By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It has been a great start to the season for Drexel.
The Dragons are 3-1, with the only loss coming in a close game (72-67) at #18 UCLA to open the season. On Wednesday night they will play on the New York City stage, taking on #4 Arizona, at Madison Square Garden, in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off Tournament.
Drexel got to this point in the NIT by beating Elon and Rutgers last week in Piscataway, New Jersey. Head coach Bruiser Flint says making it this far is a big deal.
“You get a lot of exposure,” Flint tells KYW Newsradio. “I always joke with my guys, we’re getting exposure – let’s just hope we don’t get exposed. But you get a lot of exposure, you’re going up and playing against one of the top-five teams in the country. The other teams (still playing) are Duke and Alabama. So you’re playing with some pretty big-time company. They don’t usually think that schools (like Drexel) are going to be in a situation like that, everybody saying that we crashed the party. But that was our objective from the beginning, that we do crash the party. Now we’re there, hopefully we go out and play well.”
Drexel’s strong start is pretty big reversal from last season when the Dragons opened 1-4 and never really got on track, finishing 13-18.
“We’re scoring the ball much better than we did at this point (last year),” Flint says. “Our older guys are playing like older guys, we’re playing with experience. That’s been a big plus. And our younger guys have gotten better every game. Pretty much every game they’ve had to play a little bit more than the game before, and they’ve been able to do some good things for us.”
Arizona advanced to the “Sweet 16” of the NCAA Tournament last season and they are off to a 5-0 start this season. They defeated Fairleigh Dickinson and Rhode Island in the first two games of the NIT Season Tip-Off.
“They’re ranked top-5 in the country, so they’ve got great athletes,” Flint says. “I’ve know Sean Miller for a long time, he’s a great coach. We’ve got to be ready to face the best. (Freshman forward) Aaron Gordon is one of the top four or five players in the country. They talk about him being a lottery pick. They’ve got a pretty big front line. So they are ranked #4 in the country for a reason. So we know we’ve got a tall task ahead of us, and we’ve just got to get ourselves ready to play.”
Wednesday night’s game is slated to tip-off at 7:00pm. The Dragons will play a second game in New York on Friday (against either Duke or Alabama) regardless of the outcome of Wednesday’s contest.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.