Monday, December 30, 2013

Buffalo - Learning From Our Mistakes

So many places to go with this post, and just 1 hour until my vacation starts.  So today you get the bullet point review, which is ironic because I'd rather watch Jamie Harris' and Kevin Phillip robbery videos then the game tape from yesterday.

*They shot 7% from 3.  Fouch was 0-8 from deep.  I thought by and large they were good shots, especially the last few from Fouch that went in and out.  While it would be exciting to see these guys pass the ball ever (great CAAZone Post by DrachenFire at that link) to the big men, shooters gotta shoot when they have looks.  The money says they find their stroke eventually, and since this team isn't going anywhere against good competition without their shooters, you have to give them the chance to find themselves.

*The coaching left, being generous, something to be desired.  It was great to see them throw a zone and see how slow Buffalo was to adjust.  But they did adjust, and the Drexel staff saw it, I was right there as Coach Connors was yelliing at his team that Buffalo had shooters at every spot on the perimeter.  In a "First to 50" game, you can't watch the other team put shooters at every spot in the perimeter and stay with zone.  The zone is a panic move from this staff, and while I like it, both times that they have thrown it this year they have stayed in it well beyond its usefulness and gotten burned for it.  In the two possession that DU played Z after Connors yelled about the shooters DU gave up a 3 and an offensive board.  In a game this tight, that decides the game right there.

*The coaching left, being generous, something to be desired.  After doing a great job in the first half getting McCrea into foul trouble (even noted on the blog twitter feed) they let him come out and never went at him in the second half (see again the great CAAZone Post by DrachenFire at that link).  Buffalo has one guy on the floor that the Drexel defense can not stop, he's got 3 fouls, and the answer to that is Tavon Allen midrange jumpers?

*The coaching left, being generous, something to be desired.  The continued overreaction to foul trouble doesn't help the team.  For all of the managing of fouls that they did, not a single player from either team fouled out.  Sure you run a risk playing a guy with fouls, but Bobby Hurley managed McCrea aggressively and challenged Drexel to knock him out of the game.  The Dragons hid their starters on the bench.  If Bruiser Flint was coaching Buffalo, McCrea only plays 20 minutes and the Bulls lose by 5.  Instead he coaches Drexel and Ruffin and Williams combine for 35 minutes.  Goran filled in nicely and bailed the coaches out a bit, but aggressiveness wins here, Bill Belichick leaves his guys on the floor there, Andy Reid doesn't.  Both of them are good coaches but who has the rings?

*Tavon Allen - almost half of the teams turnovers by himself.  I honestly believe his basketball IQ has improved, but the collection of turnovers and midrange jumpers should have him running laps right next to the coaching staff.

*The interior defense was poor, without question.  McCrea is a talented player and everyone in the building knew that stopping him would be an issue.  But with the new foul rules and the guys being in foul trouble (and no doubt seeing and hearing how terrified their coaches were of the foul situation) they were still never told to front him, never doubled him, never made an adjustment, they just got beat time after time.  The second half of this game was pretty much a practice drill for Javon McCrea.  How much of that is on the bigs, and how much of that is on the coaches, I'll leave to the reader to decide.

*Frantz Massenat came back and had 5 assists and had his teamates miss bunnies or he could have had 1-2 more.  He still wasn't looking for his bigs though.  I actually liked what he did when he drove the ball though, doing a much better job of going hard at the rim which resulted in him getting to the line 8 times.  That offset at pretty brutal 2-9 day from inside the arc a bit (I haven't gotten a chance to rewatch this contest and chart it yet, but per the play by play 5 of those misses were 2 point jump shots, so maybe I'm giving his driving too much credit).  At the very least there was improvement after his disaster of a game against Saint Francis.

*I actually thought this was going to be a nice opportunity for Rodney Williams, and I loved what he showed when he caught the ball at the elbow and took it to the hoop, even if he didn't finish.  But with 4 fouls in 8 minutes, he continues to be a freshman.  In fairness, he is a freshman.

*Not sure what to say about Freddie Wilson at this point.  Some really braindead plays... although Bru blaming him after he went for the steal on McCrea drove me batty.  Drexel had a combo guard on a big man who may well be the MAC player of the year and Bruiser thought the the problem was that Wilson went for the steal?  That was the problem with that picture Bru?  Really?  On ESPN now I believe they call that "C'mon man".  Having said all of that, 11 minutes for Wilson whose only purpose out there is to score and he took all of 1 shot...  And the shot would have been closer if he was aiming for the South Gym baskets.

Eight bulletpoints and that's without me even trying hard.  The team was also outrebounded without McCrea playing for 30 minutes.  Just a lot of bad.  Fix any of these mistakes, any of them, not all of them, any of them and they win this game, even playing as poorly as they did.  Part of that was Buffalo not being that good on this day, part of that is credit to the perimeter d, and part of that is Drexel's raw talent.

Maybe this is the wakeup call that the team needed, but after four straight games of this, that's tough to be optimistic about.  I hate reading about "playing to the level of Drexel's opponents".  They haven't played to the level of their opponents, if they had they would have had a close game at SJU.  They've played to the level of stunk.  End of story.  We've seen what this team can do, we know the talent is there, but until they decide to show it or the coaches can motivate them and get them back, they're gonna keep stinking up the joint.  With Southern Miss coming up, I can't think of a better put up or shut up opportunity.  The talent is there, it's time for the IQ, heart and coaching to be there as well.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Buffalo Pregame - It's The State University of New York and You're From Philly

The University at Buffalo holds a surprisingly special place in my soul.  A long, long time ago when Bruiser Flint enjoyed the universal support of his fanbase, the Dragons played an NIT game in Buffalo.  This was Bashir Mason's freshman season, and he had uprooted senior combo guard and Dan Crain classmate Jeremiah King of his point guard role for the season.  Mason had gotten hurt in Richmond and was unavailable for the NIT game so King got his job back and played all 45 minutes in an overtime loss which ended the collegiate careers of the prolific senior group of Phil Goss, Jeremiah King and Sean Brooks. That group left it all on the floor that night combining for 48 points on just 32 shots led by King's 25.

I left that game the proudest I ever have after a DU loss, and yes that includes the Arizona game this year.  Me and the guys who had made the day trip to the 7pm game that went to OT then went out, got wings, and hopped in the car for the drive back to Philly.  I woke up twice with the car in the shoulder of the road on that trip back, the first when there were strobe's coming in thru the back window (the second time that happened on that trip; it also happened with the Davidson game this year, watch your speed ladies and gents) and the second when the driver was running laps around the car on the side of the NY Thruway in an effort to wake himself up.  It was the most collegey college of college experience of my life.  If you're reading this while in school now, my only advice to you is to follow the team on the road.  If you look at the links page here on the blog, I can promise you that the vast majority of the people who write at those links and weren't travelling on the team bus when they were in school were still traveling to the games on their own.  It's a great way to enjoy your time, get some memories and fall in love with this game and your school.

The last part of the Buffalo trip that pops in my head whenever I think of The University Formerly Known As SUNY Buffalo was discovering this while I was out there.  Buffalo turned down their first ever Football Bowl invite in 1958 which was a story that I hadn't previously heard.  It's a fantastic story about why sports matter and what rallying around the team can do and is worth a read if you have some down time.

And with that, enough love for the University at Buffalo.  The Bulls roll into the DAC on Sunday with a 4-4 record against D1 teams.  This will sound familiar but outside of one questionable loss to Niagara they've shown alright this year, including a nice win against St. Bonnie's earlier this month.  Bobby Hurley's squad is led by three seniors each with a specific skillset.  The ball is in the hands of pass first point guard Jarod Oldham who should be all but invited to shoot by the Drexel guards.  Playing a two guard Devon Saddler is Josh Freelove, he'll drive, he'll shoot jumpers, he'll turn it over but he sure ain't gonna pass, and given how well he's shooting this year, he shouldn't.  He'll be the guy to circle and step out on at the perimeter and to help out on when he drives.  The forwards need to stay aware of which side of the floor he is on and given the obscene charge rules this year they need to know to be in position about 15 minutes before he starts his drive.

