One more win erases Drexel's tourney doubts

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One more win erases Drexel's tourney doubts

RICHMOND, Va. -- Has Drexel done enough to earn an NCAA at-large bid?

We can discuss it non-stop. Speculate all night. Study the brackets, the conference tournaments, the upsets, the RPI. Whos in? Whos out? Has Drexel done enough? What does Joe Lunardi say?

Or we can just ignore it.

Like Drexel.

Theyve got other things on their mind.

Like winning one more game in the CAA tournament and taking the entire matter out of the NCAA selection committees hands.

Drexel improved to 27-5 Sunday with a 68-51 dismantling of Old Dominion in the Colonial Athletic Conference tournament semifinals at Richmond Coliseum (see story). The win was Drexels 19th in a row, the seventh-longest winning streak ever by a Philly Division I school

With a win on Monday evening over host school Virginia Commonwealth, which also has 27 wins, Drexel will win the CAA tournament and receive an automatic bid.

With a loss? Well, coach Bruiser Flint just shrugs.

I dont worry about it, Flint said. Weve been on a nice little run, lets keep it going. I dont talk about it to my team about it, to my staff, I dont talk about it at all. Its a waste of time.

Since the NCAA expanded the field to 64 teams in 1985, only one team has won 27 games and not gotten an invitation. That was 28-6 Coastal Carolina two years ago.

Those who believe Drexel wont get in without winning the CAA tournament point to Drexels RPI of 74 and modest schedule of strength -- 264th-toughest of 344 Division I teams.

Those who believe Drexel has already done enough to earn an at-large spot point to the Dragons national ranking (27th in the ESPNUSA Today Coaches Poll), wins over 27-win VCU, 24-win George Mason, 22-win Cleveland State, 20-win Old Dominion and 18-win Princeton. And to the fact that theyre just a really, really good basketball team that hasnt lost in three months.

Drexel has the nations second-longest winning streak at 19 games going into Monday nights showdown with VCU.

Flint said that five years ago, after Drexel won 23 games but lost to VCU in the CAA semifinals, Drexel held a big NCAA selection party on campus, with media, fans, players and coaches watching the bracket unfold on a big TV screen.

That didnt go so well. Drexel didnt get in. Nine days later, the Dragons lost to North Carolina State in the first round of the NIT.

He hasnt forgotten that.

In 07, we had a huge letdown, he said. Everybody at the place, all the cameras, boom, we didnt get called. So just handle your business, thats the easiest way to do it.

To Flints credit, his young team -- Samme Givens is the only senior -- hasnt let the distraction of a possible first NCAA tournament bid in 16 years affect its play.

The Dragons just keep winning. And nothing bothers them.

One of the things about this team, I think our focus has been good all year, Flint said. Whats in front of you. Not whats three steps ahead of you or three steps behind you. Whats in front of you.

Sophomore guard Frantz Massenat was asked several times after Sundays win whether Drexel has done enough to earn a bid. Each time, he turned the question around.

Its not about getting an at-large bid. Win Monday and eliminate the question.

He said he and his teammates dont even talk about it.

We just talk about winning, he said. Winning it all. If we win this whole thing, we dont have to worry about if were going to get in or be out. Everybody wants to decide their own fate. Weve been winning a lot. We just want to keep winning. If we keep winning, they cant keep us out.
E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportnet.com

Ken Tribbett's 1st MLS goal helps Union salvage draw vs. Orlando City

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USA Today Images

Ken Tribbett's 1st MLS goal helps Union salvage draw vs. Orlando City

BOX SCORE

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Ken Tribbett scored his first career MLS goal in the 75th minute and the Philadelphia Union tied Orlando City 2-2 on Wednesday night.

Tranquillo Barnetta started the scoring in the 52nd minute on Philadelphia's first shot on goal. Chris Pontius outjumped his defender to win a diagonal cross and headed it to the back post for an unmarked Barnetta.

Then the game opened up with three goals in a 7-minute span.

Kevin Molino tied it in the 68th -- one minute after entering as a substitute. Cyle Larin collided with two defenders and the goalkeeper while battling for a long ball and Molino knocked the loose ball into an empty net.

Three minutes later, Larin gave Orlando City a lead on a questionable goal. Kaka played a ball across goal, Larin chested it off the goalkeeper and Philadelphia's Fabinho appeared to clear it off the line.

Tribbett evened it for Philadelphia (5-3-4) when goalkeeper Joe Bendik dove to get a touch on a cross and Tribbett slotted home the rebound.

David Mateos was given a straight red card for Orlando (3-3-6) in the 93rd minute for a studs-up tackle just outside of the box. But Barnetta's free kick sailed harmlessly over the crossbar.

Watch: Nerlens Noel dominates the American Ninja Warrior wall

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Watch: Nerlens Noel dominates the American Ninja Warrior wall

The American Ninja Warrior television show is hosting a regional competition on May 26th and 27th at the Richmond Power Plant in Philadelphia.

