U-C-F (22-10) at Drexel (27-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, March 14, 7:15 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Daskalakis Athletic Center (2,300) -- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Television: ESPN3.com. NIT Record: UCF 0-0, Drexel 0-5. Series Record: Drexel leads, 1-0
GAME NOTES: After missing out on the NCAA Tournament, the Drexel Dragons will now turn their attention to the National Invitation Tournament, where they earned a third seed and will host the sixth-seeded UCF Knights in the first round at the Daskalakis Athletic Center in Philadelphia.
The winner will advance to the second round to take on either Saint Joseph's or Northern Iowa.
UCF had an impressive season in Conference USA, going 22-10 while finishing fourth in the conference standings with a 10-6 mark. It recorded big wins in the regular season over NCAA Tournament-bound teams Connecticut and Memphis, though it got blown out in a rematch with the Tigers in the C-USA Tournament semifinals, 83-52. Despite the winning record, the Knights have not fared well away from home this year, winning just three of 11 on the road, including all three against non-conference opponents.
Drexel's truly spectacular season in the Colonial Athletic Association went unrewarded by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee after it fell in the conference tournament championship game, 59-56, to VCU. The Dragons finished the regular season in first place at 16-2, and went on a stretch of winning 25 of 26 games, which included a school-record 19 straight victories. They were also undefeated at home.
Drexel has a 1-0 edge in the all-time series against the Knights, winning in an 83-72 final in Orlando on Dec. 22, 1989.
UCF has a modest scoring offense (65.9 ppg) that has been truly terrible from three-point range, draining just 30.2 percent of its attempts from beyond the arc, but offsetting the poor shooting this year has been an impressive defense, which allows just 63.0 ppg on 41.8 percent field goal efficiency. Leading the charge at both ends of the floor is one of C-USA's best forwards in Keith Clanton. The 6-9 junior leads the squad in scoring (14.5 ppg), rebounding (8.1 rpg) and blocks (1.8 bpg), and he also brings versatility to his game, connecting on 1.2 three-pointers per game and coming up with 1.1 spg. Marcus Jordan has been the Knights' best threat from the outside, tallying 13.9 ppg, while Isaiah Sykes has been a solid swing man with 12.5 ppg and 6.6 rpg.
Drexel has a very similar makeup as UCF, as it averages 64.7 ppg, but while the Knights' defense has been good, Drexel's has been sensational, ranking fifth nationally in yielding just 55.4 on a mere 38.5 percent shooting from the floor overall, which includes a dismal 28.2 percent from beyond three- point range. Despite a so-so offense, the Dragons have a solid core of scorers they can rely on any given night, led by Frantz Massenat (13.6 ppg, 4.5 apg). Damion Lee also puts up solid numbers from his guard position (12.7 ppg), while Samme Givens was one of the CAA's best forwards, tallying 11.4 ppg, 1.1 bpg and 8.0 rpg, sixth-best in the conference. Drexel has been impressive from beyond the arc, owning a three-point field goal percentage of .376 and it has four players who drain at least one trey per outing.
This one is sure to be a slow-tempo, low-scoring bout, and while UCF has the athletes to keep pace with Drexel, the Dragons will be extra revved up after their NCAA snub and will triumph in front of the home crowd.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Drexel 61, UCF 56
03/14 10:34:16 ET