The Dragons travel to William and Mary for a game tonight against the Fighting Whatevers. On paper, this game is a great matchup for the Dragons, playing a team that relies on good jump shooting to contend. The Dragons are 8th in the country in three point percentage defense, likely helped by the lack of Damion Lee on the perimeter this year, some defensive addition by subtraction for Drexel.
What the shooting advantage the tribe has does do is forces Drexel to play from a lack of depth. Even if every big man is in foul trouble and Bru is about to call me in from the stands to take up space and throw an elbow or two, DU can not go back to their 2-3 zone against these guys. Similarly guard depth is a bit weak since you can't feel comfortable having Freddie Wilson and his "playing zone while the rest of the team is in man" style of defending. So there's much more pressure on the starting five then most games, and foul trouble could be a serious issue if William and Mary gets aggressive. It's worth noting that for a team that has taken as many threes as W&M (42% of attempts are from downtown, good for 21st in the country), they've gotten to the line an awful lot this year.
Leading the charge for the Tribe Formerly Known as Tribe is Marcus Thornton who has played Drexel thrice in his career and thrice has had double digits scoring, including two times as a frosh. He's efficient, takes almost a third of his teams shots when he is on the floor and regardless of who DU sticks on him, he'll get his. At the shooting guard spot will be Julian Boatner, who has a ridiculous stat line which includes just 9 two point attempts this year and 61 shots from three point range. In the last four games that ratio is 1 to 21. If a Drexel guard buys a fake from this guy and steps off of him, I fully advocate Bru going just short of Mike Rice-ing all over him. On the wing is freshman sensation Omar Prewitt, undoubtedly the next William and Mary player that will feel like he's been playing against Drexel for 8 years by the time he's a senior. He's also shot more from outside the arc then in, although that ratio is much closer to 50/50 (55% from 3) and he shoots the ball well from all areas.
If you're not getting this yet, William and Mary can shoot the rock. As mentioned in yesterdays conference preview, this is statistically the best three point shooting team that Tony Shaver has ever had at The College, which is saying something. I didn't even mention that Brandon Britt is back from injury and slowly being eased in, or that their 6'8" big man Kyle Gaillard is outshouting every Drexel player except Frantz Massenat from three... Which brings us to their frontcourt. They have Gaillard, who can play a little bit, and Tim Rusthoven (Beasthoven if you prefer) who has only had three single digit performances this year. Rusthoven is making his first appearance since missing two games due to what the team is only calling illness. At Towson or Delaware that would obviously be STD related, but it's W&M so lets assume it was chronic headaches from squinting for days at a time looking at textbooks. That he will return is known, how strong he will be or how many minutes he will get is yet to be determined. Behind those two in the frontcourt the cupboard is pretty bare with a couple of young but skilled sophomores.
Obviously Drexel's frontcourt is the play in this game, and they should look to both score and exploit the depth of the opposition across the court from them. This seems like more of an internal struggle for DU, whose troubles getting the ball inside are as well known as they are self imposed. If Drexel wants to have the best shot possible in this game, they have to get past themselves and force the frontcourt play. If they don't this game will be as much about the William and Mary shooters having an off night than it will be about how well the Dragons play, which is uncomfortable to say the least, there isn't a coach out there who wants to gameplan to have the other other team dictate the game.
Despite matching up well with William and Mary, this is a very tough game for the Dragons. They didn't return from New Orleans until Monday and left for Williamsburg on Tuesday giving them zero full days at home to prep for this contest and only one night in their own beds. It goes without saying that they've been slumping, and William and Mary Hall has been a house of horrors for the team historically. Add to that the fact that their biggest enemy in this game will probably be themselves, and it's easy to project a bigger struggle than there should be in the Burg. The Dragons haven't broken 60 points in the last 4 games, so thats a mark to look for as well. Baby steps. I'll be there firsthand and on twitter so feel free to follow along @DragonsSpeak, and lets hope to see the team dig in and go back to the intensity that we saw early in the season. Where is better than Williamsburg to turn back the clock and get right?
Prediction: William and Mary 65, Drexel 60
Vegas Line: William and Mary -1