Last summer, Davidson basketball coach Bob McKillop said he was concerned whether his program was ready to face the rigors of the Atlantic 10.
Davidson (12-4, 3-2) gets a chance to make an early-season mark on the league Tuesday against conference co-leader Dayton (15-2, 5-0) at Belk Arena. How the Wildcats fare against the 22nd-ranked Flyers will continue to provide some answers to McKillop’s questions.
Here are 10 things to know about Davidson and its new conference, the Atlantic 10:
1. Although the Wildcats are tied for fourth in the 14-team league, they’ve found out already how challenging the conference can be in losses at 16th-ranked Virginia Commonwealth and Richmond. The 89-63 loss against the Spiders was the most lopsided conference defeat in McKillop’s 26 seasons at Davidson.
2. Six Atlantic 10 teams made the NCAA tournament last season, more than both the ACC (five) and SEC (four). One of them was Dayton, Tuesday’s opponent for Davidson, which made the Elite Eight.
3. Dayton coach Archie Miller is a former N.C. State player and assistant. He’s 78-40 in his three-plus seasons with the Flyers and recently signed a three-year contract extension.
4. Davidson is 3-0 all-time against Dayton. The Wildcats beat the 19th-ranked Flyers 64-63 in New York’s Madison Square Garden in 1969, former coach Lefty Driesell’s final season at Davidson.
5. Although Davidson didn’t have anyone selected to the league’s preseason all-conference teams, the Wildcats lead the Atlantic 10 in four statistical categories: Jack Gibbs (assists, 4.9 per game; free-throw percentage, 90.8), Tyler Kalinoski (3-point field goals made, 2.9 per game) and assist-turnover ratio (3.3).
6. Tuesday’s game matches the conference’s top scoring team (Davidson, 82.4 points per game) against the league’s best defensive unit (Dayton, allowing 58.1 points per game).
7. The Atlantic 10 hasn’t been immune to the recent shifts in conference alignments: losing Temple to the American Athletic Conference, Butler and Xavier to the Big East and Charlotte to Conference USA in 2013; adding Davidson from the Southern this season and George Mason from the Colonial Athletic Association in 2013.
8. VCU (eight), Davidson (seven) and Dayton (six) lead the league in posteaseason appearances since 2007. Davidson’s invitations came out of its old league.
9. Eight Atlantic 10 teams are in the top 100 of the Rating Percentage Index (according to RealtimeRPI.com): No. 4 VCU, No. 25 Dayton, No. 41 George Washington, No. 51 Davidson, No. 61 Massachusetts, No. 76 Richmond, No. 83 Rhode Island and No. 100 La Salle.
10. It took less than one season in the Atlantic 10 for something to happen for the first time in more than half a century: Tuesday’s game is Davidson’s first at home against a nationally ranked conference opponent since 1953, when the Wildcats lost 105-71 to No. 8 N.C. State in Johnston Gym in a Southern Conference game.
The last time Davidson hosted a ranked team in Belk Arena was 2012, when No. 24 Wichita State beat the Wildcats 91-74.