Friday, March 4, 2016

Hofstra - Pregame - CAA Tournament

The Dragons run continues at noon on Saturday in a faceoff with the Hofstra University Flying Dutchman.  While the Dragons have lost twice to Hofstra this season, they held the run and gun Dutchman to 70 points or less and stayed within single digits in both games.  So while CAA Player of the Year Juan'ya Green and his teammates will walk in a heavy favorite, there will still be reasons for Dragon fans to believe.

Hofstra plays an up tempo style very similar to Elon.  They challenge teams to outscore them, which is a whale of an order because they bring a lot more talent to the table than the Phoenix.  While the roster only appears to be six deep for the Dutch, those six include the conference Player of the Year, another 1st team All-Conference selection, and a 2nd teamer.  For perspective, Drexel had exactly no one on the first second or third team:  Hofstra will have an advantage at almost every spot on the floor.  That advantage extends to the coaches box, where Joe Mihalich presides for the Dutchmen, a coach who loves to push tempo and has been very successful in this three years leading the program.  Hofstra was a mess, finishing next to last when he showed up, this year they enter the tourney as regular season champions.

If Drexel wants to be in this game it starts with defense.  The Dragons have some advantages here: they played a similar perimeter oriented team on Friday and a of that mindset can carry over to Saturday.  Closing out on the shooters, fighting through screens and being aggressive will be the hallmarks.  That Elon shot 29% from deep was good, that they only took 14 attempts was better.  In two games against the Dragons this year Hofstra has taken an average of 19 attempts from downtown.  That number needs to trend down.

The other key is to exploit Hofstra's weakness.  Getting into the mud against this team is critical.  It will force both teams into Drexel's pace and cause discomfort on the Hofstra side.  It will also cause fouls, and with how short Joe Mihalich's bench is, any foul trouble is significant.  Where it is most significant is on the interior, where CAA First-Teamer Rokas Gustys is.  There are two advantages to pulling him into the trenches:  First, he is a horrendous (42%) foul shooter.  Second, his team really has no backup, they go from a dominant big man to a mediocre CAA level backup.  That this game needs to be a slow paced, ugly fistfight in order for the Dragons to be in it... While maybe it's easier to understand how this underperforming Drexel team has stayed in games against Hofstra this season.

In the Elon game, Elon had beaten Drexel twice in the regular season, but they had done so in close games while shooting the doors off the gym.  In this game, the history is the same but opposite.  Hofstra has won twice, and both games were close because Hofstra shot terribly in both games.  In the first game in a half empty nuetral court arena at noon they may have trouble shooting again, but if they find their shot this game will be over quickly.

Prediction:  Hofstra 74, Drexel 58
Vegas Line:

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