The Dragons return to the hardwood tonight in Hempstead, New York. Let me rephrase that.
The rising tide of Dragon basketball returns to the hardwood tonight in Hempstead, New York!
The thing about tides is that as often as they come in, they go out. And while on any given Thursday in the CAA anything can happen, this... may be a good Thursday to be otherwise occupied. The Dragons played Hofstra twice last year and lost the games by an average of 26 points, and those games were only that close because Drexel had 21 points a game from Damion Lee. It was during that series that we learned that it is very hard for a team built like Bruiser Flint's current squad to beat a team built like Hofstra.
With the Drexel defense showing average at best this year, and a true lockdown defender no where in sight, Hofstra's offense makes for a fearsome foe. Seniors Juan'ya Green, Ameen Tanksley, and Denton Koon all can shoot from deep or penetrate and get to the line. The leagues best sharp shooter, junior Brian Bernardi gets open since everyone on the floor for HU demands a defender. Sophomore big man Rokas Gustys is hitting 61% of his shots and is second in field goal percentage in conference play. The four guard that Hofstra often plays also means that the a Drexel forward is going to have to extend out and guard the three point line, something that they have seemed totally unable to do thus far this season. And with the Dutchman offense rested, in their home gym, this game shapes up to be a house of horrors for the Drexel defense.
So then the pressure is on the Drexel offense to keep pace. There is optimism in the ranks, and it's deserved, as the team has played well on offense in their last two contest, pushing the ball into the paint and not just getting to the line, but executing from it. While that is a real and believable gain, it's hard to fight the history here. In only one of his fifteen years as Drexel Head Coach did a Bruiser Flint team finish in the top third of the country in effective field goal percentage. That was over a decade ago, in the 03-04 season. Only three times in his fifteen years did his teams even crack the top half of Division I.
So while the Hofstra defense is a sieve, a submarine with a screen door and barn in which the cow has already left all rolled into one, it's still a challenge to believe that the Dragon offense will be able to do what they need to do in this game. It'll be the stoppable force against the moveable object, all while the Hofstra offense, currently leading the CAA and 33rd in the country, gets to run the other way. It's a problem.
The Dragons are getting better. And it's important that no matter the outcome of this game, they stay disciplined and keep building on that. So if you do happen to be watching the game, watch the defense, see if the bigs can get a hand up at the three point line, or if the guards can stay in front of their men without putting their hands on them. Look at Terrell Allen and Sammy Mojica and see if they follow defensive fundamentals when their man is away from the ball. On offense, look to see the ball get into the paint, where Rodney Williams and Kaz Abif should be able to get to the basket nearly at will, at least until HU throws the zone. Check out the shot selection, and if the team can avoid the "Heroball" that plagued them in the early season. Ultimately growth in those areas, with consistency and discipline, is how this team comes together and gets stronger. Comparatively, the final score of this game matters much less.
Prediction: Hofstra 84, Drexel 63
Vegas Line: Hofstra -10.5
Alan Boston's Take:
My objection with big sports is that it makes a college a team owner, rather than a place to learn. No, I do not believe there is room for both. It defeats the spirit of the process. I am an old school romantic, perhaps anachronistic, however, when schools pay millions of dollars for coaches and $100,000 for professors, something is very very wrong. I am not putting this into words very well, but I do believe you know where I come from. I understand the need for schools to generate money. I do not believe acting like corporate America is the way to go.
Onto more important matters.
Drexel finally got off the schneid in conference play with their wire to wire win over shorthanded College of Charleston. There have been moments of excellence from Drexel this year. Unfortunately, ephemeral is not longstanding. and to win on the road vs one of the top teams in the league, Drexel will need 40 minutes of excellence. In 2016, with this coach, that will not happen. I mention the year, as I do believe at one time, in a different era, Bruiser's teams played 40 minutes of solid hoops, more often than not.
Hofstra is not the most consistent lot either. Like Mihalich teams of the past, Hofstra is excellent offensively but shaky defensively. They absolutely can be beat, even at home, but Drexel - on top of their lack of consistency - is quite simply just not good enough.
Hofstra 84 Drexel 71