Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Nice AP article

Davidson, Winthrop give Charlotte area NCAA tournament hopes
MIKE CRANSTON
Associated Press


CHARLOTTE, N.C. - For an area best known for its big banks, NASCAR and sweet tea, another distinction has emerged here: mid-major hotbed.

Davidson (29-4) and Winthrop (28-4), on opposite ends of the sprawling Charlotte region, have each set school records for wins. Winthrop has won 18 straight games, while Davidson has won 25 of 26.

And fresh off conference tournament victories, both schools are determined to make noise in the NCAA tournament.

"Winning 29 games, and Winthrop winning 28 is extraordinary," Davidson coach Bob McKillop said Monday. "Coaches understand how difficult that is at any level. So right away we separate ourselves from so many other teams in the country."

At first glance, the two schools have little in common.

Davidson, a private school 20 miles north of Charlotte, has a rich basketball history including two trips to the Elite Eight in the late 1960s under Lefty Driesell. Since then, the school is 0-5 in the NCAA tournament.

But Davidson, behind superb freshman Stephen Curry, is headed back to the NCAAs for the second straight year after Saturday's 72-65 win over College of Charleston in the Southern Conference title game. It was the culmination of a remarkable season for the Wildcats, who were picked to finish fourth in the league's Southern Division in the preseason after losing seven seniors from last year's team.

Winthrop, a state school 25 miles south of Charlotte in Rock Hill, S.C., is a former all-women's school that didn't field a men's team since 1978-79. It was one of the worst programs in the nation until Gregg Marshall took over in 1998. He led the senior-laded Eagles to their seventh NCAA tournament appearance in his nine years Saturday with a 84-81 win over VMI.

On Monday, the Eagles - led by slasher Torrell Martin and big man Craig Bradshaw - were No. 24 in The Associated Press poll, the first ranking in school history.

Neither school has a bad loss. Winthrop lost at No. 3 Wisconsin in overtime and led No. 8 North Carolina by nine early in the second half before losing. The Eagles' other losses are to No. 7 Texas A&M and No. 17 Maryland. Winthrop won at Mississippi State, Missouri State and Old Dominion.

Davidson won at Arizona State, while its losses are to No. 21 Duke, Michigan, Missouri and league rival and 22-game winner Appalachian State.

Now both schools are looking ahead to the NCAA tournament. As coach, Marshall is 0-6 in the NCAAs, but Winthrop was never seeded higher than 14. That will change this year, with Winthrop looking at 10-seed or better.

"We've broken through the glass ceiling that you can't get better than a 14 seed in the Big South," said Marshall, whose 15th-seeded Eagles lost on a buzzer-beater to Tennessee in the first round of last year's NCAA tournament.

"Why can't we be 5 or 6 seed? But honestly I think we'll be a 10 or 11. Yes, we haven't advanced in the NCAA tournament. Give us a decent seed, and we'll talk about it."

McKillop feels his Wildcats also should be rewarded with something better than the 13 or 14 seed usually reserved for the Southern Conference champion.

"How many teams have won 29 games? Put us on the same line with teams that have won 25 of their last 26 games," McKillop said. "Put us in the same range with teams that have only lost one game since Nov. 25.

"Remember we're the second-youngest team in the nation. Factor all of those things in there and I've got to think we've got a pretty attractive seed."

Despite their proximity, Winthrop and Davidson haven't played since 1992, when they were both in the Big South. But Marshall said they've come close to scheduling each other as they struggle to find opponents.

"Most people hang up the phone when we call," Marshall said. "We've gotten really close. Scheduling is very difficult, but I think it's a natural. I'd love to play them."

3 comments:

Jeff said...

I know we still have a lot to accomplish this year, but does anyone have any insight into who the coaches are recruiting for incoming freshman? Any commits or insight into who the coaches are targeting?

David said...

There's no reason why Davidson and Winthrop shouldn't play each other. Not only would it garner a lot of local interest, but it would attract a great deal of national interest as our own little "Bracket Busters" of sorts.

WB said...

If both Davidson and Winthrop advance in the NCAAs this year, it would make more sense. Then it would be a contest between two highly respected (nationally) mid-majors. That would mean that the loser of the game would not necessarily be overly punished by the rankings/NCAA Tournament committee for the loss. It would be a "good" loss for the loser of that contest.

If both drop out in the first round in the NCAAs, then I would argue that it does not make sense for them to play. It would be a lose-lose. The winner "only beat a halfway decent mid-major". The loser "lost to a halfway decent mid-major". Nobody wins, in the context of building a resume.

Just my thoughts.

With that said, it would be good locally.