It'll be 60 degrees outdoors in Philadelphia on Wednesday, so it'll be a hot one in the DAC when the Dragons tip off their home schedule against the High Point Panthers. The Panthers and Dragons both come into this game off of similar season openers, losing close games on the road to perceived similar opponents. The Panthers version came with a three point loss at Texas Tech last Friday evening.
The similarities don't end there. While both teams feature a predominately upperclassman lineup where they really parallel is in pace. Both of these teams look to slow it down, value the basketball and get the open shot. But when the Panthers get open, they make baskets. Like make it rain baskets. Perspective: Damion Lee shot 39% from deep last year to pace the Dragons. The Panthers shot 39% from three as a team. It will be a test of a Dragons defense that was shall we say - suspect - in their opening contest at St. Joe's.
That right there is what makes this game a great one for fans and coaches alike to watch - plenty of reason to make the trip out to the DAC tonight. After an uptempo foul fest to lead off the season, this game should be played at a much more Flint friendly pace. Couple that with a gameplan that should be back to the old emphasis on perimeter defense and while it doesn't quite call for "CAA rockfight" levels of painfulness it checks a lot of boxes for what Bruiser tries to get games to look like. Put simply, by the end of the night we should have a much better idea of if this Dragons team is as for real as their Coaching Staff has been hinting that they are. And if they are pretenders, we should know just as quickly because High Point might just be pretty good themselves.
Last year the Panthers went 13-5 in the Big South and impressed out of conference as well, taking down CAA runner up William & Mary among others. That team lost talented sharpshooter Devante Wallace and swingman Brian Richardson but kept their biggest threats. Fifth-year Senior Forward John Brown was the Big South Preseason Player of the Year and outright winner of the Big South Conference Most Generic Name balloting. Brown brings a post presence that the Dragons won't see for much of the rest of the season and sets up his shooter teammates with the ability to feed from the inside out. He's complimented by junior point guard and Second Team Big South-er Adam Weary. High Point doesn't start any freshman and will take the court with every college coaches nightmare: Talent at the point and in the post and upperclassman shooters on the wings. If these guys played any defense, they could arguably contend nationally. And that is where Drexel needs to take advantage.
In order to win this game, the Dragons will need to win a one on one battle with John Brown in the post. Bru never double teams, and if Drexel helps too much they will get abused by the perimter shooters. On the offensive side, it'll be all about repeating their performance in the back half of the Saint Joe's game: Get to the basket. If they can get to the paint and avoid the Rashann and Tavon jumpshot show it means higher quality shots and more fouls on Brown. If the cost of forcing the ball into the paint is a few blocked shots - this is a game where that might be worth it.
This game should be a closely contested fight and a stark contrast to the season opener. Look for the Drexel defense to progress and a final score in the 60's. This is a very winnable game for the Dragons, but I still fear that they bring their jumpshot game against a team that will allow them to get to the rim.
Prediction: High Point 67 - Drexel 65
Alan Boston's Take:
High Point had never won a title until four players who are now seniors arrived on campus. They have won 3 consecutive Big South regular season titles, but have not made the NCAA tournament. They are the favorite to do that this year. John Brown is their marquee player, who I believe has a pro career ahead of him. The sleeper of the four is Adam Weary whose entire college career has been plagued by injury, but says he feels 100% healthy this year.
Coach Scott Cherry is entering his 7th year at High Point and does a terrific job. With all their experience and the extra edge coming from never having made the tournament, I feel well coached High Point will get there this year. They began this year leading Texas Tech with 3 minutes to go before losing late. Tech shot 35 free throws, High Point 20. No comment.
Sunday they killed N C Wesleyan, who is a D2 school that I know nothing about. With me thinking that Drexel has an excellent team this year, I make them a 31/2 point favorite tomorrow. This will be a good test to see where Drexel stands as High Point power rates at the higher end of the Colonial, 2 points worse than where Hofstra ended last year, to give you some idea.