Davidson’s had plenty of success under head coach Bob McKillop, who will be entering his 25th year at the school this fall. McKillop’s 452 wins are the most all-time at the school, and he’s taken the Wildcats to five NCAA tournaments in the last eight years, including an Elite 8 appearance in 2008.
“I think it’s a home run,” one Atlantic 10 coach told SNY.tv of the move. “They’re consistently successful, they’ve had success against high-level opponents, they have a coach that brings tremendous stability to the program.
“They’ve been good for a long time and they’re going to keep being good and that’s exactly what you want in a conference member.”
The Wildcats haven’t had a losing season since going 15-17 in 2000-01; since then, they’ve had eight 20-win seasons, including 29-win campaigns in both 2006-07 and 07-08.
“They’re just going to keep being successful which is exactly what you want in a conference member,” the coach said. “Someone that you know is going to help the conference’s strength of schedule and give you a chance for multiple bids every year.”
It was a banner year for the Atlantic 10 last season, as the 16-team conference sent five schools to the NCAA Tournament. La Salle ended up a March Madness darling as the Explorers reached the Sweet 16 for the first time in two decades, while the other four (VCU, SLU, Temple and Butler) won their first games before bowing out in the round of 32.
However, the Atlantic 10 will see Temple (American), Charlotte (C-USA), Butler and Xavier (Big East) all depart this offseason. The additions of George Mason and Davidson, two schools with a combined eight NCAA appearances over the last eight seasons, certainly helps offset part of that loss.
This is not uncharted geographic territory for the conference, as the town of Davidson, N.C. is only 20 miles away from Charlotte — though, with a population of just over 10,000 as compared to Charlotte’s 750,000, the nightlife might be a little different for visiting fans.
Davidson’s announcement would come 44 days after George Mason decided to make the move, the Wildcats will be joining the conference in 2014, according to ESPN.com, while the Patriots are joining for the 2013-14 season. That means the conference will play with 13 members this basketball season.
The 1,756-student college, previously in the Southern Conference, would become the smallest school in the Atlantic 10 in terms of undergraduate population, though the 5,220-seat Belk Arena puts the Wildcats in the middle of the pack in terms of stadium capacity.