Drexel left out of NCAA tournament

March 12, 2012

Drexel is March Mad.

Winning 27 games and the Colonial Athletic Association regular-season championship was not enough to help the Drexel Dragons make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1996.

The Dragons won 19 straight games. They are a sparkling 13-0 at home.

None of those numbers impressed the tournament selection committee, though. As a result, the Dragons are, perhaps, the most notable omission in the 68-team field.


''There must be a lot of people on the basketball committee that don't know too much about basketball,'' coach Bruiser Flint said. ''They just got to look at what's on their paper. If we'd have played a couple tougher teams, maybe we'd have had a stronger (RPI).''

Food for thought.

But for now, the Dragons must move on, and prepare to play Wednesday at home against Central Florida (22-10) in the NIT.

The Dragons won 19 straight games before losing to VCU in the CAA championship game. Flint laughed when he said the Dragons will have to win 30 straight next season.

Nope. Just the last one in the CAA tournament - something the Dragons have never done.

Win their way in, and the Dragons wouldn't have to face criticism for their lowly RPI (in the 60s) or weak strength of schedule number (220s). Flint knew the possibility of an at-large bid was over when he saw fellow bubble team, Iona, in the field.

''My big thing has always been here at Drexel, I can't get nobody to play me at home,'' Flint said.

The Dragons are 27-6 and will play in the NIT for the first time since 2007. So, all is not lost.

''I feel horrible for Bru,'' Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. ''I think they did a wonderful job. He coached like crazy. What did they win, something like 25 of 27 games? Pretty impressive.''

Temple (24-7) was allowed in. It earned a No. 5 seed, and will play the winner of the play-in game Wednesday between No. 12 seeds California (24-9) and South Florida (20-13) in the Midwest Region. The Owls will open the tournament in Nashville, Tenn. Led by Dunphy, Temple won the Atlantic 10 regular-season championship and is in the NCAA tournament for the fifth straight season. Temple won a second-round game last season.

The Owls are coming off a disappointing loss to Massachusetts in the A-10 tournament, and haven't won more than one game in the NCAA since they advanced to the regional final in 2001 under former coach John Chaney.

Dunphy has a 2-13 career record in the NCAA tournament. Dunphy had lost 11 straight tournament games until last season, dating back to his stint at Penn.

''I think a new tournament, a new year, a new challenge,'' Dunphy said. ''I don't think anything from the past will help us necessarily.''

It was a down year for Pennsylvania teams, overall. Three years after reaching the Final Four, Villanova officially saw its streak of seven straight NCAA tournaments end. Saint Joseph's and La Salle joined Drexel in the NIT. The Hawks (20-13) host Northern Iowa (19-13) and the Explorers (21-12) play a home game against Minnesota (19-14), both on Wednesday.

Philadelphia is the site of four postseason games Wednesday night. Penn plays at the Palestra against Quinnipiac in the College Basketball Invitational.

Lehigh, which defeated Bucknell in an upset Wednesday to win the Patriot League tournament title, landed a No. 15 seed, and will play Duke in the second round. The Mountain Hawks (26-7) went 11-3 in conference this season, and defeated Colgate, American, and the Bison to win the tournament.

They will now head to Greensboro, N.C., to take on the Blue Devils, who were given a No. 2 seed after not advancing to the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship game.

Bridging the regular season with the postseason, Lehigh is riding an eight-game winning streak into the matchup, and hasn't lost since a 71-62 defeat at American on Feb. 9.

They'll have to carry the state banner, while the Dragons watch. Flint blamed a strength of schedule well over 200 for the omission.

''I guess we've got to play some tougher games, whether we win them or lose them,'' Flint said. ''I guess that's what they're telling me. No matter whether you win or lose, just put someone on the schedule who has a decent RPI.''

Flint was just as surprised to see VCU, a Final Four team last season and this year's conference tournament champion, earn only a No. 12 seed.

''It tells you what the people think about our conference,'' Flint said. ''When I saw they got a 12 seed, I was like, `Wow.' I think it goes to show you we need to do some better things for our conference profiles if the best team in our league only gets a 12 seed.''

Drexel has been down this thorny path before, going 23-9 in 2006-07. That team had a major non-conference win at No. 23 Syracuse.

But it didn't matter.

''We had all the numbers in the last one,'' Flint said. ''Now, we don't have the numbers. And in the end, we're getting the same result. So you have to ask yourself, what do you want us to do?''