Thursday, February 27, 2014

College of Charleston - The Happy Recap

Final:  Drexel 56, College of Charleston 45
Player of the Game:  Frantz Massenat, Chris Fouch, Dartaye Ruffin, Goran Pantovic, Stevan Manojlovic, Jake Lerner
Key to the Game:  Doing Your Job
Next Game:  Saturday, March 1 @ Northeastern University

In their last game of February, the Drexel Dragons played their most complete game of the season.  While some will point to their performances at Madison Square Garden as their best efforts of the year, this game should be remembered for the well rounded-ness of the team.  This is juke-ing the stats, something I don't love doing, but if we ignore the first three Dragon possessions, in which an unusual roster was playing while their adrenaline was way past red-lining, the numbers look as follows:

Offense:  1.10 points scored per possession
Defense:  0.88 points allowed per possession

Ladies and gentleman, that's the Bruiser Flint model.  If he could get that every game, he'd live as a happy man.

It's also the seventh straight game that the defense has held strong, and given the lack of offensive participation from the two and three guards shows that injuries or not, there is still offensive depth on this team.  Credit to goes to Bruiser Flint, who recoginzed Tavon Allen struggling, and even after Tavon's brilliant game against Delaware felt comfortable giving him the hook and throwing Major Canady out on the floor for the majority of the contest.  After seeing just 18% of the shots in the game at Charleston, the Drexel forwards took 28% of the teams shots this game, shooting 61% (75% from the line) while doing it and contributing 19 of the teams 56 points.  The bigs also had 4 blocks, 1 steal and nary a turnover between the three of them.  After being a bit soft in the first half, they won the battle on the boards in the second while playing against a front line that went 7'2", 6'9", 6'7".  It was a very impressive effort, and a good job of getting involved at both ends of the court.

Speaking of getting involved, in just 4 defensive possessions, Stevan Manojlovic and Goran Pantovic had 1 steal, 2 blocks and a defensive rebound.  They were on the floor for 4 possessions and in 3 of the 4 the Cougars starting 5 couldn't even get a shot off!  That's insane!  Chris Fouch may have struggled on the offensive end (1-7 from 3, now 4-25 (17%) in his last 5 games, easily the biggest DU concern coming out of this game) but he still made his contribution to the team to the tune of 4 steals (!!) and 100% free throw shooting.  On top of that, he had 5 points after the under four timeout in the second half, just as we all knew he would, saving his best for last.  Also of note, with a minute to go, upon inbounding to Massenat, Frantz quickly got the ball to Chris.  Someone got the message, and at end of game it looks like the coaches are making an effort to have Chris be the guy who gets put on the line.  Good work there by the staff.

At the end of the game, the player holding the ball for the Dragons was Jake Lerner, the one senior who didn't get a chance to start, a great ending to a great team effort.

Yes, there are concerns, Chris' shooting, the continued inconsistency and I for one think that one coach here may have been playing chess while the other played checkers.  There's a very good chance that these two teams play each other in a week and a half when it really matters, and Doug Wojcik seemed to hold his team back in this one.  Baru and Hall both played for less minutes then they have for most of the season, the end game fouling was less then aggressive, and a bench that doesn't usually get a ton of use past Canyon Barry played almost 70 minutes despite a complete lack of foul trouble.  These things make you wonder.  But it was senior night for an outstanding, talented and classy bunch that represented Drexel and its faculty, staff, alumni, students and fans as well as any of them could ask for, and those guys went off in the way they should.  

My favorite part?  Long time CAA referee Dwayne Gladden was hustling Frantz Massenat off the court with seconds left on the clock and Frantz reeiving a much deserved ovation, and Frantz just turned to Gladden and said "it's my last game".  Frantz dictated his departure much like he's dictated four years of Drexel offense, and left the court on his terms, and no one elses.  These guys as a group, they just get it, and that's why all this is fun for you and me.  I for one am thankful.

I need to link you all to (also on the "Link DH Relies On" tab on your right), the record book I used for player stats yesterday.  It also shows me that Dartaye Ruffin, someone I've barely mentioned here that had a huge impact in this game, had a great night and also tied Chaz Crawford for 7th all time on the Drexel rebounds list.  

Lastly, if you know what college basketball is all about, and if you appreciate this blog I guess you do, then thank the PhilaHoops Guys for capturing the postgame presser.  Take the 10 minutes, watch it.  You'll thank yourself later.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

College of Charleston - Pregame - Senior Night at the DAC

There's a nasty rumor going around that a basketball game is going to break out in the middle of a coronation on Wednesday.  The Dragons may not be locked into the 4/5 seed game in Baltimore, but with JMU playing Towson before going to Hofstra for HU's senior night and C of C getting DU and UDback to back along with Drexel's one game lead on both of those teams, it's close to a fait accompli.  So while this game matters, well, it doesn't matter for a whole lot.

Here is what does matter:

The first road team to win at Yum! Brands Arena in Louisville, Kentucky
The first NIT win and postseason run in the Bruiser Flint tenure
A win in Madison Square Garden
The programs second trip to the CAA Title Game in Drexel history
Unquestionable leadership, while taking over the reigns of leadership in a time of turmoil
6-4 record against Delaware and Penn, 3-3 against the Big 5

When this group of seniors walked in the door, they were walking in on a team that went 43-50 (.462) in the prior three seasons, lost Jamie Harris, Kevin Phillip and Shannon Givens in the off-season and didn't know what to expect from Chris Fouch coming off of a major knee injury.  They were dealt a deuce seven off-suit.   They had to crawl through 500 yards of shit smelling foulness I can't even imagine, or maybe I just don't want to remember.  And they came out clean on the other side.  Four years later they can feel good knowing that they inherited a mess, and they left with the accomplishments above, with a 78-47 (.624) record, and still time to finish strong.  It's a bounce-back story that will never get the respect it deserves unless they dance this year, but that they can be proud of, and quite frankly saved their coaching staff.  They will graduate, and they will do so after four years of no one questioning their or the programs character or ethics.  They represented themselves, Drexel University, and all of us who were allowed the pleasure of watching, very well, and tonight's game is about nothing other than that.

