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The Other Top 25 Preseason Rankings: No. 8 Davidson Wildcats

The Wildcats hope they won’t need a deep run in the Atlantic 10 Tournament to make the Big Dance this year.

NCAA Basketball: Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament Championship-Davidson vs Rhode Island Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

2017-18 Record: 21-12 (13-5 Atlantic 10), 12-seed in the NCAA Tournament
Key Returning Players: Jon Axel Gudmundsson (Jr. G), Kellan Grady (So. G), KiShawn Pritchett (R-Jr. G)
Key Losses: Peyton Aldridge (F), Oskar Michelsen (F)
Key Newcomers: Luka Brajkovic (F), Mike Jones (G), Nelson Boachie-Yiadom (F), David Czerapowicz (G)

The Wildcats stumbled out of the gate last season with a 5-7 record in the non-conference. But their season really began after the new year, as they went 16-5 the rest of the way and cut down the nets in the A-10 Tournament.

Co-Atlantic-10 Player of the Year Peyton Aldrigde was a beast throughout the year, averaging 21.2 ppg and 7.6 rpg. However, the emergence of Kellan Grady was the reason Davidson won the A-10: As a freshman, Grady averaged 18 points per game and was already being compared to a certain alum that plays for the Warriors.

Expectations for this season are as high as ever. Despite the loss of Aldridge, they are expecting to lean on a trio of guards in Grady, Jon Axel Gudmundsson, and KiShawn Pritchett. Gudmundsson led the Wildcats with 5.1 apg and is extremely tough by willing to sell out his body for his team. Pritchett will be the calming factor on the court with a full understanding of the system.

Key Non-Conference Games

There are plenty of opportunities for the Wildcats to get some solid wins in non-conference play. Only having six out of thirteen games at home will help them get some Q1 and Q2 wins. If they go 11-2 outside of the A-10, then they should be able to get an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament.

Nov. 15 vs. Wichita State (in Charleston)
Dec. 1 @ UNC Wilmington
Dec. 15 vs. Temple (in Atlantic City)
Dec. 17 @ Wake Forest
Dec. 29 @ North Carolina

Three Things to Watch

Who will replace Peyton Aldridge?

Losing a 2,000 point scorer is a real area of concern for any team. Peyton Aldridge was the face of Davidson for the last few years and their frontcourt has some holes from other departures. Freshman Luka Brajkovic should be able to fill the power forward spot. Standing at 6’10, Brajkovic has a game that stretches out to the three point line and averaged 18 PPG and 11 RPG for the Austrian U-18 team at the FIBA U-18 Championships.

But one player won’t be enough to fill this void. Senior Nathan Ekwu missed all of last season and missed time in 2016-17 with injuries, but he will get some time this season to provide leadership in the frontcourt.

Guard Play

Davidson’s success will stem from likely A-10 Player of the Year candidate Kellan Grady. If he continues to improve, then the Wildcats will be in a great spot to repeat as conference champions. But for the Wildcats to reach higher goals, it will be also about the growth of Jon Axel Gudmundsson, KiShawn Pritchett and redshirt freshman Luke Frampton.

They should remain a top scoring team in the A-10 after averaging 75.3 points in conference play last season. Gudmundsson’s ball distribution will keep the offense balanced, especially by giving the frontcourt easy buckets.

Team Efficiency

Davidson averaged a fantastic 1.8 assist-to-turnover ratio last season, a fantastic mark over If this level of efficiency remains, then the Wildcats will be the favorite in the A-10 throughout the season. Returning the entire backcourt should continue this trend of excellent ball movement; however, with some younger players seeing some time, the turnover rate could see them regress to the mean in this statistical category.

Defensively, Davidson held their opponents under 60 points eight times in 2017-18. They gave up 64.5 ppg in conference play, which should have an asterisk because of the triple-overtime game against St. Bonaventure that allowed 117 points in one game. Bob McKillop’s team will continue their defensive efficiency this season.

X Factor

Coming into last season, buzz around incoming freshman Luke Frampton was extremely high. The Gatorade Player of the year from West Virginia had offers from some major programs, including Arizona. Known as a stud from behind the arc Frampton has a clean stroke that will be big in stretching out the floor.

But he is coming off a torn ACL from last October that sidelined him for the year and forced him to redshirt. If he is the same player he was prior to the injury he should be a starter come Nov. 6.