If you've thus far missed the Drexel bandwagon, today is a really good day to hop on.
The Drexel Dragons will meet the Old Dominion Monarchs in the semifinal round of the CAA Tournament at 2 p.m. Both old and new Dragons fans will be able to watch the game on the Comcast Network (or, for your online viewing pleasure, ESPN3).
We'll break it down a little more after the jump, but (in a nutshell) today is a very important day for Bruiser Flint and his team.
A victory over ODU Sunday will put the Dragons within just win of guaranteeing themselves their first NCAA tournament berth since 1996. It would be their first postseason appearance of any kind since a 2007 trip to the NIT.
At now 26-5, one would think that record should be good enough for an at-large bid to the field of 68 regardless of how the CAA tourney unfolds.
But maybe it isn't.
We knew the Dragons' NCAA hopes relied on a solid performance in the CAA tournament -- namely, winning it -- but we didn't know just how bad things were until Dave Jones published this piece on CSNPhilly.com yesterday. Despite the cults of personality that surround certain prognosticators, bracketology is not an exact science; that said, Jones labeling Drexel with a 10 percent chance at an at-large bid should they fail to win the CAA title was a pretty clear message that things are far from set for the Dragons.
So why is a team 26-win team who won its regular season conference title, 24 of its last 25 games and 18 in a row barely on the bubble?
Two acronyms: RPI and SOS. These are abbreviations you can choose to love or hate, but, either way, have to know.
The Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) is a combination of a team's winning percentage, their opponents' winning percentage and their opponents' opponents' winning percentage. Strength of Schedule is roughly a calculation of your opponents' overall winning percentage. These two factors are why the Dragons are in so much trouble.
While Drexel is 74th in the RPI standings, they are also the owners of the 264th-best strength of schedule in the nation, according to RealTimeRPI.com.
For the full read of just how poor the Dragons' overall resume really is (RPI, SOS, Wins against Top 100 opponents, Losses to >100 opponents, out-of-conference wins, in-conference SOS), we encourage you to check out Jones' full write-up, which also includes his thoughts on the tourney hopes of the Saint Joseph's Hawks (we'll give you a hint, SJU has a slightly better resume than Drexel, but one that's still pretty weak).
To put things quickly in perspective, we offer this quote from Jones' piece from CBS college basketball guru Jerry Palm:
“They (Drexel) just have too many bad losses to overcome when they don't have a win over anyone who's a sure thing to make the bracket.
“I honestly think VCU is a better at-large candidate than Drexel, despite Drexel winning the league. VCU beat South Florida which is probably making the field. They won at Akron (71). They beat Northern Iowa (62). Those are all better out-of-conference wins than anything Drexel has.”
No surprise, VCU will more than likely be standing in Drexel's way in the CAA final. We should also mention that the tournament is played in VCU's backyard of Richmond, VA.
But before Drexel can worry about VCU, they will have to contend with ODU. The Dragons bested the Monarchs by just a single point, 73-72, on the final day of the regular season (Feb. 25). With an 18-game win streak on the line, every game is a potential letdown.
20 in a row will guarantee the Dragons a place in the NCAA tournament. But just 18 or even 19 could leave them out of the selection committee's final bracket.
So, yeah, today is a good day to start watching.