Before the season began Drexel and Delaware were pegged by many as the teams to beat in the Colonial Athletic Association. The season hasn’t played out as expected for either team, with injuries and inconsistency having an impact on both the Dragons and the Blue Hens.
A Frantz Massenat runner in the final seconds of double overtime was blocked by Delaware’s Jamelle Hagins, and it certainly looked as if the officials missed a goaltending violation. With no call being made Drexel drops to 11-16 overall and 7-8 in CAA play, while Delaware (15-13, 10-5) remains two games behind first-place Northeastern.
Devon Saddler led the way for Delaware with a game-high 31 points and Hagins finished with 14 points, 18 rebounds and one controversial blocked shot.
Damion Lee (22 points, 11 rebounds), Massenat (20 points) and Derrick Thomas (19) attempted 59 of Drexel’s 72 shots from the field, something that has to happen if the Dragons are to have a shot given the fact that Chris Fouch was lost early this season after fracturing his ankle.
With just seven teams eligible for the conference tournament Delaware’s win keeps them a game ahead of James Madison (10-6) in the loss column in the race for the two-seed.
Towson and UNCW are ineligible for APR reasons; Georgia State and Old Dominion are ineligible due to a league bylaw that bans schools leaving for another conference from winning the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
As for Drexel they’re now two games behind George Mason in the race for what would be the four-seed, and the loss likely ends the possibility of them making a run at the three-seed.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.