Thursday, February 21, 2008


Whose brackets will get busted?
By Kyle Whelliston

Special to

Friday BracketBusters games

DAVIDSON (20-6, 18-0 SoCon) at WINTHROP (18-9, 9-3 Big South), ESPN2,, 7 p.m. ET

What it means: Charlotte-area mid-major bragging rights. The visiting Wildcats have won 16 straight games and boast a perfect SoCon record, but their at-large candidacy was likely erased by a 2-6 nonconference record and close-but-no-cigar losses to Duke, UNC and NC State. Bob McKillop's team, which streaked to a perfect 16-0 SoCon record in 2004-05 but was denied an at-large bid after a semifinal loss in the league tourney, knows its job. The Wildcats have beaten SoCon opponents by an average 17 points. In the first season of the post-Greg Marshall era in Rock Hill, S.C., Winthrop is leading but not dominating the Big South, a conference the Eagles have practically owned since 1999.

Key player: Stephen Curry, Davidson. The 6-foot sophomore, son of former NBA sharpshooter Dell, was tabbed as a special player in his first season but has evolved into a magical one. The fifth-leading scorer in the nation (25.8 ppg) has earned three SoCon player of the month nods this season, and he is amassing a growing list of "where-were-you-when" games that Davidson fans will remember for a long time. Like, for instance, his 38-point effort in Davidson's conference opener at Appalachian State or the 41-point outburst that helped the Wildcats dig out of an early 20-point hole at UNC Greensboro on Feb. 13.

Key stat: Before leaving for Wichita State last summer, Marshall coached Winthrop to seven Big South tournament championships. But none of his NCAA teams beat two ACC squads in the same year, a feat accomplished with wins over Miami and Georgia Tech under Randy Peele this season. And none of Marshall's teams played defense quite like this first Peele-led version. The Eagles have held conference opponents to 54.6 points per game, have only given up 70 or more once in league play and haven't allowed more than 75 since a 76-71 loss to Ole Miss on Dec. 13.

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