So while you watch Dartaye Ruffin (who can tie Chaz Crawford for 7th in Drexel history with 10 rebounds tonight) bang down low against C of C's very impressive Adjehi Baru realize just how big of a turnaround that he helped achieve.  When Frantz (17 points away from passing Bob Stephens for 7th in career scoring at DU) and Fouch are lighting up C of C, realize you're watching a couple of all timers.  C of C's frontcourt was already undermanned before losing Joe Chealey for this game with a knee injury, so the seniors along with Major and Tavon should be able to dictate in the years final home game.

While both teams were better than they showed in their first meeting, Drexel stayed even on the boards and had a significant turnover edge, and those numbers should hold.  DU isn't going o-fer from deep at home on senior night.  When the lights are bright, Chris Fouch rises to the occasion, and in front of a jam packed DAC tonight, the likes of which Charleston hasn't seen even during roadies to Davidson, the lights will be bright.  It will be another rock fight, but expect Drexel to stand strong and send the fans home happy one last time.

Thanks Seniors.

Prediction:  Drexel 62, Charleston 58
Vegas Line:  Drexel -4.5

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Chris Fouch is Really Good at Basketball

When Chris Fouch announced that he would be joining the Dragons on November 27, 2007 Senator Barack Obama was trailing in the polls, by 20+ points, to Hillary Clinton, milk was a nickle and Drexel fans were asking themselves how the team would fit in another guard, especially with the cupboard full of Rodgers, Hawthorne, [Rob] Hampton, Harris and Colds.

Looks like the fans got over it.

Sitting fifth on the all time scoring list at Drexel, Chris Fouch also has a 5-4 postseason (CAA Tourney + NIT) record, and is one win in Baltimore away from being the only Drexel player to achieve an above .500 postseason record under Coach Flint.  The cruel thing about college basketball is that almost everyone's season ends in a loss, and a team needs at least two wins in order to finish above .500 in a postseason, yet Chris' Dragon teams have rose to the occasion.  Chris has helped push Drexel through the postseason, averaging 16 points per game in postseason games despite Coach Flint bringing him off the bench in the majority of those contest.  And then, there is greatness.  Open this clip to the 2:30 minute mark and check out the degree of difficulty on the shots he made, in a tough place to shoot, in order to fight the Dragons back into one of the absolute dogfight games of the Flint era.

You may not know about the NCAA transfer rule allowing Grad Student players to transfer to another school without sitting out a year.  This rule meant that when the Dragons staff applied for Chris' sixth year redshirt, there was no promise that he would be playing in blue and gold this year, as he had the option of going to any school that would take him, and would likely have had interest from some high level conference schools.  Chris' decision to stay at Drexel, even after being forced to come off the bench in his first three years, speaks volumes about both the coaching staff's bond with the players, and Chris' own loyalty and belief that this years Drexel team could be dancing.  It's not too late to make that dream come true, and you can bet that Chris won't go down without a fight.

Actually, we can promise that he won't go down a fight:  Fun fact, Chris is shooting 36% from the field and averaging 7.7 points in the first half of games this year.  Those numbers rise to 43% and 9.3 points in the second half of games.  Chris won't go down as the best defensive player that Drexel has ever had, and he may not even be the best player of the Flint era, but he should be and is the guy who you want with the ball in late and close games.  With apologies to Robert Battle, he is the most clutch player of the Flint era, and he's got one more conference tournament to show that off.  Is that too much pressure for one guy?  His record certainly says it's not.

With six players leaving the Drexel program there's been discussion about who should start the Senior Night game.  To that I say start the guys who haven't been recognized on a previous senior night, Frantz Massenat, Stevan Manojlovic, Jake Lerner, Goran Pantovic, and Dartaye Ruffin. Recognize Chris Fouch during the time where he owned the floor.  Send out the best clutch player since Malik Rose on the floor alone at the under 4 timeout in the second half.  Let him be recognized at crunch time, because crunch time is his time.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Delaware - The Happy Recap

Final:  Drexel 69, Delaware 65
Player of the Game:  Tavon Allen
Key to the Game:  Interior Defense
Next Game:  Wednesday Feb 26 vs College of Charleston, at the DAC (Senior Night)

Chris Fouch drives for a layup vs UD.  Photo Courtesy (my one and 
only Delaware friend):  Blue Hen Studios

Joe Biden was at the Bob to see the Women's hoops game prior to the Drexel/Delaware men's game on Sunday.  Credit the Vice President for being a smart politician.  Sure, he doubled down on Obamacare, but even the Veep won't take the risk of being seen with Monte Ross' Three Ring Suspend-O-Rama.

