Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Davidson Takes Impressive Streak Into NCAA Tournament

Davidson is one of the hottest teams in college basketball, riding a 17-game winning streak. (espn.com)

You remember the team. The team that Stephen Curry led to the Elite 8 back in 2008 and gave a Cinderella slipper? The team that was becoming a mainstay in the tournament, reaching the field for three consecutive years from 2006-08? The team that made a resurgence a season ago after a three year absence and was back in the big dance once again?

The name is Davidson and the Wildcats are back at it, winning the Southern Conference title Monday and advancing to the NCAA Tournament for the 12th time in school history. Davidson may not have a superstar on the roster like Curry, but this is a team that could add a little madness to March.

What had flown wildly under the radar before last night was that the Wildcats are taking a 17-game winning streak with them into the NCAA Tournament. Part of the reason why it has gone mostly unnoticed is because Davidson plays in the Southern Conference, which doesn't get much time on national TV. Another reason could be there have been so many great performances from other teams outside power six conferences (Gonzaga, St. Louis, Creighton, New Mexico, VCU) that there was just not enough room to also talk a lot about Davidson. This is a good problem for college basketball to have, as it shows the product does not fall off a cliff outside of the BCS conferences, but not great for Davidson, who must feel left out of the conversation.

Granted, the Wildcats (26-7, 17-1) haven't had the most difficult conference stretch, but stringing together 17 wins without a letdown is a feat nonetheless. More impressively, only five of the 17 wins were by single digits, the rest being contests that were easily decided (including a 19-point win in the SoCon championship game against the College of Charleston, who at 24-10 and 14-4 was the second best team in the conference). When Davidson plays again in the NCAA Tournament, it will have been more than two months since its last loss on Jan. 14.

Davidson still has seven losses on the season, but three of those (Gonzaga, Duke and New Mexico) came to teams currently ranked in the top 12 in the country.

This is a team led by upperclassmen who know how to win and have played together in crucial situations. Senior Jake Cohen (14.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg) and junior De'Mon Brooks (13.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg) are a powerful front court that can cause trouble defensively for many teams. Davidson is also known as a program that can beat you from 3-point range, and teams who can get hot from behind the arc are usually not the types of teams opponents want to face in March. Head coach Bob McKillop has been to the big dance numerous times and knows what it takes to win a lose-and-go-home game.

In a season where non-power conference teams are excelling, don't forget about the team carrying an impressive streak and a lot of confidence into the NCAA Tournament.

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