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First look: As WSU preps for Drake, a scouting report on the Bulldogs from a beat writer

Mar. 19—PULLMAN — On one Sunday afternoon earlier this month, Kyle Smith flipped on his TV and checked out one of the first conference championship games of the season.

It pitted Indiana State against Drake in the Missouri Valley Conference title game, a matchup of two NCAA Tournament hopefuls who needed this win to punch their tickets.

"They're good," Smith said of Drake. "They have a point guard who really defends, they've got a big wide body, and they've got the best player in the league in the coach's son. They'll be a really good challenge."

Smith's seventh-seeded Washington State club gets 10th-seeded Drake on Thursday night in Omaha, Nebraska, the site of the Cougars' first NCAA Tournament appearance in 16 years. The Bulldogs are making their second straight appearance, and they'll be a little more than a week removed from capturing their conference tournament crown.

Drake, which ranks No. 307 of 362 Division I teams with an average height of 6-foot-4, features several key players: Tucker DeVries, son of coach Darian DeVries, who averages 22 points per game on 36% shooting on 3-pointers; guards Atin Wright and Kevin Overton, who average 13.9 and 11.4 points per game, respectively; and enter Darnell Brodie, who averages 11.3 points and 7.9 rebounds a game.

The roster also includes Carlos Rosario, a transfer from WSU, and the Cougs have injured guard Joseph Yesufu, who started his career at Drake.

For more information on Drake, we turn to the Des Moines Register's Alyssa Hertel, who covers the team. Here is a Q&A between The Spokesman-Review and Hertel.

Spokesman-Review: Give us a general scouting report on the Bulldogs.

Alyssa Hertel: Drake is a tricky team to scout because, even with Tucker DeVries, there are four players who can emerge as the leading scorer on any given night. DeVries is the lead of an almost multiheaded Bulldog for a lot of reasons. But Darnell Brodie, Atin Wright, Kevin Overton can emerge as the leading scorer on any given night. Couple that with Brodie's passing and Enright's defense, Drake looks like a team with all bases covered.

S-R: It looks like they're one of the country's smallest teams in terms of average size, but clearly they've made it work. How have they done that?

Hertel: Size doesn't seem to matter as much when you have good shooters. Conor Enright and Atin Wright — both around 6-foot — are the only two starters who average over 40% from 3-point range. Both are also players who, if you watch them, play well above their size. Atin especially does not care about going against taller opponents.

S-R: What makes Tucker DeVries such a tough cover?

Hertel: Based on stats alone, Tucker's been pretty consistent with his shooting success rate. But this year, he really seemed to diversify where his shots come from, especially his step-back jumper. It's allowed him to get on the scoreboard a bit more when his 3-point shot might not be falling, which has been big for Drake. I feel like pretty much every aspect — offense and defense — has grown this season, which makes him an all-around tougher player to guard.

S-R: Tell us a little about Darnell Brodie and his game — what is he best at, and is he more brute strength or finesse?

Hertel: It's pretty obvious that there are few to no basketball players that look like Brodie. He's 6-foot-10 and about 265 pounds of muscle. He's a constant on defense for obvious reasons, but I've seen his passing game grow a lot this year. He's had quite a few frankly beautiful assists and he has a passion this year (that was growing in years past) in his fight for every possession. He's got great speed for his size and with his hands and scoring abilities, that makes him pretty dangerous.

S-R: When Drake is playing best, what is the team doing well?

Hertel: In Drake's best games, it's pretty simple — solid offense, usually from Tucker and Atin or Kevin, and phenomenal defense. Ball security is usually the key, limiting turnovers.

S-R: On the other hand, on the few occasions they've lost, what has gone wrong for the Bulldogs?

Hertel: I wouldn't say there's a trend across their losses. Some games they had more turnovers, some they were outrebounded. In all but two losses, Darnell Brodie had fewer than 10 points, so limiting him offensively was definitely something most of those opponents did well.

S-R: With Omaha only a couple of hours from Des Moines, how much of a home-court advantage should we expect for Drake?

Hertel: I think it's reasonable to expect a bit of a home-court advantage. Drake fans travel all right to the conference tournament, and that's farther away than Omaha. And there is a reason why Drake went undefeated at home this season.