After back to back games against teams that want to go small and run, Drexel comes up against the slow, lumbering giant of the conference. The first time around, this meant DU going three guard for as long as they could (They only had three available forwards and Tyshawn Myles was in quick foul trouble, limiting the #3Guard to 18 minutes). That slow it down gameplan wasn't dominant against the Cougars, it was DOMINANT. The Dragons played so clean that Charleston shot almost 70% (9/13) from 3 and still lost the game. This is the best matchup in the conference for the Dragons.
Much like Elon, the Cougars are playing only one forward of significance, Senior Adjehi Baru. They're 2-9 record shows that the guards haven't been up for the pressure that has been put on them. Canyon Barry is still trying to do much more than he is able to at this point in his development, and while Joe Chealey has impressed at times this year, his zero points in his first outing against Drexel showed that the lengthy DU guards can contain him. The Cougars third guard, freshman Cameron Johnson has shown a shot from the perimeter and may very well develop into a very good CAA guard, but he still needs some time to develop.
It's not all bad news for the Cougars though. They just got back Anthony Stitt. Stitt had been struggling prior to getting hurt in early January but his return brings with it much needed depth and fresh legs for The College. Keep in mind how much Rodney Williams had struggled prior to his injury, and look at the Dragons since he has come back. Beyond Stitt's return, effort has never been in question for C of C, they fought hard at DU and have been in almost every game this year. They've shown marked improvement of late, prior to their big upset win over William and Mary on Thursday, they had lost all four of their previous road games by less than 4 points, and took UNCW to OT in their sole home game in that stretch. This is a better team than their record indicates.
And that is what is scary for the Dragons. The Cougars represent as a bad team and one that can be taken lightly, and they aren't that. They're playing their best basketball of the season right now, and they'll be fighting hard on their home court, on their Homecoming day. In addition, with back to back road games with one day between, time is short for the Dragons to travel, rest and prepare for this contest. A "lets just win and get home" mentality is how a team in Drexel's shoes goes home with a loss.
Before the Northeastern game, I posted this:
The first half of the conference season closes with a big one at the DAC, and it kicks off a stretch of games that will almost certainly determine the Dragons seeding when they head to Baltimore. Consider that two of these four games will be played in the rockfight style that the Dragons have found favorable (Northeastern, Charleston), one is a revenge game at home against a good but not great UNCW squad and the final game is against an Elon team that is 1-4 in its last 5. On the flip side, two of these four games are against teams tied for first in the conference, one is against an Elon team that destroyed the Dragons, and the final game is a Saturday road game that will involve short rest travel. Storylines abound. Lets just project a 2-2 split and call it a day shall we?
Regardless of what happens in Charleston, this has been a significant and successful stretch. The chance to go 4-0 is in front of the team though, and doing so will make some real believers around this conference before a brutal stretch run. If they want to be taken for real, they need to beat the 10th place team in the conference, no matter what circumstances may surround the game. Anything else and they may avoid Friday, but they will be the same old "Bruiser's Dragons" - the team that every other CAA team hopes to play in Baltimore.
Prediction: Drexel 60, Charleston 59
Vegas Line: Charleston -4.5
Alan Boston's Notes: Stitt returned for C of C to help upset William & Mary. He had 10 points 5 rebounds 5 assists off the bench. I was not sure Stitt's injury would hurt C of C but in fact their power rating dropped a half a point. I always felt that injured players who miss a good chunk of the year have a greater positive impact than the norm. Where others are wearing down, they have a ton of energy. This seems to permeate the team, so I expect underachieving C of C, to finish conference better than they began.
C of C has been a major disappointment. WIth a Greg Marshall assistant as their new head coach, I thought it would be a huge upgrade. The program has always been strong, so talent is always good. But like most of my thoughts, I am wrong. They have struggled right from the git go. The start of conference did not change things, not at all. They did however, play their best game of the year last game. They recently blew a big lead up at Drexel. They were missing Stitt in that one. However, Drexel was without Williams. Since his return Drexel has found a new gear or 2 or 3. Williams returned the game after Drexel's come back vs C Of C. They have won all 3 rather impressively. However, the battle rages on. Bruiser refuses to abandon his 4 guard set, that he began to help counter Williams loss. If Bruiser continues to try and make it work, Drexel will not make a deep run in the conference tournament. Sad, because they could potentially win it. There is no other team that will grind out a typical tournament half court slugfest as well as Drexel. Four guards takes Drexel away from that, which is their strength, their edge over others. This is a very tough spot for Drexel, playing with short rest, back to back on the road. They are also facing a team that will be super motivated after blowing the game at Drexel. They seem re-energized by Stitts return. However I would not count Drexel out. It comes down to the same sentence. If I knew for sure Bru would eliminate 4 guards, despite the tough circumstance, Drexel would be my pick here. But that does not seem to be happening, so with some regret
C of C 68 Drexel 61