CAA favorite Drexel’s surprising 0-2 start leaves little margin for error

An 0-2 start for a power conference team is often easy to overcome since so many chances for marquee wins remain on the schedule.

For CAA preseason favorite Drexel, on the other hand, it's a significant early hole.

Back-to-back overtime losses at Kent State on Friday and at home against Illinois State on Thursday have stripped away much of the Dragons' margin for error the rest of November and December. Now Drexel faces an uphill road toward contending for an at-large NCAA tournament bid and avenging last March's snub from the selection committee.

Since the CAA has been weakened by the departure of VCU and the non-league schedule Drexel coach Bruiser Flint assembled once again isn't especially formidable, the Dragons don't have many opportunities for noteworthy wins.

A win over Saint Mary's in the opening game of next week's Anaheim Classic is critical for Drexel because that would land the Dragons in the winner's bracket and perhaps get them chances at Xavier or Cal in the later rounds.

If Drexel loses to Saint Mary's, its at-large hopes could be sunk by the time most of us sit down for Thanksgiving dinner. The best non-league opponents left on Drexel's schedule are St. Joseph's, Davidson and Princeton, quality teams but hardly juggernauts.

It's a bit surprising Drexel finds itself in this position considering it returns four starters and several key reserves from a team that won 29 games and the CAA championship last season. The departure of Samme Givens raised questions about where the Dragons would find low post scoring, but Drexel still had a formidable perimeter attack headlined by guards Frantz Massenat and Damion Lee.

Pinpointing what, if anything, has plagued Drexel is difficult because its two losses have been so different.

At Kent State, the Dragons played solid defense but nobody besides guard Chris Fouch could score. Against Illinois State, Drexel scored as efficiently as it ever has but its typically stout defense surrendered 49.2 percent shooting to the Redbirds. The only constant between the two games was the lack of frontcourt scoring from the Dragons.

Considering Kent State will contend in the MAC and Illinois State may be Creighton's top challenger in the Missouri Valley, neither of Drexel's games qualify as terrible losses. Still, for a team desperate to end its 16-year NCAA tournament drought, these are games that need to be wins.

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