CHARLESTON, S.C. – Charleston Southern opens its 2017-18 season Friday at Davidson. Tipoff at Belk Arena in Davidson, N.C., is slated for 7 p.m. A live video stream is available, for $5.99, on the Atlantic 10 Network, accessible via DavidsonWildcats.com. Fans can also listen to coverage on CSUSports.com, with the pregame show beginning at 6:45.
CSU's young roster will be challenged immediately against a Davidson squad that returns eight of its top nine scorers from last season. The Wildcats missed out on postseason play last year, but have posted an impressive 32-22 league record since making the jump from the Southern Conference to the Atlantic 10 prior to the 2014-15 season. Davidson's meticulous half-court offense will test a defense the Bucs have dedicated much of the preseason to improving.
CSU head coach Barclay Radebaugh is eager to see his team grow against stern competition. A formidable two-game road swing will continue Sunday at North Carolina State versus a Wolfpack club that employs a frenetic, up-tempo style of play.
"We're really excited to play and learn more about our team," Radebaugh said. "It's a great opportunity for us to go against two very-well coached teams that play distinctly different styles. Coach (Bob) McKillop does a great job at Davidson, and we certainly need to be ready to play hard and execute. We feel really good about our group and the progress we've made. We're ready to get the journey started."
Friday's matchup will be the first between the two programs since Davidson played in the Big South Conference from 1990-92. McKillop, entering his 29th season as head coach, is an 11-time conference coach of the year that has directed the Wildcats to eight NCAA Tournament berths, highlighted by a 2008 trip to the Elite Eight.
This year, Davidson figures to be led by senior forward Peyton Aldridge, a Second-Team All-Atlantic 10 pick a year ago. Aldridge averaged 20.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game last season. Davidson returns almost all of its rotation with the notable exception of guard Jack Gibbs, a two-time All-A-10 performer.
Newcomers shine in exhibition victory over Southern Wesleyan
Charleston Southern forced 23 turnovers and limited Southern Wesleyan to 35 percent shooting to record an 80-53 exhibition victory at the Buc Dome last Friday. Admission was free, with all donations going directly toward Samaritan's Purse's efforts to aid victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. Junior Travis McConico, a transfer from Florida State College at Jacksonville, paced CSU with 20 points. McConico was joined in the starting lineup by sophomore Jordan Jones and three true freshmen in Deontaye Buskey, Phlandrous Fleming Jr. and Sean Price.
CSU in openers
The Bucs are 14-37 all-time in season openers and 4-8 under Radebaugh. CSU has played eight power conference foes on opening night during Barclay Radebaugh's tenure. In last year's opener, the Bucs trailed by just six at halftime and by nine near the midway point of the second half against a Florida State team that would go on to win 28 games and advance to the NCAA Tournament Round of 32.
Keeling back after huge freshman year
Christian Keeling comes off one of the most productive freshman seasons in CSU and Big South history. Keeling was runner-up for Big South Freshman of the Year honors after setting a CSU freshman scoring record with 539 points. He was named Big South Freshman of the Week seven times; the most by anyone in at least the last 13 years. Keeling was the only freshman in the country to lead his team in scoring and rebounding, pace all league freshmen in those categories and rank top-ten league-wide in each.
Howard and Mitchell other key returners
Seniors Javis Howard and Cortez Mitchell will hope to help lead CSU back toward the top of the Big South. Howard led the Big South with three offensive rebounds per game last season. Mitchell showcased his explosive ability off the dribble in his first Division I campaign, and is expected to transition to point guard for the Bucs this year.