Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Penn Pregame - Battle of 33rd Street

The below is written by Mark Walush

The University of Pennsylvania Quakers make their way down 33rd Street Tuesday to play our Drexel University Dragons at the Daskalakis Athletic Center. You read that right, Penn has finally decided to renew the closest rivalry in Division 1 basketball, and is actually doing it at Drexel’s home arena.  In the past 14 seasons, Drexel and Penn have played 11 times, and only 1 of those has been at the DAC. The rivalry was discontinued in 2012, 2014, and 2015, due to Bruiser’s insistence that Penn make the 1 block trip to Drexel’s home arena. Bruiser had every right to demand this, as Drexel has won the past 5 meetings between the teams, but Penn’s AD and coach refused to give in to Drexel’s demand, and held on to that high horse that the Palestra was above all else, and to travel to Drexel’s arena would be disgraceful.  To their credit, Drexel-Penn Palestra games were some of my favorite memories as a Drexel student. I mean, look at how well the DAC Pack looked in a bigger arena!  

This year, with a new coach and AD, Penn decided to put the past behind them and make the journey, and restart the rivalry game that should never take a year off.  Both athletic departments should be applauded for making this game happen and not letting the rivalry die.

Enough of the nostalgia: both teams are in a bit of a rough patch as programs right now, with Penn looking to adjust to a new coach, and Drexel figuring out some sort of identity now that Bruiser’s system is not suited for the new rules of college “everything is a foul” basketball.

Looking at the offenses, Drexel and Penn boast similar numbers, 99.1 points per possession and 98.8 points per possession, respectively.  However, their playing styles differ greatly from each other.  For Penn, they like to play an inside-out game, only being good at the inside part.  52.7% of their points come from 2-point shots, and they are shooting 55.4% inside the arc, good for 26th in the country. Outside the arc, Penn shoots only 29%, but 42.3% of their attempts are from outside the arc, good for 43rd in the country.  Against Drexel, Penn will look to feed it inside and drive the lane, as Drexel allows opponents to shoot 49.5% inside the arc, as well as sending opponents to the line frequently, the 5th best (worst) team at doing so.

When Drexel is on offense, they should be looking at driving the lane and feeding it inside, as getting to the line has been the only offensive strength for the Dragons this year, ranking 28th in terms of getting to the line. However, the Dragons are only shooting 42.5% inside the arc, good for 314th in the country and leading to lots of missed and-1 opportunities on the offensive end. Unfortunately for Drexel, Penn’s defense is strongest in the Dragon’s strongest area as well, ranking 14th in keeping opposing teams off the line.  For Drexel to win this game, they will need to play inside, getting Penn defenders off balance and getting to the rim. Shot selection has to improve for the Dragons, who we have seen time and time again, build a huge lead only to go back to long contested 2 point jumpers after building a lead based on attacking and being aggressive at the rim.

Penn’s main weapon on offense is Darien Nelson-Henry, who is not only an offensive shooting threat, but an incredible rebounder as well.  Nelson-Henry shoots 63% inside the arc, and a scorching 82.9% at the line, meaning that the trio of Drexel bigs will have to put forth a great effort to stop the 6’11” center from lighting up the stat sheet.  Other than Nelson-Henry, Antonio Woods and Jake Silpe provide good offensive balance for the Quakers, Woods and Silpe are national leaders in assist rate, and are formidable offensive threats as well, except for free throw shooting. Overall, I believe Drexel gets themselves feeling good for the holidays, improves shot selection, and shows the talent that we saw in small bursts this season.  They are hungry for a win, and I don’t see this Penn team getting in the way of that.

Mark Walush's Prediction:  Drexel 80 Penn 68
Dan Crain's Prediction:  Penn 68 Drexel 64
Vegas Line:  Drexel -3.5

Alan Boston's Take:

Sad to see Penn hoops deteriorate. However, I do believe they made an excellent hire. Donohue was not the right fit at Boston College, although I am not sure anyone is.  He'll be a good fit be at Penn. What he did at Cornell was miraculous. I expect even better with The Palestra his home and tons of tradition. They have had their moments this year. They will improve as the year goes. I think they have an excellent chance to win this game. I do not believe there will be much home advantage, this being Christmas week and Penn being 5 minutes away. With Rodney Williams out, Drexel is a bit shorthanded. It is also hard to know their mind set off blowing a big lead vs Penn St. I think this will come down to the wire either way. I may be a bit biased but:

Penn 76 Drexel 72

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