Nov. 24, 2004
By Andy Elrick
The first time I heard about Davidson was in John Feinstein's book "The Last Amateurs".
For those who have not read it, the author follows a season in the Patriot League where student-athletes really are students first and often times players receive little or no attention from big-time or even mid-major programs coming out of high school. One of the most frequently wrought storylines is that lack of interest and the relative paucity of scholarship offers. Most of the players in the book are described as receiving offers from a Patriot League school, maybe an Ivy League squad, and, oh yea, Davidson.
Northeasterners like to think they have a corner on small, exclusive liberal arts colleges like Vassar, Williams or Middlebury. I'm here to tell you that none of those places have a thing on Davidson, and on the basketball court, it's not even a contest. The North Carolina school is ranked as the seventh best liberal arts college in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. Thus far they have steered clear of ranking basketball programs, but it's safe to say that placed in the same company, the Wildcats would be first by a mile.
So let's add Davidson to our list of schools to fall all over ourselves praising, shall we, because Duke and Stanford are just getting old. Earlier this month head basketball coach Bob McKillop found himself somewhere I'm guessing Coach K or Trent Johnson never would, Dr. Multhaup's cognitive psychology class. The Wildcats coach was there to defend the indefensible, the "hot hand."
The coach took on about 20 students in a debate on the validity of what has long been a staple of sports lexicon. Can a player really get the "hot hand?" McKillop pulled out all the tired old quotes you would expect from a college basketball coach, you know Wooden, Lombardi, Rockne.....Keirkegaard.
Yes, coach McKillop opened by quoting a 19th-century Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegarrd, who is more often than not used by stupid people to sound like they're smart. If someone told me to act like an intellectual I would start by quoting Keirkegaard. The difference between myself and the coach of the Wildcats is that I would be making it up and he, clearly, is not.
When McKillop isn't waxing poetic on the father of existentialism, he likes to coach basketball, and he's pretty darn good at it too. He's taken the school to a pair of NCAA tournaments and by the looks of things this year, a third trip might be on the way. The Wildcats have already beaten Missouri and trailed Duke by just four points with less than six minutes to play in their second game of the season before losing by 13. The good news is that they still have more than their fair share of opportunities to score wins over big-time programs like Saint Josephs, UMass, Charlotte and Seton Hall.
Leading the way for Davidson in its win over Missouri was the coach's son Matt, who dropped 28 on Quinn Snyder's team in the three point victory. Against Duke he took just four shots and scored zero points leading one to wonder what might have happened if McKillop had been on his game. Of course there are other weapons at his father's disposal including Brendan Winters who is averaging over 20 points and seven rebounds a game so far this season and Logan Kosmalski -- yet another Baylor castoff making good -- who is proving to be a force on the boards. With a myriad other Wildcats able to play the role of scorer as well a bad night for one of his stars doesn't have to mean a check in the loss column for McKillop's squad.
Good thing for him we're not all alone in the world.
The Big Board -- Week Two
My completely biased Top 5:
1. Vermont - The Catamounts retain the top spot for all the reasons stated in previous weeks and because they went into Allen Field House and stood up to the No. 1 team in the nation.
2. Long Island University- Thanks to Greg in Seaford who emailed me about LIU's home court the Schwartz Athletic Center. Nowadays it's the home of the Blackbirds basketball and volleyball teams but from 1928-1962 it was home to stars like Mae West, Bing Crosby, Rudy Vallee and Little Richard when it was known as the Brooklyn Paramount Theatre. A Wurlitzer pipe organ still stands and several concerts are held every year featuring prominent pipe organists (you know the ones). Add another one to the list: pipe organs in your home arena get you on the big board.
3. Wyoming- The Pokes are 2-0 after a double-overtime win against Princeton on Monday night. The school's website is also holding voting for the all-time team on the programs 100th anniversary. You are allowed to choose five players, which I did. All of them were named Fennis Dembo.
4. Denver- The Pioneers made the Big Board because the comedian Sinbad is an alum but they move up a spot thanks to someone who isn't. Current Denver guard Rodney Billups is the younger brother of last year's NBA finals MVP Chauncey who played at Colorado. The older Billups will be in attendance at the Pioneers game with Stanford on December 13 in hopes of selling out Magness Arena.
5. Davidson- See the top half of this article. Any program whose coach will debate a classroom full of psychology students deserves a spot on the Big Board.
Others receiving votes: Bucknell, Evansville, Montana, Niagara, Idaho, Utah State, UCSB and Toldeo
Andy Elrick is the Assistant News Editor for CSTV: College Sports Television and covers college basketball for CSTV.com. Got a comment? Write Andy and let him know.
Andy's Last Column:
Nov. 18: Mid-Majors Give Hoops An Early Spark
Davidson does it on the court, and off.