Neither Akron nor Drake will be hoisting a trophy at the Cayman Islands Classic, so today, they will be playing for pride in the third-place game. As they look for some momentum heading into the holiday, I’ll break down why I like the Bulldogs to be the team that bounces back from yesterday’s loss.
A few times a season, you are going to run into a team that cannot miss, and that was the case yesterday for the Drake Bulldogs. After beating Oakland 85-77 in the tournament's first round, Drake took on a Stephen F. Austin team yesterday that could not be stopped from anywhere on the floor. The Lumberjacks shot 63% from the field and 61% from three, which was far too much for Drake to overcome, leading to a 92-68 loss.
The Bulldogs are no stranger to offensive outbursts as they entered the game, scoring an average of 85.6 points per game through their first three games. However, not only did the Lumberjacks catch fire, but the Bulldogs had their worst shooting night of the season, going 39% from the field and 37% from three.
NBA draft prospect and Bulldogs second-leading scorer Tucker Devries has not looked comfortable shooting in the Cayman Islands, as he’s averaging 7.5 points through two games while going 2-11 from three. Luckily for Drake, they have two scoring threats in Atin Wright (185 PPG) and Kevin Overton (16.8 PPG), who can carry the load offensively until Devries gets going.
That trio of scorers will be looking to keep pace with an Akron team tonight that also had their worst offensive game of the season yesterday, losing 65-62 to Utah State. The Zips, who are a very three-point-heavy offense, shot just 21% from deep on 24 attempts, but the biggest story with their offense remains the dominance of big man Enrique Freeman.
Through five games, Freeman is averaging 17.6 points and 13.2 rebounds per game. Not only has his presence helped the Zips' offense when they are not connecting from deep, but it has also helped them hold opponents to an average of 29.5 rebounds per game, which is 20th in the country.
The battle for third place will occur at 5:00 PM EST, and the Drake Bulldogs are currently listed as (-2) point favorites. I’ll be backing the Bulldogs for my play, as I think they have more scoring depth, and the chances of them playing two teams in a row that can’t miss is very unlikely.
Tucker Devries is too good of a shooter to struggle in three straight games, so if they get his normal scoring output back, the Bulldogs have three scoring threats that can take advantage of an Akron team that is 80th in adjusted defensive rating on KenPom. Drake is averaging 25.3 three-point attempts per game, and while they were cold yesterday, they get an ideal matchup tonight since Akron ranks 311th in the country in opponent three-point percentage.
According to ShotQuality.com, the Zips rank 229th in adjusted defensive ShotQuality, while Drake ranks 1st, which tells me yesterday’s defensive performance won’t happen much for Drake, but the Zips will struggle against a high-powered offense. For as many threes as Akron takes (26.5 per game), they are 160th in three-point percentage. While Enrique Freeman might be tough to stop, we saw yesterday that Freeman's dominance can't win them the game if the rest of the Zips' offense isn’t shooting it well.
Drake Bulldogs (-2)(-110)