A Weaker CAA Not So Bad for Drexel

A Weaker CAA Not So Bad for Drexel

At 27-6 overall and 16-2 in conference, it's actually pretty tough not to make the NCAA tournament. Of course, that's what happened to Drexel this year, when its strength of schedule was so bad that it was ultimately relegated to a three seed in the NIT.
Now, following the news that Virginia Commonwealth -- one of the Colonial Athletic Association's best programs and the team that cost Drexel its NCAA tourney berth by defeating the Dragons in the CAA championship game -- is moving to the Atlantic 10, there's no disputing that a weak conference just got even weaker.
But is that necessarily bad for the Drexel Dragons?

If anything, the Dragons benefit in the short term by losing one of their toughest opponents in-conference. 
Coach Bruiser Flint has played the tournament selection game both ways, first by trying to schedule tougher tests out-of-conference and then by running roughshod through his own league. Neither got the Dragons to the dance. The damning scenario for Drexel, however, if true, is the idea that stronger opponents simply won't schedule them. 
So if Drexel needs to win the CAA to go to the NCAAs, because the conference is too weak to consistently earn an at-large and the Dragons can't come to scheduling agreements with stronger non-conference programs, then losing VCU really isn't so bad. Playing them hasn't done enough to advance Drexel's RPI or SOS to a high-enough standard for the committee, so it shouldn't much matter if those numbers takes yet another hit.
If it's all about winning the CAA tournament for Drexel, then its task just got a little easier than it was. The program is now an even bigger fish in an even smaller pond.
Of course, that's just in the short term, and related to the actual basketball about to be played. Forecasting the broader future of that small pond -- considering George Mason, like VCU, was previously linked to the A-10 and Old Dominion is currently mulling its affiliation -- is a bit more of a dicey proposition, like it is for a number of mid-majors around the nation as conferences continue to cannibalize one another. 
But, at the very least, a young Drexel team has a few bright years ahead of it. Maybe they can be the next Colonial league team to make waves in March.

Steve Mason rediscovers himself in New York just before Flyers return

Steve Mason rediscovers himself in New York just before Flyers return

It had been a while since Steve Mason saw himself.

Walking into the Barclays Center on Sunday, the Flyers’ goalie was 0-6-2 with a 4.03 goals-against average and .844 save percentage over his last 10 appearances (see more recent Flyers numbers and stats).

A far cry from how Mason truly sees himself in net.

But heading into Wednesday’s rivalry clash with the Rangers, Mason will have something to build on, something he couldn’t say since Dec. 21 — the last time he had earned a victory. He’s fresh off his first win in over a month, a gigantic one for Mason considering all the key moments on Sunday the Flyers hope invigorate his confidence.

Without numerous clutch stops from their goalie, the Flyers don’t come back from two goals down to beat the Islanders, 3-2, in overtime. Mason made four saves  — three on four-time All-Star John Tavares — in just over a minute of a third-period power play. The Flyers ended up having to kill two New York man advantages in the final 10 minutes of regulation in order to force overtime.

The extra session is when Mason was just as good, if not better, stoning Tavares on a breakaway attempt that had game-winner written all over it. Mason made four saves in overtime after 13 in the third period.

“I was happy with the way that, personally, this game went for myself,” Mason said Sunday. “It’s been a tough stretch and this is more the type of game that I expect of myself. In recent games, the team was lacking the big saves and tonight it shows what kind of difference it can make.”

It was a massive performance heading into a massive three-game stretch against the Rangers, Maple Leafs and Hurricanes.

“Mase made some huge saves for us,” Simmonds said. “It allowed us to get back in that game.

“It’s not just Mase [with the] ups and downs. Everyone in here has been kind of fighting it and squeezing sticks pretty tight. That one felt good and I think Mase led the charge for sure.”

Mason understands just one game doesn’t turn around a season.

“It’s nice to feel good after a game,” Mason said. “At the same time, whether you’re winning or losing, you have to have a short mindset and get ready for the next one.”

That brings the Flyers to Madison Square Garden Wednesday to face the Rangers, who they’ve lost five straight games to dating back to last season. Mason hasn’t had much luck against New York this season, allowing seven goals in two losses with an .860 save percentage. However, in 2015-16, Mason put up a 1.74 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in five games against the Rangers.

“That’s going to be a tough game going into MSG,” Mason said Tuesday (see story).

The good thing: Mason was in New York two days ago, remembering what he can be.

Manute Bol's 7-foot, 17-year-old son dominates in HS season debut

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Manute Bol's 7-foot, 17-year-old son dominates in HS season debut

Bol Bol, the 17-year-old son of the late Manute Bol, is a top high school basketball prospect with offers from schools like Arizona, Kansas and Creighton. This highlight tape should give you an idea why.
Bol, whose father played in the NBA for parts of 12 seasons, including 215 games for the Sixers, now attends the famed Mater Dei High School in California and played in his first game of the season this past weekend. Listed as the No. 16 overall prospect in the 2018 recruiting class by Scout, Bol started his season off with a big 21-point, 10-rebound effort.
Take a look at the highlight tape from the 6-foot-11 Bol and expect to see him carry on his father’s legacy on the court at a major NCAA college basketball program soon.