The CAA has not played out exactly as one would have assumed back in October, but this could create an extremely competitive CAA tournament as March rolls around. The preseason rankings listed Towson and Drexel as the one-two-punch, but currently they are seated second and fourth respectively behind an energetic Delaware squad up front. William & Mary was picked preseason to finish fifth, but they are currently in third with impressive wins over Rutgers and Drexel. With two games left on their schedule, the Dragons CAA playoff run could look hopeful if the tournament were to start today.
As of right now, the fourth place Dragons would play the College of Charleston in the first round in Baltimore. Ironically, that is the next game on their schedule as well. Back on February 13th, the Dragons went to Charleston and lost to the Cougars in heartbreak fashion, 47-46. This game was by far one of the worst first halves Drexel has had all season, only scoring 18 points before surging back and making the game competitive in the second half. This game also followed their rout of James Madison, which could have given the Dragons a feeling of power, contributing to their sluggish start. Regardless, it was a bad loss, but this doesn’t mean the Cougars are a better team than Drexel.
They can win this game, which would set up a rematch of their win Sunday against the first-seeded Delaware Blue Hens. In both of their matchups this season, Drexel lost the first 90-77, the Dragons have struggled defending the league’s best scorer in Devon Saddler. He posted 23 and 20-point games in his two battles against Drexel this season, which sit right around his average of 20.4 points per game. Bruiser Flint’s squad has struggled all season shutting down guards, so it’s almost inevitable he will put up good numbers, but there are other options for the Dragons to explore in order to upset the Blue Hens in the second round.
The utilization of Dartaye Ruffin in the paint will be vital if they want to advance in Baltimore. On Sunday, the forward only scored two points, but recorded six offense and six defensive rebounds in 35 minutes of play. There’s no avoiding that Drexel is undersized, but rebounding will be extremely important if they can reach that game against the Blue Hens. Drexel is not the type of team that will feed the post to get points inside, but Ruffin’s rebounding will create a plethora of second-chance opportunities for their sharp-shooting back court
Frantz Massenhat, Chris Fouch and Tavon Allen can put up big numbers, which they will need if they want to have a chance at taking down Delaware again, but the possibility of that will only increase with more shot attempts. Rodney Williams and Ruffin will have to provide this with their intensity under the basket. Another factor for this game will be the presence of their bench, which has dwindled due to injuries. Mohamed Bah and Major Canady will need to be on their best to give players such as Massenat and Williams a breather, keeping them fresh for the final five minutes, which were vital Sunday.
Again, these are only hypothetical thoughts because the season hasn’t ended yet, but unless James Madison can rattle off a big win over Towson Wednesday, it looks like the standings will finish as is. The Dragons cannot suffer any more injuries this season because as of right now, they are only really utilizing seven players.
As for the last two games of the season, Drexel faces College of Charleston and Northeastern respectively. As I stated previously, they lost their first matchup to CoC, but beat Northeastern by five in double overtime back in January. If the Dragons could pick up some steam and end the season on a three-game winning streak, there’s no saying how far they could get in Baltimore at the CAA Tournament, which all begins in two weeks on March 7th.