Welcome to the back half of February. Five games to play. It's the stretch run, and the CAA is anyone's game.
Normally fans of 200+ RPI teams coming off of a game where they came up short of 50 points, shot under 50% from the free throw line and didn't make a three pointer are looking forward to pitchers and catchers at this point. Maybe its delusional to think this Dragons team has even a punchers chance, especially in a league that features an undefeated team rolling through it.
Or maybe the Dragons have em right where they want em.
The offense has been clicking for these Dragons throughout the conference season. The game versus College of Charleston was their first since January 3rd in which the Sons of Bru had less then a point per possession. Until that happens again, its an outlier, not a coincidence. Perhaps more importantly, the defense has started to look better. Clearly, from both on the floor performance along with the coaches quotes, that was the focus of the last week while sitting at home. The fouls are still a problem, but against a very skilled group of inside players, Ruffin & Company held tough yesterday. The Hofstra offense will test them in a different way, with guards who penetrate and draw fouls to score. If the Drexel defense can answer that challenge, then maybe, just maybe Bruiser and the staff have solved the biggest problem with this team and can be looking at peaking at just the right time. Stranger things have happened.
In their first contest, Drexel and Hofstra went to the wire, Frantz Massenat played a career game, and all three Hofstra starting guards played 40 minutes on the way to a Drexel 77-74 win in Hempstead. Hofstra was in the last game of a 3 games in 6 game stretch, Kazembe Abif had 6 and 7, Tavon Allen was limited with injury for Drexel and Jordan Allen didn't play at all for Hofstra. Which is to say that the results of that game will have very little to do with what happens in this game.
Now, both Allens are back, Abif is gone and it's the Dragons that are on short rest while Hofstra has had five days off to gameplan for their revenge attempt. The addition of Jordan Allen will add important depth and even more size for Hofstra, who already has size at every spot except the point. The Dutch' size on the perimeter is what makes Tavon Allen so important for the Dragons, and having him back for this one to guard Upshaw (who tore the Dragons apart to the turn of 27 points in the first meeting) should be a huge boost to the Dragons.
At the same time, you have Frantz tweeting about letting the team down in Charleston, despite him being just about the entire offense in the final quarter of that game, and Chris Fouch coming off of one of his worst games of the year. It's short rest, but you can expect the Dragons to come out hungry, with Frantz and Fouch leading the way. In their last games, Hofstra didn't allow a three to JMU ad DU didn;t hit one against C of C. These things won't happen again, but look for success from deep to be a great indicator for how this game will go.
The Dragons have won six straight versus Hofstra now, the first winning streak of that length in the series since the teams joined the CAA (friend of the blog Jerry Beach ntes that that eight game DU winning streak ended in Richmond, Virginia, surprising no one). HU senior Stephen Nwaukoni has only seen one win against DU in his four year Hofstra career, and has been struggling lately, so expect him to assert himself as only a senior can, fighting to break both streaks at once. The Dragons shut him down in their first meeting this year, but doing that twice, especially with Allen back now, will be a chore.
Drexel played their best game at the DAC in quite some time in their last home game, and I look for a good Sunday night crowd (make it happen!) to add fuel to the fire. It's the end of the season, and it's time to come together. Hofstra is well coached and has significantly overachieved, they shouldn't be taken lightly, expect a fight, but win the rebounding, win the game. The guards will do the rest.
One last note: The ladies play before the men do on Sunday. For those who haven't noticed, they have been an RPI top 110 team for the last five years and a team made up largely of underclassmen is looking to do that for a sixth straight year. That says a hell of a lot for their coach. It may not bring the above the rim game that the mens side can, but if you want to see basketball how its meant to be played, with a fun to watch motion offense and shooers all over the place, try to at least catch the end of the earlier game on Sunday. Whether you're teaching your kids the game or just a purist, you'll enjoy it, and they usually play a competitve game, so you may catch some really good minutes at the end.
Prediction: Drexel 71, Hofstra 64
Vegas Line: Drexel -10 5