Team preview: Davidson

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(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)

The Southern Conference will see a very different Davidson team this year. Seven seniors departed from the tournament championship squad, including five of the team's top six scorers. Four are playing professional basketball.

Gone is 76 percent of the offense, including the school's career scoring leader, Brendan Winters.
It's not often that perennially strong programs the likes of Davidson undergo such a complete overhaul. Only two part-time starters return -- post players Thomas Sander (6.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and Boris Meno (5.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg) -- along with reserve point guard Jason Richards (4.5 ppg, 1.9 rpg).

Does this mean the Wildcats are due for a bad year?

Depends on how you define "bad." For the last two years, Davidson has finished 43-10 overall, 26-5 in the league, won a regular-season title, a tournament title and two NIT games. A dropoff? Yes. A losing season? Probably not.

"We lost some pretty good players," coach Bob McKillop said. "We lose experience, toughness, shooting, team chemistry; they were incredibly close and they set the tone in practice every day. They did everything a coach could want.

"Now it's a matter of seeing if our returning players have learned the lessons these seniors taught."

The Wildcats will miss Winters (16.9 ppg), one of the nation's top shooters who nonetheless played within the offensive system; Ian Johnson, a post player who averaged 16.0 points, 6.4 rebounds, and was among the league's top 10 in field-goal, free-throw and three-point percentage; Jason Morton (10.7 ppg); Matt McKillop, one of the team's best shooters and passers; and point guard Kenny Grant (6.7 assists per game.)

Davidson out-shot its opponents, out-rebounded them by six per game, had 100 more assists, and outscored opponents by nearly nine points per contest. The Wildcats beat Missouri, Massachusetts, St. Joseph's and Princeton, and lost hard-fought games to Syracuse and then Ohio State in the NCAA Tournament.

"Any coach who's coached as long as I have [18 years at Davidson, 16 in high school] has faced this kind of situation before," McKillop said. "As a staff, we understood what we were losing; our coaches understood the dynamics of team building. And in recruiting, we came away with guys who are really versatile and can shoot."