The best guy on the team isn't Freelove though, just as Saddler has never been the best guy at Delaware (see: Hagins, Jamelle and Carter, Jawan).  The third Buffalo senior is Javon McCrea a big man that has never shot less than 50% for the season.  He took less than 10 shots in only 5 games last year and while it's wishful thinking I'd love to see him fronted by Rodney Williams at times in this contest.  Since that won't happen there will be a ton of pressure on Dartaye Ruffin both to defend him and then turn around and box him out.  McCrea has also been a top 65 offensive rebounder for all 4 years of his career, he's a load and a shotblocker as well.  The best defense here might be a good offense and going at him, but only if the Dragon guards stop playing like 6th grade girls when they go at the paint (I fully believe that girls can play basketball and do so very well, I just don't think 11 year old girls should be playing D1 basketball).  If the guards go at him and then pull up, fade away or float at the last second, it's just going to result in poor shooting and blocked shots.  If they go for the contact, they'll be in business.  And if they go for the contact, it will be damned near the first time they have all season.

So it's on the Drexel bigs.  They won't be physically dominant like they were against Saint Francis, but I believe at this point in the year it's clear that there's a track record here.  Give them the ball and good things happen.  Give them the ball in this game and maybe they can draw some calls on McCrea.  At the very least if he guards the shooter he should have a harder time grabbing the defensive boards and Drexel's off forward can compete with 6'8" Will Regan for the offensive board, a much more even contest.

After the last few games, the thing to look for in this one is just being physical.  No more and 1's.  No more diving away from contact on offense.  The bigs have done their thing with this and it's high time to see it from the guards.  If they can show that, and Fouch can continue to find his shot at the DAC then they will be in good shape for much more than just this game, but the new year to come.

I have Drexel winning the turnover battle decisively yet again, keeping level or better on the boards and continuing their slow warmup from the perimeter.  It's time to show a reason to believe prior to the Southern Miss trip.

Prediction:  Drexel 75 - Buffalo 60
Vegas line:  Drexel -8

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

St. Francis - The Happy Recap - 58 Possessions

Final:  Drexel 59, Saint Francis 49 at the DAC
Player of the Game:  The Forwards
Key to the game:  Showing Up
Next Game:  Who cares, just make it soon  (Sun Dec 29 vs Buffalo @ the DAC)

When asked what I thought about this game right after it ended, only one word came to my mind:  Boring.  In 13 years or rockfight CAA basketball, I've never used that word to discuss a DU hoops game.  In the second half of this game, a game in which they never had a less than 95% chance of winning according to Pomeroy's numbers, but also to my own thoughts, I started getting just as bored as many Drexel team members appeared to be.  Going into Christmas and looking forward to getting home is an honest and relevant excuse for looking past an opponent that is one of the 50 worst teams in college basketball, but since this is the third straight game of playing fairly mediocre to poor basketball there should probably be some alarm bells going off in the locker room, regardless of whose bags may have been packed for the holidays.

There are two urgent problems that Coach Flint and his staff have the holidays to devise a plan to solve (no comments on that, please):

Scoring.  If you're not going to pass the ball to the big men (more on that later), then all three of the guards better be able to fill the basket.  It's becoming increasingly clear that only two Drexel guards can do that with regularity.  That means there's one scorer whenever Fouch or Frantz head to the bench and it's extremely hard to be successful like that.  Tavon Allen has shown some signs of maturing the last few games, but even with slight improvement we still see him go 2/9 and not get to the line against a team that he would be the tallest member of.  Add to that him having just 4 rebounds in 34 minutes and it's clear that he's still not using what God gave him.  Freddie Wilson is clearly still adjusting a bit and can't be relied on at this point, and so if Drexel wants to have a third scorer that they can rely on, maybe it's time to use the bigs.  And now we come to the second problem:

"My coaches keep telling me to throw it to them [the bigs], so we threw it to them today, saw what we got" ~B Flint

First everyone just take a breath and get beyond the fact that Bru's assistants needed to tell him this.  Pardon me while I pick the exploded pieces of my brain off the floor.

OK, everyone good again?  After hearing the wisdom of his coaches and looking at tape on Saint Francis, Coach Flint elected to feed the bigs this game.  Our friends at Philahoops noted this quote from Rodney Williams:

"“We saw that St. Francis’ size wasn’t as big as what we had, so Coach devised a plan that forced us to duck hard around the basket,”

All is right in the world.  SFU was clearly a team ripe for getting beaten in the paint, Bru had come around to the idea of feeding the paint and our guards would finally get a chance to get some confidence in their bigs in the paint.  Here's how that worked out for the BWAR team of bigmen.

10/15 fg's, 23 points, a 92% defensive rebound percentage and only one (1) turnover.  They did not miss a field goal until 16+ minutes into the game. On their 5 field goal misses, they got offensive rebounds and scored on 2 of them.  Only 3 of the 15 times that the bigs shot from the field did they not get points, the other 80% of the time they scored.  80 percent!  80 percent!  BWAR was 1 turnover and a few freethrows away from a perfect game.  It was complete domination.

Why then was my joy less than full?  It's because on a day where the bigs dominated, where Chris Fouch was hitting his shots, where Tavon Allen had 6 of the easiest assists of his life (a career high) and where even James Flint was telling his team to feed the bigs, Frantz Massenat had one assist.  Had someone from the crowd come down, had the ball inbounded to them, dribbled the ball uncontested to the frontcourt and thrown three lobs into the paint, they probably would have had more assists than Drexel's All-CAA Point Guard.  I didn't know it was possible for a point guard to have only 1 assist when the rest of his team shoots almost 50% (18 of 37) from the field.  This is back to back awful game for Frantz and while everybody gets 1, he's passed that now and there's no real excuse for him having a dog of a game against Saint Francis.

I think Drexel has found it's third scorer, and I think thou name is BWAR (still taking ideas for better nicknames for this frontcourt.  Feel free to add Goran, please post in the comments section).  Maybe Bru has even figured it out, but I won't let him off the hook here either.  If you're telling people to get the ball inside, and your pg has taken 11 field goals and your entire front court only 15, when one is hitting 36% and the other 80%?  Do something about it coach, don't just watch your pg continue to take jump shots.

It was a win in a spot where Drexel needed a get the job done win.  No one is complaining about the outcome.  But now that it's break, there are still things worth thinking about.  The great news is, this team has so much talent that these things are easily fixable if the coaching staff can steer the ship in the right direction.  Against Buffalo they'll have a chance to prove that they are doing just that.

Have a Merry Christmas everyone, travel safe and I wish you and your families and all Drexel fans the best.  I'll be back here with a look back on the first 11 games by the end of the week, and what we've learned, and then have a preview up for the Buffalo game by Saturday night, so feel free to check back.  Best wishes and see you at the DAC.

Edit:  I'm not going to edit the article as the principle stays the same, but I've realized that when doing the math above my brain was a bit fried.  Since the bigs scored the two putbacks out of their misses, they still scored only 10 buckets, not 12.  However, they essentially only had 13 possessions, so it's 10/13, not 12/15 from the floor.  The end result is a 77% shooting percentage.  I don't think that difference is particularly material as both percentages could be loosely defined as "excellent" hence the lack of edit.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

SFU Pregame - It doesn't exist!

No time for the pregame post this weekend, apologies all around.  Obviously it's important to show a bounceback game here, it doesn't need to be over the top, just a chance to get home, get their feet under them hit some 3's and dominate the boards.  Look for SFU offensive boards as trouble signs, and for Chris Fouch to get loose and feel comfortable.  Letting Freddie Wilson get some time in the flow would be a bonus as well.

Prediction:  Drexel 74- Saint Francis 49
No Vegas line

Friday, December 20, 2013

Merry Christmas and Happy Kwanzaa

Sorry for the late post today - sometimes real life wins over hoops, but we try and keep that to a minimum.

