Tim Sweeney, a former four-year starting point guard and assistant coach for the UR men’s basketball team from 1999 to 2006 has been riding the upset wave lately. Sweeney, a current assistant coach for Davidson College, was on the sidelines this past weekend as the Wildcats knocked off two of college basketball’s most respected programs in the span of three days.

For those unaware, the Davidson Wildcats have been the surprise story of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament thus far. With upset victories over Gonzaga and Georgetown, 10th-seeded Davidson has earned a trip to the Sweet 16, where it will face Big 10 Conference champion Wisconsin. The shock value of Davidson’s two victories alone can only be trumped by the fashion in which the games were won.

Both were second-half come-from-behind thrillers led by the brilliant play of undersized star, Stephen Curry, a player who, at 6 foot 3 inches (probably not that tall) and180 pounds (soaking wet), seems a bit too small to average 35 points per game in the tournament against the best competition in the country.

Sweeney, who is in his second year as an assistant for Davidson, was not surprised by the exceptional play of the team.

“No one here thinks of ourselves as a Cinderella team,” Sweeney said. “We have a lot of respect for the teams we play. At the same time, we’re confident in ourselves and feel that we can compete with anyone in the country.”

Neither was he surprised by Curry’s standout performance.

“Stephen is a cold-blooded killer on the basketball court,” Sweeney added. “He has a real cool temperament about him. He never gets rattled. He never gets too high or too low, no matter what the circumstances. He is a quiet, unassuming kid who just goes about his business every time he plays.”

When asked to compare Curry’s sweet shooting touch with UR’s very own long-range sniper, senior guard Rob Dominiak, Sweeney added, “Strictly shooting the ball with their feet set, they are about the same. Curry obviously has a lot more physical gifts than Rob.” (Imagine that!)

Many have pointed to Davidson’s grinding non-conference schedule as a key factor in the team’s postseason run. Prior to conference play, Davidson suffered stinging single-digit losses to UNC and Duke.

In addition, the Wildcats lost by 12 to UCLA but, at one point, held an 18-point advantage in the game. All three opponents were consistently ranked in the top five of the AP poll all year long. Sweeney agreed that this experience was crucial for a team that was looking to elevate itself to the next level.

“We played an unbelievable out-of-conference schedule,” Sweeney said.”Those early games were like a double-edged sword for us. They exposed some of our weaknesses and hurt our record. But on the other hand, they allowed us to realize what we had to correct to be able to play at that level. I would say that experience was the single biggest factor contributing to our wins this past weekend.”

Sweeney also noted the off-the-court pressures that naturally increase with the onset of the tournament, especially from the media. As a member of the Southern Conference, a league full of “mid-major” sized schools, Davidson flies a bit below the radar in terms of national media coverage. Compared to the majority of the teams left in the tournament, Davidson has far less experience dealing with intense media coverage. It was an adjustment, Sweeney said, that the team had to prepare for before the tournament started.

“When preparing for these games, you really have to consider the role of the media,” Sweeney said. “The media demands time from players and coaches and you have to work that into your schedule throughout the week. It can really be distracting if you allow it to be.”

Sweeney and the Davidson team will be looking to ride the momentum from last weekend into their match-up with defensive-minded Wisconsin. The game will be played Friday night in Detroit.

“We know that, historically, Wisconsin is an outstanding defensive and rebounding team,” Sweeney said. “We’re up against a great opponent with a great system of play. But we’re confident, and we know they will have to match up with us, too.”

Juron is a member of the class of 2008.



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