What to expect: VCU vs. Drexel (championship edition)

Monday night the #1 Drexel Dragons and the #2 Virginia Commonwealth University Rams will play in the CAA tournament finals on ESPN. Despite being red-hot, both team’s are on the bubble for the NCAA tournament. The winner on Monday night gets a banner, an automatic bid, and bragging rights. The loser could go home as low as a road team in the NIT.

  • What: #2 VCU Rams (27-6, 15-3) vs. #1 Drexel Dragons (27-5, 16-2)
  • Where: Richmond Coliseum
  • When: Monday, March 5th at 7.00pm
  • Tickets: Sold-out
  • Watch: ESPN and ESPN3
  • Listen: ESPN 950 or online

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The Rundown

Monday night’s battle has the potential to be one of the premier conference championships this season. Drexel’s stingy defense owns the nation’s second longest winning streak, and VCU’s full court press leads the nation in steals. In front of what will almost certainly be a sold out crowd, a national television audience on ESPN, and a top-notch analyst/commentator Dan Dakich, Monday’s game will be the highest profile CAA game since April 2, 2011.

Monday night will be a battle of tempos. Drexel will try to slow the game down and grind it out, while VCU will try to force turnovers and win the game in transition. Both teams will rely on 3-pointers to build momentum, but VCU will be significantly quicker to pull the trigger than the offensively efficient Dragons.

The Rams defense will need to force many turnovers to compensate for their rebounding weaknesses, but this game will more likely be won by the team that can score rather than the team that can get stops. With guards like Damion Lee, Chris Fouch, Frantz Massenat, Darius Theus, Rob Brandenberg, Troy Daniels, and Bradford Burgess, Monday night’s game will be a backcourt thriller.

Regardless of Monday’s result, both teams have serious cases for at-large bids to the NCAA tournament. Since January 12th, the two teams are a combined 33-1, both teams’ RPIs are in the top 65, and most importantly both teams pass the “eye test” with flying colors according to analysts across the country.

In the past

Last year, Jamie Skeen hit a buzzer beater to down Drexel in the quarterfinals of the CAA tournament. Both teams have brand new looks since last year as VCU lost four very important seniors, and Drexel has discovered stars in freshman Damion Lee and sophomore Frantz Massenat.

In the two teams’ only meeting this season, the Dragons beat the Rams 64-58 in Philadelphia on January 8th. In that game VCU only grabbed 3 steals, and Drexel shot 5-11 from 3-point range to VCU’s 7-24. Both teams have matured so much since then–on both ends of the court–that Monday could have an entirely different look.

The Team

Drexel is playing incredible basketball. The Dragons have won 19 straight games and 25 of their last 26 games. The Dragons are great defensive rebounders, and they rank 3rd in the nation in defensive effective field goal percentage. The Rams will need to be extra efficient on offense if they want to outperform the season averages against Drexel.

Drexel’s lone senior Samme Givens (6’-5”) and sophomore Darryl McCoy (6’-9”) are the heart, soul and bodies of Drexel’s extremely physical front-court. Despite often times giving up inches in height, they still win the battle of the paint with their wide bodies, long arms, and gang defense mentality. Juvonte Reddic and D.J. Haley need to make plays while avoiding foul trouble in order to limit the craftiness and physicality of Givens and McCoy.

Drexel’s backcourt is stacked. Chris Fouch was on the CAA preseason second team but he sometimes even comes off the bench behind surprise sensations Damion Lee and Frantz Massenat. All three are great defenders but it is Massenat’s and Fouch’s 3-point shooting that has improved last year’s good team into this year’s powerhouse team.

While Drexel is stacked with talent, coach Bruiser Flint sticks to a seven man rotation. The Rams will look to capitalize by wearing down the Dragons with the full-court press and a 9-10 player rotation.

The Star

Sophomore Frantz Massenat is one of the most improved players in the CAA. His development as a player since switching to point guard has transformed last year’s mediocre offense into a respectable scoring machine. Massenat is averaging 13.4PPG and 4.5 APG. Since last season his 3-point percentage has increased from 26% to 47% and his 4-4 3-point shooting performance killed the Rams on January 8th.

The Prediction

Ken Pomeroy favors VCU to beat Drexel 61-60 with a slim 54% chance of victory.

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  • Location: Philadelphia, PA
  • Conference: CAA
  • All time series: VCU leads 12-8.
  • Last meeting: Drexel won 64-58.

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Aaron Williams

Aaron Williams loves music, basketball (follow @rvaramnews!), family, learning, and barbecue sauce.

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