Five starters and a handful of key reserves return after the program won 25 games last year, rolled to the Southern Conference title and pushed Final Four-bound Louisville into the final minutes in a opening-round NCAA tournament game in Portland.
The headliners are the two forwards, 6-foot-7 junior De'Mon Brooks and 6-foot-10 senior Jake Cohen. Brooks is an efficient scorer in the paint who averaged 15.7 points and 6.2 rebounds per game last season, while Cohen flashed the league's best inside-outside game, scoring 14.3 points, grabbing 6.1 rebounds and flummoxing opposing defenders with his ability to score from the perimeter or down low.
Although interior depth is a bit of a concern for the Wildcats, perimeter talent is another one of their strengths. Nik Cochran is a veteran point guard who can shoot the deep ball or attack the rim off the dribble, JP Kuhlman is a slasher who can also handle the ball and Chris Czerapowicz is a shooter with good size for his position.
Davidson's schedule is challenging enough that an at-large NCAA bid is conceivable with enough non-league wins, but the Wildcats may have to rely on the Southern Conference's automatic bid. If so, there are a handful of teams that will pose a significant threat.
The best team in the league besides Davidson is probably Charleston, which pairs the guard tandem of Andrew Lawrence and Anthony Stitt with double-double threat Trent Wiedeman and promising sophomore Adjehi Baru. The all-around play of Eric Ferguson makes Georgia Southern dangerous, while UNC Greensboro is improving but probably a year away from being the class of the league.
MAKING A LIST
Best shooter: Jack Isenbarger, Elon
Best playmaker: Andrew Lawrence, Charleston
Best defender: Eric Ferguson, Georgia Southern
Coach on the rise: Wes Miller, UNC Greensboro
Coach on the hot seat: Jeff Jackson, Furman
Three must-see games: 1. Davidson vs. Duke, Jan. 2 (The Wildcats will benefit from facing the Blue Devils in Charlotte instead of Cameron Indoor); 2. Louisville at Charleston, Dec. 4 (Scheduling coup for the Cougars getting a top-five team to visit); 3. Wake Forest at UNC Greensboro, Dec. 22 (Can Wes Miller beat the team he rooted for as a kid?)
FACTS AND FIGURES
New coaches: Doug Wojcik, Charleston (Had been head coach at Tulsa); Bennie Seltzer, Samford (Had been an Indiana assistant)
Regular-season winner last season: Davidson (South); UNC Greensboro (North)
Tourney winner last season: Davidson
League RPI rank in each of past 3 seasons: 2011-12: 23rd; 2010-11: 19th, 2009-10: 20th
Last NCAA tourney win by a league team: 2008, Davidson as a No. 10 seed reached the Elite Eight
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