More Than Just “Underdogs”: Reasons to Root for Davidson Basketball

The reasons to back the Wildcats as they head into March Madness this Thursday are beyond that of just the alleged underdog mentality. Outside of a natural team pride that comes from attending a small school that has a chance to stand on a national stage, watching this animated and humble team play sucks you into the game no matter where or how you are watching. This team embodies family, spirit, and academia that is unique among the rest of the teams that are also “dancing” in the tournament.

First and foremost, Davidson head coach and renowned silver fox, Bob McKillop, is the gem of this team. You can’t help but love the dude. He coaches with heart and passion as most collegiate coaches do, but above that, the man is incredibly humble. Bob McKillop, he’s just like us!! You can find Bob working out in the Baker gym, usually on the elliptical just trying to get his sweat on, giving back to his community, or nodding hello to passing students around campus or from his daily commute to work from his house that neighbors Davidson’s Baker Sports complex. It is as if the man doesn’t realize that 1. the basketball court that takes up about a quarter of our tiny campus is named after him 2. He has lead Davidson basketball to several March Madness Runs in the program’s history 3. He coached highly endowed NBA star STEPH CURRY for goodness sakes.

The coach is also honest, and quick to recognize his team’s pitfalls and necessary adjustments, knowing when to give the boys praise while still setting high expectations. But despite the drive to succeed as a team, Coach McKillop is also aware of the pressure that falls on the basketball team to help represent the small liberal arts college and its small student body.

Moving on from Bob (which, while talking about Davidson Men’s basketball is hard to do), the obvious next spectrum of this team are the players. At other schools who compete at the same level as Davidson’s young men, the basketball players are barely present. The Wildcats are different. The day after winning the Atlantic Ten Conference Championship and getting home around one in the morning, the Basketball Players were present in classes, walking around campus, warmly accepting the praise they deserved but more importantly honing back in on the academic atmosphere that their school demands. Because of the importance of student in the dynamic of student-athlete at Davidson, the basketball boys don’t face a lot of the perks and easy passes that other high-end athletes at other programs enjoy. Some students cynically argue that these boys have an entitled arrogant air about them, but I beg to differ. Yes, they may keep to themselves, but this is because of the high demanding practice schedule they face both before and then during their long winter schedule that spans two semesters

On top of that, the teams that Davidson is used to going up against (and will continue to go up against in March Madness) are not nearly as academically rigorous or successful in the classroom as the Wildcats. In the Atlantic-10 conference alone, Davidson’s academic standard and success stand unparalleled in several statistics. The graduation rate for Davidson (according to statistics pulled from College Scorecard) sits at 92.6%, while the conference’s average graduation rate is only 73.7%. And in March Madness itself, the actual acceptance rate for Davidson is almost 50% lower than for schools in comparable seeds.

So believe in these cats because they have grit and come from a school that produces and enforces integrity and character. This team has some evident vital basketball strength with having conference and rookie conference players of the year (Peyton Aldridge and Kelan Grady respectively), one of the nation’s top teams in three-pointers, and an experienced coach. But what will cause a first-round upset will be the charisma they bring to the court.

*All above photo from Davidson's athletic site. 

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