The Dragons landed in Anchorage on Sunday, arriving a few days before their participation in The Great Alaska Shootout. We're in the Era of Exempt Tournaments with every team in the country seeming to participate, but the Shootout is a classic. The contest started in 1978 and the list of Most Outstanding Players includes Jesus Shuttlesworth, Nate Robinson, Klay Thompson and a young sophomore from Marquette known as Dwayne Wade. Even in the recent "down" years for the tourney, three of the last five Shootout champions danced, and all five made the postseason. In 2014 the tourney moved into the brand new American Airlines Center which should assist with a rebirth of sorts for the Tournament.
The tournament history is mentioned on these pages because, amidst Drexel's struggles, this trip and the timing of it can help remind all of us what this is all about. By being a part of this Drexel Basketball program these guys are getting a once in a lifetime trip to see some amazing sights and play in a historic tournament. It's great to be able to support a program and school that does that. For all of the frustrations that come with being a 15-year Drexel fan, I'm thankful that we have a staff with the character and class that the DU staff has.
In the first matchup of the tournament, the Dragons find themselves opposite the UNC Asheville Bulldogs. Coach McDevitt inherited a bad situation when he came to Asheville three years ago and the only thing that has changed is that they have a New Belgium Brewing brewery in town now. Last year’s Bulldog team finished the year at kenpom ranking 232 and lost 7' senior shot blocker Jaleel Roberts to graduation. They also lost their best offensive threat, sophomore Andrew Rousey, who transferred to Marquette. That's a lot to lose from a team that was playing at the level of Drexel's six man squad of 2014-15 with those guys. This year they are 0-3 in D-I competition but it's worth noting that all three games were on the road and two of the three were high majors teams: Tennessee and Texas A&M.
Asheville may be better named the Angels both for the alliteration and their lineup full of wings. They're starting five is entirely between 6'2" and 6'6". They don't have a lot of size and they turn the ball over, a recipe for disappointment. This is a very winnable game for the Dragons, they should win the turnover battle and so the key will be, as always it seems, keeping Abif and Rodney Williams on the floor. Those two should have their way with the young and undersized Bulldog frontcourt. Expect a lot of zone from an Asheville team that has already used a lot of it this year. That will test the patience of the Drexel guards and coaching staff. Is this another game where they come out of each half getting the ball inside, and then walk away from it and become a (poor) jumpshot team with a scoring drought five minutes in? Or will they keep pounding the paint where their main advantage will lie, even against the zone? That's where discipline comes in to the equation. If the Dragons can consistently stay with what works out of the gate, regardless of personnel of the floor, that will be a great signal of growth for this team It would be a sign that yes, this team is moving forward, adapting, and improving.
Prediction: Drexel 70, Asheville 65
Vegas Line: Drexel -2.5
Alan Boston's Take
Thank you Dan for allowing me to say a few words because this preview has me a bit crazed. The Great Alaskan Shootout in its prime was the king of the preseason tournaments. It was an honor to be invited. The host had little chance to win, but they put on a great show. It gave East Coast hoop fans, great late night fun. That was when schools were not allowed to start until after Thanksgiving.
Phil Martelli was the last to not allow his team to play until after Thanksgiving. He also thinks all big 5 games should be played at The Palestra. Of course they should, but king scumbag Rollie Massimino felt his team was too good to allow a long time tradition to continue. Others followed. There is no reason to play basketball games on U Boats, in China, Japan and other assorted places that have nothing to do with getting an education. The main reason all this evil started, ESPN, actually did well and got a Big 5 game to be played at The Palestra. It was a huge success. Still, home games remain. It is sad when money trumps all. No more relevance to Great Alaskan Shootout, no more neutral court wars at The Palestra with half tickets sold to each school, a building divided, but in a good way. And for UNC Asheville, there is no more Andrew Rowsey.
Rowsey was supposed to be Asheville's best returning player, but he is one of 700 D1 transfers from last year. Oh, Rowsey went to Marquette. You see, when power schools let one slip through the cracks, they send one of their boys to the player, explain to him how he is wasting his time at the lower tier school or whatever lie they dream up and voila, we have another transfer, something which Drexel fans are well aware of..
The new rule changes have nothing to do with speeding the game up and everything to do with making sure that there will never be another George Mason. More possessions mean more rebounds, mean more athletic teams get more chances to break the back of the underdog. Also, they no longer can run good offense for 32 seconds, culminating in a great set, an open look and a frustrated favorite. 5 seconds is an almost 15% reduction in time needed to defend. Oh, and the hand check fouls allow more athletic guards to break defenders down one on one more readily. They want to make sure the money gets to the right places. Point being big money breeds evil which breeds corruption. High major college basketball is nothing but a big business. They only care about the almighty dollar. They do not give two fucks about the kids.
With Rowsey's transfer, Asheville still has 4 starters returning. It is also the 3rd year for Nick McDevitt. Oh, the prior coach was the great Eddie Beidenbach. I can only imagine why he left. One may recall Beidenbach's Asheville team dominating the game against clueless Syracuse. They led late. After when Coach Beidenbach correctly stated that UNCA outplayed Syracuse, scumbag Boeheim could only say, "Look at the scoreboard."
As for Asheville, they played Tennesse tough, lost to their big rival Western Carolina before being blown out by Texas A&M. something A&M has done to all their opponents thus far. In short, they are a good Big South team that would be a threat to win the conference, had their best player not decided that Marquette suddenly was the dream school to attend. In short, it is a game that Drexel should win. However, Drexel should have beat Monmouth and played High Point a bit closer. Perhaps Drexel's style is not a good fit for modern hoops or perhaps Bruiser has lost his mind. Either way, I have no faith in Drexel winning any game.
Drexel 72 Unc Asheville 71