The nonsense has ended. For “mid majors”, the preconference games are the equivalent of a preseason. With the preseason over, relevance now rules. Since the Colonial is now forever a one bid league, conference games are indeed, all that matter. Let the games begin.
Drexel begins conference play at home vs league favorite, College of Charleston. Sixth year coach Earl Grant has done a terrific job in elevating this program to the top of the Colonial. Grant’s teams are known for their defensive prowess, however they play with a ton of intelligence, on both sides of the ball. On offense, everything will run through NBA prospect, senior point guard, Grant Riller. Grant’s offense features lots of screens and lots of patience. With Riller capable of scoring from anywhere, he will look to use the myriad of screens to find open threes or will work out of isolation, where few will be able to stay in front of him. Riller is also terrific defensively. Like many in modern hoops, Grant’s in your face defense is terrific at taking away threes. They revel in a grind it out, half court battle.
Charleston lost Jarrell Brantley to the NBA. His absence has hurt Charleston, more than I anticipated. My power rating on Charleston has gone down, since the season began. This is the lowest I have had Charleston rated in the last 4 years. Their best win, this season, was in the losers bracket at the Wooden Legacy, and that win was over a thus far, disappointing Providence. They blew leads at Central Florida and at home to VCU. Although the losses, Central Florida twice, Oklahoma State, Wake Forest, Richmond and VCU, have all been to quality opponents, your typical C of C team would expect to win several if not all. The Colonial at the top is way down this year.
Drexel had an erratic, but to this writer, an excellent lead up to conference. They hung tough both at Temple and at Rutgers. Most recently, they led an excellent South Florida team by two with nine minutes to go, before the roof caved in. They recovered nicely from that implosion by beating Quinnipiac and Norfolk St to win the Battle of the Boardwalk. Spikers fourth team is also his best, and youngest, team.
Last year, Drexel came from 13 down with just eight minutes to play to stop Charleston’s 22 home game winning streak, 79-78. Drexel almost hit the repeat button in the home rematch. They were 16 down with 14 to play and were a missed three pointer at the buzzer away from doing so. Charleston gained the season split 86-84. Charleston also eliminated Drexel from the conference tournament. They never trailed in an easy 73-61 victory.
It is likely that Earl Grant makes sure this game is played in the half court. Charleston can also be good at turning teams over, although they have yet to show that this season. Turnovers have been a problem for Drexel. Drexel will want to play at a quicker pace, but Grant’s teams are excellent at stopping transition, so Drexel had better get their half court offense fine tuned. The good news is Drexel did win their last 53-49. The bad news is they led 15 in the 2nd half and when Norfolk cranked up the pressure, they held Drexel without a field goal for the last 5 minutes plus. Still, a lesser Drexel team gave a better Charleston team fits, last year, so this game is very winnable. The winner of the tempo battle will likely be the winner of the game. With schools on break, the crowd will be small. I expect Charleston to impose their will. In the first conference game, class will show.
C of C 68 Drexel 62