By Jon Rothstein
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– VCU coach Shaka Smart will be the first person to say that Drexel deserves an at large bid to the NCAA Tournament after the Rams beat the Dragons 59-56 Monday night in the CAA title game, ending the team’s 19 game winning streak. “I don’t think there’s any question that they belong in the field after what they did in the regular season and the way they played Monday,” Smart said of the 27-6 Dragons. Drexel doesn’t have an overwhelmingly strong RPI or strength of schedule but deserves to be in the field of 68 after dominating one of the better mid major leagues in the country.
– Speaking of VCU, Smart says there’s no question that the Rams are better defensively than they were a year ago when they reached the Final Four. “It’s not a debate,” Smart said when he was asked if VCU was better defensively than last season. “We believe in our system and we believe in the philosophy of creating havoc.” Smart also added that the Rams frenetic pace is something that’s addressed all year long. “We work on being as active as we can be on defense from the first days of individual workouts,” Smart said. “It’s not easy to play defense like that without fouling so it needs to be constant reinforced.”
– VCU Associate Head Coach Mike Rhoades deserves a shot at the vacancy at Winthrop. Rhoades has been a key cog in the Rams’ success over the past two years and is ready to run his own program.
– Temple coach Fran Dunphy doesn’t understand why Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson doesn’t get more credit. The undersized power forward does all the dirty work for the Owls and rarely gets put in bold print. “I don’t know where we’d be without him,” Dunphy said of Hollis-Jefferson, who really stepped up when Temple big man Micheal Eric was out during the middle of the season with an injury. “He’s been incredibly valuable to us.” Dunphy also pointed out that the Atlantic-10 Tournament could be as competitive as its been in years. “Any of the eight teams that reach Atlantic City are capable of winning three games,” Dunphy said.
– Despite the fact that North Carolina has played its best basketball as of late, the Tarheels can get better and will as long as freshman guard P.J. Hairston becomes more reliable from long range. The sharpshooter has made just two of his last thirteen attempts from behind the 3-point line — a figure that just has to go up.
– Creighton coach Greg McDermott knew he had a good team before the season started this but even he couldn’t have dreamt of a season like this. “I didn’t expect 28-5,” McDermott said Tuesday. “Our biggest strength is we can score and we’re capable of doing that in different ways. We take good shots. Our shot selection is our biggest strength.” The Blue Jays also have McDermott’s son Doug, who could be a nightmare to match up with in the NCAA Tournament. “He’s a little like Kevin McHale except Kevin was bigger and doesn’t stretch the floor like Doug does,” Greg said of his son.
– Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos is extremely excited about the fact that his team will be playing in the NCAA Tournament but he still feels Iona deserves at large consideration for the field of 68. “The bad half they had against Fairfield shouldn’t cost them a bid,” Patsos said of Iona. “They deserve to be in the field.
– Saint Mary’s guard Beau Levesque was critical in the Gaels overtime win over Gonzaga in the WCC title game on Monday. Stepping in for the injured Stephen Holt, Levesque relished his opportunity and helped Randy Bennett’s team win the conference regular season and league championship for the first time in school history. The Gaels could be as high as a six seed in the NCAA Tournament.
– Don’t dismiss Marshall coach Tom Herrion as a darkhorse candidate for the opening at Rhode Island. Herrion has deep roots in the state of Rhode Island and served as an assistant at Providence under Pete Gillen.
– Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin will be in studio between 9 and 10 PM on Inside College Basketball on the CBS Sports Network.
Do you think Drexel deserves an at large bid? Sound off below…