Hey Drexel fan, have you ever thought: "I'd like to be in a gym shittier than the DAC, but don't feel like making the trip to Rider"? You're in luck!
The Dragons travel to North Philadelphia on Saturday to take on the Explorers of La Salle. Dr. Giannini's squad is lead by a partnership of junior transfers, Jordan Price (Auburn) and Cleon Roberts (Georgia Southern). Those two players have combined for 53% of the teams points this year, meaning the only thing the other six rotation members are Exploring is being bad at offense. Sophomore Amar Stukes for example is not only shooting just 25% from the floor, he's also fourth on the team in shots taken. The poor kid is shooting 1 of 23 (4.3%) career from deep which most readers of this blog could probably do. He's 0-10 from distance this year, so not only should Drexel fans encourage him to take more threes, if he hits one I think he's earned a cheer from us.
Tavon Allen will get the unenviable task of guarding Jordan Price, and it may be a great opportunity for the Drexel staff to tell Tavon what he already knows - they need his defense in this game if they want to win. If Tavon is OK letting go of some of the load offensively to help his teams struggling D, it could go a long way towards winning this contest on both sides. Price is a 6'5" scorer that is a near impossible cover. Over 80% of his shots either come at the rim or behind the arc. He's taking the best shots on the floor and hitting them. That lethal combination of intelligence, sharpshooting and quickness is deadly.
In Cleon Roberts, the Explorers have a sharpshooting compliment to Price. A 36% career three point shooter, Roberts has hit on 41% of his shots from downtown this year as he continues to evolve as a basketball player. He stretches the floor for the La Salle offense as the defense can not help off of him no matter where he is on the court. Even scarier for Drexel fans, Roberts joins the rest of the Explorer squad as an elite free throw shooter. The North Philly squad is 18th in the country in from the stripe (77.1%), and as Drexel is 9th in the country in putting opposing players on the line... well it looks like the Drexel offense better show up or hope the refs swallow their whistles.
It's obvious the Dragons season is in peril. They need something to rally around and certainly a win against a city rival could represent just that. If the measure of a man is how he responds when he gets knocked down, well after the Alaska trip we have a lot of measuring to do around these parts. And it will be done very quickly. Heard it here first, this is a 15+ point loss or a 5 point win, nothing in between. And it's hard to take the Dragons side of that until they prove that they can get up off the ground.
Prediction: La Salle 80, Drexel 62
Vegas Line: La Salle -7.5
Alan Boston's Take:
I am often wrong. I thought John Giannini was a terrible hire. I watched his Maine team play in the Great Alaskan Shootout. It was embarrassing. However, he has done a terrific job at La Salle. Yes Philly has tons of hoop talent, but the days where kids want to play in front of their families or for the school they grew up watching are a distant memory. With Villanova around, the top talent is tough to get. You are also recruiting against St Joseph's and Temple for similar athletes. Also, my take is La Salle would not sell out and become a place where alumni make sure AAU coaches are players families are taken care of.
Yes, La Salle has great history. Sadly, that means nothing in today's college hoop world. So props to Coach Giannini for elevating the program, under extremely difficult circumstance. He has also done an excellent job as an X's and O's guy. His La Salle teams bear no resemblance to the mindless Maine team I watched. His teams have also showed great resilience. When they were forced to play 3 games in 5 days at 2 different venues miles apart vs a team playing their 2nd at the same arena shows the obvious foolishness of a play in round in the NCAA tournament. When some of the good ole boys were left out of the tournament, because the NCAA had the audacity to keep the tradition of allowing the winner of the ivy league and other "minor leagues" automatic bids, something had to be done. I specify Ivy as the NCAA was about to make their automatic bid null and void, until Pete Carrill's Princeton team played the epic first round game vs John Thompson and Georgetown. They could have won but of course the refs made sure there was no call, late in the game, when a Princeton player ended up in the 3rd row with a bloody nose courtesy of a Gatown players elbow. That was the feature non call in a game that not only went to the wire, but also and more importantly, was the most watched tournament game on ESPN.
Well if the Ivy league winner can take a one seed to the wire or rather get people to watch, then they won't eliminate their bid as they planned. So in comes a play in game. Later, when Gary Williams and other good old boys were bitching that Missouri St, Utah St or Butler could possibly get in before them, the NCAA decided to add more play in rounds. Tennis and golf have qualifiers to get into their majors. The NCAA has conference tournaments. However, NCAA basketball has become so corrupt, that they decide who must play an extra game. When la Salle had blown all of their 21 pt lead. were dead on their feet from their 3rd game in 5 days but still beat Mississippi 76 74, there was some joy in college hoops.
La Salle returns only 2 starters from last years team. They opened vs Towson and after 2 players had fouled out, Coach G told one of his players who had 4 fouls, "Let them score, don't foul" . If he lost another player, it would have been 5 on 4. They held on 78 76 then easily beat Rider and Lafayette. They finally got healthy vs Penn at the Palestra and lost by the shocking score of 80-64. Now comes Hofstra. Surely, 2nd game with a healthy roster, they will be better. Well, they were not. Then down 13 to a very experienced and very good Hofstra team, something clicked. La Salle missed a foul shot late to tie it and eventually lost 84-80. The loss may be what turns the corner. Jordan Price is an animal. He led this young group back when they were dead in the water. They displayed resilience like the Sweet 16 team did. That is bad news for a Drexel team, that somehow lost to St Joe's by only a single point. That also seems like a distant yet recent memory.
La Salle 78 Drexel 62