On Tuesday night the "big game" of Drexel's out of conference schedule will be played when the Dragons take the court on the campus of the University of South Carolina. Coached by former Northeastern University assistant coach Frank Martin, the Gamecocks are off to a hot start this year at 8-0 and have cracked the Top 25 in the USA Today Coaches Poll.
Generally Frank Martin's teams are a scary matchup for a team like Drexel. A grind it out pace with long wings that help crash the boards and make them a premier rebounding team tends to spell trouble. The scariest matchup in basketball is when your team plays a team that does the same thing, but does those things much better than you. Style won't help Coach Flint and his Dragons tonight.
While the Gamecocks appear to work an inside out game with upperclassman forwards Laimonas Chatkevicious and Mindaugas Kacinas combining to average 3 three point attempts per game, this might be more of a problem than a solution. Neither one of those guys have shot well over the course of their careers. Add to that list Michael Carrera who has shot 59% from downtown this year, but whose history parallels much more with the career shooting of Tavon Allen, and it's easy to think that this South Carolina team may be more of a hot shooting fluky start than legit top 25 team.
Also in play in this game will be long layoffs by both teams. This is a spot where South Carolina could come out flat as they have the long layoff going in and then a quick turnaround roadtrip to Clemson on Friday. It would be easy to look past the 1-6 Dragons, meanwhile Drexel comes in with a chance to take down a major conference giant giving these squads totally different perspectives as they take the floor at Colonial Life Arena tonight.
Those are the DU talking points - a very real potential regression to the mean on top of lack of concentration from USC could leave Drexel to hang in this game. If DU has a chance in this game it'll be due to a poor shooting night from the Gamecocks. Facing a team that shoots poorly and has been running uptempo this year, the ideal defense is a zone. Bruiser Flint isn't going to do that. Playing man to man in a high possession game means a high likelyhood of foul trouble. Depth favors South Carolina. In a game of missed shots, rebounding will be key. USC has a huge edge on the glass. Even if Calvin Hicks Crusade hangs for a half, it's tough not to envision the Gamecocks going on a run in the second and putting it away, as Drexel's season seems to be mired in a game of opposing team runs.
USC is a veteran team with length and shooters. At 8-0 and having beaten presumptive CAA Nominee Hofstra by double digits they've made it clear that they are players this season. While there is a case to be made for a letdown from Frank Martin's squad, these Dragons are still a ways away from where they need to be. The reason to watch tonight isn't the final score, but to see how much this team was able to pull together and mature during the offweek following their first win of the season. Does the evolution continue? Over the long season, continued evolution with a team this talented can still lead to success in the CAA.
Prediction: South Carolina 76, Drexel 62
Vegas Line: South Carolina -18
Alan Boston's Take
Well Frank Martin now has all his own players. With that, the team has got off to a terrific start. This is easily the best Gamecock squad in many a year, certainly the best in the 28 years I have done this professionally. Their best wins were over Hofstra and Tulsa in winning one of the many preseasons greed tournaments, theirs in the Virgin Islands. They really have not been threatened in any game. With 10 days off for exams, the best Drexel can hope for is some rust or a return to the 45 second clock, where Bruiser can play more of the game he is comfortable with.
Drexel surprised me with their easy win at Lasalle. I think it was more bad Lasalle, than good Drexel. Sadly, even good Drexel will not be enough here.
South Carolina 68 Drexel 44