There were rumblings prior to the season that the Drexel Dragons and St. Joseph's Hawks would open some eyes this year, with the Dragons even being discussed as a contender for the CAA Title.
At 2-2 and 4-2, respectively, tonight's game is a key early season matchup for both, with the Hawks looking to continue their hot start and the Dragons trying to rise above, rather than fall below, .500.
Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. inside the Hagan Arena on the campus of St. Joseph's. Tonight's relevant story lines after the jump...
C.J. Aiken vs. the Drexel Frontcourt
This, honestly, could be the game in a nutshell. St. Joseph's C.J. Aiken is averaging 12.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.2 blocks per game. The really important stat though, in this case, is his 34.5 minutes a night.
Dragon starting center Daryl McCoy is the second tallest player on the team behind only 6-10 sophomore Goran Pantovic. The problem is that neither plays very much, with McCoy registering just over 16.5 per game and Pantovic having only made one appearance this year. The bulk of the minutes underneath have so far been manned by 6-8 sophomore Dartaye Ruffin, who makes up the remaining 23.5 left by McCoy.
Working in the Dragons' favor is that they have a whole lot of height with the smallest guy in their starting five topping off at 6-4; they just don't have that one guy who is, you know, really big. Fortunately for them, Aiken is known more for playing face-up than back-to-basket, and the Dragon's will have to use that their to their advantage on defense.
That said, if C.J. finally decides he's ready to sit down in the post to either a) draw a double and distribute or b) simply to expose a smaller defender, he, Ronald Roberts and Halil Kanacevic could make it a long night for Drexel.
Carl Jones vs. the Drexel Backcourt
While size at the perimeter is never a bad thing, it can be hard to stay with smaller guards. In this case the Dragons will be trying to keep up with (perhaps) the quickest guard in the city in Carl Jones.
Despite my adamant protests during his first two seasons that "the kid is too undisciplined to ever turn into anything," Jones is averaging 21.3 points per game and shooting better than 53% from the field. Add in Langston Galloway as a highly-talented perimeter shooter and the Drexel D will need to balance staying in front of Jones with closing out on Galloway.
As such, Drexel should be prepared for a whole lot of drive and kick, be it from Jones or, more likely, fellow guard Chris Wilson.
Can We Get a Little Love for the Dragons?
Big 5, City 6, green jacket, gold jacket who gives a...
Anyway, with Villanova's one foot constantly out the door, isn't it about time we embrace the forgotten school actually inside the city limits? I mean, I know I harp on the whole St. Joe's/Bala Cynwyd thing, but the Main Line? Sheesh.
And as far as the actual basketball goes, Drexel is 5-2 in its last six meetings with a Big 5 opponents. They've bested Penn in each of the last three seasons and have taken two of three from St. Joseph's. Their only defeats over that stretch come in the form of an OT loss to the Hawks on opening night 2009 and a drubbing at the hands of the then-#3 Villanova Wildcats later that season.
Bruiser Flint runs a real program that holds its own when given the opportunity to meet its City 6 rivals. The Big 5 legacy is as special a tradition as you're going to get in the modern athletics—especially in this age of frantic realignment—but there's plenty of room in the conversation for an improving Drexel team with a perpetual chip on its shoulder.
Plus they have this painted on their home floor.
Tip-off is, once again, at 7 p.m. and can be heard on 610 AM. In the meantime, Trent Reznor's cover of the Immigrant Song from the upcoming Girl with the Dragon Tattoo soundtrack...