Never been a "Happy Holidays" guy, as someone who grew up celebrating both Christmas and Hanukkah I realize the distinct differences between people and holidays at this time of year, so with Hanukkah behind us, I want to wish everyone here a Merry Christmas and a Happy Kwanzaa.

The decision to start this blog was as spur the moment as anything I've done in the last couple of years.  I was doing so selfishly, to see if I could still root as passionately for Drexel as I had as a student and prior to my year away from the program.  After trips to LA, Charlotte and New York this season I can tell you that I can not be as passionate as I was.  It doesn't look like I'll be thrown out of a game anytime soon, nor that I'll be rushing the court after a game against poor old Sam Houston State.  Wounds take a while to heal, and both on and off the court there have been plenty over the years, which in a way is whats making this year of good basketball so much fun, and why I can so easily let the Hawks game drop.

The great news for me though is that where logic has taken the place of passion it lets me see the game a bit differently.  And in writing and researching for my blog posts, even when I crank something out real quick like I did after I got home from Hawk Hill, it makes me do the work.  Gone are the days of blaming Bru for everything, and here we enter into the days of blaming Bru for just many things (hey, the dude still is letting pride and rigidness get in the way of his own success).  Tavon's shot selection isn't on Bru, it's on Tavon.  Playing Tavon when he takes 21 shots and half of them are terrible, well that's on Bru.  And thru breaking down the boxes, and seeing every minute of every game that I can live, I try to bring something here.  So really, this blog brings me to do the extra work to try to find the nugget.

I think 99% of the blogs on the internet are started and never finished.  I'm not sure how far the average one gets but I'd imagine the answer is "not very".  When I started this one, I was really in a spot, because the first people to read it were sportswriters that I very much respect and when those guys said that I need to keep doing this the pressure was on.  But then you all followed.  In the first week or two I was excited for the day with 50 hits, I know this is a niche market, I'm not covering all of the city teams or CAA teams, I don't have a newspaper behind me and I didn't think the Athletics Dept was going to tell you to come check this out.  I was more than happy that 50 people were reading.

When the ball tipped at Saint Joe's it was roughly a month in to writing this thing, and the site had 200 hits on that day at tip off, and 3,000 in the month prior.  I have no intention to sell ads or make this into anything beyond just one guys thoughts on electronic paper, but I wanted to make sure to get this post up and thank you.  I don't know 200 Drexel Basketball fans at this point so welcome to all of you who have found this page thru the zone or a friend of a friend of a friend, and thank you for reading and continuing to push my writing.

This blog has been a joy, and the push keeps coming because I want to do well by all of you.  Drexel fans are a fantastic group and there's not one Drexel fan that I've ever met that I don't appreciate.  It's a small but dedicated group, and this blog has helped me come back into that fold, your reading has made it better, so thank you.  If you're reading this and I don't know you, I'm at the games, second row behind the scorers table right at half court and I'd genuinely like to meet you, so please stop by and say hello.  More than anything else I'm a believer in never being good enough, so I'm thrilled at the uptick in emails, tweets and zone post.  Whether helping with the mailbag, or just letting me know ways to make this thing better, I encourage you to continue that and help this thing evolve in a way that will serve all DU fans best.

The St. Francis preview has gotten pushed back a bit, but still should be out by Saturday night at the latest.



Wednesday, December 18, 2013

St. Joe's - Learning From Our Mistakes

Final:  St. Joe's 75, Drexel 55 at Hagan Arena
Player of the Game:  Tavon Allen
Key to the game:  Showing Up
Next Game:  Who cares, just make it soon  (Sun Dec 22 vs St. Francis @ the DAC)

I'll admit to being calmer now than I once was.  I'm older, I'm dating someone in the mental health field (insert your joke here), I've seen what real disaster is through my time with the Red Cross, I troubleshoot for a living, you can pick your reason, but I've got a cooler head these days then I once did as a younger Dragon fan.  So before you wig out about an embarrassing 20 point loss to the only city team that will play us, please note the below:

The Drexel Dragons are a very good basketball team.

They no showed today, they didn't get to the loose balls, they were embarrassed on the boards for the first half of the game and in everything else in the second half.  Had the Hawks had a good day from the line this game could have been a 30 point loss.  They didn't show up, and their own coach, a grown man, quit on them with six to play, talking to the scorers table before slouching on the bench for the remainder, and none of that was good.  Tavon Allen was the player of the game for Drexel, and deservedly so, but even most of his shots that fell tended to be preceded by the fans around me going "noooooooooooo" due to some atrocious shot selection.  When Drexel led, they were playing like crap, and when they trailed, they were playing even more like crap.  

In the first half, SJU was 1 of 7 from the line and turned the ball over 10 times in 31 possessions.  Drexel only led by 4 at the half.  There were warning signs everywhere, like what you see before you get to the 10 car pileup on I-76.  This wasn't a one half issue, it was a full game one.  Plenty of blame can be passed around, but isn't it easier to just all share in the blame together and then come back stronger?  We can do that because:

The Drexel Dragons are a very good basketball team.

I walked out of the arena and someone asked me what I was going to write about.  "Everybody gets one" was the answer, and I'm sticking to it.  These guys played well for 9 games, made us proud, made Drexel hoops relevant again after the debacle of last year.  Different contributors all around made it a success night in and night out.  I'm not forgetting all of that now and I urge you not to either.  These guys breathed life into this program and the only reason people might be overreacting to this loss is because of how much higher expectations were at this point of the season than they were at the end of last season.

The squad has earned a pass in my book, and I hope they have in yours.  Everyone gets one.  This was theirs.  If they don't roll through the next two home games and treat Southern Miss like the business trip that it is then get back to me.  But if we reach the 2014 conference schedule and this is just a bump in the road as I expect it to be, don't act surprised.  Don't act surprised because even after tonight, we know:

The Drexel Dragons are a very good basketball team.

This wasn't losing to Penn or Rider or Norfolk State or Tennessee State or Towson or... well you get the point.  Saint Joe's is a decent squad.  They aren't special, or even really great, but they aren't a dreg.  The amazing thing about tonight's game is that Drexel fulfilled their defensive key points.  Galloway and Roberts combined for all of 19 points.  As expected, the SJU bench contributed zero.  Drexel challenged the supporting cast to step up, and they did.  Some credit has to go to those guys.  I didn't think Halil and Bembry could shoot 19 for 24 combined from dunk in an open gym.  They answered the bell, and Bruiser never really had his guys go and exploit Kanacevic's foul trouble, something that this DU squad almost never does as a rule.  If Drexel plays this game 10 times, I still feel good about taking the majority of the matches.  

Unfortunately, we only get to play them once.  And so when you get to work or school or the coffee shop tomorrow and you talk to that guy or gal that you've been talking up DU hoops to this season, you may have some explaining to do.  Worse yet, some crow to eat or some trash talk to receive.  Just remember that everybody gets one, Saint Joe's just had theirs against Nova and this was ours, and don't forget to remind them at the end:

The Drexel Dragons are a very good basketball team.

SJU Pregame - It's Math!

The Dragons will walk into the most hostile environment that they will see this year when they visit Saint Joseph's University this Wednesday.  They will be facing a Hawk family that is running scared, coming off of back to back losses to city schools and not looking to be at the bottom of the "good teams" pile in the city.  There's talk of Phil being done and of the season being over before the conference season ever begins.

That's all garbage of course.  The joy of being in the A-10 is that the Hawks will have plenty more opportunities for a good win, and losing to a high RPI Drexel team, even at home, won't end any chances of making a run.  On the Drexel side, they'll probably need to go 15-1 in the CAA Regular Season for a win at Hawk Hill to matter to their at large chances.  This game is much more about pride than it will ever be about the month of March, but in Philadelphia pride matters maybe more than anywhere else in the college basketball landscape.  AAU coaches can feel it, recruits see it, donors sense it, and when it comes to talking to your friends and colleagues you're certainly going to hear it.  And so this game is a big game.

