Wednesday, December 17, 2014

For Dragons, a quiet end to their hopes for a bid

Drexel coach Bruiser Flint watches the NCAA selections with his team on campus. "You know how much this is a big moment for them and it really didn't happen," he said of his players.
Drexel coach Bruiser Flint watches the NCAA selections with his team on campus. "You know how much this is a big moment for them and it really didn't happen," he said of his players. ERIC MENCHER / Inquirer Staff Photographer

Drexel suffered its toughest loss of the season.

The Dragons were not undone by an unbelievable shot at the buzzer, but it did take place in front of a national television audience.

The end to Drexel's hopes for an NCAA basketball tournament at-large bid became official when the final pairing of the South Regional and NCAA bracket announced that No. 6 Louisville would meet No. 11 Stanford in Lexington, Ky.

At that moment, silence fell across the banquet room on campus that had earlier been filled with hopes and expectations after Drexel (23-8) experienced one of its most joyous seasons.

Coach Bruiser Flint then let his team quickly file out of the room without comment.

Only minutes earlier, Drexel enjoyed its last great cheer when the Dragons were shown on CBS as the NCAA selection show went to the commercial with host Greg Gumbel noting that Flint's bunch would soon learn their fate.

The season is not totally over - an NIT date with North Carolina State at 8 p.m. tomorrow at home awaits - but it didn't end the way it could have after Drexel piled up those impressive road wins at Syracuse, Villanova, and Creighton this season.

"It's disappointing," Flint said. "Disappointing for my guys. We had a great season. We put a lot into it. We won some games. We had some bumps in the road and actually that must have been the things that cost us."

The realists in the room knew early the Dragons might be in trouble when Colonial Athletic Association rival Old Dominion received an at-large into the Midwest Regional.

A year ago, the CAA managed to get a rare at-large invite, and George Mason made good on the gesture by advancing to the Final Four.

However, the odds that the conference would get three representatives were long, and Drexel lost both its conference games against ODU.

The Dragons finished fourth in the CAA and were eliminated by top-seeded Virginia Commonwealth, 63-56, in the conference tournament semifinals.

"It was a very tough decision [between ODU and Drexel]," NCAA tournament committee chairman Gary Walters said. "Both teams had performed admirably during the year.

"We were very much aware of the good road record that Drexel had," Walters said. "But what impressed us more was the fact that within the conference ODU had just performed admirably and come in second in the league and had a better inter-conference record by a significant margin."

Flint said he was more upset over some of the teams that drew invitations.

"I think people are going to be more shocked over teams that got in instead of us, more so, than why we did not get in," he said.

"I think they're going to look at some of these teams and say, 'Wow. That team got in.' That disappoints me a little bit, but what are you going to do?"

Immediately after the field was announced, CBS analyst Seth Davis criticized the omission of Drexel and Syracuse from the field.

It was at Syracuse in late December that the Dragons recorded one of their surprising victories by rallying to beat the Orangemen, 84-79.

That victory occurred following a first-ever triumph at Villanova and before Drexel beat Temple, another Big Five school.

Drexel also had a win over St. Joseph's, making it the first time the Dragons had ever beaten three Big Five teams in the same season.

The Dragons had a tough schedule and soon became one of the feel-good stories of the season. It just didn't end up that way.

"You look at some of the faces of your guys - you know what they put into it," he said. "You know how much this is a big moment for them and it really didn't happen."


Contact staff writer Mel Greenberg at 215-854-5725 or mgreenberg@phillynews.com.

Mel Greenberg Inquirer Staff Writer
Latest Videos:
Also on Philly.com:
Stay Connected