without star guards Casper Ware and Larry Anderson. But running through the top-25 gauntlet last season prepared the 49ers to cruise through conference play, finishing 15-1. Even with the loss in talent, if the 49ers can upset one of their Goliath foes early in the season, and keep the rest close, they should gain the experience to succeed in the Big West.

Player of the Year: Isaiah Canaan, Murray State (Ohio Valley)
The Racers' leading scorer returns to wreak havoc on opposing defenses. (midwestsportsfans.com)
Canaan became a household name last season as he led the Racers to a 31-2 record and an appearance in the Round of 32 at the NCAA Tournament. LBSU's Casper Ware and Ohio's D.J. Cooper found the spotlight during March Madness, but no one stole the show like Canaan. The versatile guard was a force on offense, averaging 19 points per game while shooting 45 percent from both the field and 3-point range. Canaan has an excellent jump shot and can also drive to the basket and get to the line. The pro prospect now has the experience of playing in the limelight and returns for his senior season, where he will look to take the Racers back to the NCAA Tournament. Canaan has improved his game each season, so look for everything to come together this year in his final season on the college court.

Coach of the Year: Bob McKillop, Davidson (Southern)
Bob McKillop has his Davidson team positioned for success. (zimbio.com)
Davidson's experienced talent will lead the Wildcats in 2012-13, but don't underestimate the job by coach Bob McKillop. McKillop knows how to prepare his team for big games. He took the 2008 team to within a last-second 3-pointer of advancing to the Final Four against Kansas. He got his revenge when he beat Kansas during the regular season in Kansas City last season. McKillop does a great job of coaching a smart, fundamentally strong team that gives opposing coaches heartburn. It is a difficult task to get a mid-major underdog to go into Cameron Indoor Stadium and challenge Duke, but McKillop's teams are always ready to compete and rarely get out-hustled or outplayed. Mid-major coaches earn their stripes by beating up on the big boys early in the season, and McKillop has the opportunity to do that this year. 

Newcomer of the Year: Shaq Goodwin, Memphis (Conference USA)
Goodwin should make an immediate impact on the Memphis Tigers' offense. (fivestarbasketball.com)
Memphis may not play in a power six conference, but they sure don't play or recruit like it. The highlight of the Tigers' recruiting class was Shaq Goodwin, a four-star forward from Georgia who was No. 44 in his class according to Rivals.com and No. 31 on ESPN's Top 100. Goodwin should be a terrific rebounder especially on the offensive glass  out of the gate, and continue to develop his offensive game throughout the season. Goodwin is an athletic big man who should fit into Josh Pastner's system well.

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