As a Drexel fan, I love that.  I just love it.  When this team plays big games, they come to win.  They played under the bright lights of MSG, in front of friends and family and they played with the best team in the country, and they beat a decent SEC team, and they did so while shooting like criminals firing at the A-Team.  They couldn't hit the broad side of a barn at MSG and they still walked out with the country impressed.  Against UCLA?  Same story.  I do not expect Drexel to lose the turnover battle in this game.  I do not expect Drexel to be outrebounded in this game.  Coming off of a couple of letdown spots against Tennessee St and Davidson, I expect the return of the A-Game for this one.  On the flip side, the 11 day layoff for the Hawks means they'll be rested and healthy, but will they be sharp?

The Hawks aren't quite a two man team, but it's close.  Langston Galloway and Ronald Roberts are seniors, and they're both elite players.  Galloway has never shot less than 39% from three which is something that Gerry McNamera, Gary Neal and Stephen Curry can't say about their college careers.  Roberts compliments him nicely and may be the best pure big man that Drexel has seen this year, which is high praise given DU's top 50 strength of schedule.  He's got real post moves, can play with his back to the basket and gets the ball fed to him - he's taken three times as many shots as Dartaye has this year and done so while playing one less game then Ruffin.

There's another shoe to drop though: Galloway and Roberts have taken 50% of their shots while they're on the floor for the Hawks and there's a good reason.  There's just not much else in the cupboard right now at Hagan Arena.  Old Hofstra buddy Halil Kanacevic never really developed much beyond what we saw from him in his early career, Chris Wilson is a bit of a poor mans Derrick Thomas which is as disturbing to write as it is shocking to read, and Daryus Quarles isn't seeing 20 minutes a game as a senior.  DeAndre Brembry looks like he could be a real player, but he's probably outshot his expectations thus far and Martelli is smartly trying to avoid throwing too much responsibility at him too fast.  While the senior stars for the Hawks are legitimate studs, the supporting cast looks more like something you would see in the CAA than the A-10.

Across the court, Freddie Wilson looks like he can pick up some of the slack from Tavon Allen and give Drexel five legitimate scoring options on the court at once.  Massenat, Fouch, Abif and Ruffin all have very strong offensive ratings on Kenpom, and the timing appears phenomenal as the shots have just started to fall for the Dragons in the last couple of games.  Fouch and Frantz have combined to shoot 13 of 28 from downtown and Tavon Allen has maxed out at 12 shots in those contest, while only taking two poor choice shots last game, down significantly from earlier this year.

All season long I've said that when this team puts it all together, they're going to be a tough beat.  The referees could well influence this contest as the Hawks will need all they can get from Galloway and Roberts and the Dragons will need Massenat and Ruffin to play their games.  Foul trouble for any of those four changes their teams gameplan and quickly.  If Drexel brings its A-Game or if the Hawks supporting cast steps up, it won't matter what the refs do though.  And if I had to choose which of those is more likely, well...

Prediction:  Drexel 74 - Saint Joe's 63
Vegas Line:  SJU -2.5

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

It's a Trust Thing


Here's the thing about inbounding the ball.  There is an expectation, a trust, amongst players, administrators and fans that when attempting to inbound the ball, their team will successfully get the ball inbounds to a player on the same team.  Except at Drexel.  

At Drexel, they saw the loss to UCLA, which should have been one of the top 5 wins in program history.  Drexel fans saw the defensive blown coverage that led to a home run pass winning the game for VCU at the DAC.  Further examples against both Hofstra, ODU and rival Delaware are easily recalled when talking to fans.  In both losses this year there are examples of having troubles passing the ball from out of bounds. 

Against Davidson, Bob McKillop knew the inbounds play so well that he put his 5'11" point guard between two Drexel big men in the stack, because he knew that they were never going to catch the ball going to the basket, but Fouch was going to curl around them and then the pg could peal out, leaving Dartaye Ruffin completely unguarded and pickup Fouch.  Ruffin ended up dropping from the stack to half court and catching the inbounds pass in an area where him holding the ball didn't threaten the Wildcats at all.  What could have been Florida Gulf Coast Dunk City became running the normal offense with a shorter than normal shot clock.  It's as if Bruiser has said "I understand the fans not trusting me with inbounds plays because I don't trust me."  He's stopped trying to get victories on these plays, instead just settling for a draw, getting the ball in while still in Drexel's possession.

What about the use it or lose it timeout that he takes before halftime?  Sit in the DAC for that and fans and administrators alike don't even seem to know which team will end up with the last shot, let alone worry about Drexel scoring it.  

In the 09-10 season, I ran the numbers on Drexel's play coming out of every called timeout on offense.  All of those involved inbounds plays.  All of those involved a timeout.  So how bad was the end result?  It wasn't.  Don't get too excited, it wasn't good either, but the numbers over that season essentially showed the exact same offense in terms of points per possession coming out of a timeout then if they hadn't called one at all.  It's a draw, or at least it was that season.  Maybe you don't want to see Bru call one against Shaka Smart where the other team may get an advantage, but against Monte Ross or Pat Kennedy, call timeouts all day Bru!  They're essentially meaningless (and are best saved for when a player is trapped in a corner/on the floor or looking to inbound and needs a bailout).

So if Bru's timeouts are meaningless and the inbounds plays arent actually the worst thing ever, why do fans cringe when he calls them?  Why do his most ardent supports talk about how good a guy he is and how strongly he recruits just to go quiet once X's and O's are mentioned?  The simple answer is selection bias.  There's a perception that inbounds should always be succesful, and generally when Bru's have failed they've done so spectacularly and when everyone was watching.  It broke the trust that even his supporters had in him, and possibly his own, and now people are looking for the problem and when they see it, they remember it.  When they see a standard inbound they don't log it to remember later, but when the failures happen they do.  Call it selection bias, call it reputation, call it being Philly fans, but people are looking for the worst now and remembering it when it happens because it has happened when all the lights were on him.

The purpose of the above wasn't to destroy nor to advance that narrative.  It was to show an example where a fan or an administrator's eyes may lie to themselves a bit, akin to looking for a VW Bus still on the road.  Haven't seen one in a while have you?  Now start keeping your eyes open and see how many you find.  Heck, I even found a Prius in Nascar country this weekend.  Psych 101, right?  (You tell me, Dr. Zilmer).

The reason for this exersize, besides hopefully poking the staff into running an inbounds play that has the possibility of scoring again?  The guards don't pass to our big men in the paint.  It's just bad.  Freddie Wilson did on his first career drive as a Dragon and it created an easy basket.  Other teams are never going to front DU's guys since they don't need to.  Samme Givens, teams had to deal with.  Dartaye Ruffin and Daryl McCoy?  Not so much.  Neither guy could hit a free throw.  Daryl turned the ball over 25% of the time last year in his best season as a Dragon.  By the end of the season, the offense may as well have been three on five.  In Richmond, the McCoy/Ruffin/Abif trio combined for 12 shot attempts (24%) , the guards for 37 (76%).

This season, the big men have played well.  The turnovers are way down, they're shooting 55% as a unit, and Abif has even gotten to the line and shot free throws at a very strong rate.  Dartaye Ruffin has missed 11 shots this year, and Drexel has gotten the offensive rebound on 7 of those 11.  He has shot the ball 31 times this year and 27 of those have ended with a positive result.  That's mind boggling.  I think Rodney Williams will be special by the time his career here at Drexel is over, and Mohamed Bah is 3 of 4 both from the field and the line.  This is not last years frontcourt.

The foursome of bigs have shot the ball 95 times this year (18%).  The guards have shot the ball 437 times (82%).  Tavon Allen has taken more shots, 113,  than the entire frontcourt combined.  Somehow the frontcourt has gotten better on the offensive end, possibly much better, and yet the guards are still seeing them like they saw last years frontcourt.  They're acting like they don't trust them, ignoring the post ups and not feeding the beast.  Just as fans remember the worst of Bru's timeouts, it appears as if Bru's guards are remembering the terrible hands batting passes out of bounds from last years bigs.

