The Drake Bulldogs are located in Des Moines, Iowa and have been a Division I program since the 1906-07 season. Despite this long stretch as a program, the Drake Bulldogs have only made the NCAA Tournament four times. In the 1969 tournament, they made it all the way to the National Semifinals (consisted of the final four teams) but lost to the eventual champions UCLA 85-82. They haven't been able to replicate that success with three more entries, with their most recent being in 2008, where they lost in the first round.
This year the Drake Bulldogs look to be more than just a first round exit, starting the season 16-0, and 7-0 in Missouri Valley Conference play. This is good enough for first place in the conference and a #25 ranking in the most recent AP Poll.
They allow the second least amount of points per game in the MVC, and score the most points per game in the MVC. To most casual fans you may have never heard of this team before, and all this makes it seem pretty enticing that this team could make a deep run. But their strength of schedule is dead last in the MVC, and 263rd out of 347 in the country (according to sports-reference.com). A -4.56 SOS likely means you are playing some horrible teams, which is in fact true. Their only Power Six conference win was against Kansas State, who is 5-13 and 9th in the Big 12. Their toughest opponent they have played so far is Missouri State, who they swept in a two game series. The team also underwent a pause due to Covid-19 in early January, which clearly has impacted their play as well. But with games coming up against Loyola (IL) in February we shall see what they do against another top tier team in the MVC.
But looking at the team itself, they are definitely a talented squad. Forward ShanQuan Hemphill averages 14.1 pts, 5.6 trb, and 1.4 ast on a 57.2 FG%. The transfer from Green Bay has scored in double figures in all but one game. Guard Roman Penn averages 12.8 pts, 3.0 trb, and 5.4 ast on 52.3% FG%. The transfer from Sienna is playing in his second season for the Bulldogs and proving to be team leader and has started every game this season. A player I really like is Darnell Brodie who is averaging 7.8 pts, 7.7 trb, and 0.8 ast on 63.2% FG%. The transfer from Seton Hall didn't get much playing time there and is emerging as a starter for Drake this season. Overall the team is very talented and is coached by Darian DeVries who has done a good job with the program. In his first season with the Bulldogs, they were the MVC regular season champion tied with Loyola (IL). Since he has taken over, he has finished every season with 20 wins and is looking to complete that feat once again this season.
Overall, I really like this Bulldogs team and feel they are a talented group. But their SOS really is a concern for me and I don't feel the #25 ranked Bulldogs have what it takes to reach the Sweet 16, or the Elite 8. This team has a high ceiling but also a low floor. I do expect this team to to make the tournament, and maybe have a seeding in the 7-9 range. But don't be surprised if they match up with a Power 6 conference team, and get upset. I would say the Bulldogs at their highest, are a contender.
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