Wildcats in the Cradle: Davidson Set to Shock the World

Andrew GloverCorrespondent IMarch 18, 2008

The Davidson Wildcats enter the NCAA Tournament as an unknown to many, but this is a team that their 10th seed doesn’t tell the whole story.

Davidson enters the tournament on a 22-game winning streak including an undefeated season in the Southern Conference. In the conference tournament, the Wildcats won every game by an average of 26.3 points. The Wildcats are ranked 23rd in the nation going into Thursday’s first round game vs. Gonzaga.

During non-conference play, Davidson showed it can play tough with the NCAA’s elite. In their second game of the season vs. North Carolina, the Wildcats had a lead as large as seven in the first half before North Carolina was able to gain a 38-31 halftime lead. The Wildcats led over the Tar Heels from 16:16 in the second half to 8:22. North Carolina ended up winning 72-68, but the Wildcats made it interesting for the eventual No. 1 seed of the 2008 tournament.

In their game against the Duke Blue Devils, Davidson trailed 42-29 with 1:48 left in the first half. The Wildcats cut the lead to one with 16:08 left in the second half. The Blue Devils got a 57-46 lead six minutes later, which Davidson brought down to three with 7:47 remaining in the game. Duke gained another 10 point lead with five minutes remaining, which the Wildcats got down to three with 2:40 left. Duke won the game 79-73 but again the Wildcats hung around.

Davidson played at the UCLA Bruins on December 8, and jumped out to a 10-3 run to open the game. The Wildcats would gain a lead as large as 17, before UCLA cut their lead down to four to the end the half. The Wildcats would have three two-point second half leads before the Bruins went on an 8-0 run to grab a seven point lead. The Wildcats were able to keep the game within two possessions until about four minutes left in the game. UCLA went on to win 75-63, but the Wildcats were able to play strong with another #1 seed in the tournament.

The Wildcats are making their ninth tournament appearance all-time and their third in the last seven years. Davidson lost to Maryland in the first round of last year’s tournament, and hasn’t won a game since 1969 when they made it to the Elite Eight. The Wildcats also made the Elite Eight the prior season, losing to North Carolina both times. This year’s Wildcats could have a different result.  This team enters the tournament has one of the hottest teams in the nation, and is playing a Gonzaga team that enters the game losing their conference final.

Davidson is led by sophomore guard Stephen Curry who is averaging 25.1 points per game, and 1.9 steals per game. Curry shoots 48 percent from the field, 89 percent from the free throw line and 43 percent from the three point line. Senior guard Jason Richards averages 12.6 points per game, and leads the nation with eight assists per game. Richards had a season-high of 12 assists in a loss to Charlotte and a win over Georgia Southern. At 1.4 steals per game Richards is second to Curry.

Head coach Bob McKillop has been on Davidson’s staff since 1978 and has been the head coach since 1989. As head coach McKillop has guided the Wildcats to five appearances in the NCAA tournament and is looking for his first tournament win as head coach.

McKillop played college basketball for East Carolina and Hofstra. Neither team McKillop played for made it to the NCAA tournament, in East Carolina his team lost the conference championship to Davidson, who went on to the Elite eight. At Hofstra McKillop was inducted into the Hoftsra basketball hall of fame.

The Davidson Wildcats may be the 10th seed in the Midwest Region, but they could do some bracket-busting in the tournament.