Changing perception can be very hard once it's embedded in people.  Bru badly needs a couple of dunks or drawn up wide open three pointers to go in off of a quick inbounds play.  Even though that may not alter the seasonal statistics, it may just get people saying "wow, look at those changes he's making" just like throwing ten minutes of zone did earlier this season.  In that same spirit, the big men need to have a big game, put them on the map and restore the confidence in the guards eyes.  They need to see a mismatch, demand the ball and score it and be able to do so loudly.

That's why their struggling in the Davidson game hurts so badly.  They had a ton of size and athleticism on those guys, but they didn't out rebound them and they missed more shots than they have in any game all season.  It was a letdown game, and the bigs were the letdown, in a spot where they really could have done themselves a ton of good in their teammates eyes.  The frontcourt players won't get that opportunity in the upcoming St. Joe's game, but at home against Buffalo and Saint Francis thereafter it would be great news both for the forwards and the team overall if the coaches put the bigmen in a position to put on a show and really highlight to their teammates how much better they are this year.  Doing so could bring balance, and balance only makes this edition of the Dragon's that much better.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, December 16, 2013

Davidson - The Happy Recap - Winning a Duel

Final:  Drexel 72, Davidson 58 at Belk Arena
Player of the Game:  Frantz Massenat
Key to the game:  The hot hand - the good DU 50% from threeNext Game:  Wed, Dec 18 @ Saint Joseph's University

File this one under a win is a win.  Going into this game, the thought was that a 14 point win would have been a cause for significant celebration, yet today the joy in Mudville is less than full.  Remember the thought that this Drexel team would be hard to beat when they started shooting?  Well they shot somewhere between well and very well in this game against a team that needs to shoot to survive and couldn't hit water from a boat.  Yet with six minutes to go, it was a six point game.

No, this game never felt in doubt, despite the Davidson crowd willing their team into it, referee/self designated pacemaker Ray Natili's taking over of all things off the ball, or the text that landed on my cellphone with six minutes to go:  "you nervous?"  I wasn't nervous, because I was rooting for the bigger, stonger, faster, better shooting team and the Davidson fans around me were most definitely not.  They were down their best two scorers and they seemed lucky when their shots landed in the town of Davidson, much less a basket therein.  

How was this game close?  Credit Bob McKillop for having his team prepared.  They were making cuts on Drexel's inbounds plays almost before the Dragon players were.  Drexel didn't score a win on the boards, when they should have owned the boards against a team with a lack of athleticism and size.  For the first time since the Arizona game, Drexel turned the ball over more than their opponent.  Credit to Brian Sullivan of Davidson who led the Wildcats in scoring, but helped the Dragons by showing the shot selection of Myley Cyrus at the end of a binge drinking marathon.  

Fear not, there's good news too.  This was a letdown spot game, looking ahead to Saint Joe's and playing against a weakened team without their best player(s).  Drexel was called for 27 fouls and had their depth tested (more on that later).  The Dragons still took care of business, retained the shooting stroke that they found against Tennessee State and led from start to finish.  While there will be plenty for Bru and Crew to review during the postgame film study at the end of the day it was a double digit win, in a spot where previous Drexel teams would have had a dogfight.

More good news for the Dragons:  Freddie Wilson made his first appearance in Blue and Gold, and represented everything that was expected of him.  He can flat out score and his defense is what can generously be called "suspect".  In a lot of ways, his game represents a lot of what Damion Lee's did, even though Wilson is a different type of player.  What Damion does with size and strength Wilson does with speed and quick hands.  Comparing quickness to the Davidson defense may not be a great scale to grade on, but Freddie's quickness both with his feet and hands seemed exceptional, and he showed off "in the gym range" and a willingness to go to the rack, the two biggest holes that were left when the Dragons went from Lee to Tavon Allen at the three.  Wilson had a very nice assist on his first drive, dare i say it, feeding a big man (more on that tomorrow) and shot faked every time he caught the ball, always looking to create.  With his skillset, if he ever keeps his man within five feet of him on defense, he could be a really good defensive player as well.  The Draongs have a much smaller lineup when Freddie is in and Allen is on the bench so look for the staff to go offense/defense with this a bit at times this year, as they enjoy the flexibility and depth that Freddie will provide them.

If Freddie Wilson was a spark, the constantly burning fire was Frantz Massenat.  For the second straight game Frantz put's up a great and efficient line, this time 25 points on only 10 field goal attempts.  He finished off Davidson at the foul line, going 5/6 from the charity stripe in the final minute all of which combined to be good enough to overlook his 3 turnovers in the game and earn the blogs Player of the Game nomination.  He filled out the stat sheet with 7 boards, 2 steals and 2, yes 2, blocks.  

Say it with me now:  This team is good.  They may not have shown off the fundamentals in Belk Arena, but the shooting and perimeter defense bailed them out.  Once again it has to be said, when this team puts it all together, look out.  Not to preview the next game too soon or hint too much, but I wouldn't want to be a Hawk right now.

On a personal note, I got to take in this game with Gary Moore (and son) of which was a treat, and alongside three of my Drexel housemates who now live in the Charlotte area.  Having them around made this game an absolute treat for me, and easily worth the drive.  If you ever get a chance to travel, to see some Drexel hoop and spend time with the best people out there, Drexel people, don't ever pass it up.  

Credit also to to Davidson U, sometimes you walk into a gym and know that a program is doing things the right way.  I've gotten that feeling before at places like VCU, Belmont and UVA and I'm adding Davidson to that list.  Belk is a great place to see a game.

Tomorrow we'll take a look at the Dragon forwards performance to date in a little more detail before previewing the big SJU tilt either late Tuesday or early Wednesday.  Have a great week and let the buildup begin Dragons fans, we're off to slay the Hawk!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Davidson Pregame - Hey, I Heard This Is a Wild One

Basketball is already a hard enough game to predict, but to preview this game with any sense of certainty seems a fools errand.  Drexel gets Freddie Wilson on the court in game action for the first time in this game and comments from the coaching staff seem to infer that he'll see plenty of action.  Customarily, Bruiser hasn't let guys start in their returns from injury or first game off of a transfer so I don't expect Freddie to start,  but the addition will give Bru an opportunity for a quicker hook with any of his guards that he may be dissatisfied with.  Historically, that means Chris Fouch and Chris Fouch alone will have a short leash.

On the other side of the court, De'mon Brooks has been out for the Wildcats with a knee sprain, and may return this game.  He was supposedly questionable for Davidson's contest this Wednesday before appearing in street clothes come warmups.  There's not a lot out there at this point on his current status, but there's a report that two weeks ago the Davidson radio personnel estimated at 1-2 weeks until the Preseason SoCon Player of the Year returned.  Adding this up and it's easy to think that there's a better than 50/50 likelihood that he sees some minutes in this game.  De'mon is a high motor big man with skills who could cause fits for the relatively young Drexel frontcourt.

Regardless of Brooks' status, Drexel will need to watch out for Tyler Kalinoski, a stone cold shooter who picks his spots well.  He's not a high volume scorer but he's efficient and if his defender naps on him for a play, he'll get burned.  The volume shooter is point guard Brian Sullivan who will hopefully have some problems dealing with the size of Frantz Massenat who should be his mark for the afternoon.  Sullivan does his best work from the foul line and so Frantz' primary responsibility should be just staying in front of him.

The defensive numbers for Davidson as a team don't look good, but they're significantly hurt by their opponents shooting over 40% against them from three this year.  Expect regression from that number throughout the rest of the season and the Wildcats will look like a better defensive squad later in the season, especially when they play a soft SoCon schedule.

Still think Davidson is a pushover based off of their Brooks-less Niagara loss?  Well here's the complete list of teams they lost to at home in the prior two seasons to this one:  Vanderbilt, Wichita State, Charlotte.  They defend Belk Arena like Drexel defends the DAC and they do it well.  If the Dragons get caught looking ahead to St. Joe's when they're playing a hungry team coming off of a bad loss, they won't just lose, they'll lose badly.  This is another game that previous years Drexel teams lose, and will be a test for this years edition to prove they are not your classic Flint team.  Since they've passed every other test, I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt here.

