SoCon Preview: Davidson is loaded for another run at a league title, NCAA bid

Yahoo! Sports is breaking down each league for the upcoming college basketball season working backward from No. 31 to No. 1. Here's a look at our No. 19 league, the Southern Conference.

Davidson may not have a star the caliber of Stephen Curry, but next season's Wildcats will probably be deeper and more well-rounded than the team the future NBA lottery pick took to the Elite Eight 4 1/2 years ago.

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.

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?)

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

More conference previews from Yahoo! Sports:

WAC (No. 20): Will the beleaguered WAC survive as a basketball league beyond next season?; WAC Capsule Preview: Utah State hopes to rebound from frustrating 2011-12 season

Sun Belt League (No. 21): In likely his final season at North Texas, Tony Mitchell wants to leave a legacy; Middle Tennessee State vies for the NCAA bid it narrowly missed last year

Summit League (No. 22): In the small town of Brookings, S.D., Nate Wolters is a reluctant superstar; South Dakota State looks like the clear favorite

NEC (No. 23): Oft-overlooked Shane Gibson hopes to go from hidden gem to stardom; NEC Capsule Preview: Three-way battle for league title could hinge on LIU Brooklyn suspensions

Big Sky (No. 24): New stars must emerge for Weber State to succeed without Damian Lillard; Montana remains the favorite despite Will Cherry's injury

Big West (No. 25): With San Diego State on its way, Big West teams are investing in hoops to avoid being left behind; Revamped Long Beach State takes aim at another Big West title

Atlantic Sun (No. 26): Humble, unassuming Torrey Craig leads South Carolina Upstate's resurgence; Which team will capitalize on Belmont's departure?

Big South (No. 27): Unwanted in high school, guards Saah Nimley and Arlon Harper are now powering Charleston Southern's resurgence; Coastal Carolina hopes home is sweet this March

Southland Conference (No. 28): Pat Knight's epic rant had unintended benefits for Lamar; Oral Roberts assumes the role of instant favorite in its new league

America East (No. 29): Stony Brook basketball draws inspiration from baseball team's College World Series run; Early departures drain league of some of its top talent

MEAC (No. 30): Rush of publicity from Missouri win has long-lasting impact at Norfolk State; Savannah State seeks NCAA bid to cap remarkable turnaround

SWAC (No. 31): Mike Davis prefers challenge of winning at Texas Southern to torture of taking a year off; Balanced league will crown new champ this year

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