A Comcast SportsNet camera crew was there on Wednesday to tape a segment for a show next week when they recognized a familiar face in the crowd.

Sixers big man Nerlens Noel was there supporting a friend practicing on the course. Noel also gave the wall a go and it proved no match for his length.

Contestants will compete on Thursday and Friday in Philly with a chance of qualifying for the finals to be held in Las Vegas.

If you think you've got what it takes, head on over and try to be a walk on talent. You probably won't do any better than Nerlens though.

Odubel Herrera flips Phillies into winners over Tigers before big trip to Wrigley Field

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Odubel Herrera flips Phillies into winners over Tigers before big trip to Wrigley Field

BOX SCORE

DETROIT — At least Odubel Herrera was honest about it.

“I didn’t expect to hit it that far,” he said with a big grin on his face late Wednesday afternoon.

A couple of hours earlier, Herrera helped key an 8-5 Phillies’ win over the Detroit Tigers with a towering three-run home run into the right-field seats against Anibal Sanchez (see Instant Replay).

Herrera unloaded on the hanging slider and finished with his bat high.

As the bat reached its apex, Herrera didn’t just let it go. He flipped it in the air as if to say, ‘Uh-huh, I crushed that one.’ In the annals of bat flips, it wasn’t quite Jose Bautista quality, but it wasn’t far off. The flip was so dramatic that Herrera admitted after the game that he would not have been surprised if a Tigers pitcher had retaliated and stuck a pitch in his ribs later in the game.

Retribution never came. And Herrera left Detroit with a smile on his face and yet another big day for the Phillies. He is leading the club with a .327 batting average and his .440 on-base percentage is second-best in baseball.

Herrera's big home run helped make a winner out of Aaron Nola and the Phillies on a day when they really needed a win. After all, they had lost four of their previous five and are headed into the den of baseball’s best team, the Chicago Cubs, on Friday.

“For me, it was a must-win,” said manager Pete Mackanin, whose club is 26-21. “We’d lost four of five and I felt like we needed to come out of here with a win.

“The guys battled the whole game. To me it looked like they played like they had to win this game, which was nice to see. It looked like they played knowing we had to win. They were grinding and coming up with hits. Call it what you want, it was just the feeling I got.

“I’m not going to say I’m anxious to see the Cubs; they’re a hell of a team. But I’m hopeful we can take two out of three.”

The Tigers are one of baseball’s best hitting teams.

The Phillies are one of the worst. They entered the day scoring just 3.2 runs per game.

But on this day, the Phillies out-hit the Tigers, 12-10, to salvage one game in the series.

Nola went six innings, allowed four runs, a walk and struck out six. He left with a 7-4 lead. Things got hairy in the seventh, but Hector Neris cleaned up things for David Hernandez, and Jeanmar Gomez registered his majors-leading 17th save.

In between, Peter Bourjos had a couple of big hits, including his first homer of the season. Andres Blanco started at second over Cesar Hernandez and had a couple of big hits, as well. Bourjos and Blanco even hooked up on a double steal with Blanco becoming the first Phillie to swipe home since Chase Utley in 2009. (An off-line throw to second by Tigers catcher James McCann helped.) 

“We have to try things,” Mackanin said. “We can’t bang it out with most teams so we have to try that kind of stuff, take chances.”

The Phillies actually banged it on this day.

Bourjos’ homer in the seventh provided some valuable cushion.

There are no cheap homers in spacious Comerica Park. Bourjos’ homer traveled 401 feet according to ESPN’s play by play.

Though Bourjos claimed he did not see Herrera’s bat flip in fifth inning, he was aware of it. For the record, Bourjos did not flip his bat on his homer. He put his head down and ran.

“I don’t have that kind of swag,” he said with a laugh.

Bat flips make some folks, particularly old-schoolers, uncomfortable. Bautista’s famous bat flip against Texas in the playoffs last season led to simmering tensions all winter and eventually a brawl between the two teams two weeks ago.

Mackanin actually seemed a little uncomfortable talking about Herrera’s flip.

“I did not see it,” Mackanin said. “A lot of players believe that they should be able to celebrate. But I didn’t see it. I wish you never brought it up.”

Herrera explained that he always flips his bat, even when he makes outs. This one had a little extra oomph, he said, because, "I didn’t expect to hit it that far.”

And how far did he hit it?

Well, ESPN’s play by play said it traveled 409 feet. MLB’s Statcast said it went 427.

Either way, that’s a long Uber ride.

Herrera was asked what was more impressive, the flip or the homer?

“Both,” he said with a laugh.

Herrera has become a more demonstrative player in his second year in the league. He’s letting his emotions show. On Monday night, frustration over a poor at-bat got the best of him. He did not run out a ball back to the pitcher and was benched.

On Wednesday, his emotion was more triumphant, hence the bat flip. But sometimes that can make an opponent angry. There were no repercussions Wednesday and probably won’t be because the Tigers and Phillies don’t see each other again this season. But down the road?

“I’m not worried,” Mackanin said.

“It was nothing personal,” Herrera said. “It was natural.”