Tavon Allen was the story of this game, and not just for the reasons that you think.  Yes, his taking over the game at the offensive end in the second half (19 points on just 11 field goal attempts) proved unstoppable for the hapless U of not so much D squad, but the bigger story may have been the other side of the ball.  Devon Usher has been tearing up the league, with at least 24 points in each of his last five games.  Against Tavon, he scored just 16 points on 16 shots, a testament to Allen's effort, skill and size on the defensive end.  If Hofstra never wants to see Frantz again, then Delaware certainly can't be looking forward to two more years of Tavon Allen, who thus far has this career line against UD:

11-22 (50%) 2pt fg, 8-13 (62%) 3pt fg, 12.5 ppg

That line is for a sophomore, and one that played just 19 minutes against UD in two games last year.  Absolutely sick performances for the Tavon the Delaware Slayer, and ones that we hope to continue to look forward to for two more years.

It was Tavon's overwhelming performance that prevented Dartaye Ruffin from getting player of the game honors from the blog.  Dartaye was 1-5 from the field, never got to the line and while 12 rebounds (half of those from the offensive glass) is a strong effort, 2 and 12 usually don't get you those honors.  Thing is, its what's not in the boxscore that The Most Valuable Dragon brought to the table.  In the first game against UD, Delaware shot a stunning 59.6% from inside the arc.  This time around it was a pedestrian 47.6%.  While Dartaye was on the floor both times, his effort in help defense this game was especially notable.  He created blocks for his teammates, he ran out to defend the perimeter, along with coming up with 2 steals and 2 blocks himself.  His man, Carl Baptiste shot 5-7 last time around, this time it was just 4-9, and Devon Usher and Devon Saddler will still be running into him and stopping their drives in their dreams for the next week.  It was a high effort, smart, dominant defensive performance and without it Drexel does not win this game.

Two other nods are due, the first to Mohammed Bah, who is really becoming a spark plug for this Drexel team.  He may not know the playbook inside, outside, backwards, and forwards yet, but as far as raw ability and heart go, he shows it and has an impact every time he's out there.  This was a big game for the Dragons, and a kid who started the year deeeeeep in Bruiser's dog house just played 25 solid minutes in the big game.  He also had the first DU point that stopped UD's 10-0 opening salvo.  Bah had 5 points and 6 boards in 25 minutes, while at the same time being asked to guard perimeter players on the defensive end.  That's called scrapping, and he's doing it effectively and has for some time now.

The other nod is to Bru who "outcoached" his counterpart.  In the previous game, Delaware went small with 4 guards on the floor for most of the game, and Drexel tried to match it, running Tavon for 30 minutes with a bad ankle and asking the guy who was guarding Baptiste to also be in charge of help defense on both sides of the rim.  It did not work.  it wasn't within a fifty dollar cab ride of working.  This time, Monte went small again and Drexel stayed in their three guard rotation.  Whichever big was on the fourth guard sagged off of him and stayed available for help D, and while that did hang a guard out on the perimeter trying to defend two guys at once at times, Monte was either too inept to exploit that, or Monte had no faith in his guards not named Saddler and Usher.  Either way, Monte was playing Russian Roulette with a fully loaded gun.  Going the other way, with Massenat riding pine with foul trouble, Monte threw the press at the Dragons once, DU struggled with Major Canady running the point but managed to break it, and Monte never ran it again.  Neither guy can seem to make a big in game adjustment, so the coach with the better game plan walking into the game will most help his team, and that was Bruiser and staff this time.  Bruiser also gets credit for managing his seniors foul problems very well all the way through, and for his Connors Toss, because Coach Connors is a big man and to just throw him around like is quite the feat.  

This was a big win for the Dragons, for a number of reasons.  It proves that they can beat anyone in this league, after having spent the conference season only beating the basement of the CAA.  It was the sixth straight game where they held the opposing offense under a point per possession, and by far the best offense that they have done that against, which continues to foster the belief that the defense is back.  Perhaps most importantly, Massenat and Fouch were barely mentioned in this piece.  In the last two road games, they have averaged 29 points between them, well below their league averages, and the Dragons could have easily won both games.  The supporting case continues to step up and support their seniors, and I for one believe that the seniors will be there, god willing sharing the ball (still didn't do a great job of feeding the post in this one, although some turnovers and guys passing it back out to the perimeter makes it look worse then it was when you look at the box), come tourney time.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Delaware (sucks) - Pregame

The annual trip to the Bob is upon us.  And while we all wish that the storyline was Drexel finding themselves for the stretch run and playing their best ball of the year, it's tough to make a case for that right now.  Yes, there are silver linings:  5 straight games without an opponent breaking 63 points reminds us of Bruiser teams of yore, the offense is leading the conference in turnover and free throw percentage, and their shooting from deep is up to 35% in conference play, a respectable number.  But with a team that hasn't broken 50 points in regulation in their last two roadies, the story going into Newark is about playing the spoiler.

Playing the spoiler against UD isn't anyone's idea of a good time.  While beating up on UD is absolutely a goal of Drexel fans, just the word spoiler infers "wait til next year".  Try thinking about the current years seniors while saying that, especially this collection of seniors, and not feeling like crap at the end of it.  This was never supposed to be a wait til next year team, this was supposed to be THE team, but time is getting very short to find that team.  So into the Bob we go, playing against a first place UD team who has had their best player suspended to start the year and their next best player suspended to finish it.  With just one loss, they would need to lose two to possibly drop from the one seed line, and the Dragons would love to help with that.  After the Drexel game, UD closes out the season with two on the road, so if DU can pull the upset, it could knock this chicken squad down a notch.

