Saturday, February 22, 2014

Delaware (sucks) - Pregame

The annual trip to the Bob is upon us.  And while we all wish that the storyline was Drexel finding themselves for the stretch run and playing their best ball of the year, it's tough to make a case for that right now.  Yes, there are silver linings:  5 straight games without an opponent breaking 63 points reminds us of Bruiser teams of yore, the offense is leading the conference in turnover and free throw percentage, and their shooting from deep is up to 35% in conference play, a respectable number.  But with a team that hasn't broken 50 points in regulation in their last two roadies, the story going into Newark is about playing the spoiler.

Playing the spoiler against UD isn't anyone's idea of a good time.  While beating up on UD is absolutely a goal of Drexel fans, just the word spoiler infers "wait til next year".  Try thinking about the current years seniors while saying that, especially this collection of seniors, and not feeling like crap at the end of it.  This was never supposed to be a wait til next year team, this was supposed to be THE team, but time is getting very short to find that team.  So into the Bob we go, playing against a first place UD team who has had their best player suspended to start the year and their next best player suspended to finish it.  With just one loss, they would need to lose two to possibly drop from the one seed line, and the Dragons would love to help with that.  After the Drexel game, UD closes out the season with two on the road, so if DU can pull the upset, it could knock this chicken squad down a notch.

Of note is Drexel's 6-7 record.  The 6 wins have come against the last place CAA team (2x), the next to last place CAA team (2x), the 7th place CAA team (1x), and a team tied for 5th.  With three games to go, this team hasn't beaten a single top half of the league team in a conference that's ranked 19th by Kenpom and 15th in the RPI.  Between that and the lack of consistency all season long, it's getting harder and harder to make the case that this team is for real.  All season long I've defended the talent that this team has in this space, and I've believed every word of it, but I'm now running low on arguments to sell this team.  Winning this game, knocking off the number 1 team on the road, would be huge in getting some swagger back for the fellas, and bringing the believers back to Camp Bru.  While this game seems relatively meaningless to all involved insofar as end of the year standings, this rivalry game will matter, and could give the Dragons quite a big lift.

The first time these teams met, the one UD starter that went unnamed in the write-up was Davon Usher.   Almost surely because of that, Usher caught absolute fire, averaging 25 points a game and shooting 44% from three since that game at the DAC.  That includes a 42 point performance against College of Charleston, a team in which Drexel as a team collectively scored 47 points against.  He's shooting from anywhere in the gym and hitting.  It's hitting "mommy, please hold me" levels of scary for opposing coaches when they watch the tape.  He's flanked by Devon Saddler who you may have heard of, but with Threatt and King-Davis suspended (presumably for hanging out with shady characters like Devon Saddler) those 33 points from the first Drexel/Delaware meeting are off the table.

Of important note when reviewing the first meeting of these teams is that Drexel played largely a four guard lineup in that game.  They only had two forwards in the game for six minutes of the contest, which led to them getting absolutely slaughtered on the boards, the last time we saw that plan this season.  DU did have a massive turnover advantage that game, and if they can do that again but this time at least break even on the boards, they'll have a real shot at this one.  Without King-Davis, Baptiste is their only real force underneath so the Drexel offensive game plan should be to share the ball and get some early fouls on Baptiste.  When Baptiste is off of the floor, the DU bigs can play much more aggressively on help defense, which should leave the Dragon guards to be more aggressive in stepping out on the perimeter, important since the UD guards have no qualms shooting from beyond NBA range.

With how hot the UD shooters have been, even this shorthanded Chicken team can win any time they step on the court, but they've shown some chinks in the armor of late, losing to Towson in a battle and just slipping by C of C and Hofstra in the last two weeks.  These teams know each other inside and out, these coaches know each other inside and out, and its a mix of a revenge spot, a bounce back game and a game they need more from the Dragons.  Expect a huge effort from your blue and gold, the only true blue and gold in the conference, the Drexel blue and gold, and a game that goes to the wire.

Prediction:  Delaware 75-73
Vegas Line:  Delaware -4.5

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