By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – After overwhelming Central Florida in the first round of the NIT and holding on against Northern Iowa in the second, the Drexel Dragons tonight will go for a third straight win as they host UMass in the quarterfinals.
With a victory tonight, the Dragons will move on to New York City for the Final Four of the NIT next week and that is a notch that Dragons head coach Bruiser Flint would really like on his belt.
“It’d be unbelievable. (Drexel) went to the NCAA Tournament during the Malik Rose era and won a game. But for us to be able to continue to win games in the NIT and hopefully get to be one of the finalists in the Final Four in New York City – it’d be unbelievable for our program.”
Tonight’s game will be played at the DAC, just like the first two NIT match-ups for the Dragons. Flint says getting the chance to play all these games at a place where they have yet to lose this season (15-0) is obviously a good thing.
“We’ve been kind of lucky, there have been some major upsets (in the NIT). We were only suppose to get one home game from our seeding (3), but UMass upset Seton Hall and and UNI upset St. Joe’s, so it has worked out for our benefit and hopefully we can take advantage of it.”
UMass is 24-11 and they have had a tough road to navigate here in the NIT. First they went down to Starkville and beat Mississippi State in double overtime and then traveled to North Jersey and beat the top seed in this bracket, Seton Hall. Flint says they have some things in common with a CAA opponent the Dragons are quite familiar with.
“They try to trap you all over the place, just like VCU does – side outs, full court, half court. They probably play a little bit more high tempo offensively then VCU does. VCU when you get them in the halfcourt, slows you down. These guys are very high tempo in the half court and they want to shoot a lot of threes. But the pressure is the thing that gets you, if you crack under it then they have a chance to beat you.”
Listen to KYW’s Matt Leon’s interview with Bruiser Flint:
UMass is led by sophomore point guard Chaz Williams who is averaging 24 points a game here in the NIT. The Minutemen are coached by Derek Kellogg who played his college ball at UMass under John Calipari. Bruiser Flint was an assistant for the Minutemen during Kellogg’s career (before Flint succeeded Calipari as head coach), and he laughs as he says that when you start getting matched up as a coach with your former players – it means you’re getting old.
“I actually recruited Derek, so I know that I’m getting a little older. But I’m happy for him, he had a great year this year.”
Drexel and UMass will tip-off tonight at 7:00pm.