Prediction:  Drexel 74 - Davidson 70
Vegas Line:  Drexel -1

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Mailbag: The First Edition

As a thank you to those who have taken the time to read this blog, I wanted to take some questions and spend some time to track down and research answers for anyone who took the time to submit them.  While thanking the readers I also want to specifically thank commenter phlduzp.  I'm still getting used to the back end for this site and didn't see your comment for a couple of days, so apologies for getting it up late.  As I continue to get used to the day to day of this monster I will get better with that, along with little things like the quality and content of the writing.  Without further ado, here are a selection of your questions:

OK Mr Stats guy.  We know that Ball State played back to back 3OT games back in 2000. Has any team in NCAA Basketball history ever won back to back 3OT games before Drexel's feat last week? I want to know if Drexel's accomplishment was truly historic?

I cheated on this one, but ESPN Stats and Information says that no one has ever won back to back triple OT games.  In the future, all teams that win in 3OT will be going for a Drexel in their next game.  This will hopefully spur on the next big advertisement campaign: "Drexel Hoops: Take us to triple OT, Get Squashed"

How many points in the paint do we have that wasn't by a guard or a put back of a rebound?  Do they even keep track of that? 

The short answer is, I'm sure that information is available to the coaching staff.  The long answer is that the holiday season and endless travel has kept me from undertaking a project I've really wanted to do, which is shot chart all the Drexel games.  If anyone from DU wants to offer a token of peace, getting that information would be invaluable to the blog.  If not...  eh, I'll get there eventually.

Leaving no stone un-turned, I have dug through some available stats on this and give or take a basket from Kazembe that was deemed a jumper, DU's frontcourt has made 62 points (7.75ppg)  this season in the paint, not including putbacks.

I would also like to nominate nicknaming the frontcourt "BWAR", as in be ready for war.  Also conveniently an acronym for Bah, William, Abif and Ruffin.

Super thanks to Mike Tuberosa and his staff.  Many moons ago I was bugging him weekly for extra stat sheets than those that were available through the website.  Now everything is up there, from points in the paint to play by play's to lead changes.  It's a real value add to for this year and I encourage everyone to check it out.

Which Virginia team will win the CAA?

Always a great question.  The cop out answer is Towson, since the tourney is in Baltimore and they're the home team* (they can't walk there, so there's that) this year.  But you asked for a Virginia school, and the ole Jagerbomb is still the commish, so lets be honest, it'll be a Virginia school.  James Madison has been awful, the worst secret in the league is that their AD has been wanting to fire their coach since the Phillies were good, and not even Andre Nation is likely to bring them back (although Nation is exactly what the doctor ordered for that turnover prone road ragged team).

So by default, the winner is:  William and Mary!  Tony Shaver's Ivy league All Star Team is studying their way to wins these days.  Their best win may be at Rutgers, but I love the way they've adjusted to the rule changes and they have real players in Thornton and Beasthoven.  Congrats W+M on breaking the drought!

What was your favorite Drexel hoops trip?

I was asked that question earlier this year as well, by a ranking Drexel Athletics executive.  At the time I said the Albuquerque trip for the NCAA's for the womens team.  Me and some others paid our way onto the Athletics charter for that, and the weekend crashing the hotel with the team, staff, spirit groups, and alumni was fantastic.  If I had to limit it to the mens trips, it would have to be the Bashir Mason buzzerbeater game.  This will surprise many, but I will miss playing VCU in the new CAA, as those games were often epic.  I won't miss playing true road games in the CAA tourney.

When will the other shoe drop?

Lets see how Freddie Wilson slides into the rotation.  If adding him will help take some of the scoring pressure off of Tavon and help him settle down, this team becomes very scary again.  Right now, with current health, I don't see anything on either the eye test side or the statistical side that sees another shoe in sight.  Have no fear, they still won't be able to inbound, nor will they ever take the other team by surprise, but they've become all that Bru has ever asked of his teams:  Good at what they do.  Pray for health and the return of Chris Fouch's hot hand, but going into the Wilson addition, there's no other shoe in sight.  Start getting adjusted to rooting for the first really good, potentially elite, basketball team at Drexel since...  well probably since two years ago...  but before that, since Malik.

Thanks to everyone for the questions.  I'll be looking to do this at least monthly through the season, and possibly more often if the questions/comments keep flowing in.  Tomorrow:  A Drexel/Davidson preview prior to Sunday's Freddie Wilson unveiling.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

News and Notes - Freddie's a Bonehead

News and notes surrounding the Dragons:

--Freddie Wilson will play in his first game for the Dragons Sunday at Davidson.  A scorer who I expect to backup Fouch and snag some minutes in a smaller DU lineup at the 3, he'll be a welcome addition to a club who has gone 3-0 while "shorthanded" and playing a four guard roster.  While there is reason for excitement, keep in mind his previous coach, Kevin Willard's words: "Freddie's a [bonehead] and Freddie's going to pay for it," along with Bruiser's prior use of transfers before you expect Freddie to be the Dragons savior.  A useful contributor will be plenty, and a fine addition.

--The streak is now at three games:  Drexel has scored 100% of the time when they pass the ball to Dartaye Ruffin and he shoots it.  All of the shots that havent gone in have either featured called fouls or offensive boards that ended in points.  Dartaye is now up to a 72% effective field goal percentage, good for 17th in the country.

--Box out!  The Dragons are 25th in the country in defensive rebound percentage, allowing opponents to only grab 26% of their missed shots.  Stunningly, the 25th ranking is their worst ranking in the last 4 years.  Don't come into Daryl or Dartaye's house and expect to leave with the ball.

Conversely, the offensive rebound percentage has taken a considerable step back since the Givens' era (surprising no one, as Samme's dominance is nearly impossible to replace).  Kaz Abif is doing well, and I don't believe Ruffin's the problem here.  Tough to pile on the guy, but Chris Fouch is currently outrebounding 6'7" Tavon Allen.  This seems to feed into the storyline of Allen shying away from contact and the paint.  With the skills Allen has, the sooner he can get comfortable playing in the paint a bit, the much, much better the Dragons will be.

--Dueces Wild:  For the first time in five years the Dragons have no one shooting under 40% from 2.  That's akin to saying that all of the hitters in a baseball lineup are hitting at least .200, as 40% from 2 is pretty terrible.  Getting the entire team above that line is a noteable accomplishment for the Flint offenses, and with the distance shooting being so poor, the 2 point shooting and lack of turnovers is the reason why the Dragons offense is currently top 100.

--In the 2011-12 season where DU ripped off 19 straight wins en route to their first deep NIT run of the Flint tenure, the Dragons averaged a 10 year high 108.8 points per possession (ppp), good for 49th in the country.  This years team, against superior competition to date, has averaged 107.5 ppp.  That number is without Wilson, and with Fouch and Allen shooting 30% 22% from distance respectively.  Outside of the UCLA and Arizona games they have yet to have under 104 ppp in a game.  utside of that 11-12 season, 104 would be a season high since Phil Goss was playing for DU.  This year its an outside the top 25 season low.  These guys are good.

--Chris Fouch will not end the year shooting 30% from three.  As goes Fouch, so will go the Dragon offense.

--With the guards taking 79% of the shots thus far this year, no one has any idea what the forwards are capable of.  Currently Abif, Ruffin, Williams and Bah have combined to hit an outstanding 58% of their shots, but with the majority being tip ins and dunks its still an incomplete data set.  Look to see if the staff challenges the forwards to find out what they have before conference season starts.  Much like the Cleveland State game was a game that could be used to help the three shooters get right, perhaps the St. Francis or Buffalo games can be used to challenge the bigs.

