The Dragons roll to Piscataway, NJ this week for a couple of pre-season NIT games, beginning at 5pm Monday versus the Elon No Longer Fighting Christians University of Unrising Phoenix. It can be easy to look ahead to the second game of the tourney, potentially against host Rutgers with a chance to head to Madison Square Garden on the line, but doing so would be a great mistake as the first game pits the Dragons against the SoCon pre-season favorites.
The four teams in this pod of the tourney were ranked by Pomeroy as follows at the end of the 12-13 season. In parenthesis is the number of players who played 15+ minutes per game last season and are no longer with the team this year:
Rutgers - 109 (4)
Canisius - 116 (2)
Drexel - 169 (2)
Elon - 211 (0)
This shapes up to a pretty even field in the pod, with Rutgers given a "home court" advantage and a "their prior coach was a master tactician but batshit crazy and the program is a shell of its not so impressive former self" disadvantage.
What might be strange is that in a year where Drexel will be the more experienced team in 90% of their matchups, they will not be against this Elon team. All SoCon (no Dac Pack, not SoCo) guard Jack Isenbarger looks like he will play his first minutes of the season (stress fracture) against the Dragons after being in uniform but not taking the court this Friday against Charlotte. Isenbarger is one of three pre-season all SoCon players for the Phoenix this year, alongside Lucas Troutman, Elon's all-time career blocks leader, who with a name like that should be playing for Yale. Also in the pre-season All SoCon squad is Ryley Beaumont, a 6'7" inside out player who will be Kaz Abif's personal chore all early evening long.
Not only will they not be the most experienced team on the floor, but the Dragons will also yield the height advantage they usually bring to the court, although this should matter less. The term that the reader should think of going into this game is "Ivy League," two words that will send a shiver down many a Drexel fans spine. Elon features Austin Hamilton,a 5'10" sophomore who started as a freshman at the point, alongside a bunch of tall white guys who chuck up three balls. Thus far 43% of their shots have been from downtown, after 39% were last year. For comparison, Princeton's highest % of threeball's to two point shots in a season in the last 5 years was 38%. Elon doesn't force turnovers, they don't rebound, they just make trifecta's like they're that guy with the black lung at the OTB.
The note then is this: If Damion Lee or any other guard is slow stepping out to defend the perimeter this game, Bruiser will be (almost) totally justified in every Mike Rice loving word he quietly, discreetly, and calmly tells the player on their way off the court. The importance of perimeter defense will also put considerable pressure on the mobile Kaz Abif, which should be one of the benefits that Drexel gets after having both Ruffin and McCoy out there last year.
If an experienced Drexel team can play smart basketball for 40 minutes then they should be able to take care of business at the RAC. If they don't well... http://espn.go.com/ncb/boxscore?gameId=323142309
Prediction: Drexel gets physical. Drexel 66, Elon 60
Vegas Line: Dragons by 4