Apologies for the length, but it is warranted.
As most of you know, I am predicting the Davidson upset special. Of course come 2:30 tomorrow afternoon, I will be singing the “Well at least we made the tournament” song.
Anyway: Here is a great snoobery article regarding Davidson College for those who don’t know about us.
Think of us as David’s Son and Ohio State as Goliath. See it’s Biblical, and the upset tomorrow will be of Biblical Proportions.
One for the Books: Davidson a Team to yell for
DAYTON, Ohio — Davidson has no business being here. This is America, land of the free and home of the brave and open to underdogs and everyone and so on and so forth. Got it. But this is also college basketball, land of the giants and home of the cheaters and open to academic misfits and sloths and … just win, baby.
Davidson’s Ian Johnson makes a layup during practice Thursday in Dayton. (AP)
Davidson has no business winning. Not with this playing field. The average student at Davidson came to college with an SAT score of 1,360. Of course, it’s different for the average Davidson student-athlete — their SAT score was 1,370.
In Bob McKillop’s 17 years at Davidson, 53 of his 54 seniors have graduated. McKillop has been all over that 54th senior, and in May, the unnamed non-graduate will get his Davidson degree. McKillop’s players have become cardiovascular specialists, neurologists and poets. Pastors and Ph.D. candidates and executive headhunters.
Basketball players? OK, fine. Davidson has basketball players, too. But they have no business doing this, being in the NCAA Tournament, because that requires winning the Southern Conference Tournament. And trust me when I say this: Davidson has no business winning the Southern Conference Tournament.
The Southern Conference has a number of fine academic institutions, but nothing like Davidson. Few leagues beyond the Ivy have anything like Davidson. For years, the Southern Conference bully has been College of Charleston, where Division I transfers are always welcome and where players who can’t get eligible elsewhere, including one current freshman, can find a home. A school like Charleston, or other SoCon teams like Georgia Southern, Chattanooga and Appalachian State, can look at the pool of qualified recruits nationally and know, just know, they can admit almost any of them.
Davidson? Get serious.
Every year, Davidson assistant Matt Matheny goes to the summer meat markets of Nike or Adidas or Reebok. Hundreds of college coaches watch hundreds of high school players. Not Matheny. He doesn’t watch hundreds. He doesn’t watch tens.
”If I’m going to the Nike camp and there are going to be 300 guys, I’ve got to do a ton of work before the camp,” Matheny said. “When I get there, out of those 300 guys I can say, ‘These are the 10 — or really five — who have the academics where we can recruit them.'”
Davidson is to the South what Stanford is to the West. You have to admire what Mike Montgomery did at Stanford, and what Trent Johnson is trying to do there now. The academics at Stanford aren’t at the Ivy League or Davidson levels, but they’re closer to those levels than, say, the Southern California or Oregon levels. Unless you went to Cal, Stanford’s a school to root for.
Same with Davidson. Who else would you root for? Michigan? Eight years ago, Michigan beat Davidson in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, a win the Wolverines later vacated because of NCAA violations. Four years ago, Davidson returned to the NCAA Tournament and lost to Ohio State. Earlier this month Ohio State vacated that win because of major violations under the previous coaching staff.
To recap: The last two teams to beat Davidson in the NCAA Tournament were cheaters who had to give those wins back. But that’s college basketball. Davidson? Davidson isn’t college basketball. Davidson is a fable, or a Bible story.
”We like to refer to it as the ‘Davidson vs. Goliath’ syndrome,” said Davidson athletics director Jim Murphy. “Whether it’s academically or athletically, we tell our student-athletes to extend beyond their ability, and perform over their heads. At first glance we may not belong on this basketball court, but in reality that’s where we belong.”
Strange but true. If you’re not careful, Davidson will beat you. McKillop is the all-time Davidson and Southern Conference leader in wins, and every year his teams play a non-conference schedule that would make schools like Florida State, Colorado and Texas A&M quiver. Michigan knew. In 1998, even with the best roster money could buy, Michigan had the ethical audacity to dispatch three assistant coaches to scout Davidson’s final NCAA Tournament practice in Atlanta.
McKillop doesn’t have to be here, at Davidson. Not after 17 years. You don’t read his name every offseason when coaching moves are discussed, but not because McKillop isn’t pursued. You don’t see his name because he’s not a self-promoter. St. John’s once pursued him. Richmond. There have been others. He doesn’t talk about it. Good for him.
Here he is at Davidson, winning games he shouldn’t win, about to play a game he can’t win. No. 15 seed Davidson can’t beat No. 2 Ohio State on Friday in the Minneapolis Region. You know that, right? Davidson doesn’t have one player who would start for the Buckeyes, though senior guard Brendan Winters would play off the bench. Because the mismatch is so severe, Davidson’s players have spent the days since Selection Sunday studying nothing but Ohio State.
Wednesday, nearly half the team took a brutal test on Chinese culture. “The last three days I was more focused on that test than on Ohio State,” said senior guard Matt McKillop.
Matt’s father, the Davidson coach, doesn’t bemoan his difficult job. He embraces it.
“In the words of Hyman Roth in The Godfather,, ‘This is the profession we chose,'” Bob McKillop says. “And this is the school I chose. If I felt I was at a disadvantage, I didn’t have to choose Davidson. I didn’t have to stay here. But I wouldn’t trade my guys for anybody. I’m delighted to be table to walk into the locker room and have a discussion with my guys. I’m delighted to step onto the court and coach them.”
And you, whoever and wherever you are, should be delighted to root Davidson onward