Of note is Drexel's 6-7 record.  The 6 wins have come against the last place CAA team (2x), the next to last place CAA team (2x), the 7th place CAA team (1x), and a team tied for 5th.  With three games to go, this team hasn't beaten a single top half of the league team in a conference that's ranked 19th by Kenpom and 15th in the RPI.  Between that and the lack of consistency all season long, it's getting harder and harder to make the case that this team is for real.  All season long I've defended the talent that this team has in this space, and I've believed every word of it, but I'm now running low on arguments to sell this team.  Winning this game, knocking off the number 1 team on the road, would be huge in getting some swagger back for the fellas, and bringing the believers back to Camp Bru.  While this game seems relatively meaningless to all involved insofar as end of the year standings, this rivalry game will matter, and could give the Dragons quite a big lift.

The first time these teams met, the one UD starter that went unnamed in the write-up was Davon Usher.   Almost surely because of that, Usher caught absolute fire, averaging 25 points a game and shooting 44% from three since that game at the DAC.  That includes a 42 point performance against College of Charleston, a team in which Drexel as a team collectively scored 47 points against.  He's shooting from anywhere in the gym and hitting.  It's hitting "mommy, please hold me" levels of scary for opposing coaches when they watch the tape.  He's flanked by Devon Saddler who you may have heard of, but with Threatt and King-Davis suspended (presumably for hanging out with shady characters like Devon Saddler) those 33 points from the first Drexel/Delaware meeting are off the table.

Of important note when reviewing the first meeting of these teams is that Drexel played largely a four guard lineup in that game.  They only had two forwards in the game for six minutes of the contest, which led to them getting absolutely slaughtered on the boards, the last time we saw that plan this season.  DU did have a massive turnover advantage that game, and if they can do that again but this time at least break even on the boards, they'll have a real shot at this one.  Without King-Davis, Baptiste is their only real force underneath so the Drexel offensive game plan should be to share the ball and get some early fouls on Baptiste.  When Baptiste is off of the floor, the DU bigs can play much more aggressively on help defense, which should leave the Dragon guards to be more aggressive in stepping out on the perimeter, important since the UD guards have no qualms shooting from beyond NBA range.

With how hot the UD shooters have been, even this shorthanded Chicken team can win any time they step on the court, but they've shown some chinks in the armor of late, losing to Towson in a battle and just slipping by C of C and Hofstra in the last two weeks.  These teams know each other inside and out, these coaches know each other inside and out, and its a mix of a revenge spot, a bounce back game and a game they need more from the Dragons.  Expect a huge effort from your blue and gold, the only true blue and gold in the conference, the Drexel blue and gold, and a game that goes to the wire.

Prediction:  Delaware 75-73
Vegas Line:  Delaware -4.5

Friday, February 21, 2014

A followup: It's math man

One of our favorite sayings around the office is "it's math".  While words can be twisted and turned, in math, there is usually an answer that is correct and an answer that is incorrect.  It's how we can change the mind of someone who may not believe or agree with an argument until we put numbers in front of them.  Then, well, it's math man!

“You can’t go on the road and keep shooting 30 percent”
~Bruiser Flint, postgame at JMU

Frantz and Chris had 22% of their shots blocked in the JMU game since the JMU defense was just stacking up on them whenever they crossed the three point arc.

Frantz is shooting 41% from the field this year.  If only 78% of his shots end up going towards the basket, and he hits 41% of those, we can expect him to make 32% of his shots.

Chris is shooting 39% from the field this year.  If only 78% of his shots end up going towards the basket, and he hits 39% of those, we can expect him to make 30% of his shots.

Chris and Frantz ended up shooting 25% from inside the arc in this game.  Given that they were expected to shoot about 30%, and given the number of shots JMU blocked, we can assume that many of the duo's other shots were well defended, hence 25% feels about right.

Shooting 30% may be something that you can't afford to do.  It's also exactly what Bru should expect to happen when you play right into that type of defense.  On the road, at home, or on the moon.  

It's math, man.

Also math?  The Dragons are 6-1 when a forward scores 10 points in a game.  The one loss was a 2 point loss at Towson, when the offense still scored a very effective 1.18 points per possession.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

JMU - Learning From Our Mistakes

Final:  JMU 63, Drexel 61
Player of the Game:   Dartaye Ruffin
Key to the Game:  Adjustments
Next Game:  Sunday Feb 23 at Delaware (Sucks)

14-12 (6-7 conference) Kenpom 144, RPI 119

Massenat  Sr
Fouch       Sr (6th year)
Allen         So (redshirt)
Williams    Fr
Ruffin        Sr

Canady     Fr
Bah           Fr

15-14 (10-8 conference) Kenpom 128, RPI 133

Harris        So
Hawthorne Sr
Rodgers     Sr
Givens        Fr
Neisler       Jr

Colds         So
Spencer     Jr

Those two rosters have put up identical seasons.  The difference in talent may be stunning, but the results, near identical.  In the postgame, Bruiser called out this team for not playing tough enough.  In response, I offer this:

Drexel guards first half:           4/20 (20%) FG, 4-4 (100%) FT
Drexel forwards, first half:       3/6 (50%) FG, 5-5 (100%) FT
Percentage of Shots taken by guards:  77%

Drexel guards second half:      5/20 (25%) FG, 10-12 (83%) FT
Drexel forwards second half:  3/4 (75%) FG, 1-2 FT (50%)
Percentage of shots taken by guards:  83%

Drexel guards overtime:  2/6 (33%) FG, 1-2 (50%) FT
Drexel forwards overtime:  0/0 FG, 0/0 FT
Percentage of shots taken by guards:  100%

Semenov and Nation first half:  0/9 FG (0%) 2-4 FT (50%)

Semenov and Nation second half:  2/2 FG (100%) 3-4 FT (75%)

Semeov and Nation overtime:  0/0 FG, 2/2 (100%) FT

Chris Fouch and Frantz Massenat had 7 of their 32 attempts, a stunning 22% of their shots blocked.  They were overplaying the hell out of those two guys, and for one play last night, the play that took this game to overtime, Bruiser Flint recognized that, got a pass to a wide open big man in one of the prettiest plays in recent memory.  For the rest of the game, it was as if no one noticed JMU's defense.  It doesn't seem right to blame that on the players toughness, does it?

