Out of Conference Play Preview – By Eric Resnick

1

 

It is the dawn of new basketball leadership that has most Dragon fans looking forward to the 2016-17
basketball season for a fresh start. When looking at the out of conference (OOC) schedule, one is reminded that this is not a Bruiser Flint schedule. Coach Flint had a knack for knowing which opponents made sense for his teams, with the exception of the 2011-12 team that exceeded everyone’s expectations.  In that case they played a schedule where many of its opponents didn’t play out as good as they projected to have been. This season, there is a new staff that doesn’t want to kill the team’s confidence before its first Colonial Conference game. Only 3 teams on the schedule were in the Top 200 in their previous campaign.

Prior year RPI in parenthesis.

Nov 11 @ Monmouth (60)- The Hawks beat UCLA, #17 Notre Dame and Georgetown away from home last
season on its way to a 27-7 season only to lose in the MAAC finals to Iona and settled for an NIT
appearance. Teams like this who can win on the road deserve to make the NCAA Tournament. Monmouth
returns senior guard Justin Robinson who could very well finish his career with 2,000 points despite not always starting in his freshman season. He amassed 28 points against the Dragons last season. Drexel played respectably in its home opener to the Hawks last season on its way to an 82-74 loss, shooting a solid 44% from the field.

Nov 13 @ Rutgers (293)- Rutgers is the most household opponent on the out of conference schedule which isn’t saying much. Rutgers joined the Big 10 for the benefit of all sports, but in particular football. The basketball program could never keep up. Last season, Rutgers managed only one conference win which was against Minnesota a team with only two conference wins themselves.

The last time these two teams met was in Piscataway when Drexel took out Rutgers on its way to the
preseason NIT. Former UNC-Wilmington center C.J. Gettys should see some action as he takes advantage of
the graduate transfer rule, a rule that has hurt mid-majors and resulted in 125 transfers this off season.

Nov 18 Hartford (292)- The home opener and the second of three Hawks on the schedule. This is a throw back to when Drexel and Hartford played in the America East and the first time the two have met since 2003-04. Drexel elevated its competition moving to the Colonial while the Hartford program has been stable. The
Hawks won just 10 games last season and have lost 18.9 points per game from “Pancake” Thomas, another casualty to the graduate transfer rule, and will rely on the flashy, but inconsistent Jalen Ross for scoring punch.

Nov 20 @ North Texas (294)- This is the strangest match-up in out of conference play and the first ever match between the schools. From an economic and rival standpoint, this game makes no sense and there’s not much to see in Denton. The “Mean Green” play in Conference USA and went 12-20 last season.

Drexel will have its hands full with 7’1” sophomore Rickey Brice who started almost all of his team’s games in his freshman season. Second team CUSA Jeremy Combs returns having scored 14.9 points per game and 10.5 rebounds per game last season. The team was an aberration on the road winning just 1 game, but play respectably well at home in its 10,500 seat arena. There will likely be a return game next year to fulfill part of the 4 game out of conference home slate.

Nov 23 @ Niagara (318)- Niagara’s program has struggled in recent years, including last season’s mark of 7 wins and just 22 wins over the last 3 seasons. They gave up 7.4 points per game more than their opponents. Gone is leading scorer Emile Blackman, but the Purple Eagles do return junior Matt Scott who led the squad in rebounds and scored 15.4 PPG last season.

Nov 27 LaSalle (238)- LaSalle was one of Drexel’s six victims last season, a select group. The win came at LaSalle by 13 in what by all rights was a poorly played game by both teams, a combined 32 turnovers. It was the first win of the season behind Tavon Allen’s very un-Tavon Allen-like 25 points, 7-11 FG, 8-8 FT and just 2 turnovers. The Explorers return one of the A-10’s best scorers in senior guard Jordan Price who is always difficult to defend for a guard at 6’5” and 220 pounds.

Nov 30 @Lafayette (326)- It was about time Drexel scheduled Patriot League teams, particularly ones
within a short bus ride. Like Drexel, the Leopards could only manage six wins last season. It’s a team that likes to be play up-tempo with a high basketball IQ despite being low in athletic ability. The team gave up 80 points per game last season resulting in a poor record.

