Reasons for optimism

Acorn on DavidsonCats.com:

1. The Butler Game. Let’s start at the beginning of the season. We knew this year wouldn’t be quite as good as the last two years, but Davidson played national runner-up and at-the-time-#10-ranked Butler pretty close at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The team led by ten in the first half. They came back from a ten-point deficit to take the lead with under ten minutes to go. Kuhlman (9 points, 6 assists) and Cohen (8 points) both had good first games, which leads me to ...

2. The Freshmen (Rising Sophomores). Nik Cochran, Jake Cohen, and JP Kuhlman all had great freshman seasons. Nik showed that he could come off the bench and provide great energy. He has shown a knack for getting into the lane and making things happen. There is some disagreement on Jake and JP -- but only over which one is better. Each one won a conference freshman of the year award. JP is a cool customer who is a capable ballhandler with a deadly shot. Jake has great length and great scoring ability -- he is also a good shot blocker. If JP
improves his defense and Jake puts on a few more pounds, they could each make multiple All-Conference teams.

3. No Bad Losses. The team played some excellent teams tough. I’ve already discussed the Butler game. They hung with Gonzaga in Seattle. And they should have beaten Cornell at Madison Square Garden. Sure, the Charleston tournament was a little rough. But in the conference season, Davidson didn’t lose any games to teams at the bottom of the conference. We didn’t see the kind of domination that we had become accustomed to, but the team played hard every night.

4. Recruiting. Coach McKillop and his staff have put together a strong recruiting class. De'Mon Brooks (6-7) was his conference’s player of the year. His teammate, Jordan Downing (6-5), provides length and scoring on the wing that the team didn’t have last year. Chris Czerapowicz led Sweden to the U18 European Championships last summer, and is one of the top-ranked players in his age cohort. Tom Droney (6-6) is a high-scoring guard with the ball handling ability of a point guard. These players should enhance the team’s ability to score in a variety of ways. And there is no reason to expect that recruiting will let up next year -- the prospects who have been identified as having interest in Davidson are of similar high quality.

5. Transitions. We’ve mentioned it several times on this board, but this was a year of big transitions. Stephen Curry left a year early somewhat unexpectedly. Matt Matheney left the coaching staff to coach Elon. Ben Allison injured his shoulder and Frank Ben-Eze was recovering from knee surgery. Aaron Bond decided to leave the team. That is a lot of disruption, both expected and unexpected.

6. The SoCon Seems to be Improving. Finally, the teams of the Southern Conference seem to be improving. App State, College of Charleston, Elon, Western Carolina, and Wofford all seem to be headed in the right direction. That may make things more challenging for Davidson, but raising the profile of the conference is important for getting multiple teams into the NCAA tournament (may be moot now) and for getting better seeds. It also helps with recruiting.

Says Eddie: While their loss wasn’t unscheduled, you could add to your “transitions” item the departures of the SoCon’s defensive player of the year (MPG), along with Davidson’s second leading scorer and top rebounder (Lovedale). This wasn’t, and couldn’t be, a seamless transition. It was a shock to the system at all levels.

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