On the other side of the scorers table, Matt Brady's two studs were having an awful game.  Bruiser came down with a game plan of making the JMU players shoot the ball well in order to win.  Giving the players space on the perimeter to take a look if they wanted to.  It was a solid gameplan.  Actually, the offensive gameplan was solid too, and I even mentioned it in the pregame here.  No one on JMU (and it now appears that Charles Cooke may be an exception) can guard Frantz or Chris, so let the DU studs do what they do.  It was a solid gameplan on both ends, and on the defensive end it worked, but at the offensive end, both of the DU studs struggled against a defense that was overplaying them at every opportunity on and off the ball.

The difference?  Matt Brady, a head coach who hasn't adjusted his haircut since 1985, adjusted, told his guys to drive more despite the defense, took the ball out of the perimeter shooters hands in the second half and took a team that scored just 16 points in the first half and scored 34 points with them in the second.  On the Drexel side, Bruiser took the side of the bull running at the matador, and when his initial game plan didn't work, just told his team to run that plan harder.  And harder.  And harder.  This time they would defeat the matador!  This resulted in Drexel scoring 23 points in the first half and 27 in the second.  Never did he change it up.  With every possession, the Drexel forwards were stunningly less and less involved...  until they had to have a basket.  Then they fed it to a forward.  A lightbulb flickering amid a power outage.

People will talk about the inbounds play with 6.5 second left, a high risk baseball throw to half court that resulted in a turnover.  I know people will be talking about that because I received text and emails from four states, none of them Pennsylvania, and half from people who weren't even Drexel fans, who were stunned that a coach would call something that stunningly outside the box (I'm being really nice here, or trying) in that situation.  While I agree with the consensus, let us not pretend that Drexel was all that likely to hit the three.  Drexel didn't lose the game there.  Drexel lost the game because one coach went into halftime and threw out a gameplan that wasn't working, and the other coach didn't.

To be clear:  If Matt Brady and his 1985 haircut had been coaching JMU this game, they would have won.  And if Matt Brady and his 1985 haircut had been coaching the Drexel Dragons in this game, they would have won.

No word on how the team bus is doing after Bruiser drove over all of his players with it.  Hopefully it's tough enough.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

JMU Pregame - Step Two

The Dragons will visit the 5-8 JMU Dukes on Wednesday in front of a mediocre crowd in the not at all state of the art JMU Convocation Center!  CAA Basketball, fun for the whole family!  While the atmosphere might rival that of a second tier state fair, the game on the court might just be a dandy.

The Dukes losing record in this years weak edition of the CAA may look less than impressive, but don't overlook what they have done at the Convo this year.  Currently 3-3 at home (4-4 in all competitions), every game in The City that VDOT Built has been tight - JMU hasn't won by more than 6, or lost by more than 4.  Add this to the reminder of these teams last meeting, when Andre Nation wasn't present, a full Drexel squad was, and yet DU only had a 1 point halftime lead.

The issues in this game for the Dragons are the same, but magnified.  Charles Cooke got to the line 10 times last game, and this time will have a hometown whistle to help.  Andre Nation will be out there, and he'll be looking to score from the stripe as well.  Fouls have been the primary problem for the Drexel defense in conference play, and as thin as they are in the frontcourt, Nation and Cooke can create a two headed problem, putting points on the board and watering down the DU frontcourt at the same time.  They'll do this as Semenov drags one of the forwards out to the perimeter.  Drexel's guards not named Massenat have shown no ability to stay in front of their man this year, and with one forward out of position to help, there's a ton of pressure put on the one left over bigman.  This is what helped W&M tear the Drexel defense apart, and what got Charles Cooke to the line 10 times in the first meeting.  It is a critical concern for this matchup.

Well this game certainly doesn't project as low scoring as the Charleston affair, it looks to be just as close.  In a close game, it may very well come down to foul shots, and it's time that the team turns its eyes to Chris Fouch in that spot.  He's the second best free throw shooter in the conference since the beginning of conference play, and has a 10% cushion on the next best shooter on the Dragons.  While Frantz's contributions to this team have been immeasurable, and while he is certainly a top three player of the year candidate in this conference (Benimon, Thornton alongside) the numbers don't lie when it comes to something as simple as foul shooting.  When it counts, the ball needs to be in the hands of CF3.  He's not perfect, and no one knows that he won't miss a few either, but the coaching staff needs to play the hot hand, in this game now more than ever.

The Hofstra game was an important first step towards looking like the team that we all know this can be.  The Dukes shot 30 foul shots on the road at the DAC, and if they shoot more than that this time, this will be a significantly uphill battle for DU.  If the Dragons show their teeth on D, keep their man in front of them and the Dukes off the line though, this will be an important step two.  Either way, a bad matchup for the Dragons is offset by a miserable matchup for the Dukes - they don't have the horses to defend the Drexel guards.  

Bruiser said himself this week that the team "hasn't turned the corner yet" but acknowledges that they're starting to look better.  This is the right time of year to be doing that, and while this game will be a challenge, the Dragons can't afford a step backwards now with just four to play. 

