Last year, Quinnipiac decided that they were sick of being an excellent liberal arts school with a good basketball team. In order to make their master plan a success, they decided to get rid of the excellent basketball coach who guided them up the ranks from the Northeast Conference to the stronger MAAC.
Quinnipiac’s power rating improved much under Tom Moore. He also had made inroads in recruiting. Both the starting freshman guards transferred to power schools when he got fired. However, an excellent coach, who does things the right way, is not what wins in the NCAA these days, or so Quinnipiac seems to believe.
Quinnipiac canned Moore and his $300,000 a year salary and hired a Villanova assistant and paid him $800,000. You see, you MUST recruit to win. Villanova assistants know how to recruit. Welcome to the big leagues Quinnipiac.
Well, not so fast. There is more to it than that. Facilities and tradition also help. Quinnipiac is in a gorgeous part of Connecticut. UConn is not. Like I said, there is much more to it than 800K a year.
Naturally and quite smartly, Dunleavy brought the Nova offense with him to Hamden. In order to evaluate that offense, and thee Bobcat’s season, we will ignore all games they played without their starting point guard, Rich Kelley. They spread em out, use lots of pick and rolls and make the extra pass to the proper place and voila, an open 3 which – if you are Villanova – you make with regularity.
To make that work, you need an excellent point guard and sophomore Kelly is just that. He did not have fantastic numbers last year but to start as a freshman is never easy. He flashed tremendous potential. With a better supporting cast, he should shine this year. Since Kelly returned from injury, the team has improved immensely.
In his first game back, on the road, they took an excellent Stonybrook team to the wire. In the second game with Kelly, Quinnipiac took the nearly 3 hour bus ride to beautiful, Hanover NH and beat a vastly improved Dartmouth team 64-59. In game 3 it all came together as Quinnipiac played their best game of the year, going on a 30-10 1st half run and coasting 88-77 over Lafayette.
Quinnipiac’s season was helped along when grad student, Cameron Young was granted an extra year of eligibility. He is their leading scorer. They also start a super talented frosh, Tyrese Williams. The other starters are Kelly, George Washington transfer Kevin Marfo and Soph Jaoob Rigoni. Rigoni does not play starters minutes, however, Dunleavy uses a 9 man rotation. They all contribute. Their defense, a sore spot last, year has improved significantly. This will be a tough game for Drexel.
Drexel does catch a little bit of a break as Quinnipiac has sacrificed their home game to play at the beautiful Mohegan Sun Arena. I must admit, this is a terrific venue for basketball. The casino is gorgeous. There is not a bad seat in the house. The Quinnipiac/Drexel game is the final game of a triple header that they are calling, The Holiday Showcase. Mohegan used to host an annual event, where 4 of the 5 Connecticut D1 teams not named U Conn would play a double header. It was an excellent idea, giving exposure and a game in a big arena to teams that certainly are helped by both. I guess someone felt their at large bid could be impacted by sacrificing a home game, so that double header is no longer… Sorry, I could not help myself.
So Quinnipiac finds themselves, a program on the rise, playing in a big beautiful arena vs a shorthanded Drexel team that can not stay in front of anyone. Last year Lee hit a three late to give Drexel a 72-71 win. Even if Drexel had Lee, this year, they lack the talent to stay with the Bobcats. The line will be low, but I think the score will be high.
Quinnipiac 87 Drexel 72