Monday, January 13, 2014

Towson Pregame - Do Your Job

I begin with this, from a Bill Belichick Monday morning press conference earlier this season:

Q: How close was Rob Gronkowski to playing yesterday?

BB: I don’t know. He was inactive.

Q: Did he have a shot to play?
BB: He was inactive.
Q: Going into the day, was there a chance he’d play?
BB: He was inactive for the game.
Q: What about Danny Amendola?
BB: He was inactive too.
Q: I know they were inactive.
BB: They were inactive so they didn’t play.
Q: I think you have an idea how close they were.
BB: Well, they weren’t able to play. What do you want, percentage points? They couldn’t play.
Q: Going into the day, did you know they couldn’t play?
BB: They were inactive.
Q: That doesn’t answer my question.
BB: They were inactive, it’s as simple as that.

You will find me apologizing for being a properly raised New England child, a Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins, and Celtics fan about as often as you will find Bill Belichick helping out the media with injury news.  Also, for those that don't know, I was an unabashed John Calipari and Bruiser Flint UMass fan.  Bruiser Flint came to Drexel University the same year I did, and there was no one more excited by his hiring announcement than I was.  Since that time Coach Flint has had drinks and good conversation with me and him and his staff continue to be receptive and cordial with, regardless of my criticism of their professional judgement.  I bring this up both to highlight the character and professionalism of this staff, to show my bias' to the reader in regards to the staff, to remind everyone why, as some of my around the conference buddies say, "We have it better" rooting for a small school basketball family rather than a basketball factory.  Also, it lends itself to the below nicely.

Do you know the NFL team with the third most games lost due to injury this year?  It's the New England Patriots.  As you can read in the papers, they used it as an excuse for their early exit from the regular season playoffs nevermind.  They don't get a lot of sympathy for their injuries, and they don't expect any.  The same will be true for the Drexel Dragons, who will be down 2 if not 3 starters and their 6th man for the upcoming contest against Towson at the DAC on Tuesday.  The Patriots have to do it against the best football teams in the world.  The Dragons get a down year CAA.  Next man up indeed, giddy up.

The Dragons frontcourt seems established, with Abif hopefully returning in the near future, followed by Williams, Pantovic and Bah.  The guards are much more unsettled.  Frantz Massenat went down a couple of times last game, and a conversation on playing him or forcing him to heal up a bit before a return next weekend is worth having.  Rarely in a season will a player get a full week off, but it might be very beneficial when things matter to let Massenat get rest right now.  Frantz showed on Saturday how much he wants to be in the game, and holding him out would certainly be against his wishes, but looking out for the season as well as the player is why Bru gets paid the big bucks.  Tavon Allen was added to the injured list the last game, ending a two game stretch where he really shot the heck out of the ball.  Still, on the balance Tavon showed as a player who still had some growing to do this year, letting poor shot selection and turnovers get the better of him.  This is best exemplified in the chart below, which displays's player O-Ratings for the Drexel guards

Don't be fooled by his quantity of shots, Allen has been holding this offense back as much as he has been helping it.  The only issue right now is that Drexel is out of replacements.  Canady will get a lot more minutes at the point, pushing Frantz to the 3, which will make some people (me) happy as Canady may be significantly less of a shooting threat at the point than Frantz is but he also has shown a willingness to feed his forwards which will be all the more important in the upcoming days.  The backup at all three spots will likely be Wilson who in all honesty has been horrific as a Dragon.  Freddie clearly has talent, and just as clearly his slump is in his head a bit.

Not lost in the laundry list of injuries should be Bruiser Flint.  He's tried some things that he'd prefer not to do (zone), he's tried some things that haven't worked (4 guards) and he's allowed his team to make some bonehead plays (Allen shooting with 17 seconds left and the shot clock off in the first half at William and Mary) but through that he's found some things that worked.  Goran held his own through 41 minutes against Northeastern.  Bah, who was in the doghouse's doghouse got postgame public compliments from his coach, Canady looks like he might be able to hold his own at this level yet, and wait for it...  The Dragons have run an under the basket inbounds play that's created easy buckets on multiple occasions of late.  As fans continue to watch Bruiser get forced into leaving his personal comfort zone, they have to be encouraged seeing him find things that work and that he may remember down the road, adding to what had been a fairly stale toolkit.

The Tigers of Towson University have also taken a big loss this year as point guard Jerome Hairston is now their former point guard Jerome Hairston.  Senior Mike Burwell has taken over the point guard duties and has performed well since settling in, only turning the ball over twice in the past 3 games.  Drexel's lack of depth takes away the idea of a press, but using a guy like Freddie Wilson on him would seem like a great idea.  Freddie is an atrocious off the ball defender, so picking up the guy bringing the ball up may help him focus and get him some confidence, and his quickness could really give Burwell problems.  The staff should be about ready to try anything to get Freddie going anyway, and that seems a golden opportunity.

Besides the potential liability at the point, there are three things that everyone on the court needs to know when facing Towson:

1)  Where Jerrelle Benimon is at all times.  The Georgetown transfer is a beast and will be looking to create problems all over the court against the Dragons.  In 2 games against the Dragons last year he had 37 points and 25 rebounds.  He's stepping outside a bit less this year, but if he looks to shoot from behind the arc Drexel should roll out the welcome mat for him to do it.  If he drives inside that means points or fouls more often then not, and that's a much bigger problem with Drexel's short bench.

2)  Vermont transfer Four McGlynn shot 38% from downtown as a freshman and is putting up 40% this year.  He's become an exclusive 3 point shooter so there's no reason for the Drexel D to buy the ball fake here.  It's the opposite of Benimon, feel free to let McGlynn drive, but do not under any circumstances allow the three.  Seeing the sharpshooters (McGlynn and Fouch) defend each other and try to out duel one another will be a fun contest all night.

3)  They big.  I mean they big.  One thing about the Drexel injuries this year is that all of the guys have been tall.  Damion Lee has been the shortest guy to go down at 6'6" and that will cause a challenge against the Tigers who run only 2 guys out there who are under 6'5".  Expect the Tigers to try to get inside early and often and exploit that advantage, but Chris Fouch can not get caught helping like he did versus William and Mary, he'll need to stick to McGlynn to avoid a drive and kick situation.

This one is going to be a battle.  Generally a short turnaround game favors the home team so Drexel gets a bit of a gift from the schedule makers there, although Frantz Massenat probably wishes he had an extra day.  Lets assume he plays, and hope that this stays close late.  If it does I like the team that hits their free throws and predict that they don't worry about which of their teammates is out there, they just do their job.

Prediction:  Drexel 63, Towson 62
Vegas Line:  Drexel -5

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