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 legacyMiddle 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 stardomNEC 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 behindRevamped Long Beach State takes aim at another Big West title

Atlantic Sun (No. 26): Humble, unassuming Torrey Craig leads South Carolina Upstate's resurgenceWhich 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 resurgenceCoastal Carolina hopes home is sweet this March

Southland Conference (No. 28): Pat Knight's epic rant had unintended benefits for LamarOral 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 runEarly departures drain league of some of its top talent

MEAC (No. 30): Rush of publicity from Missouri win has long-lasting impact at Norfolk StateSavannah 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 offBalanced league will crown new champ this year

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