Davidson owns the longest winning streak in the nation and one of the country’s most prolific scorers, but it isn’t going to take anything for granted entering the postseason.
The 25th-ranked Wildcats look to extend their win streak to 20 games as their bid for a third straight Southern Conference tournament title begins Saturday against Wofford in the quarterfinals.
Although Davidson (23-6) went 20-0 in conference play and has won 44 of its last 45 games against Southern Conference opponents, it still has to win this tournament to guarantee an NCAA tournament berth.
There is a precedent for a ranked team from a lesser-known league getting knocked out early from its conference tournament and failing to gain an NCAA at-large bid. Utah State was ranked 22nd when it lost 63-62 to Cal State Northridge in 2003-04 to fall to 25-3 overall, and was forced to settle for an NIT bid.
Davidson, in the Top 25 for the first time since 1969-70, wants to avoid any possibility of that scenario as it tries to win its 34th straight game against a conference foe. Only three of its league games this season were not decided by double digits.
“If you start looking at prognostications, if you start looking at the way things play out, you start getting distracted,” Davidson coach Bob McKillop said. “We can’t get distracted from our focus, which is Saturday’s first game. It’s like if you step to the plate, you’ve got to focus on the ball. That’s what we’re doing.”
McKillop - the league’s coach of the year - has Southern Conference player of the year Stephen Curry at his disposal. The sophomore guard, who is the son of former NBA star Dell Curry, averaged 25.3 points this season.
Curry made a conference-leading 125 3-pointers and is shooting 43.7 percent on 3s. He’s also an 89 percent free-throw shooter.
After suffering back-to-back first-round NCAA losses to Ohio State and Maryland the last two years, Davidson played a tough non-conference schedule which included losses to North Carolina, Duke and UCLA by a total of only 22 points.
“Getting knocked to the mat early as aggressively as we did, it strengthened us and reinforced us,” McKillop said.
The Wildcats have won four straight against Wofford (16-15), including two meetings this season by an average of 24.0 points. Curry averaged 30.0 points on 63.6 percent shooting in those wins.
Wofford has recorded its highest win total since going 17-9 in 1994-95. The Terriers advanced to the quarterfinals by eliminating Western Carolina 58-49 on Friday as freshman Noah Dahlman continued his recent strong play with a team-high 16 points.
Since being re-inserted into the starting lineup on Feb. 14, Dahlman is averaging 12.3 points in six games. He averaged 6.5 points in his first 23 games.
The Terriers, whose best win of the season was a 69-66 victory at Purdue on Dec. 19, snapped a four-game losing streak in the conference tournament Thursday.
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