The Daily Dish: Don’t be surprised if Drake makes a Cinderella run in the NCAA tournament

Drake basketball coach Darian DeVries quietly turned his team into a pattern of succession. After a blistering run through the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, the Bulldogs qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years. Drake has won at least 20 games in each of his five years with DeVries at the helm, and the only time he hasn’t played in any postseason tournament was in 2021, when all such events were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, all that stands between them and maintaining their postseason hopes is a first-round game against the No. 5 seed Miami.

“It’s been a long week for us, we’ve been waiting to see who we’re going to play,” De Vries said after learning of his team’s NCAA Tournament draw. “Now we know who it is and are very happy to be a part of it. We’re playing a very good team from Miami that won the ACC, so we know we have a big task ahead of us.”

But how deep can Drake go? To say that this is the type of Cinderella that can dance her way into the elite eight might be an overstatement. But any result before that really shouldn’t surprise the fans.

First in line is Miami, who just exited the semifinals of the ACC Tournament against Duke. What clear advantage could a program like Drake have over a team with the resources and collective talent of the Hurricanes?

Evidence of Drake’s clear advantage can be found in the Reeds’ ACC Tournament match against Duke. In that game, Duke and Miami were tied. In fact, the Hurricanes landed 29 shots to Duke’s 28. Both teams scored eight triples and both teams scored even with five players finishing in double figures.

But Duke had a clear advantage in two key areas: rebounding and free throws. The Blue Devils cleared the ball overboard with 36 rebounds compared to Miami’s 24. 27 of Duke’s 36 rebounds came on the protective glass, while Miami had just 16.

How will this affect Miami’s game against Drake? Well, Drake turned out to be one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the entire country. Not only that, but the best rebounder in Miami. Norchad Omier, doubtful for Friday’s game due to an ankle injury. Miami desperately needs Omier’s rebounding prowess to take down Drake. But more importantly, the Hurricanes are more than four points behind in 100 possessions when Omier is not playing.

As for Drake, the Bulldogs have a couple of powerful physical hitters. Issa Samake And Darnell Brody each of which averages more than seven rebounds per game. As a team, Drake is ranked 18th in the nation with 27.6 defensive rebounds per game. Miami is ranked 233rd in the nation.

So what if the Bulldogs make it through the first round? They won’t have such a clear rebounding advantage against the likes of Indiana, Iowa, Auburn or Houston on their side of the net.

Well, the Bulldogs are quite an elite defensive team. They are in the top 50 in defensive effectiveness, ahead of the likes of Marquette, Kentucky and Gonzaga. Other than that, they have MVC Player of the Year in their roster. Tucker DeVries (son of coach DeVries).

The younger DeVries is exactly the type of player that underdog teams in the NCAA Tournament can rely on. He is cool, calm, efficient and able to realize important moments. His 19 points per game, 45.7% field goals and 38.7% three-pointers should help.

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Can Drake get into the Sweet Sixteen and beyond? The Bulldogs will need some breaks along the way, but don’t be surprised if they go far in March.

The Daily Dish is a daily column on college basketball that is rotated by 247Sports journalists covering the day’s biggest events in the sport and will run through the NCAA Tournament in April.


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