Drexel head coach James “Bruiser” Flint roams the sidelines during the Dragons 56-59 loss to Virginia Commonwealth University in the Colonial Athletic Association Championship game. The tournament took place in Richmond, Va. at the Richmond Coliseum.
Drexel vs. the world — not necessarily.
The above statement has caught on as “the thing” to say after the Dragons were apparently snubbed by the NCAA selection “experts” on the ever so famous Selection Sunday.
The team that was apparently the Dragons’ direct competitor for what seems to be the last spot in the NCAA Tournament was Iona College, a school of 3,000 undergraduate students in New Rochelle, N.Y.
Not to say that Iona didn’t deserve the spot — as a Drexel student I am biased and believe that we were more deserving of that spot — but Bruiser Flint alluded to it the best out of anyone to have given an opinion on the Drexel snubbing thus far.
Flint said that it is coming across that the committee looked for strength of schedule — point blank. What it all came down to is the fact that Iona’s SOS was much, much higher than the Dragons’. The committee wants to see that the mid-major teams are challenging themselves, but basically, they don’t have to win these games, they just have to play them.
I spoke with Bruiser before the season started and talked with him about the schedule. Last season we had one big name on our schedule, and that was the University of Louisville — Drexel had to travel to Kentucky because the Cardinals didn’t want to play at the DAC, but that is part of the problem.
Regardless, the Dragons walked in and took care of business against a top-ranked team. Their season ended with a loss to eventual Final Four-qualifying team Virginia Commonwealth University — a team they had beaten just a week earlier — and were then snubbed from the NIT.
Heading into the season, the Dragons had some high external expectations as they were picked to win the Colonial Athletic Association. The CAA had sent three teams to the NCAA Tournament the season before and had established itself as a rising mid-major conference, garnering national attention.
Let’s just take an aside, and I will explain the process of how mid-major teams and large, national powerhouses hook up for a regular-season matchup.
First things first: The large national powerhouse — for example’s sake we’ll use the University of Connecticut — will be looking for a game that will be a guaranteed win. After that, they will invite the mid-major to their arena for a game that will be on national television. Not only that, but the mid-major will also receive a large check toward its athletic program.
The mid-major gets three things — all expected by UConn in this instance — out of a matchup like this. Great national exposure, a nice chunk of change and, of course, a nationally televised butt whooping.
Back to the topic at hand.
If you were an athletic department representative for a large school like UConn and were looking for an easy win while also helping out a smaller program, would you take the chance to schedule a game against a rising mid-major program picked to win one of the hottest mid-major conferences in the nation?
I would say no to that one.
Well, therein lies the problem. Not only will no large school play the Dragons at the DAC — Bruiser couldn’t get Louisville to play a home-and-home series last season — but they don’t want to play them period.
Now that is the definition of a catch 22. They’re too good to get out-of-conference games against the highest-ranked schools but not good enough to be designated as an NCAA Tournament team.
The Dragons won the CAA regular-season title outright, were three points away from forcing the CAA title game to overtime, held the nation’s second-longest winning streak next to only the No. 1 University of Kentucky and also set a program record for wins.
That right there is a resume of an NCAA Tournament qualifying team.
Now back to that earlier statement, “Drexel vs. the World.” I always hoped that statement would carry more weight, but let’s be real here: the world and the NIT are not the same thing.
The real Drexel-vs.-the-World scenario would be the Dragons qualifying for the NCAA Tournament as the last team in and then zooming through the competition.
Who knows, but maybe next season a top program will grow some you-know-whats and play Drexel in Philly at the DAC during the regular season, basically giving the committee no reason to snub us if we were to fall just short in the CAA Tournament once again.
So unfortunately, the Dragons have to settle for less this postseason. They will just have to run through the NIT competition, in which they already have a head start after trouncing the University of Central Florida 81-56 March 14.
And also, don’t even get me started on the fact that the Dragons are only a No. 3 seed in the NIT.
The Dragons have a good chance at winning a National Championship this year, just not the one they were vying for at the start of the season.