Lafayette receives leadership from its quick point guard Nick Lindner, who is very good in transition,
has the ability to set up teammates with quality shots. He is a quality scorer as well, having already
eclipsed the 1,000 point mark by the middle of his junior season.

Dec 3 @ High Point (NC) (152)- This is a return game from last season. Drexel lost by 9 to High Point in the 2015-16 season behind John Brown’s 23 points; Brown is gone to graduation. High Point has posted two straight 20+ win seasons and four straight Big South regular season championships, but late season
injuries sealed High Point’s fate in a conference tournament defeat to UNC-Asheville. High Point is a pre-season fifth place pick in a weak conference as they return only one starter, senior guard Anthony Lindauer.

Dec 11 St Joseph’s (PA) (21)- I have the utmost respect for Phil Martelli scheduling Drexel home and home despite Drexel’s recent run of form. This looks to be the team’s only sell out this season, consisting of many Hawks fans. Without former Hawk Bruiser Flint around, there’s reason to question how long this series will continue.

Last season, Drexel lost by one in its opener, committing only 10 turnovers in a come back from ten points down at halftime, only to come up short by one point. The Hawks finished the season with its second highest win production in school history, 28, and are defending A-10 champions. Gone are Bembry, Miles and Brown, who scored a combined 46 points per game last season, but St Joe’s returns guard starter Shavar Newkirk who scored 8.0 PPG last season and Lamar Kimble who was on the A-10 All-Rookie Team.

Dec 16 @Rider (246)- This is believed to be a return game which Rider hadn’t taken up for a few years. Rider managed a winning record at home but only managed a 13-20 season in 2015-16. Rider will rely on its two 6’7”, 230 pound forwards Kahlil Thomas (11.7PPG and 8RPG) and Xavier Lundy.

Dec 18 Kean (D3)– Who didn’t get excited for a split second when they saw KU on the schedule?  A very split second. Drexel is fulfilling its own requirement to schedule a fourth OOC home game, one which it does not have to return a road game in a latter season. A D-I program only stands to lose when it plays a non-D-I school. If it wins, it should have won. If not, you get losses University of the Sciences, Alaska-Anchorage and this year, albeit an exhibition game, NAIA opponent Keiser University. These were all embarrassments. D1-I teams were 420-10 against lower conference opponents last season. No research was done on Kean and none will be. They were 4-20 in D-III last season. Simply put, Drexel can’t lose, right?

Right?

Dec 21 @Quinnipiac (298)- The university is well-known for its surveys and not much else. Another team
on the schedule that struggled last season, gaining only 9 wins.  They are a 10th place preseason MAAC pick.

Dec 28 @Penn (279)- It was reported by philly.com journalist Jonathan Tannenwald (a Penn grad) that “apparently Coach Spiker apparently has no issue playing at the Palestra”.  Bruiser Flint refused to play Penn without them agreeing to a return game, and he was right. It should not matter what the arena is or how much the gate could be, Penn isn’t that special. One could argue that the games at the Palestra bring more interest and greater turn out than at the DAC, but playing home and home is the fair and right thing to do.

This game is always the most looked forward to game on the schedule regardless of how good or bad the teams are. Drexel won in OT by 1 against Penn at the DAC last season while shooting 29% from the field and 65% from the line. Penn won just 11 games last season but you would have to expect a Steve Donohue team to drastically improve in its second season at the helm. Penn lost its two top scorers, but look to rebound with the shooting of Jackson Donohue who led the Ivy League in 3 point percentage last season.

Given that this is a rebuilding year, the weak out of conference schedule makes sense for this team. After all, Drexel will not rely on its RPI this year to make the Tourney as an at-large. But they have to challenge their team a few times and make it interesting for the fans. This is the weakest schedule that a Drexel team will have played in over 25 years, even in relation to the team’s expectations. Here’s to optimism that the schedule will improve as the team gets better in seasons to come.

Prediction:  4-9

Share.

1 Comment

  1. 4-9 Prediction, with this schedule? You really have low expectations for this team. I think they’re going to surprise some people. I’m going to be optimistic and give them a 7-6 start, including breaking their 3 game losing streak against non-DI opponents.

Leave A Reply