What you think of Davidson this upcoming season should boil down to what you think of Bob McKillop.
We know the Wildcats have a great one-two punch in guard Jack Gibbs (23.4 points per game, 4.9 assists per game) and forward Peyton Aldridge (15.5 ppg, 6.5 rebounds per game). But we also know that they’re facing a difficult task in replacing Brian Sullivan, and have a roster of unproven top-end contributors outside of Gibbs and Aldridge.
Yet this is McKillop we’re talking about. A coach that has been to the NCAA Tournament or NIT five years in a row, and has transitioned the program to the A-10 more smoothly than many thought possible. That’s a coach to put faith in, and the Wildcats’ non-conference schedule should give them the opportunity to be in the NCAA Tournament mix when league play starts.
Playing Clemson early in the season on a neutral floor gives Davidson a realistic chance at a solid win right away. Advancing further in the Puerto Rico Tip Off would be icing on the cake at that point. Assuming the Wildcats don’t drop games they should be favored in against Charlotte and Mercer (on the road) and take care of business elsewhere, they’d be in good shape.
The highlights are obviously games against Kansas on a “neutral” floor in Kansas City and at North Carolina. These games can do nothing but help Davidson, and they give the Wildcats two precious opportunities to lead SportsCenter and grab eye balls if they pull an upset in either game. Both games will more likely be losses, but they’re the definition of low risk/high reward.
The Kansas game should be must-watch TV, if for nothing else than to watch Gibbs match up with the Jayhawks’ backcourt. The athletic, rangy Devonte Graham will likely mark Gibbs in an exciting showdown. McKillop also has a good history against Kansas in that building, as Davidson beat the eventual NCAA runners up at the Sprint Center in 2011.
An under-the-radar game could be the Wildcats’ visit to the College of Charleston. The two teams played a close game at Belk Arena last season, and the Cougars should pose a challenge again. They were 11th in KenPom defensive efficiency last year and despite the loss of graduate transfer Canyon Barry, return many of their key contributors. This should be a good test for a Davidson offense that will likely be in the country’s upper tier again.
Of course there is also the pessimistic side. Davidson could just as easily lose to Jaron Blossomgame and Clemson, will probably drop both games against the blue bloods and does have difficult challenges on the road against Mercer and Charleston.
The Wildcats could lose all of those games and it wouldn’t necessarily mean they’re a bad team destined for a sluggish A-10 record. But it would put them at a severe resume disadvantage.
It’s on McKillop to make sure that doesn’t happen, and that’s been a safe bet more often than not.