--The Big Three:  With Frantz (top 400 in assist rate, fouls created, fouls drawn and free throw rate) and ruffin (top 400 in effective field goal percentage, offensive rebound percentage, defensive rebound percentage, and free throw rate) doing their things, if the Dragons can get that third player to step up, they should continue to be a consistently good team against any level of competition.

--One more time:  As goes Fouch, so will the Dragons.  I'd put my money on Fouch.

Look out CAA, these guys are good.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Tenessee State - The Happy Recap - Taking Care of Business

Final:  Drexel 75, Tennessee St 61 @ The DAC (no overtimes!)
Player of the Game:  Frantz Massenat
Key to the game:  Happy Learned to Shoot
Next Game:  Sun, Dec 15 @ Davidson University

In a business trip of a homegame, the Dragons showed up and cleaned up the garbage.  With all apologies to Tennessee State, they're a team that good teams need to be able to walk over without an electrifying performance at home, and that's what Drexel did.  With the possible exception of Tavon Allen, everyone from the Dragons had a good game and no one had a great one.  

The blogs player of the game, Frantz Massent put up an efficient 21 point and 6 assist line to earn him the honor, but even that line isn't as good as it looks when you realize that he was a primary defender of the Tigers Patrick Miller who put up 21 points himself.  Miller and MJ Rhett played a mean 1-2 game for periods of the second half, seeming to score at will at times.  Even during those periods the Dragons were in control of this one from cover to cover.

Ken Pomeroy's in game win probability, which accounts for the current score and time remaining along with how it ranked the teams coming into the game shows that the Dragons were never less than a 93.8% shot to win this game.  As long as they took care of business it didn't much matter with what TSU threw at them, TSU brought a knife to a gunfight.  The encouraging thing for Drexel fans should be the way that DU brought this home.  For the second straight game they were a dominant force on the boards, evidenced by having more offensive boards than the Tigers had total rebounds in the first half.  The Dragons continued to show care with the ball, while they turned it over 5 times in the first half, they responded with only 2 in the second half to secure the game.

Perhaps the most encouraging sign was the shooting.  The home side hit 58% from inside the arc and 38% from outside.  The 38% is by no means lighting the world on fire, but from a team that has really struggled from deep this year, it was a chance to see the ball go through the net a bit and get some confidence back.  When this team is right, they'll be averaging 35% or so from 3, in the prior three contest the Dragons had averaged 21%.  This was an opportunity to get right while at home, and seeing Chris Fouch shoot 36% from 3 may not blow anyones doors off, but it's a start towards getting right as we enter into exam week when the team will get a few days off and the challenges both in the classroom and the locker room will be mental and not physical.

  Going off of the boards, it's known that the elephant in the room is Tavon Allen.  While While discussing adjustments the Dragons needed to make for the new rule changes, going into the Arizona game, it was mentioned that Tavon's early shooting was probably more fluke then predictive.  It shows the difference between reading a stat sheet and watching the game, and why the best coaches use both.  Tavon's shot selection issues are highlighted even more since he is now taking a shocking 31.8% of the Dragons shots when he is on the floor, which is the 64th highest rate in the country.  It's a rate expected to be seen from only the stars of the game.  Chris Fouch is actually shooting even more often, shooting 32.7% of the shots taken when he is on the floor, but the shot selection is vastly different, and reflected in their shooting numbers.  Even with Chris not having his stroke from distance going strong early in the year, he's still been a net positive this year when shooting the rock since he's done so well from inside the arc (a Drexel guard leading 51%).  Fouch has also gotten to the line 24% more often then Allen has.  

Someone asked me if Tavon was going to be this years Derrick Thomas for me, a player that I thought Flint & Co gave too much court time to and didn't have the offensive skills to back it up.  I 100% disagree with this assessment, because Tavon has the skills.  With the welcoming of Freddie Wilson, Bru now has three options:  Let Tavon keep doing what he's been doing, tell him that he's a big boy and he needs to take some contact and stop shooting jumpers or head to the bench, or tell him to be more selective and pass more and see the bench.  Either of the second two seem to make the Dragons a much better team, so look intently over the next few games and see what direction the staff chooses to go in.

In the upcoming week we'll have daily posts while they're knocking down those exams.  The next couple of days will have some breakdowns on the team to date and going forward before a mailbag Thursday and the Davidson preview on Friday.  Please throw me questions for the mailbag at, and have some fun with it.  I'll try to research and tackle anything that gets submitted with enough leadtime to properly research while I duck in and out of Christmas parties all week.

Hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season, and a 6-2 Drexel start.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Tennessee State Pregame - Great Smokes!

The Dragons return to the court on Saturday with a lot of reasons to be happy.  They've gotten to sleep in their own beds for almost a week straight for the first time since prior to the California trip.  Through seven games, six of them on the road and two against ranked opponents they've racked up a 5-2 record which puts them in the top 64 teams in the country no matter what ranking you look at.  They've proven they can win without Lee, and haven't even played their best basketball yet.  And this game is extremely unlikely to go to triple overtime.

The Tennessee State Tigers are 0-9 and only half of those games were against teams that are particularly good.  Drexel hasn't gotten a chance to get a cream puff game in yet and a chance to loosen up and not feel the pressure that every other game has brought could be just what they need to start getting their rhythm going with the jump shots.  Seeing the ball go through the hoop and getting some confidence in their shooting going into exam week could put them in a spot where they can be recovered physically and mentally when the season restarts at Davidson.

The spread for this game will probably come out in the 16-18 point neighborhood.  As this is the first cream puff on the schedule and they do have a rest week following, it's a potential letdown spot for the Dragons so watch out for them to come out a little flat.  If the Dragons can keep up their dominant rebounding and turnover advantage they should fly though this game, but the traits of the let down spot are getting a little loose with the ball so the turnovers are what to look for early and should well be a better sign of things to come then the scoreboard.

On the Tigers it's Patrick Miller, a junior point guard who will be out there all night and taking the vast majority of the shot attempts.  Miller is a skilled shooter who will uncork from anywhere, averaging 20 shots a game on the season.  He should be Frantz' responsibility and coming off of a 55 minute effort on Wednesday, a big lead would be nice as it would give Major Canady a chance to get some decent PT against a solid guard and take some of the weight off of Frantz' shoulders.  MJ Rhett is a junior bigman that is also worth keeping an eye on, expected to be the responsibility of Ruffin who will be looking to follow up his MVP like performance from the Cleveland State game.

Look for the Dragons to try some jumpshots, look to get their confidence going from range and try to stay off the line in their last game prior to Freddie Wilson's arrival to the floor.  This game is a business trip at home, just get in and cash the W, and be happy to have survived these three shorthanded games without Lee or Wilson.  Any win is a good win, and this one may be closer than it should be.

Prediction:  Dragons 69- Tennessee St 57
Vegas Line: Dragons -14.5

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Cleveland State - The Happy Recap - Pitching and Defense

Final:  Drexel 85, Cleveland St 82 @ The DAC
Player of the Game:  Dartaye Ruffin
Key to the game:  Pitching and Defense
Next Game:  Sat, Dec 7 vs Tennessee State @ The DAC

There will be a lot of people from "the outside" who don't sleep with RPI printouts lying on their chest or watch their team on the road or read blogs like this one who tell you that Drexel going to triple OT against Cleveland State shows exactly how weak DU is without Damion Lee.  How this clearly displays that Drexel isn't a contender to be a top tier program this year and how once again they'll be good but not good enough.  

With respect to those people...  They couldn't be more wrong.  Cleveland State brought their defense first mentality to the DAC on Wednesday night and played a man to man the likes of which you have only seen from some of Bruiser Flint's better defensive squads.  They then flipped to zone for a bit, challenging DU to adjust and as soon as they did Coach Waters flipped right back to in your jersey man.  Besides proving that tough man to man D can be played in this handcheck era, CSU was proving that they remembered the 20 point homecourt loss on national TV from two years ago and they wanted to get even.  Someone make sure the equipment manager checks before he washes Chris Fouch's jersey, a Viking might fall out.

