The game: 5. Northeastern (10-20 overall, 7-9 Colonial) vs. 4. Drexel (16-13, 8-8)
In-league efficiency: Northeastern: -.02 (1.00 pts/poss, 1.02 allowed); Drexel: .04 (1.09 pts/poss; 1.05 allowed)
One key chart: The final minute of Northeastern’s regular-season finale at Drexel last Saturday (win probability data via kenpom.com):
With 30 seconds left, Drexel had a four-point lead and the ball, giving it a roughly 98% chance of winning — and the Dragons lost. That’s what happens when your final possessions go like this: missed 1-and-1; made three allowed; turnover; fouled three-point shooter. David Walker made all three from the line, and Northeastern completed its comeback with a point to spare for a 54-52 win. Now, all the Huskies need is for all that to happen again this Saturday, and they’ll be in good shape.
Superior mascot: I am a huge sucker for huskies — if forced to choose, they’re possibly my favorite dog breed — so the thought of disappointing those sad, blue eyes makes me feel terrible. But in the mythical-powers draft, “flying” is a clear #1, and “breathing fire” is pretty high as well. Dragons can do both.
Critical matchup: Healthy Quincy Ford vs. Healthy Damion Lee, in a parallel universe. It’s tempting to wonder, in a CAA with several teams clustered around .500, if one more player might have pushed Drexel or Northeastern firmly into the league’s upper echelon. Ford would have added depth to a Huskies frontcourt that is thin behind Scott Eatherton and Reggie Spencer, but Lee might have added even more to the Dragons. Drexel was playing like a clear top-100 team with Lee, taking UCLA and Arizona to the wire, but one year after Chris Fouch’s season ended with a November injury, the CAA’s reigning scoring champion suffered the same fate.
History: Northeastern has faced Drexel in the postseason just once since joining the CAA in 2005 — a 64-50 quarterfinal loss in 2007, which also happened to be a #5-vs-#4 game. The Dragons led 35-18 at halftime and cruised from there, having held Northeastern to 28 percent shooting in the first half. With this year’s Huskies suffering occasional offensive slumps and the Dragons boasting a top-100 defense, a repeat isn’t out of the question.
One thought on Northeastern: After playing close games at a historic pace for three months, including a double-overtime loss in the first meeting with Drexel, Northeastern only saw one of its final eight games decided by five or fewer points. But given the Huskies’ recent history — and the competitiveness as a whole of this year’s CAA, making the tournament feel like a “crabshoot” — it’s hard to imagine Northeastern’s season ending without at least one more nailbiter.
One thought on Drexel: In The Jerome XIII (my first time playing), I picked Drexel to win the CAA tournament — partly because I thought the Colonial is ripe for a dark-horse champion, but also partly because Drexel was better than its record this year. The Dragons were unlucky to finish 8-8, having posted the league’s third-best per-possession scoring margin, and they still have some of the same players who won 19 straight games and nearly made the tourney in 2012. Drexel plays strong defense and takes care of the ball; if they just get some points from seniors Fouch and Frantz Massenat, the Dragons will be in every game.
Winner gets: League champion Delaware, in all likelihood. The Blue Hens went 16-2 and are the consensus favorite to represent the CAA in the tourney, but they played at least one close game against almost every team. Delaware now has its entire core healthy, which wasn’t the case for much of the season, when Jarvis Threatt and Devon Saddler each missed several games, but the Hens still aren’t likely to go on a clean rampage through the CAA Tournament.
Prediction: Pomeroy says Drexel wins 63-59. I’ve already said Drexel will win and Northeastern will keep it close, so I’ll play along with that score.