In a game that was played so long ago that Ahmad Fields played in it, the Dragons took a tough loss in their last meeting with the Elon Phoenix. The rematch tips at 7pm tonight at the DAC and shapes up to be one of the better men's basketball contest in the building this year. Elon runs an entertaining, uptempo pace and last decided to play defense around four years ago which leads to, if nothing else, exciting basketball.
In their first meeting, Elon shot the doors off (48% from behind the arc) to sneak by Drexel by 5. That was on the second leg of a two game southern road swing that the Dragons were playing on short rest. In that game, Tavon Allen was 2/11 from inside the arc, while Kazembe Abif was 1/1 from the field in 24 minutes. Times have changed, as has the Dragons offensive balance.
The Drexel frontcourt dominated the Phoenix in the earlier contest, doubling them up in rebounding percentage all while Rodney Williams went 7/11 from the floor and got to the free throw line eight times. While Matt Matheny's team may still not be playing much defense, expect to see them switch in and out of zone, and run double teams on the blocks in order to keep the ball out of the hands of Drexel's frontcourt players. Coach Flint has yet to show us the big to big passing that can beat a double team on the inside, so it will likely be up to guards like Terrell Allen to take the kick out pass and dribble drive against an out of position defense. If the Allen's, Rashann London and Sammy Mojica do that they can make a complete living at the free throw line. If they settle for the patented "step in front of the line two pointer" then this becomes much more of a dogfight.
On the defensive side of the ball for the Dragons, the word is extend, extend, extend. They did a very good job limiting Christian Hairston on the inside the first time around and will need to continue to beat him with single coverage in this game That will enable Kazembe Abif and the guards to get out to the perimeter. Drexel's big men have had tremendous difficulties all year long guarding the perimeter (part of what has Mohammed Bah in the doghouse) and Elon loves to shoot triples. Over 45% of their shots are from behind the arc (14th highest in the country), which seems silly once you note that they are 205th in the country in three point shooting percentage. Nonetheless, Tanner Samson and the game will keep throwing those shots up, and it will be important to see the guards to fight through screens and hold their off the ball assignments.
With the Phoenix coming off of back to back to back losses and the Dragons not having won for 40 days and 40 nights expect two hungry teams to come out. Even with both teams looking the CAA Pillow Fight Friday play in games in the face, bodies will be on the floor and with Elon's run and gun style on top of all of that, this should be worth the price of admission. So what the hell, come on out and support your Blue and Gold one more time, you're running out of chances to do that this year with only two home games left after tonight's showdown.
Prediction: Drexel 73, Elon 72
Vegas Line: Elon -4.5
Alan Boston's Take:
Back in the old days, before college hoops became a big business, back when kids played a sport a season, the end of the basketball season was a time when teams would often mail in games. In modern hoops, with kids used to playing 365 days a year and coaches jobs always being scrutinized, there are fewer flat spots to be found.
In his 7th season Coach Metheny has done an excellent job at Elon. Once a middling Southern conference team, they are slowly becoming relevant in the Colonial, a stronger league. If they do not find some reason to get rid of him, I believe he will have Elon competing for the title within 2 years. It will not happen this year. Elon needed to beat College of Charleston at home to have much hope of a first round bye in the conference tournament. Prior to that important loss, they put in a huge effort in a close loss at UNCW.
Drexel showed a ton of fight in not letting the game get out of hand at Northeastern. If they play any semblance of that game, they do figure to beat a team that in the old days, for sure would put in a clunker. In modern times they will have a tough time at best at being energized.
Drexel 76 Elon 69