One other thing.  CSU shot 50% from the field, and 48% from three.  The Cleveland State Vikings played very good basketball Wednesday night in a surprisingly temperate DAC.  A lot of nights when a team like that comes to town, the home team coach has to get to the press room postgame and mutter "listen, you gotta tip your hat sometimes man.  They played good.  We got beat tonight, they played really good against us, they hit everything."  (Not quoting there, and apologies for channeling my inner Bru).  Bruiser Flint didn't have to use those words or any like them after this game, because this years Drexel squad is very good themselves, and they took those punches and answered.

Frantz Massenat will get plenty of applause in the press postgame, and deservedly so.  Frantz played all 55 minutes and only turned the ball over twice against intense man to man pressure.  On top of that he had 21 points from the field on only 13 field goal attempts and picked up 9 assists.  He was a few free throws and a bad feed to Kaz Abif from throwing a near perfect game, so it's almost criminal that he doesn't end up player of the game.  The thing is, in the Stop the BLeeding post about the Dragons moving on without Damion Lee, the following was mentioned:

"The biggest advantage that this years team has is how they're winning games.  Rebounding and turnover margins are the pitching and defense of college hoops...  It's not sexy, and it's certainly not the way this team was drawn up, but it's been on display game in and game out this year."

The way to beat a really good defensive team that is shooting lights out against you is to take a lot more shots than them.  This means not turning the ball over and it means giving up no second chances.  While Frantz was a critical component on the first measure, it was Dartaye Ruffin who pulled down down 14 boards.  Dartaye actually pulled down more offensive rebounds against Cleveland State then the entire Vikings team pulled down against him.  And it was against him personally: the big man kept himself out of foul trouble and on the court for 54 of the 55 minutes of game action.  He had as many steals as he had turnovers (2 a piece) and for the second straight game, every single time a ball was passed to him and he shot it, Drexel came away with points.  I don't know what better than that would look like, but it probably just involves his teammates giving him the ball more.

The Dragons weren't perfect.  Tavon Allen showed some awful shot selection again early, but for most of the rest of the game his shots were less poor decisions, and more the result of CSU refusing to give Chris Fouch a look.  Tavon also did a bit of a better job of taking it towards the bucket and getting to the line a couple times, a good sign of him attempting to develop his game.  Credit goes to Chris Fouch as well because despite the extra care from the opposition he still did his thing, 53 minutes with only 1 turnover and 17 points on 16 field goals.

It's tough to win a jumpshoot contest where the other team can't seem to miss.  The Dragons rose to the occasion in their home opener.  Winning in triple overtime was no flaw, it should be a source of pride.  As they turn to a game against Tennessee State before the well deserved exam break Drexel fans shouldn't waver.  The Dragons have stopped the BLeeding.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Mistake By The Lake State Pregame - The DAC Defense Begins

Cleveland State comes to the DAC on Wednesday on the back half of their final bracket buster arrangement.  The last time these teams met I was in a bar on Saint Charles Avenue in New Orleans with a girlfriend who was wholly supportive of being the only people in the bar at 10am central time.  We were in for a treat, watching the streaking Dragons smack around Cleveland State to the tune of a 20 point win on the Vikings home court.

A good chunk of the players from both teams are back, although many can be considered walking wounded.  For Drexel, Damion Lee is gone for the rest of the year, and for CSU, sophomore star Anton Grady is nicked up with a leg injury, Charlie Lee is out with an ACL sprain and Luda Ndaye is out recovering from hip surgery.  All four players played in the tilt two years ago, and with these pieces missing, neither team is very deep which could prove interesting in the current foul environment.

Thankfully for fans, refs and coaches alike, both teams are best described as jump shot teams right now, no matter what their coaches may desire.  The similarities don't stop there, as both coaches are known for their defense first mentality, both teams have one top 100 win this season and both teams shooting guards lead their teams in shots.  This creates a not particularly Dragon friendly matchup of Fouch on the other teams best player.  It's Bryn "Girls Name" Forbes whose hotter than Kate Upton on her good hair days right now, to the tune of 49% from deep.

CSU has already faced off against the older Flint brother, Coach Cal's Kentucky Wildcats and they played them close, only losing because it was 8 on 5 in Rupp that night.  It was so bad that one of the CSU assistants was suspended for taking to twitter postgame and letting the world know his thoughts on the officiating.  So again, a top 100 win, a road trip to a top 25 team that could have easily been a W...  CSU is banged up a bit, but they're a good basketball team, and in a game of jumpshooters it could easily come down to the hot team winning.  Anyone want to claim Drexel as a hot shooting team right now?

Besides Forbes, the Vikings to know are Anton Grady, a sound big man that can do a little of everything in the paint, and Miami of Ohio transfer Jon Harris.  Drexel's new front line makes their life much easier than years past against guys like Harris, as they are no longer asking Ruffin or McCoy to trail opposing bigs to the perimeter, and instead can send someone like Abif who is much more comfortable doing it.  Harris has shot more threes than twos this year, so look for high screens and set shots if Abif doesn't extend all the way out.

In order for DU to defend the DAC one of two things needs to happen: Drexel needs to be the hot shooting team and enjoy being back in the DAC, or they need to make the game not about jump shooting.  Without their Lee, this CSU team is a seven man team, and they would just as soon not have Mason and Long in there if they could avoid it.  If Drexel takes it to the rim and can take Grady and Harris out of the game early, they can make this a fun little evening at the DAC.  If it's a jump shot game though...  don't leave early.

Prediction:  Drexel 66-63
Vegas Line:  Drexel -7.5

Stopping the BLeeding

There is no better offensive threat on the Drexel Dragons roster than Damion Lee.

Regardless of what you think of his play so far this year, there is no question about that statement.  He was the best three point shooter on the team last season, he gets to the rim better than any other player, and he can free throw shoot with anyone on the team.  If someone says this doesn't hurt the long term outlook of this team, they are lying to you, end of story.  Damion had the ability to put the team on his back and win a game almost by himself on those nights when he got hot, like the CAA sendoff that he gave ODU last year when he had 34 points on just 14 field goal attempts.  His teammates are going to have to band together and pick themselves up on those nights this year as their safety net won't be there.

Without knowing what the Dragons have in Freddie Wilson, it's really impossible to write up a "where we go from here" post.  The team will need to get through two more games without Wilson, and the good news is that that's very do-able.  Cleveland State is a pretty good team and the Dragons will need to be prepared and welcomed by a hopping DAC crowd, but they will be a decent sized favorite in that contest.  Pomeroy shows the Dragons as huge favorites against Tennessee State in the following game.

The nice thing about having depth is that the team has someone to pick them up when a player is having an off night, does something stupid or if a teammate gets injured.  Throughout this short season the depth of this team was the talk of the town.  It's time to back up that talk.

The biggest advantage that this years team has is how they're winning games.  Rebounding and turnover margins are the pitching and defense of college hoops.  They're the 2000 Ravens out there, managing the game on offense and winning by just having more possessions than you.  It's not sexy, and it's certainly not the way this team was drawn up, but it's been on display game in and game out this year.  The shooting has not been there (yet).

While Drexel will lose some length on the defensive end with the loss of Lee- which could really hinder their 2-3 zone- Damion had yet to pull down an offensive board all season and no one is accusing him of being a stalwart defender.  With regards to Drexel's areas of strength thus far this year, losing Lee isn't that large a loss, this is why DU was able to hang in that Bama game.  Had Lee been available and been hitting shots in that game, maybe that becomes an easier win, but the fact that the Dragons came out of the Garden with a W is a testament to the other players on the team and the game plan that they have been winning with.

This team is wounded for sure, but hey, John McClane was wounded once or twice too and we all saw how that worked out.  If they play smart, realize that they have more talent on this team then they have had in a very long time even without Lee, and keep getting the loose ball, then they can overcome this injury, just as they did when they Rolled the Tide.  When the shooting rolls around too, even if its not quite what it could have been?  The CAA is still in trouble.