Prediction:  Drexel 67 - James Madison 63
Vegas Line:  Drexel -1

Drexel Hoops - A View From the Seats

On behalf of the blog, I sent a survey out to three DU stakeholders.  All three were kind enough to respond to the questions below.  Between the three of them, their Drexel fanhood spans from the year after Malik left to today.  They come from three different "fan backgrounds" as one of them was pre-Dac Pack, one was an avid fan in the pep band, and another was a Dac Pack Vice President and one of the Founders of the Blue and Gold Club, and all of them are still avid fans today.  I want to personally thank all of them for helping me out with this, and I'd like to invite anyone else who wants to chime in to feel free to either write into the blog, comment in the section below, or speak to me offline.  Without further ado, their work:

What made you such a big Drexel fan?

The passion and intensity of the fans I saw at each game I attended as an undergrad.

I couldn't fathom not being one. From my senior year of high school watching Drexel play Duke on ESPN at Madison Square Garden, I knew I'd be a fan.

I was recently accepted to Drexel and saw that they had made the NCAA tournament and although I admittedly knew very little about the team - I was shocked to see that if both Drexel and Syracuse won their 1st round games, they would meet up in the 2nd round. Sure enough - Drexel knocked off Memphis and Syracuse (and my favorite player at the time - John Wallace) took care of Montana State.
I remember being torn on who to root for. I had been a Syracuse fan since I was 6 - but I was going to be attending Drexel in the fall. That Malik Rose led Drexel team played with so much heart on that day that it made my decision easy. I was hooked. 

Today, what do you think is the biggest strength of the program?

The program carries so much potential for growth. The program is run with integrity, and our student athletes really do try to be both. I'd hate to have wound up at a school where the team is all one-and-dones and not winning a tournament game every year is failure.

There's a core group of people that are really pushing for big things. That core is continuing to grow even with most of them never seeing a Drexel NCAA tournament team. When the time comes that the guys do make the tourney, and if they make a run, that support will explode. The school needs to be ready and willing to capitalize on that.

As it stands right now, i am not sure that we really have a strength. We have lost our home court advantage. Our defense has been poor. Our offense has been pretty good but not great. We have been extremely unlucky with the number and severity of injuries that have hit us the past couple of seasons. And we get very little respect from local and national media - as proven by our 2 NCAA snubs. 

Today, what do you think is the biggest weakness of the program?

Men's Basketball needs more $upport from the administration, and more fan support. 
We fans have too much competition from other college and pro teams, so there there needs to be more focus on putting a quality product on the floor every night.  

Current positioning. We're in an FCS football conference (thank Yeager) and whatever additional teams are added will likely be to appease that side of the conference. In Philly, the Big5 knows that it's in their interest to keep us off their schedule.

Apathy and a lack of vision. I feel like we need leadership that sets out higher goals for the program. It seems to me that winning championships and doing what needs to be done in order to build this program to elite mid-major status is not important to our current leadership. I also think that there is a disconnect between the Athletic Department and some of our biggest fans where the line has been blurred between who is actually in charge. Instead of them having to answer to us - it is my opinion that they feel like we should have to answer to them. I would like to see more accountability from our athletic department.

If you were Bruiser, what would you do differently?

I'd like him to be able to hire some more assistant coaching talent. A brainiac who will break down film and stats.

I'm no coach, but I'd like to see a HAVOC-style trap game. There will be points the rest of the way this year where throwing it on in the middle of a game can take us from a close game to a large lead. I think it's one way we could beat Towson (Nova destroyed them with it) or Delaware in a CAA tournament game.

I would start a lineup that consisted of our 5 best defensive players.  I would put Fouch on the bench to start games from here on out. Our biggest problem is defense this year. And that is not to say that Fouch shouldn't be getting "starters minutes"… but I would like to see us start out games with hard nosed defense. Get back to what Drexel basketball is. Then bring in Fouch to open things up a bit after we set the pace to our liking. 

What is your definition of long term success for the basketball program?

A tournament appearance during each and every 5 year student's tenure.

With regards to winning: Make the NCAA tournament  35-50% the time, beat the Big5 more than half the time, and be in contention for at-larges maybe once every 4 years if we don't win a championship. With regards to the non-W's: Grow the fan base to the point that there's demand for a larger arena, not just an expanded DAC. That goes somewhat hand in hand with winning though.

I think that competing for a championship every year - and winning one every few years - is an attainable goal. 

Your prediction, what happens the rest of this season and where does this team play its final game?

I hope the team catches a second wind and makes some noise down the stretch, but that would run counter to our history with Bruiser.  I expect to be waving farewell to our seniors in Baltimore.

This team still has the talent to go dancing even after losing two starters.  Well I don't make serious predictions anyway:  FINAL FOUR!!!!

I would have to be insane to predict anything other than our usual Drexel finish to the season. A disappointing 1st round loss in the CAA tournament - but i still have a bit of faith in this team so maybe I am insane. Frantz & Fouch are all time Drexel greats. Something tells me that once we get in to a scenario where one loss means their Drexel careers are over - they won't let it end against some crappy middling CAA team. Against my better judgement, my prediction is that we play Towson in the CAA finals.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Hofstra postgame - An Addendum

Hours later, the realization hit that a paragraph had been left out of the postgame post.  Rather than editing, it gets its own post.

