|Davidson's move to A-10 pays with another NCAA tournament berth|
|Wildcats earn second trip in four years|
|Published Monday, March 12, 2018 9:50 pm|
DAVIDSON—Davidson has met the demands of playing in a more competitive conference.
Making their second NCAA tournament appearance in four seasons, the Wildcats (21-11) upped their game when they joined the Atlantic 10 from the Southern Conference in 2014, which coach Bob McKillop described as a “leap of faith.” They achieved success in 2014-15 by winning the regular season championship, and earning the program’s first and only at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. The No. 3 Wildcats accomplished another first with Sunday’s 58-57 victory against top-seeded Rhode Island in the conference tournament final.
Ranked 12th in the South Region, the Wildcats head to Boise, Idaho where they face No. 5 Kentucky (24-10), the SEC tournament champion. The winner of No. 4 Arizona and No. 13 Buffalo faces the Davidson-Kentucky winner on March 17.
The Wildcats’ last loss came in triple-overtime against St. Bonaventure 117-113, whom they defeated 82-70 in the tournament semifinals. Davidson is on a four-game winning streak.
Davidson’s regular season performance resulted in Rookie of the Year, guard Kellan Grady and co-Player of the Year senior forward Peyton Aldridge, who also earned tournament most outstanding player. He averages 21.5 points per game and 7.8 boards.
Grady’s freshman season includes an average of 18 points per game and 3.3 rebounds in 31 starts over 32 games. He shoots 50.8 percent from the field, 37.7 percent from beyond the arc and 79.8 percent from the free throw line, which surpassed McKillop’s expectations.
“From a technical standpoint, he shoots it better than I imagined,” McKillop said. “From an emotional standpoint, he’s humble and mature and tenacious as we could want. I never realized the tenacity that he had in terms of his thirst for winning. He doesn’t have that look, but he’s a killer—just the way he comes to practice, the way he digests film, and believe me our freshmen are hit with a barrage of new information and different vernacular and techniques. He’s made some mistakes, but rarely does he make it more than once.”
McKillop attributes the program’s recruiting success to Davidson’s transition from the Southern Conference to the A-10, and “electric atmospheres” on a national stage, where the coaches and players are more competitive.
“We don’t get Kellan Grady or Jon Axel Gudmundsson (a sophomore guard who averages 13 points per game, 6.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists) or a lot of our players if we’re in the Southern,” McKillop said. “Our incoming class is very, very good, because we’re in the Atlantic 10.”
The Wildcats would not be in the A-10 without Steph Curry’s Davidson career, though. McKillop also noted the continued connection of the NBA MVP, who facetimed him following Sunday’s win.
“Just yesterday, as the game ends, he’s facetiming on the bench, as they’re setting up the awards ceremony,” McKillop said. “That’s how much Steph Curry’s fingerprints are on this program.”
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