Davidson represents SoCon well

People probably didn't lose much sleep when they picked Ohio State to defeat Davidson in their NCAA Tournament bracket, but the Wildcats almost made the Buckeyes' afternoon a nightmare.
   Davidson almost proved the experts wrong, as the Wildcats lost to Ohio State in a tough 69-64 battle during first round West Regional action Thursday in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
   To be honest, I really didn't get Davidson much of a chance going into this one. Despite winning the Southern Conference Tournament, I still wasn't sold on this Wildcat bunch.
   Davidson lost to last-place Appalachian State late in the season, and saw what had been a commanding lead in the Southern Conference's North Division slip away at the very end.
   The Wildcats eventually had to share the division title with East Tennessee State and UNC-Greensboro after a loss to VMI on the final day of regular-season play.
   The Wildcats regrouped to win the tournament, but I thought they were aided by early exits from College of Charleston and ETSU.
   I said after the Southern Conference Tournament that ETSU was still the best team in the Southern Conference. The Bucs just happened to lose in an overtime thriller to College of Charleston in the quarterfinals on what is basically a home court for the Cougars.
   Well, I owe the Davidson basketball team a big apology. The Wildcats are for real, and they deserved their NCAA bid.
   Davidson led the whole first half, and made it be known early that Ohio State was going to have a tough battle on its hands.
   Ohio State did pull ahead in the second half, but when it looked like the Buckeyes were going to run away and hide, back came the Wildcats.
   Davidson took the game down to the final minute, and left it all out on the floor.
   The Wildcats are an experienced team, and that probably helped in their cause. 7-2 post Martin Ides played the game of his life, scoring 20 points to keep the Wildcats in striking range.
   Davidson head coach Bob McKilliop deserves a hand for the way his team bounced back after the rough end of the season. The Wildcats could have thrown in the towel, but they kept on fighting and played some great basketball their final four games.
   Some Southern Conference schools have done some great things in recent years during the NCAA Tournament. ETSU beating Arizona in 1992, Western Carolina's near upset of No. 1 seeded Purdue in 1996, and Chattanooga's Sweet 16 run in 1997 are just a few things that pop through my mind.
   And Davidson battle against Ohio State in 2002 deserves to be on that list.
   College of Charleston legendary head coach John Kresse retired this week, and will definitely be a hard act to follow.
   College of Charleston was one time an NAIA school, and they dominated at that level under Kresse.
   The Cougars worked up the ranks, and eventually became a force to be reckoned with at the Division I level.
   All College of Charleston did was bring the Southern Conference to a new level. Three years ago, the Cougars were actually ranked in the Top 25.
   Charleston made the other teams better, and even though programs like ETSU and UNC-Greensboro have caught up, playing a John Kresse team wasn't much fun.
   The Bucs found that out this year in the Southern Conference Tournament, when they were defeated by the Cougars in the quarterfinals.
   Kresse was not only a great coach, but he had a personality that made him a favorite among the media who cover Southern Conference teams.
   After the ETSU game, Kresse gave credit to the Bucs for playing an outstanding basketball game.
   He was truly a class act.
   The debate on whether we are a Southern Conference region or an SEC region was sparked again this week with WJHL's choice of games during the NCAA Tournament.
   ETSU fans who wanted to keep up with how Davidson was doing were out of luck if they didn't have a satellite dish Thursday afternoon. WJHL decided to show the Alabama-Florida Atlantic game during the time slot that the Davidson-Ohio State contest was being played.
   Lucky for area SoCon fans that the Ohio State-Davidson game was the last game to start during the time slot, and people in the Tri-Cities were able to see the end of the game.
   But at least this time, the SEC won out.
   ETSU's annual spring game will be held April 6 at 12 noon. The game will be played at the Stone Castle in Bristol.