Team: Davidson Wildcats
Record: 26-7 (18-2)
Preseason Expectations: The Wildcats were the heavy favorites to repeat as Southern Conference champions and both the AP and the ESPN/USA Today poll had Davidson at No. 20 in their preseason polls. It can be argued that ranking was inflated because of the star status of Stephen Curry because this team was clearly not the same without players like Jason Richards and Thomas Sander.
Best Wins: Davidson beat North Carolina State (72-67) and West Virginia (68-65) in back-to-back games in early December and a quick glance at the schedule shows that those wins were far and away the team’s best although the win over West Virginia should come with an asterisk.
Worst Losses: With Curry out with a gimpy ankle, Bob McKillop‘s club got shellacked, 64-46, by the Citadel on February 18th. The Citadel, under the guidance of Ed Conroy, has made vast improvements this season and finished third in the Southern Conference, but getting trounced by the Bulldogs was inexcusable for a team hoping for an at-large bid—even if Curry was out.
Where it ended: Right around the beginning of the second half of today’s game against College of Charleston. The Cougars outscored the Wildcats 39-23 in the second half to send Curry and company home in the semifinal of the Southern Conference tournament.
What went wrong: Aside from the second half of the game against College of Charleston, it can’t be stressed enough how important former point guard Richards was to this team. He averaged 12.7 points per game along with 8.1 assists per game, and had one of the better assist/turnover ratios (2.8/1) in the country. Without his steady hand to run the offense, Curry was forced to move over to the point guard and was unable to run around the court trying to get free on screens. Teams were able to focus their defense on Curry and he struggled with all the attention.
What’s next: It is a very good question, and one that Bob McKillop would more than likely like to put off thinking about it for at least another month. But if the Wildcats fail to make the tournament, it is a realistic possibility that Curry will go pro. While the cupboard won’t be bare, the Wildcats will have scoring issues without Curry and Andrew Lovedale (a senior) on the court. The team will be forced to shift their offensive focus to developing players like Ben Allison and Frank Ben-Eze.
Team: Maryland Terrapins
Record: 18-12 (7-9)
Preseason Expectations: Most analysts probably would have put Maryland right where they are now, fighting for their life to squeak into the tournament. Maryland was predicted to finish seventh in the ACC according to the ACC preseason poll. They currently find themselves tied with Miami and Virginia Tech for seventh in the ACC, so, in the words of former Cardinals football coach Dennis Green, “They are who we thought they were.”
Best wins: Maryland has two fantastic wins on their resume: they had a borderline miraculous comeback victory over North Carolina, 88-85 in overtime, and they also had a big win over Michigan State, 80-62, early in the season when they played in the Old Spice Classic.
Worst losses: Unfortunately the Terps also have two very bad losses. They had every opportunity to solidify their tournament resume on Saturday in Charlottesville against the Virginia Cavaliers, but they blew their opportunity with sloppy play and porous defense as the Wahoos prevailed 68-63. But, possibly a worse loss was back in early January when the Terps let a double-digit lead slip away at home and they lost to Morgan State 66-65.
Where it ended: When Mamade Diane hit a 3-pointer with just under 40 seconds left to give the Cavaliers a three-point lead, Terps fans could see the NCAA tournament slipping away. The Cavaliers gave Maryland every opportunity to step up and run away with the game, but the Terps let the Cavaliers hang around and eventually take the lead in the second half. From that point on Maryland was forced to play catch up and they just didn’t have the firepower to pull it off.
What went wrong: Gary Williams had all year to develop someone to play second fiddle to Greivis Vasquez, and at times, Cliff Tucker, Landon Milbourne, and Dave Neal all played that role. But the role players on the squad were maddeningly inconsistent, disappearing for stretches of the season. In the end the Terps were too reliant on Vasquez to create offensive opportunities with his drive and kick, and Vasquez didn’t respond well to all the responsibility as there were times when he forced bad shots and tried to do too much.
What’s next: If Williams and company don’t make it to the NCAA tournament, Terps fans can take solace in the fact that it will give Williams more time to court top prospect Lance Stephenson, who would be the perfect offensive weapon to add to the Terp arsenal. Neal is the only player who will be moving on unless Vasquez decides to go pro, and the Terps add depth on the frontline with the addition of recruits Jordan Williams and James Padgett. Even if Stephenson does not end up in College Park, the Terps will have a great shot to end their tournament drought.