Yet the Dragons, with 27 wins, still might need to make it 28.
It is crazy that this could possibly be the reality, but here we are. We all know the story: nobody good is willing to play the Dragons, so their strength of schedule stinks. They have played only one time this year against a top 50 team, a bad loss to Virginia in a game that took place before Thanksgiving.
They did not get 11 shots at it, as Northwestern did. But does anybody with eyes honestly believe that a team that plays defense the way the Dragons play defense would not do better than the Wildcats' 1-10? Or the Bulls' 1-8?
They would not be 27-5 if they played in the Big East or the Big Ten, and that goes without saying, but does anyone really think that Bruiser Flint's rugged, aggressive team would not have taken better advantage of the benefit of playing a big-conference schedule?
Of course they would have. But neither life nor NCAA basketball is fair. And so, as the Dragons walked off the court yesterday after smothering the life out of Old Dominion in the CAA semifinals, 68-51, freshman Damion Lee made eye contact with sophomore Frantz Massenat and insisted, loudly, "One more. One more."
Because they cannot afford to take a chance.
If they beat Virginia Commonwealth tonight in the championship game, the Dragons go to the NCAA Tournament. If they lose to VCU, they begin lobbying and praying and trying to banish the bad experiences of the past from their minds.
"In '07, it was the same thing," Flint said. "We won all these games, people told us we were in, then we didn't get in. I don't even worry about it. I don't have any second thoughts about it. I don't talk about it to my team. I don't talk about it to my people.
"We came to win a championship. If we don't win [tonight], maybe we'll discuss it after that. Right now, we're just trying to win basketball games and cut down the nets."
The Drexel players all have friends, and the friends all have smart phones, and as senior Samme Givens acknowledged, "People are always texting saying they heard this or that." But Givens said that the team really does not talk about the upcoming selection committee deliberations among themselves. Mostly because their coach has forbade it.
"We don't discuss it - that's all," Flint said. "You tell them, 'We're not going to be sitting around talking about this. We're in the room. I don't want you all to be sitting around worrying yourselves about it. Yo, let's just go play basketball, let's win games, that's it.'
"That's been my approach from the beginning. If I'm not talking about it, if my staff's not talking about it, then usually they're not. They may sit in their rooms and talk about it, but I'll tell them, when we're together and we're talking about stuff, we're not going to be talking about that."
That. We can only wonder what the people in the committee room know about Drexel. We know that, because they are a regular-season conference champion, the Dragons have to be included on the "under-consideration board" of teams that the committee winnows down. Other than that, though, we can only guess.
Do they know what a fierce defensive team this is? That it has allowed only 98 points combined in two CAA Tournament games so far? Yesterday, it was primarily Massenat who did the work on Kent Bazemore, holding ODU's leading scorer to 12 points on 6-for-20 shooting.
"That's the way we've played all year," Flint said. "If you ever ask anybody, 'How do they play?' they'll say, 'No. 1, they're really good on defense.' That's one of the things that I talk about when I go recruiting: 'If you guard, you play.' And everybody wants to play. 'If you guard, you play.' And now it's to the point where my players tell the new guys coming in.
"Every team has its signature thing, and that's ours," he said.
It is the rock upon which the 27 wins have been built, a number that ties the school record. But, still, Drexel is not sure. Everyone fixates on winning this tournament and making the selection committee moot. It was the true meaning of what was being said as the Dragons broke their huddle and returned to the court for the start of the second half:
"Finish on three . . . One, two, three - FINISH!"
With that, one to go.
And if they're cutting down the nets tonight?
"I might cry," Massenat said.
He might cry either way, unfortunately.
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