Not being able to be at this game, this was viewed via the Comcast Sportsnet feed.  I've been critical of certain commentators this year, and stand by it, but didn't have that worry this time.  God help me, but Blaine Taylor was as fantastic on the mic as he was completely unrecognizable on camera.  It was watching the game with a coach who knew the league inside and out, and he shared it as easily as he would if he was in a recruits living room.  Good camera work, good sound (heard Bru and Connors regularly, c'mon Dac Pack!) and commentators that had plenty of cattle with their hats.  A really good package that CSN pumped out for the CAA.

Also, and this is going to hurt me personally...  The rare Sunday night game gave the DAC an officials A-Team.  While there was no B.A. Baracus, the DAC did see Brian O'Connell, old friend Mike Eades, and personal favorite Tim Kelly (haven't seen him in a while), all of whom will be working well into March.  They were not often noticed, and I threw very little at my television.  Whenever they have a bad night, we let em know, and fair is fair, when they have a <cough cough rare cough cough> good one, they deserve the kudos.

Hofstra - The Happy Recap (Again)

Final:  Drexel 74, Hofstra 63
Player of the Game:  Frantz Massenat
Key to the Game:  Balanced Scoring
New Game:  Wednesday Feb 19, @ JMU (The Convo)

My one and only tweet during the Drexel/ Hofstra game.

This game was a number of things, and what you see depend which way you look through the kaleidoscope.  Some will see a double digit win at home with under one point per possession allowed on the defensive end for the fourth straight game (ladies and gentlemen, we have a legitimate streak), improvement all around.  Others will see 28 more foul shots allowed, in game inconsistencies, and a general failure to dunk, and aren't impressed with beating Hofstra in a rebuilding year at home.  As always, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Four straight games of allowing less then a point per possession is nothing to scoff at, no matter who the opponent.  Here are oppoents who broke that mark against the Dragons earlier this year:  St. Francis (PA), UNCW, Tennessee St, and yes, Hofstra.  Keeping your opponent under that mark is a challenge against a any D1 opponent, and doing it in four straight games is a fantastic sign for this club.  In a 64 possession game, the Dragons had six steals and seven blocks, which are huge numbers, especially for a DU team that doesn't usually force turnovers.  The seven blocks are Drexel's second highest total in a game in the last two seasons, with the high in that span being when they had eight against Arizona.  Wait what?  Ask Chaz Crawford, that's a stingy scorers table at the DAC, it better be a clear block if you want it counted, this ain't no soft table like, I don't know, the VCU's of the world (no truth to the rumor that they gave Larry Sanders another 5 blocks this week just for kicks).  

Drexel won the first half of this game by seven, and the second by four, and they couldn't have happened in a more different way.  With Allen and Kone in quick foul trouble (they combined for six first half minutes) someone smart, let it be Massenat, Canady or the staff, called on the team to bring on the boom in the interior, and Ruffin and Williams answered the bell.  The pair cominbed for 16 points (57% from the field), 8 rebounds, 2 blocks and importantly, just 1 foul in first half action.  Drexel only shot 29% from deep in the first half (although it beats me as to why they shot from the perimeter at all at that point) Fouch, Allen and Canady combined for just 4 points in the first half, and yet the home team went into the locker room with a 7 point lead.  If Chris hits like normal in that half, Drexel is going to the halftime with a double digit lead.  For those who have been screaming out for the bigs to participate more at both ends of the floor, for taking dunks instead of jump shots, and for getting the other teams forwards in foul trouble, this had to be a tremendously satisfying half of basketball.

And then the second half happened.

The Hofstra starting forward tandem returned to the floor and the Drexel starting forward tandem stopped touching the ball.  Rodney Williams went to the line once, but otherwise didn't have a second hafl field goal attempt.  Ruffin went two of three from the field, but that was it as the pair combined for five points.  The net result of the guards playing keep away?  Drexel shot 70% from three point land and still only won the half by four.  Hofstra actually won the turnover battle in the second half, doubling up DU six to three, a shocking turn of events given that Drexel leads the country in least amount of turnovers per possession and per game.  Hofstra held onto the ball, got themselves to the free throw line, and kept themselves close in the half despite Fouch and Massenat combining to go 5-5 from behind the arc.  

While Drexel got away from what worked for them in the first half, not all was lost in the second half.  The game never got too close, Mohammed Bah continued to show how much he is developing, noteably with a "hey, look what I found" block, and most importantly Chris Fouch, who had looked lost for the previous 3 halves, scored 14 points in the half while hitting both of his three attempts and going six of seven from the line.  Chris is continuing to show very strong free throw shooting during conference play, now at 87%, good for second in the CAA behind Four McGlynn of Towson.  Fouch handles the ball just fine, thank you, and Bruiser may have to get into the gooey, uncomfortable territory of telling Frantz that Chris is option #1 when the other team is intentionally fouling from here on out.

All in, while this was by no means a perfect game thrown by the Dragons, it was a world better that what the coaches were seeing in the first half of the conference season.  With four straight defensive games to be proud of (please, please stop fouling) and an offense with five options (when was the last time we saw that at DU?) the talk going into this game was making things right for the stretch run.  This was a very solid first step in doing that.  And so we leave just the way we entered, with one tweet.

Actually, there's two because I enjoyed the Frantz one so much I had to include it (thanks Jerry):

In the interest of helping out, here are Frantz' career numbers versus Hofstra with maybe one more game left:

7-1 record, 49% FG%, 55% 3PT%, 80% FT%, 15.8 PPG, 4.4 APG, 1.3 TO/G

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Hofstra Pregame - In Which We Begin The Home Stretch

Welcome to the back half of February.  Five games to play.  It's the stretch run, and the CAA is anyone's game.

