Speed up meal on busy nights

Black Bean and Spicy Sausage Stew

Just another game tonight for the College of Charleston basketball team, albeit with major standings implications on the home court of the once and current Southern Conference sheriff.

The post-Stephen Curry slump is over for Davidson.

Realistically, the Cougars are too young and injured (and inconsistent) to catch Davidson right now. Or on Feb. 11 when the Wildcats are due at Charleston's John Kresse Court.

Fine. The Cougars can let Davidson make its case for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid and run away with the SoCon South Division. Better to gradually prepare for the Battle Royal at the SoCon Tournament in Asheville where, hopefully, guard Anthony Stitt will have recovered from his broken hand and Bobby Cremins' team will be ready to challenge Davidson for the league's automatic invitation to the NCAA Tournament.

So the pressure tonight at Belk Arena is squarely on the Wildcats.

Davidson head coach Bob McKillop almost agrees.

Maybe not so much on the pressure theory -- "There's pressure on every team and on every coach that takes the court

in every conference game," McKillop said. Or the sneak peek at the SoCon tournament -- "The next game is the only game I worry about," he said.

But the at-large argument part.

"You look at the schedule we've played," McKillop said Wednesday from his Davidson office. "I would think when the rankings come out after this week, (No. 7) Kansas and (No. 4) Duke will have a chance to be among the top five teams in the country. Vanderbilt, before it's all said and done, I think will be a top 20 team. Those three games really jump out."

McKillop on Cremins

Davidson stunned Kansas, winning 80-74 in Kansas City on Dec. 19. The Wildcats led at Duke by one point at halftime before losing, 82-69, on Nov. 18. They lost to Vanderbilt, 87-83, on Dec. 7.

High hopes have bounced around SoCon courts before.

But this could be the year.

Despite non-conference losses to Charlotte and Massachusetts, Davidson (12-4 overall and 6-0 in the SoCon) might be good enough to give the league its first NCAA tournament at-large berth.

Providing, of course, that the Wildcats win from here to the SoCon tournament championship game. Then lose to some upstart squad in maroon.

McKillop, 61 and in his 23rd season at Davidson, has the utmost respect for the Cougars and Cremins, 64.

"I think Bobby has done another superb job of taking the talents he has, finding roles for those talents, simplifying the process and taking advantage of his talent," McKillop said.

About Asheville

Davidson, a team rebuilt after Stephen Curry left for the NBA as the SoCon's all-time leading scorer following the 2009 season, came of age in its upset of Kansas.

"From a coaching standpoint, it was incredibly encouraging for me to see our guys -- who had been slapped around by Charlotte and who had just had exams - to see them respond right from the start and for 40 minutes against Kansas. It was a real statement about our team. That was not there last year."

The process wasn't easy. Davidson averaged 28.3 victories per season in the previous three years with Curry before slipping to 16-15 in 2009-10 and 18-14 in 2010-11.

"I don't know that I was as patient as I needed to me," McKillop said. "I don't look for tomorrow, what happens today is what excites me."

What happens tonight should excite fans of both programs.

Another pressure-packed step for Davidson on the way to the NCAA tournament, one way or the other.

A chance for the Cougars to gain the experience necessary for Asheville.

Reach Gene Sapakoff at 937-5593.