Lets talk about the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles. Lets discuss the similarities between them and the other deep south program that DU has played, the Crimson Tide of Alabama. Lets compare Neil Watson to Trevor Releford and talk about how similar these teams would look if Bama hadn't played one of the toughest schedules in the country instead of the batch of middle of the pack programs that have been in the Golden Eagles way. We should move on to discussing their strengths on the boards and how Drexel will even that out by destroying them in the turnover battle. Then, over a beer we can talk about how happy they must be to not have to deal with Memphis anymore, and the similarities between the CUSA departures and those of the CAA.
Lets talk about anything to avoid discussing the efforts by the Dragons since that Alabama game, the coattails of which Drexel has been riding throughout the back half of out of conference play. Coattails which get them a favorite over Delaware (sucks) as we enter league play. Those same coattails remind us, "of all that once was good and could be again." Those Dragons will come Coach Flint, those Dragons will come.
We won't go into those subjects on Southern Miss, because as a Drexel fan, this game isn't about Southern Mississippi. The Golden Eagles can come out and pitch a perfect game, win by 10, and as a Drexel fan, if the team shows up, and it shows fight, I can be happy with that result. On the last pregame I spoke of how proud I was, leaving the University at Buffalo after the 2005 NIT game, and a Drexel loss. There aren't a lot of times where that can happen, but if a top tier program, at home, goes out and pitches a perfect game against Drexel and Drexel fights and claws and keeps it close, then we roll with that.
No i don't care what the Golden Eagles do today, this game is about the Dragons. It's about one team that's been two. The early season team with Damion Lee, a swagger, and an energy to put on a show in front of their friends and family and ESPN over Thanksgiving weekend, versus the zombie barcrawl of two point jumpers, lazy possessions, and lazy coaching that we've seen since.
There's an argument that this game isn't meaningful. It won't count in the conference standings. An at large bid is out of the cards, and losing this one may actually cost this team an NIT bid, but no one thinks this team was in it for the NIT bid. This is the most talented team Bruiser Flint has ever had at Drexel, if there's ever been an NCAA or bust year, this is the one. This is the last game of the out of conference schedule, and there's virtually nothing riding on it that we'll be talking about at the end of the season...
... and it's the most meaningful game that Drexel has played this year.
I don't expect Frantz to remember who his big men are, Tavon to take nothing but smart shots or Freddie Wilson to guard his man, but when this Drexel team plays hard and everyone does their job, we saw them have all of those problems and still beat Alabama, without Damion Lee. Look back at how DU won that game while shooting just 11% from 3... 14 offensive boards from Ruffin, Abif and Williams. Only 1 turnover in 53 minutes from Tavon. 80% free throw shooting. This team doesn't need an overhaul, it needs to get back to doing the little things, along with grabbing all of the loose balls. And if some of the bigger pieces mentioned before also fall into place, then just maybe this team can be who we thought they were coming out of MSG.
This game is the last game before conference play, and it's the last really solid opponent DU has left on the schedule in the regular season. This sets up everything else, and gives the Dragons a badly needed opportunity to get their swagger back before the games start counting again. After this, it's 16 games all about getting the Dragons a bye and putting them in a position to win in Baltimore. Today we learn which team we should expect to see for that stretch.
The holidays are over, there's not much to look ahead to and they really, really shouldn't be sleeping based off of how they played last game. The game is a challenge, so there's just no excuses for a mail in today, none at all. Today we find out who they are for 2014, so get your popcorn ready.
Prediction: USM 68 - Drexel 67
Vegas Line: USM -7