The surprisingly 2-1 College of Charleston Cougars come to Philly to attempt to continue their hot start. All three of the Cougars opponents in the early conference season were projected to finish in the top half of the CAA, so that record is no fluke. The Ken Pomeroy ratings system seems to like this team more each passing day, after starting the season ranked 264, the team is all the way up to 108th, putting them 4th in the CAA according to those rankings.
In their last game and presumably the game at the DAC as well C of C had to go without their junior star Canyon Berry due to a separated shoulder injury. Without him, they are playing almost an entire squad of underclassman, but that didn't stop them from getting an impressive win against CAA frontrunner Hofstra on Thursday. And with this momentum they roll into a DAC that was last seen with tumbleweed rolling through the seats and past the concession stand. And yet, it is a surprisingly bad time for them to be walking through that door.
While the Cougars are coming off of a big win and needing to travel to Philadelphia, the Dragons are coming off of yet another loss and will have the chance to rest and prepare on the offday between. And at 0-3, and looking at a likely home loss to Hofstra next week, the Cougars walk, perhaps unsuspectingly, into a desperate Dragons lair.
Beyond how badly this team needs a win, there's also an undeniable truth about these Dragons: They've been playing better. Against William and Mary they scored over a point per possession for the first time since November. The defense has limited the opposition to reasonable free throw rates (shots attempted) in three of the last six games. The frontcourt has made the largest strides, with significantly increased rebounding numbers when compared to the first leg of the season. In the prior two contest, Kaz Abif and Rodney Williams have combined to shoot 18 of 26 on their way to 46 points scored.
There are a lot of similarities between this Charleston squad and the Flint teams of yesteryear. While the Cougars may not have a premier offensive player, they do have a number of pieces. Jarrell Brantley will give Rodney Williams a good battle in the paint, Brantley will certainly get votes for the CAA All Newcomer team. Marquise Pointer and Cameron Johnson are both skilled ballhandlers and sharpshooters, so the Cougars can attack in multiple ways. But more importantly, they all play tough, hard nosed defense, and when the offense doesn't have enough pieces, or the inexperience shines through, it's that backbone of defense and rebounding that keeps the team in games. Sound like anyone we used to know?
Charleston had one of their best shooting games of the year against Hofstra (although by the end of the year, a lot of teams may be able to say that) and with short rest it's hard to see them doing that again. And with the Dragons playing desperate, this looks like a classic, intense CAA rockfight in the making. Be sure to get down to the DAC at 4pm for one of the more intense games we'll have a chance to see on the homecourt this year.
Prediction: Drexel 65, College of Charleston 59
Vegas Line: Charleston -2.5
Alan Boston's Take:
College of Charleston began conference play by winning impressively at James Madison. They then went to angry league fave William and Mary who were coming off a loss and lost. Then, at home with Canyon Barry (Yes, Rick's son and yes, he shoots free throws underhand and yes he makes almost all of them) their leading scorer and leader of a very young team out with shoulder injury, no problem, they shoot 60% in the 2nd half and beat one of the other league favorites, Hofstra, easily. They come to Philly with a 2 and 1 record with a coach who only figures to make them better and better, the longer he is here. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we find Drexel, with a coach who apparently will make them worse and worse the longer he is there. I was surprised with how easily they lost last to William and Mary which leaves them 0 and 3 in conference. It is rather obvious that College of Charleston figures to win this game. However, at 0-3, I hope Drexel plays with desperation. The Cougars are coming off of a home run effort, and they could be a bit flat. One more shot for the home team.
Drexel 69 C of C 64