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Mid-Major Top 20 Preview: Davidson Wildcats

Davidson doesn't have the name player to lead their offense, but that doesn't mean we should discount them. The Wildcats return all five starters and a deep bench from a team that won 25 games last year: a recipe for success in March.

Jonathan Ferrey - Getty Images

Call it the star bias. Maybe that is why we will discount what Davidson accomplished last season. A 25-8 record, with no standout star.

There was no one for the major media to make into the hero, as in there was no Stephen Curry. Which at the end of the day made the Wildcats less than an attractive subject for writers scrambling to meet deadlines and catch up on a year's worth of basketball from a team they likely ignored.

And if Davidson hadn't shot 4-for-19 from 3-point range during the second round game against Louisville, they would have had to come up with a real reason to ignore the Wildcats. Yes, they were that close to derailing a team that eventually made the Final Four, and it was all because of a few missed long shots.

That has to be frustrating for the Wildcats, knowing that they had played defense well enough to win against a taller, more experienced team, and yet they couldn't hit their shots.

So maybe it was missing a Stephen Curry type that was important that day.

But to think that the Wildcats need to have that one star player would be to discount everything the Bob McKillop has built has built in North Carolina. Instead of the one-hit wonder team -- a team with one star that everyone revolves around -- he has built a contender with a true team mentality.

This Davidson team entering this season might be better than that Curry-led squad that made a deep run into the NCAA Tournament, and it might be coming at just the right time.

See, there is no super favorite out there. There is no Kentucky this season. This could be the year that the right mid-major team pulls off a Butler and lands in the title game with a real chance to win it.

How can I say that about Davidson? We have run HOOPWAR on a lot of teams this offseason. We have looked at probably 100 total teams either from the major conferences, or the mid-major ranks.

And one thing is certain: no team has the collection of strength coming back that Davidson has. Of the teams that we have analyzed just for this top 20 and the previews that we are doing for conferences, only Davidson and one other team had two players returning that were worth more than 5.0 wins per 30 games last season.

Even more interesting is that the other team isn't Gonzaga, or Memphis, or St. Mary's, the teams that everyone is looking at to lead the mid-major push. It isn't Drexel, or Creighton, or even Murray State or Lehigh. It is Long Island, and the players that helped them qualify for that spot are both suspended right now (although their fate should be decided soon).

Led by Jake Cohen and De'Mon Brooks, the Wildcats had the 1-2 punch that no team can match. OK, that might be a slight exaggeration. There are teams with a lot of talent out there, and I am sure that there are some we haven't run the numbers on, but that is darn impressive for a team like Davidson.

All five starters are back from last season, and part-time starter Chris Czerapowicz helps round out a top six that had just one player who rated less than a 110 in offensive rating according to Ken Pomeroy.

Based on our defensive numbers, there is not a weak point on this team, and the players who handle the ball the most do a good job of holding onto that ball.

In case you are scoring at home, that is the recipe for a strong, winning team. If there is one weakness for the Wildcats, maybe it is their free throw shooting rate, the only measure in the Four Factors where Davidson wasn't in the top 100 teams in the country. (Ed. Note: Oops, thanks for the correction Wildcats' fans.)

And as Ken Pomeroy's site points out, that is the least important measure in the Four Factors as it pertains to winning.

That said, Davidson will still need to get through the Southern Conference, and that will take edging out the College of Charleston. The Wildcats have better all-around talent and strength, but as we know, anything can happen in conference tournaments.

But maybe Davidson will be able to wrap things up early this year. Putting together wins in the Old Spice Classic will go a long way to start that. They can even add to their resume by beating Drexel in a very interesting mid-major game in Philadelphia. Then they have Richmond and Duke, with the latter being the biggest game on the schedule for the Wildcats.

A win over Duke is almost a golden ticket to the dance, provided that things have gone well to that point. After that, it would be just about gaining style points.

Bottom Line: Should things go the way it looks like they could for Davidson, writers best start getting to know Jake Cohen and De'Mon Brooks now. They are going to be the ones that they are writing about come March when the Wildcats roll into the NCAA Tournament with a head of steam behind them.

This is the most complete team, both in terms of returning talent and makeup, that we have previewed, or will preview in the coming weeks. That could mean a lot of headaches and a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

And it won't take a Stephen Curry to lead them.