The Dragons will walk into the most hostile environment that they will see this year when they visit Saint Joseph's University this Wednesday. They will be facing a Hawk family that is running scared, coming off of back to back losses to city schools and not looking to be at the bottom of the "good teams" pile in the city. There's talk of Phil being done and of the season being over before the conference season ever begins.
That's all garbage of course. The joy of being in the A-10 is that the Hawks will have plenty more opportunities for a good win, and losing to a high RPI Drexel team, even at home, won't end any chances of making a run. On the Drexel side, they'll probably need to go 15-1 in the CAA Regular Season for a win at Hawk Hill to matter to their at large chances. This game is much more about pride than it will ever be about the month of March, but in Philadelphia pride matters maybe more than anywhere else in the college basketball landscape. AAU coaches can feel it, recruits see it, donors sense it, and when it comes to talking to your friends and colleagues you're certainly going to hear it. And so this game is a big game.
As a Drexel fan, I love that. I just love it. When this team plays big games, they come to win. They played under the bright lights of MSG, in front of friends and family and they played with the best team in the country, and they beat a decent SEC team, and they did so while shooting like criminals firing at the A-Team. They couldn't hit the broad side of a barn at MSG and they still walked out with the country impressed. Against UCLA? Same story. I do not expect Drexel to lose the turnover battle in this game. I do not expect Drexel to be outrebounded in this game. Coming off of a couple of letdown spots against Tennessee St and Davidson, I expect the return of the A-Game for this one. On the flip side, the 11 day layoff for the Hawks means they'll be rested and healthy, but will they be sharp?
The Hawks aren't quite a two man team, but it's close. Langston Galloway and Ronald Roberts are seniors, and they're both elite players. Galloway has never shot less than 39% from three which is something that Gerry McNamera, Gary Neal and Stephen Curry can't say about their college careers. Roberts compliments him nicely and may be the best pure big man that Drexel has seen this year, which is high praise given DU's top 50 strength of schedule. He's got real post moves, can play with his back to the basket and gets the ball fed to him - he's taken three times as many shots as Dartaye has this year and done so while playing one less game then Ruffin.
There's another shoe to drop though: Galloway and Roberts have taken 50% of their shots while they're on the floor for the Hawks and there's a good reason. There's just not much else in the cupboard right now at Hagan Arena. Old Hofstra buddy Halil Kanacevic never really developed much beyond what we saw from him in his early career, Chris Wilson is a bit of a poor mans Derrick Thomas which is as disturbing to write as it is shocking to read, and Daryus Quarles isn't seeing 20 minutes a game as a senior. DeAndre Brembry looks like he could be a real player, but he's probably outshot his expectations thus far and Martelli is smartly trying to avoid throwing too much responsibility at him too fast. While the senior stars for the Hawks are legitimate studs, the supporting cast looks more like something you would see in the CAA than the A-10.
Across the court, Freddie Wilson looks like he can pick up some of the slack from Tavon Allen and give Drexel five legitimate scoring options on the court at once. Massenat, Fouch, Abif and Ruffin all have very strong offensive ratings on Kenpom, and the timing appears phenomenal as the shots have just started to fall for the Dragons in the last couple of games. Fouch and Frantz have combined to shoot 13 of 28 from downtown and Tavon Allen has maxed out at 12 shots in those contest, while only taking two poor choice shots last game, down significantly from earlier this year.
All season long I've said that when this team puts it all together, they're going to be a tough beat. The referees could well influence this contest as the Hawks will need all they can get from Galloway and Roberts and the Dragons will need Massenat and Ruffin to play their games. Foul trouble for any of those four changes their teams gameplan and quickly. If Drexel brings its A-Game or if the Hawks supporting cast steps up, it won't matter what the refs do though. And if I had to choose which of those is more likely, well...
Prediction: Drexel 74 - Saint Joe's 63
Vegas Line: SJU -2.5