Davidson (6-4, 1-0 SoCon) at Drexel (3-7, 0-0 CAA)
Dec. 22, 2012, 7 p.m.
Daskalakis Athletic Center (2,532)
The Southern Conference preseason favorite Davidson Wildcats travel into CAA country on Saturday night, as they will be in the City of Brotherly Love to take on the Drexel Dragons in a key non-conference battle.
A win by the Wildcats would give the SoCon a second win over the league this week, as College of Charleston was able to get a 76-65 win over Old Dominion Tuesday night.
Saturday night's meeting between the Wildcats and Dragons marks just the second all-time meeting between the two programs, with Drexel picking up a 70-67 win over Davidson at the Comcast Lobo Invitational back in the 2000 campaign.
Saturday night's meeting with Drexel marks the second-straight meeting against the CAA, with Davidson picking up a 77-61 win over UNC Wilmington last Saturday.
The Wildcats have what is considered the strongest front court in the Southern Conference this season, with players De'Mon Brooks (15.2 PPG, 6.5 RPG) and Jake Cohen (12.3 PPG, 5.6 RPG), who are SoCon Player of the Year candidates, and both were named co-league Players of the Year last season.
Brooks is one of the league's top NBA prospects and comes into Saturday night's showdown as Davidson's top scorer. So far this season, Brooks has posted double figures in nine of 10 games this season, and is second on the club with 51-career double figure scoring efforts.
Brooks has enjoyed some superlative efforts this season for the Wildcats, having posted a couple of 20-point efforts in back-to-back games for the Wildcats to open the season, amassing a season-high 24 points in the season-opening win over Emory, while posting 22 points in the second game of the season, which was a loss at New Mexico. He is coming off a 14-point, five-rebound effort in Davidson's win over UNC Wilmington last Saturday.
Cohen has had an equally impressive season and career for the Wildcats. He enters Saturday night's contest having posted seven double-figure scoring games this season, including leading the club with 74-career double-figure scoring games.
Cohen is coming off a season-high, 21-point performance in the win over UNC Wilmington the last time out. He connected on a season-high 3-for-6 from three-point range in the win over the Seahawks.
The trio leading the Davidson backcourt will include Chris Czerapowicz (9.3 PPG, 4.1 RPG), J.P. Kuhlman (8.5 PPG, 2.9 RPG) and Nik Cochran (8.9 PPG, 2.9 RPG), composing one of the league's top guard combinations.
Czerapowicz, a native of Gothenburg, Sweden, is one of the SoCon's most-feared perimeter shooters, entering Saturday night's contest having connected on 22-of-42 (50 percent) from three-point range this season. Czerapowicz has double-digit games for the Wildcats this season, including a 14-point effort the last time out against UNCW. He recorded a season-high 15 points twice this season in games against Emory and Gonzaga.
Cochran also has four double-digit scoring performances this season, recording a season-high 17 points in the loss to Gonzaga.
Kuhlman, who was injured earlier this season, has seen action in eight games this season, and scored in double figures in the first three games for the Wildcats, but hasn't found his way into double-figures since. Kuhlman's season-high of 16 points came in a loss at Milwaukee. His 4.2 helpers-per-game leads Davidson.
Davidson's leading performers off the bench this season have been junior guard Tom Droney (3.3 PPG, 2.1 RPG), senior forward Clint Mann (7.5 PPG, 3.0 RPG) and sophomore guard Tyler Kalinoski (7.8 PPG, 2.2 RPG).
Droney is one of the team's best defenders off the bench, while Mann is one of the team's scrappiest and most physical performers underneath the bucket. Kalinoski was a SoCon All-Freshman selection last season, and he enters with four double-figure scoring performances this season, including a season-high 15 points in a win over Chattanooga.
As a team, Davidson enters Saturday night's contest, averaging 73.7 PPG, while leading the SoCon in scoring margin (+6.3), free throw percentage (78.4 percent), three-point field goal percentage (40.2 percent) and assist/turnover ratio (1:2). Davidson also ranks second in the SoCon in team field goal percentage (44.5 percent) and assists (14.0 APG).
The Wildcats already sport wins over both Big East member West Virginia (63-60) and SEC East member Vanderbilt (75-62) this season.
Drexel comes into the contest with a 3-7 mark this season, and the Dragons were a team that posted a school-record 29 wins a year ago, advancing to the NIT quarterfinals, winning the CAA regular-season crown in 2011-12.
Things haven't come as easily this season for the Dragons under Bruiser Flint, who is now in his 12th season at the helm of the program. Despite four starters returning off that squad from last year, the Dragons are currently four games below .500.
Five of seven losses this season by the Dragons have come against teams that made a postseason appearance in one of four of Division I college basketball tournaments last season.
Drexel has been led by one of mid-major college basketball's most explosive backcourt tandems, in Damion Lee (17.6 PPG, 5.0 RPG) and Frantz Massenat (13.2 PPG, 2.1 RPG). Both Lee and Massenat are the lone two players averaging in double figures this season, and the backcourt duo averages nearly half of the team's 64.5 PPG. Lee's 16 three-point field goals this season lead the team.
Lee scored a career-high 28 points in a loss to Rider earlier this season, and enters Saturday night's contest having posted nine-straight double-figure scoring performances, including 15 points the last time out in a 69-58 loss to Fairfield. He was the CAA's Rookie of the Year last season.
Massenat comes into Saturday night's contest having been selected as the CAA's Preseason Player of the Year and currently ranks second in the CAA in assists-per-game, with 4.4 helpers-per-contest. Massenat has seven double-figure scoring games this season, posting a season high 20 points in a loss to Rice earlier this season.
Senior Derrick Thomas (5.5 PPG, 2.0 RPG) rounds out the starters in the backcourt, and he has put together a solid season for the Dragons, and has a couple of double-figure scoring performances this season, including a 13-point, six-rebound, six-assist effort in a loss to Illinois State earlier this season.
Rounding out the starters for the Dragons entering Saturday night's contest will be post performers Daryl McCoy (4.5, 7.8 RPG) and Dartaye Ruffin (8.9 PPG, 6.9 RPG). Both McCoy and Ruffin are excellent on the boards and both players' athleticism could give the Wildcats trouble on Saturday night. Both McCoy and Ruffin are shooting over 50 percent from the field this season, with McCoy connecting at a 54.3 percent clip (19-of-34) on the season and Ruffin at a 52.7 percent mark (39-of-74) in 2012-13.
The leading players off the bench for the Dragons this season have been forwards Tavon Allen (9.6 PPG, 2.3 RPG) and Kazembe Abif (4.2 PPG, 3.2 RPG). Allen has been a key scoring presence off the bench, especially after second-leading scorer and senior guard Chris Fouch, who was averaging 16.3 PPG, had his season cut short after only three games, suffering a fractured ankle.
While I think the Dragons' athleticism might give the Wildcats some trouble, Davidson is used to coping with deficiencies athletically and Saturday night's road contest, despite being in hostile territory, will see a disciplined Davidson team squeak out a seventh win in a tough venue against a quality opponent.
Final Score Prediction: Davidson 70, Drexel 64