More of a war of attrition actually. Both of these teams lost their star power at the guard spot early, As NU lost preseason 2nd team all-conference player Quincy Ford after just two games, an even shorter season then the Dragons were able to get from preseason 1st teamer Damion Lee. Northeastern wasn't deep even with Ford, and now are down to a 6 man team that tries to steal some some minutes from the end of their bench guys Marco Banegas-Flores and Derrico Peck. Drexel is down at least two starters in Dartaye Ruffin and Damion Lee, and may be without the services of Kazembe Abif as well, who is listed day-to-day. That will knock them down to 5 or 6 players that they are happy seeing on the court for this contest before turning to their deeper bench and names like Canady, Pantovic (who may be pressed into starting) and Bah.
The series between Drexel and Northeastern has always been a rockfight theme, even when the squads have been sitting with full rosters. In the 8 games over the last four seasons, only twice has a team broken 70 points. In 2 other games during that time, neither team even reached 50 at the end of regulation. With the depleted rosters this year, look for more of the same as the first to 60 will win this one, and even breaking 50 may be enough to clinch it.
On the Northeastern end of things, talented senior bigman Reggie Spencer was 11-16 from the field in his two games against the Dragons last year, and against the thin Drexel frontcourt you can expect him and his frontcourt partner Scott Eatherton to be good for at least half of Northeastern's shot attempts in this one. Up until the William and Mary game, Bruiser's crutch when Drexel was short on big men due to foul trouble was playing zone, and even if Abif can play in this contest, it would be a good idea for the Dragons to consider doing that early and often in this one.
Another reason for the Z is that Northeastern is down to only two perimeter guys in Walker and Pollard and neither of them are the shooters that Drexel saw at William and Mary. The best comp for this Huskies team may be the 07-08 Dragons, who had Elegar, Neisler and Oveneke in the middle who were held back by the complete disrespect that opposing teams showed the Drexel guards, playing a tight to the basket zone and forcing Hawthorne, Colds and Rodgers to beat them from the outside. It was a miserable season for the Dragons, and somewhat akin to what Northeastern fans have had to endure thus far this season. The Huskies answer to Hawthorn is Demetrius Pollard, a junior who takes 75% of his shots from 3. There's no reason to respect his drive. Sophomore David Walker is the other shooter on the team, and the one guy who NU wants to get the ball to with a late lead as he's shooting 80% from the stripe and no one else is even above 70%.
This game really screams for a triangle and two by the Dragons, with coverage on Walker and Pollard on the perimeter and forcing the big men into jumpers. Back in reality, hope for a 2-3 zone with some idea of where those two are at all times. Back in real reality, hope that Goran and Williams can stay out of foul trouble and don't get destroyed by Eatherton and Spencer in their man to man coverage.
On the offensive side of the ball for DU, I'm looking hard at Freddie Wilson. He needs to get some confidence badly, and if there is a game made for him, this is it. He can be stuck on the non-shooting guard on the defensive end which should insure his normal liabilities, and his ability to drive and dish to Rodney Williams could help get the Northeastern bigs into foul trouble or giving up easy buckets. If Tavon Allen spends any time at the 4 spot, it will given Wilson some additional minutes, and he needs to use what he gets and prove to the staff that he belongs as a relevant player on this roster.
Rodney Williams will be picking up his third start of the year, and may have already come off the bench for the final time of his career. His other two starts have both been away from the DAC, so if he can stay out of foul trouble enough to spend 20 minutes or so on the floor, he can really open up some eyes from the hometown fans. The magic number we're setting here on the blog is 3. That's the number of dunks to look for from Rodney this game, if he can do that then the Dragons are doing something right. No more 3 shot games, its time to start lighting up the scoreboard for the current starting center.
In the last four years, the winner of the first game of this series has won the second game as well. The better team (Pomeroy) has always swept while the current group of kids (less Chris Fouch) have been in school. In the battle of whoevers left, look for the Dragons to play desperate and show some hunger.
Prediction: Drexel 61- Northeastern 57
Vegas Line: Drexel -7