THOSE WHO rooted for Davidson, those who graduated from Davidson, those who picked Davidson to reach the Sweet 16 in their office pool had already come down from the rush of their victory celebration an hour earlier, after the Wildcats' 74--70 upset of Georgetown, when the instigator for all this Davidson love emerged one final time from the bowels of the RBC Center in Raleigh. Stephen Curry was, at last, freed from his postgame media obligations so, along with four teammates, he walked back to the floor level of the arena to watch North Carolina play Arkansas in the day's second game. The five Wildcats were showered with a thunderous standing ovation, Tar Heels and Razorbacks faithful included. Curry was wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt that on the front had the following word prominently displayed: BRACKETBUSTERS.
Twelfth-seeded Western Kentucky may have its buzzer-beating win over Drake, and Villanova, another No. 12 seed, has its 18-point comeback victory over Clemson, but through 96 hours of madness Curry & Co. were the Lords of Bracketville. No other team has collected more impressive skins than 10th-seeded Davidson (seventh-seeded Gonzaga and second-seeded Georgetown). And no other team can claim the tournament's transcendent star.
Curry, a slender, 6'3", 185-pound sophomore sniper whose quick release bears a striking resemblance to that of former NBA sharpshooter Dell Curry (who happens to be his dad, if you haven't been following), blitzed Gonzaga for 40 points and rallied the Wildcats from an 11-point deficit for the school's first tournament win since 1969. He also dropped 30 points on Georgetown and led a comeback from a 17-point second-half deficit against the Big East regular- season champs. The victory pushed Davidson's winning streak to an NCAA-best 24 games and gave the Wildcats a Sweet 16 matchup with No. 3 seed Wisconsin this Friday in Detroit.
Curry's weekend performance even left his mom, Sonya, stunned. Upon embracing the eldest of her three children in the stands after Sunday's win, she shouted into his ear, "What the heck is going on?"
Perhaps it is the fulfillment of a basketball life preparing for this moment. As a child Stephen often attended his dad's practices and would shoot hoops with the likes of Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter, Dell's teammates when he played for the Toronto Raptors. Stephen earned all-state honors his junior and senior seasons at Charlotte Christian, but because Dell purposely limited Stephen's participation in AAU basketball (he didn't think it taught good fundamentals) and because of Stephen's diminutive size (he was 5'9", 140 pounds as a junior), he settled for a scholarship at Davidson.
A soft-spoken sociology major, Curry shares a dorm room with guard Bryant Barr, and on his closet door hangs a picture of his dad shooting a ball in the NBA, right next to a picture of himself taking a shot. "He's better than I was," says Dell, who lost a game of H-O-R-S-E to Stephen for the first time after a Davidson practice last season.
Stephen's parents can be rightfully proud of his heroics in Raleigh, but they may be prouder of something he did earlier this year, when he found another student's wallet containing $160 and sought him out to return it. "It's fun to see Stephen enjoy success, because he's so humble," senior forward Thomas Sander says. "He scored 40 in front of a national audience, but on the bus back to the hotel, it's like nothing ever happened with him. He's not a superstar in his mind."