Previewing Dayton vs. Davidson

My A-10 tour continues. A season ago, I visited Fordham, Richmond, Rhode Island, George Mason, St. Bonaventure, Duquesne, Saint Joseph’s and Saint Louis. Right now, I’m in Charlotte, and tonight I’ll be just north at Davidson College, alma mater of Woodrow Wilson and Stephen Curry, among others. The Flyers play Davidson at 7:30 p.m.

UD has recruited one player in its history from Charlotte: Ramod Marshall, of Garinger High School. He’s Dayton’s fourth all-time leading 3-point shooter (2000-04).

Detwon Rogers, the junior forward who hasn’t played this season because of a knee issue, is from 2.5 hours away in Raleigh. I asked Archie Miller about Rogers again on Monday because he wasn’t in uniform Saturday, and there’s been no change in his status. As Miller said last week, Rogers is still trying to catch up in practice. I wouldn’t bet on him playing tonight.

While the Flyers don’t have much of a history in North Carolina, Davidson has five players on its roster this year from Ohio. All five are key players. Four went to high school in Ohio. One was born in Cincinnati and moved to Kansas when he was 3.

I asked Davidson coach Bob McKillop about the Ohio connection Monday.

“We’ve managed to be successful in recruiting Ohio the last few years,” he said, “and if you look at the history of Davidson basketball, over the years, a number of players from Ohio have come our way. Probably the greatest of all was (Canton native) Dick Snyder, who had a 13-year NBA career and had his number retired. He was recruited for football by Woody Hayes at Ohio State, and Lefty Driesell managed to secure his service from Ohio to come down here.”

The Lake Norman Citizen also wrote about the Ohio ties yesterday.

Bob McKillop’s Davidson roster is traditionally comprised of players from all walks of life and backgrounds, and in that regard, this year’s Wildcats are no different. They’re diverse.

There are players from around the globe, including Nathan Ekwu (Nigeria), Oskar Michelsen (Finland), Ali Mackay (Scotland) and Manu Giamoukis (Greece). But also this season, the Wildcats’ five most productive players have ties to one state: Ohio. Together, they are averaging 64.3 points, 23.6 rebounds, and 14.6 assists per game.

“I think once you get a player from an area, it becomes an area that is fertile for you,” says McKillop, whose team is 12-4 and 3-2 in the Atlantic 10. “Ohio’s been a fertile area for us.”

McKillop is in his 26th season. He told me Monday he remembers Archie’s older brother Sean, the Arizona coach, attending one of his basketball camps on Long Island when he was 10, along with Archie and Sean’s dad, John Miller. Of course, Archie played college basketball at N.C. State, so McKillop has had reasons to keep tabs on him over the years.

Now McKillop will coach against the younger Miller. Despite the age difference, they have something in common. McKillop took Davidson to the Elite Eight in 2008. Miller, of course, guided the Flyers there last March.

McKillop’s longevity is rare. According to this ESPN article, only Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim (39 years), Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (34), and Oakland’s Greg Kampe (31) have been with their programs longer in Division I.

With Power 5 autonomy and cost-of-attendance payments threatening smaller-budgeted schools, the line in college athletics is being redrawn just as coaches, who once always jumped to the next best thing, seem more inclined to sit still. The A-10 used to be a stepping-stone league — John Calipari, Thad Matta and Sean Miller are all alums.

But thanks largely to the league’s success, there isn’t such a rush to jump.

“Make the job you have your next job,” is how UMass’ Derek Kellogg referred to the new way of thinking among coaches, a motto Kellogg, VCU’s Shaka Smart, Rhode Island’s Dan Hurley and Dayton’s Archie Miller have (so far) followed.

Can that mindset survive after the money is split even more unequally? Even with better facilities and a stronger infrastructure, can teams compete and succeed once autonomy is realized?

McKillop, at once a league rookie and coaching dean, stopped worrying about those questions years ago. He has remained at what was, until this season, a Southern Conference school with tough admission standards and a tiny enrollment. He’s won 61 percent of his games, nine conference coach of the year honors, and appeared in seven NCAA tournaments, most memorably his Stephen Curry-fueled Elite Eight run in 2008.

McKillop’s team meets the Flyers on a down note in the midst of a strong season. The Wildcats were picked to finish 12th out of 14 teams in the A-10 preseason poll, but they won three of their first four conference games, losing only to league favorite VCU. Then came Saturday and an 89-63 loss at Richmond.

From the Charlotte Observer:

Tyler Kalinoski had 20 points and Brian Sullivan added 10 for Davidson (12-4, 3-2), which struggled from start to finish against the Spiders (10-8, 3-2) in avenging a 14-point loss to the Wildcats in their A-10 opener.

However, leading scorer Jack Gibbs – who had a career-high 32 points against Richmond two weeks ago – was held to seven points.

“We didn’t do our jobs,” Kalinoski said. “We lacked toughness throughout the whole game, physically and mentally. We just weren’t there tonight.

“We just didn’t have the intensity tonight, especially on defense. We prepared the last two days for this team, and we were prepared going into it. But we just didn’t do the things we practiced.”

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