- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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It's college basketball preview season, and you know what that means: tons of preseason info to get you primed for 2013-14. But what do you really need to know? Each day for the next month, we'll highlight the most important, interesting or just plain amusing thing each conference has to offer this season — from great teams to thrilling players to wild fans and anything in between. Up next: One more mid-major case study in the SoCon.
Earlier this morning, we talked about Belmont. More specifically, we talked about the rather wide gulf between what Belmont has accomplished on the court and its recognition among casual fans. The difference, of course, is success in the NCAA tournament.
Such is the curse of the mid-major in a 345-team Division I landscape. You can fight with everything you have all season long, wage a grueling conference campaign, and emerge victorious. Blood and tears are typically involved. A 35-game college hoops season is hard. And after all of that, many worthy mid-majors' best and only hope is that a) they don't go cold at the wrong time in the conference tournament and b) they can spring an upset in the first round. It doesn't matter how convincing your regular-season was. Everything comes down to a few plays on an early March weekend, for better and for worse.
If Belmont understands this lesson, so too does Davidson. Indeed, few mid-majors in the country could provide a more accurate case study in the difference a few plays in March can make.
It was just 2008, after all, that Davidson was led to the brink of the Final Four by a shockingly entertaining unknown named Stephen Curry. The 2012-13 season was the Wildcats' best since Curry was on campus, and was billed as such; it was a team molded around star center Jake Cohen and the efficient contributions of the guards around him. Davidson was good enough to make a deep tournament run. Instead? Marquette 59, Davidson 58 happened. Just like that.
And then there are the stakes. It will be difficult for Davidson to match last season's effort. Cohen is gone, as are guards Nik Cochran (a 49 percent 3-point shooter) and JP Kuhlman (the team's leader in assist rate). Bob McKillop still has a few arrows in his quiver; forward De'Mon Brooks and swingman Chris Czerapowicz top the list. But now, after years of baking a Jake Cohen-flavored pie at just the right temperature -- years scraping to get back to that blissful Curry level -- Davidson must go right back to the drawing board with a new wave of personnel and a host of conference foes nipping at their heels.
In case you were wondering: No, being a mid-major coach is not the easiest job in the world. I'm glad we got that settled.