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The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

They’re taking different paths, but Davidson and College of Charleston both got it right

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Davidson and College of Charleston will be measured against one-another (AP)

In the span of mere days, officials at College of Charleston and Davidson made conflicting decisions regarding whether they should remain in the Southern Conference or accept an invitation to join the Colonial Athletic Association.

Now, history will evaluate the trajectory of these two programs against one-another in an effort to determine who made the better decision.

College of Charleston reportedly will accept an invitation to join the CAA, a decision that suggests the Cougars believe a more prestigious conference with greater TV revenue represents their best chance to grow as a program. Davidson will remain in the less high-profile SoCon, in essence sending the message they're comfortable with who they are and the level of success they've enjoyed.

So who got it right? Counterintuitive as it sounds, perhaps both of them.

Davidson had more to lose by leaving the SoCon than Charleston because the Wildcats have the greater recent history in the league.

In the past 11 seasons, Davidson has won its half of the SoCon eight times, made five NCAA tournament appearances and landed two NIT bids. The Wildcats are heavy favorites to win the SoCon and return to the NCAA tournament again next season thanks to the return of five starters from last year's 25-win team.

Charleston has been a perennial contender in the SoCon during that same time period, but the Cougars only have won or shared their half of the league four times in 11 years and they haven't been to the NCAA tournament since 1999. Most preseason projections have Charleston just behind Davidson yet again this season in the SoCon's Southern Division.

There's no guarantee Charleston can rise in stature in the tougher, deeper CAA, but the gamble comes with less risk for the Cougars than it would for Davidson. And even with the departure of VCU and Old Dominion severely weakening the CAA, the league still has some qualities that make it attractive to Charleston.

The CAA has been superior to the SoCon in basketball, earning multiple NCAA bids three times in the past seven years, producing two Final Four teams and landing a TV deal with NBC Sports Network. New contenders will have to emerge for the league to earn multiple NCAA bids again with regularity, but CAA teams have been far more likely to land in the 8-12 seed lines in the NCAA tournament than the SoCon teams, which seldom fare better than a No. 13 seed.

So if joining the CAA potentially could mean more money, more prestige and more exposure, why would Davidson turn that opportunity down? Well, because such a move would come with plenty of risk.

Since the CAA's footprint extends to the Northeast with Drexel and Northeastern, travel for league games would be much more arduous for Davidson than it is in a more regional league like the SoCon. Also, the CAA may not produce two or more NCAA tournament bids on a regular basis without VCU and Old Dominion, so Davidson no doubt worried that it would be making its path to the NCAA tournament more difficult by trading one one-bid league for a tougher one.

In an era of conference realignment when bigger is always better no matter the consequences, it was refreshing to see Davidson show restraint.

The Wildcats had too much to lose to join the CAA at a time when the league's future strength is unclear. College of Charleston was in a much better position to take that risk.

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