The MAAC meets the CAA when Niagara travels to Philadelphia to face Drexel on Friday night. This is the Purple Eagles' first game, while Drexel fell to Temple, 70-62 on the road (from Philly). The Dragons met the Owls for the first time in 10 seasons, despite both residing in the City of Brotherly Love.
What happened?It's probably a good thing that Niagara started this late. Head coach Patrick Beilein, son of Cleveland Cavs' head coach John Beilein, stepped down right before the season began two weeks ago due to "personal reasons." Enter assistant coach Greg Paulus, the 33-year old former Duke guard who now takes over the program. This is a program that struggled last season, going 13-19 (6-12 in the MAAC). Beilein jumped from Division II LeMoyne to take the job and inherit a team that returned just two starters.
Fortunately for Paulus, he has an experienced backcourt led by 6-2 Raheem Solomon (7.8ppg) and 6-1 Marcus Hammond (5.8ppg). Both were reserves last season with four starts combined as freshmen and both could be ready to take the next step. Another key player is 5-9 guard Shandon Brown, a 3-star transfer from George Washington, who is eligible to play right away. He averaged just 7.7 minutes per game as a freshman, but did average an incredible 14.0 assists per game at New Hampton School.
Niagara has bigger concerns up front. They will bring in two transfer from Miami Dade College. Nicholas Krtholm (6-9) and 6-6 Italo Cicotti may be able to contribute quickly. Freshman Noah Waterman (6-11) is a former guard, who grew eight inches over the last two seasons. This is an extremely young team that will have to find a way to win with a young coach, who wasn't supposed to be a head coach-yet.
Time to start winningBruiser Flint was fired three years ago because he wasn't winning enough. Now Zach Spiker is looking for his first winning season at Drexel after three rough seasons (35-62). The Dragons have shown some progress, even though last season was a disappointment (13-19, 7-11 CAA). In their opener against Temple, T.J. Bickerstaff led Drexel with 16 points and seven boards, while Cameron Wynter added 15 points and six assists. However, the Dragons shot just 34.8% from the field and 6-of-30 (20%) from three-point range.
Injuries were a big issue last season and so was lack of defense. In three seasons under Spiker, they've allowed at least 1.09 points per possession and ranked 283rd or worse in adjusted defensive efficiency. They were 327th in the nation last season in adjusted defensive efficiency. Wynter (11.3ppg) is the team's best returning player and a 6-2 sophomore point guard. Bickerstaff is a 6-9, 207-pound forward from Atlanta and a three-star recruit. Junior James Butler (6-8, 242), who had 15 rebounds against Temple, does the dirty work in the paint. He averaged 10.3 points and 8.2 rebounds last season.
Wynter was one of the top freshmen in the league last season. Bickerstaff could join him but the Dragons need more from Kurk Lee (9.3ppg) and Zach Walton (9.6ppg, 4.6rpg), who struggled with injuries last season.
- 1-4 ATS last 5 overall.
- 3-7 AST lats 10 road games.
Trends from Covers.com: Drexel is:
- 4-0 ATS last 4 Friday games.
- 6-1 ATS last 7 home games.
- 10-4 ATS last 14 overall.