Close your eyes and think of Davidson basketball. Most likely you’re thinking of a scrawny kid shooting from practically half court with the name people are often confused by. You’re thinking of Steph Curry and him leading Davidson to an Elite Eight back in 2008 and was just two points away from making a Final Four.
It’s fine to think of Davidson as Steph Curry. He’s the only notable NBA player from the small school in North Carolina and the big reason the Wildcats are known as a basketball school now. But he’s not the only reason. The other reason is head coach Bob McKillop, who was the head coach for Curry and is still the head coach now for the 2015-16 season.
Davidson is no longer in the Southern Conference, a league the Wildcats dominated winning the league six out of eight years from 2007-2014. They’re now in the Atlantic 10, which hasn’t stopped them from winning conference titles as they won it last year. Davidson did lose in the Round of 64 to Iowa, but last season just showed it isn’t going anywhere as a basketball program even with the jump to the A-10.
In fact, Davidson should be even better in 2015-16 than it was last year during the Atlantic 10 title run. The Wildcats do lose leading scorer Tyler Kalinoski, but four players who scored at least nine points a game from last season return. The biggest name returning is Jake Gibbs, who averaged over 16 points a game last season and should contend for A-10 Player of the Year in 2015-16. Surrounding Gibbs is Brian Sullivan, Jordan Barham and Peyton Aldridge.
Davidson’s non-conference schedule is pretty solid for a smaller school. The Wildcats should be favored in all but two games and those two games are against likely top-10 teams in North Carolina and Cal. Both of those games are on the road as well. The Wildcats are challenging themselves with games against Pittsburgh, Morehead State, Eastern Washington, Mercer and Charlotte.
In the Atlantic-10, which is a better conference than most people want to admit, the Wildcats should be a favorite thanks in part to the suspension of Dyshawn Pierre of Dayton. But there will be strong teams in Rhode Island, Dayton, George Washington and VCU.
The biggest difference between all these teams though goes back to McKillop. Betting against McKillop is similar to picking against Tom Izzo in March or John Calipari in a recruiting battle. McKillop knows how to run an offense without using a pick-and-roll, something unheard of. Davidson likes to start its offense with a scissor cut to get a man open and then runs a variation of the flex offense. The first cutter has the option to curl off the screen or not, which then turns the offense into an open floor scenario.
On top of that, McKillop gets players that can shoot, which in turns draws defenders away from the rim. He drills into his team, dribble handoffs, constant weakside motion and reading the defense.
This is something that makes it tough to coach against and why for yet another year you shouldn’t bet against McKillop and Davidson.