On the night of November 14th, 2005, I was walking home from Drexel's campus when my phone rang. I'd just seen Drexel defeat Princeton with my father's family, one of my last memories of us all together. My father had went to Princeton, and both him and my grandfather were proud Kentucky born college hoop fans, so this game not only brought us together, but the Drexel win gave me a feather in the cap for the evening. And then the night got better. I received that phone call, from Sean Joyce, the DAC Pack's advisor during my Presidency (and all others).
Sean was calling to tell me that Sam Houston State had gone on the road and beaten Missouri and that all of the sudden, instead of traveling to Missouri, Drexel would be hosting a nationally televised game at the DAC for the right to go to Madison Square Garden and the NIT final four. He told me that I had to get every student that we could to pack the DAC in front of national TV in less than three days time.
Thankfully I had a great team around me as Jesse Zanolini, Tino Cerimele, Ed Ostapowicz, Bill Torr and a half dozen others that I need to apologize to for not naming here (my memory simply ain't what it used to be apparently, if anyone can help me with this let me know and I'll be sure to give credit) rallied together to get student's into the DAC. I asked Res Life for permission to go door to door through the dorms letting students know about the game. They said absolutely not. So we went door to door through each freshman dorm anyway. Every door was knocked on by someone in a DAC Pack shirt, telling them all about how ESPN would be in the house, the team had a chance to play Duke, and the chance for the team to be spending Thanksgiving in New York, on ESPN a couple more times.
The result? It can be seen in pictures on the walls at the DAC. One of the biggest, most exciting crowds we've ever had packed the building, and Ryan "Rainbow" Bright and Sam Houston State never had a chance. Drexel came out strong and never looked back.
I want to thank everyone that helped with that effort again. It's still one of my favorite achievements with the DAC Pack, and I hope you enjoyed it and take pride in it half as much as I still do. And I hope that even though this years team won't be playing at the DAC for that opportunity, they still can realize the possibilities in front of them in NYC. I hope they feel that same drive that Bashir, Kennell, and Frank felt that night as they led the team to victory. I hope I enjoy it half as much from the big boy seats as I did from the student section, although I'm not sure that's possible.
Drifting back towards the game itself, it's just as important that the team realizes that they ain't facing Sam Houston St on their homecourt, this is a Big East/AAC team in a true road game. They'll have a few thousand in attendance and they'll be looking for their own trip to the garden.
This game will feature Drexel's first challenge against really physical bigs this season, as Rutgers runs out 6'9" 250 pound senior Wally Judge across from Kadeem Jack, a 6'9" 230 pound junior who back in the day was offered a scholarship by Coach Flint to be a Dragon. While Jack's decision making is a very real question mark, so is the thought of Kaz Abif and a couple of freshman trying to body him up all game long. He will settle for jumpers so Drexel's smaller 4 players will need to keep pushing him out of the post and encourage the jump shot. Judge is more of an issue in the paint and on the boards, and seeing him battle against Ruffin should be fun for anyone who likes some good snot knocking senior big men going at it.
The RU offense is led by Myles Mack, a rich man's Chaz Williams. He had an off night against Canisius from the floor, but don't bet on that happening twice in a row. Rutgers also features JJ Moore, a 6'6" senior transfer from Pitt, who will be Damion Lee's responsibility on the wing. He's not afraid to shoot from anywhere on the floor and Damion will have to guard him out to the three point line.
Drexel will have it's hands full, in a Big East/AAC gym against a team that wants to be at MSG just as badly as they do. Likely without a rebounding advantage, Drexel will have to win the turnover battle to hang in this thing and would be tremendously helped if the shooting started to come around. Expect a slower, shot clock killing tempo in a game where every basket will be a big one.
Prediction: Drexel 67-66
Vegas Line: Pick em