ASHEVILLE One milestone at a time, Davidson's basketball team is getting beyond Stephen Curry.
On Saturday night, in a 73-54 quarterfinal victory over Furman that was never in doubt, Davidson won its first Southern Conference tournament game since Curry turned pro a year early in 2009. Already, these 2011-12 Wildcats (23-7) had earned their first 20-win season since the Curry era.
Now it's time for Davidson to do what would really push them into the national spotlight once again -- win two more games over the next 48 hours and qualify for the NCAA tournament for the first time since the magic of 2008.
Davidson will play in a Southern Conference semifinal today and, if all goes well, in the 9 p.m. final Monday. The Wildcats are favored to win it all -- they are the No.1 seed. They were 16-2 in the conference's regular season, at least four games better than everyone else.
But will they?
I think, ultimately, that they will. This Davidson team is downright dangerous, built on two fine inside players who split the conference's two major player of the year honors (Jake Cohen and De'Mon Brooks) and supplemented by the usual Davidson characteristics (three-point shooting, unselfish play, exemplary coaching).
They will have to earn it here in Asheville, though. Davidson has proven itself good enough to upset a fantastic Kansas squad, but the Wildcats' RPI stands in the 60s because they also play in a relatively weak conference and haven't been good enough to beat teams like Wichita State or Massachusetts. Davidson has clinched a bid to the NIT by virtue of its regular season but would much rather have the chance to dance in the NCAA.
Coach Bob McKillop pronounced himself "very delighted" with the first-round win Saturday night and was particularly pleased that his team played like it was unburdened by pressure.
There is pressure, though. Davidson has no real chance at an NCAA at-large spot. So the next two days, for the Wildcats, is what tournament basketball really should be like. It's all in front of them. The Wildcats aren't playing for NCAA seeding. They are playing to know whether they get into the field at all.
Davidson never wants to forget Curry, of course. He is the program's golden child (and now man) -- a great basketball player who is also humble, smart and working on his degree with great diligence. He takes his laptop everywhere on NBA road trips to follow Davidson's progress.
But Davidson also must move beyond Curry. In basketball terms, 2008 and the Elite Eight was a long time ago. This Davidson team has a shot at writing its own story.
To do that, though, the next two days are everything.