A rematch with Gonzaga may bring back memories of Davidson’s memorable NCAA tournament run two seasons ago.
Following the departure of possibly the best player in school history, the Wildcats’ chances of simply making this season’s tournament aren’t looking good.
Davidson would seem hard-pressed to pull off another surprise against the 21st-ranked Bulldogs, who enter Saturday’s matchup at KeyArena in Seattle seeking their seventh win in eight games.
Gonzaga (7-2) has been to 11 consecutive NCAA tournaments and had long played the role of underdog, but on March 21, 2008, it was a first-round upset victim against Davidson (2-6). The 10th-seeded Wildcats beat the seventh-seeded Bulldogs 82-76 behind Stephen Curry’s 40 points.
Curry carried Davidson into the regional finals, where the school’s improbable season ended with a 59-57 loss to then-No. 4 Kansas.
Curry helped the Wildcats go 27-8 last season, but the team was left out of the NCAA tournament and settled for a spot in the NIT, where it was eliminated in the second round. After his junior season, Curry decided to enter the NBA draft, and Davidson hasn’t been the same since the departure of the school’s all-time leading scorer.
The Wildcats are already two losses away from their total from all of last season and have struggled to get their offense in gear, averaging 64.9 points - 12.9 less than a year ago.
In last Saturday’s 67-55 loss to the College of Charleston, Davidson shot 27.9 percent and had seven assists to 15 turnovers. Senior Will Archambault scored a team-high 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting after topping the 20-point mark in two of his previous three games.
“We will bounce back and we need to bounce back,” Davidson coach Bob McKillop said. “It’s certainly not going to be easy with Gonzaga on the road.”
The Bulldogs, who haven’t missed the NCCA tournament since 1998, rebounded from a 77-75 loss to Wake Forest on Saturday with an easy 79-40 win over Division III Augustana.
Gonzaga, winner of six of seven since a 75-71 loss to then-No. 2 Michigan State on Nov. 17, had 12 different players score and limited the Vikings to 27.0 percent shooting, including 1 of 21 on 3-point attempts.
The Bulldogs received a bit of a scare, though, when leading scorer Matt Bouldin bumped heads with an Augustana player in the first half and was on the floor for a couple of minutes. He did not play in the second half as a precaution, but should be available for this game.
“We expect Matt to be in the lineup,” coach Mark Few told Gonzaga’s official Web site. “We will take it easy with him in practice, but all indications are he is fine.”
Bouldin, averaging 16.8 points, is one of three Gonzaga starters that also was in the starting lineup against Davidson two seasons ago. Steven Gray led the Bulldogs with 21 points in that game, while Bouldin finished with eight and center Robert Sacre had two.
Gray is second on the team with a 13.6-scoring average this season, and Sacre is third, averaging 11.9 points.