Joe Mihalich grew up in Philly, attended La Salle and played hoops there as a walk on. He played on the team that featured Joe Bryant, Kobe’s dad. He began his coaching as an assistant at La Salle, working for many years with the legendary Speedy Morris. He became head coach at Niagara in 1998. He had a ton of success there. Then, 5 years ago, he was hired by Hofstra. I thought he was a great hire.
It has not worked out as well as I expected.
Mihalich played for Paul Westhead. His influence remains. Mihalich’s teams play fast. Defensively, they are not as efficient. Hofstra began the year with home wins over Army and Al Skinner’s Kennesaw State squad. They beat Dayton in the 1st round of the Charleston tournament but were over-matched by Clemson and then Auburn thereafter. The remainder of the non-conference schedule featured a bad loss at Siena but excellent wins at Monmouth and especially at Rider.
Conference play for the Pride has followed a similar pattern as they have played well as an underdog, losing in the final seconds to William and Mary and winning at Northeastern. They have not been good as a favorite still, as they struggled at home needing overtime to beat James Madison then losing to Elon. They arrive in Philly, fresh off their best win of the year as Freshman guard Jalen Ray hit a 3 pointer at the buzzer to finish a rally from 10 down in the last 5 minutes to win at Towson. Hofstra hit 13 of 26 three point attempts in the win.
On the other side of the court, it is hard to ignore how well Drexel has played in several games this year. A win over top 25 (My ratings!) Houston, back to back wins home against RIder and at La Salle name a few. However, the reality is they have been terrible in conference. They were blown out at Elon and unbelievably at UNCW. They caught College of Charleston team in a bad spot, not at their best after having a brutal time getting to Philly.
Healthier and you would think confident, they followed that Charleston win up by getting blasted by William and Mary. A must win game at shorthanded Delaware found them 16 down with 7 minutes to play. As I suggested in the Delaware preview, I think the team needs to make changes. Spiker continues to push the tempo with a team that is not overly athletic. Their defense is atrocious. What the coach is trying to ingrain, is not working, not even close.
Once again, Drexel has a very winnable game. Hofstra has not played well as a favorite. They are arriving off their biggest win of the year. However, fast is what Hofstra wants. I repeat that Drexel’s best shot is to play half court basketball. With Hofstra having terrific guards, the Dragons would look good in a triangle and two. I know Spiker does not want to junk it up with his defenses however. I know he wants to play fast. This team needs a win. This is a terrific spot to get one. He needs to try something different. I’m worried he won’t. With some reservation:
Drexel 79 Hofstra 76