Davidson Wildcats trying for one last SoCon title

Davidson Wildcats trying for one last SoCon title

March 7th, 2014 by David Uchiyama in Sports - College

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The Davidson Wildcats have won the last two Southern Conference men's basketball tournaments and seven of the last 16.

They're favored this year after going 15-1 during the SoCon season.

But they won't be in contention next year.

Davidson is one of four schools participating in the SoCon tournament for the last time as it will move to the Atlantic 10 after this season. Elon will head to the Colonial Athletic Association, while Appalachian State and Georgia Southern move to the Sun Belt Conference.

"Being in the Southern Conference as long as we have, the memory of Asheville is not just one that's recent, it's one that's very dated," Davidson coach Bob McKillop said. "The memories I have go as far back as the early [19]90s when the city welcomed with open arms all of the participants.

"I think they've not missed a beat."

But the Wildcats will be missed.

They carried the SoCon flag in 2008 when NBA All-Star Stephen Curry lifted the Wildcats to within a bucket of the Final Four and filled the conference bank account with NCAA tournament shares.

And Davidson is part of the SoCon's illustrious past. It was a member from 1936 to 1988, then again from 1991 through today.

"I hate it," Wofford coach Mike Young said of the Wildcats' departure. "I've just loved that [Davidson] game and I've loved that competition. That trip up there, and in here, that was the ultimate for me. I have so thoroughly enjoyed the competition and I'll miss them greatly."

Young's teams went 6-18 against those coached by McKillop.

"He got my [tail] more than I got his," Young said. "Nobody in their right mind can begrudge Davidson for doing what they did, and going to the A-10 with like-minded schools that care deeply about basketball."

GSU, Elon and App State have combined to win two conference tournaments -- both by ASU.

Elon, which joined the league in 2002, has not won a SoCon tournament championship. Georgia Southern, whose contributions to the SoCon have come more on the football field since its inclusion in 1991, has not won a basketball title.

App State won the tournament title in 1979 in Roanoke, Va., then again in 2000 in the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville, S.C.

ASU and GSU combined to win nine FCS football championships since 1985, including five in Chattanooga's Finley Stadium. But they haven't been the basketball powerhouse that Davidson has been.

"In no way shape or form am I excited to see [Davidson] leave," said UNC Greensboro coach Wes Miller, who played at North Carolina. "You want competition and high standards. To lose a program that sets the bar so high is something that I don't like. We want to play against the best.

"It's certainly a blow to lose Davidson."

UTC coach Will Wade, who at 31 years old is in is in his first season as a head coach, knows a little more than the Cliff Notes of Davidson basketball. Yet his only encounter with the Wildcats was a 94-51 whipping in Belk Arena this season.

As the top two seeds in the SoCon tournament, Davidson and UTC could meet again Monday night before a national ESPN audience with a berth in the NCAA tournament on the line.

"It was ugly and we got overwhelmed," Wade said. "We'll perform better if given another opportunity. It was an all-systems breakdown on our part, but they had a lot to do with it."

Davidson will also play a key role in determining which SoCon school will drive to the Dance before sashaying off into the A-10.

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-484. Follow him at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.