Wednesday, January 23, 2008

X vs UD preview

The 19th rated Flyers will be visiting the Queen City Thursday night in search of a victory over the Muskies. UD last beat us in this town in 1981 at Riverfront Coliseum. Alot has happened since 1981 in the world including cloning. Coach Brian Gregory probably wishes he could clone his two athletic frontcourt players (Chris Wright and Charles Little) for this one. Without those two UD will be depleted across the front. They have been with out 'Flight' Wright for a few games but this will be the first time they tee it up without Little. He was essentially their sixth man, second leading rebounder, and fourth leading scorer. The dude dropped 35 on us last year at UD Arena. I won't be missing him much. Brian Roberts has been bringing the ball up the floor for them with Andres Sandoval, Marcus Johnson, Jimmy Binnie and Kurt Huelsman starting alongside him. Instead of a ten man rotation they are essentially down to 8 with Thiago Corderio, Mickey Perry, and London Warren garnering the most minutes off the bench. Stephen Thomas (freshman point guard) and Devin Searcy (freshman post-40 minutes all season) are getting spot action. UD will need to play zone to slow the game down for any chance of victory. They will need to protect Huelsman from foul trouble. And they will want to spread the floor and hope somebody besides Roberts and Johnson can shoulder the scoring load. If Binnie and Wisconsin transfer Mickey Perry can get hot from the perimeter they will be in good shape. It is important to note that UD struggled on the road at St. Louis with the Billikens coming off their blistering 20 point performance against GW and lost uncharacteristically against UMASS at home by 11. They were 4-25 from three land in the friendly confines of the Arena against the Minutemen who are not that great defensively so I am hoping the 8 day layoff will lend itself to a slow start at the Cintas Center. IF they can get hot behind the three point stripe they can keep it close. Also worth noting is the Flyers gave up 70 points or more in each of their contests (3 losses) against the Muskies last year and we have improved offensively with Anderson replacing Cage and Love essentially filling Brandon Cole's spot. They like to think that Lavender will be at a disadvantage with the height they have on the perimeter but we have heard this before. I would ask the Flyer faithful who defends Drew at the other end? Sandoval is too heavy legged, Johnson will be needed to guard one of our athletic wings or forwards and do you really want BRob expending all that energy on that end of the floor? Sandoval splits equal time with Warren so I see this advantage XU.

For the twenty second ranked Muskies to win this game they need to pound the ball inside early and often and generate foul trouble for Huelsman. I think Burrell will guard Roberts man up with a mission to prove something to the Flyer faithful. Sean and staff have done a good job limiting teams first options (Beasley -KState, Gordon - Indiana, Lofton-Tennessee) and I don't think this game will be any different. Unlike the Volunteers I don't think the Flyers have as many gifted options to turn to so we should control the game defensively. I say 'should' control it. Roberts is the most gifted player in the A10 with all America credentials. He is more than capable of dumping 40 or more on us and if he does I will tip my cap to him. That still wouldn't be enough. The Flyers very best chance for victory is if we come out flat like Arizona State or Temple, not likely given the usual intensity for this one.

Bottom line I don't see the Flyers having an answer for Brown and Anderson all night. The team and staff realize we have a golden opportunity to notch a big time win over a quality opponent on our floor. To add to that motivation is only one of the best basketball rivalries in the country and all the recruiting tie ins. Personally I look for Jackson and or Graves to have a huge game Thursday (possible career highs) because of the abuse the UD faithful has lumped their way after the guys chose X.

What excites me the most is knowing that as well as our RPI looked in the nonconference we still have our four biggest RPI games left with three of those being on the road. If I would have told you that at the beginning of the season you would said I was certifiable. The IU win is looking better and better as the season progresses (we are their only loss and they are #27 in the RPI) and we have plenty of other quality wins to point to. We need to hold our own at home in the conference season (cannot afford more than one loss) and go .500 on the road. 10-6 in the A10 this year with our reputation and body of work thus far means we are going to be okay Selection Sunday. Personally I think 12-4 is needed to win the conference but there is alot to be determined on that front.

One last note: UD fans and their message boards are cute with the clip art and comments about our players. I think for the most part the X contingent has matured and do not see the need to bash at such a level. Maybe it's because of our recent dominance (14 out of the last 17) or the fact that it grows old and tired. Sure we call their coach 'mini me' from time to time but some of the posts on are borderline at best, racist at worst. I know there will be plenty of red in the 'Tas Thursday and most will be respectful but I love locking their eyes as the clock winds down at the end of the game and given them a satisfactory smile and the famous 'enjoy the trip back up 75' line. I know one year they are going to break the streak but I don't see it happening this year. Another telling sign in my mind is ESPN's pick for the game of the week is Xavier at UMASS because they feel that game will go further than the Thursday matchup of determining who the A10 winner is. I am not going to assign a score to this game but I know it will be closer than what it appears on paper. Safe bet is the streak continues for another year.

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