Normally fans of 200+ RPI teams coming off of a game where they came up short of 50 points, shot under 50% from the free throw line and didn't make a three pointer are looking forward to pitchers and catchers at this point.  Maybe its delusional to think this Dragons team has even a punchers chance, especially in a league that features an undefeated team rolling through it.

Or maybe the Dragons have em right where they want em.

The offense has been clicking for these Dragons throughout the conference season.  The game versus College of Charleston was their first since January 3rd in which the Sons of Bru had less then a point per possession.  Until that happens again, its an outlier, not a coincidence.  Perhaps more importantly, the defense has started to look better.  Clearly, from both on the floor performance along with the coaches quotes, that was the focus of the last week while sitting at home.  The fouls are still a problem, but against a very skilled group of inside players, Ruffin & Company held tough yesterday.  The Hofstra offense will test them in a different way, with guards who penetrate and draw fouls to score.  If the Drexel defense can answer that challenge, then maybe, just maybe Bruiser and the staff have solved the biggest problem with this team and can be looking at peaking at just the right time.  Stranger things have happened.

In their first contest, Drexel and Hofstra went to the wire, Frantz Massenat played a career game, and all three Hofstra starting guards played 40 minutes on the way to a Drexel 77-74 win in Hempstead.  Hofstra was in the last game of a 3 games in 6 game stretch, Kazembe Abif had 6 and 7, Tavon Allen was limited with injury for Drexel and Jordan Allen didn't play at all for Hofstra.  Which is to say that the results of that game will have very little to do with what happens in this game.

Now, both Allens are back, Abif is gone and it's the Dragons that are on short rest while Hofstra has had five days off to gameplan for their revenge attempt.  The addition of Jordan Allen will add important depth and even more size for Hofstra, who already has size at every spot except the point.  The Dutch' size on the perimeter is what makes Tavon Allen so important for the Dragons, and having him back for this one to guard Upshaw (who tore the Dragons apart to the turn of 27 points in the first meeting) should be a huge boost to the Dragons.

At the same time, you have Frantz tweeting about letting the team down in Charleston, despite him being just about the entire offense in the final quarter of that game, and Chris Fouch coming off of one of his worst games of the year.  It's short rest, but you can expect the Dragons to come out hungry, with Frantz and Fouch leading the way.  In their last games, Hofstra didn't allow a three to JMU ad DU didn;t hit one against C of C.  These things won't happen again, but look for success from deep to be a great indicator for how this game will go.

The Dragons have won six straight versus Hofstra now, the first winning streak of that length in the series since the teams joined the CAA (friend of the blog Jerry Beach ntes that that eight game DU winning streak ended in Richmond, Virginia, surprising no one).  HU senior Stephen Nwaukoni has only seen one win against DU in his four year Hofstra career, and has been struggling lately, so expect him to assert himself as only a senior can, fighting to break both streaks at once.  The Dragons shut him down in their first meeting this year, but doing that twice, especially with Allen back now, will be a chore.

Drexel played their best game at the DAC in quite some time in their last home game, and I look for a good Sunday night crowd (make it happen!) to add fuel to the fire.  It's the end of the season, and it's time to come together.  Hofstra is well coached and has significantly overachieved, they shouldn't be taken lightly, expect a fight, but win the rebounding, win the game.  The guards will do the rest.

One last note:  The ladies play before the men do on Sunday.  For those who haven't noticed, they have been an RPI top 110 team for the last five years and a team made up largely of underclassmen is looking to do that for a sixth straight year.  That says a hell of a lot for their coach.  It may not bring the above the rim game that the mens side can, but if you want to see basketball how its meant to be played, with a fun to watch motion offense and shooers all over the place, try to at least catch the end of the earlier game on Sunday.  Whether you're teaching your kids the game or just a purist, you'll enjoy it, and they usually play a competitve game, so you may catch some really good minutes at the end.

Prediction:  Drexel 71, Hofstra 64
Vegas Line: Drexel -10 5

Friday, February 14, 2014

College of Charleston - Learning From Our Mistakes

Final:  College of Charleston 47, Drexel 46
Player of the Game:  N/A
Key to the game:  Creating shots (or lack thereof)
Next Game:  Sunday Feb 16 vs Hofstra at the DAC (Mens/Womens Doubleheader)

Lets not kid ourselves, the College of Charleston defense is for real, it reminds us of Drexel teams past and it can grind you down to the dirt.  The defenses looked really good in a game where neither teams offense seemed to make an appearance, from Chris Fouch's mere 6 points to Adjehi Baru's 0-7 from the free throw line (he was a 69% free throw shooter entering the game).  A wide swath of the population will be talking about free throws after this one, as neither team broke 55% from the stripe and I personally think that they should re-measure the baskets at the TD Arena.  Even if Drexel had broken 50% from the stripe, free throws would be discussed whenever you lose by one after the other team picks up two on a head coaches technical.

Lets talk about that technical, because I think it's hilarious.  It certainly wasn't one of the all time Bruiser techs, as he's been much more animated to referees in the past.  What made this one amazing was that Bru took his use it or lose it timeout with 2.2 seconds left which makes no sense at all, and because he took that timeout he then was able to also get himself tech'ed up.  If he doesn't take the useless timeout, the odds are those two points stay off the board.  He really had to go out of his way with stupid to earn this tech, and he did, and if you're a long time Drexel fan and don't find that funny, you need to enjoy life a little more.

Sure, if Drexel had shot 100% from the line, they would have likely won this game.  They would also still not have broken 60 points.  It's not like the Dragons played well enough where anyone thought they deserved to win this thing, free throws or not.  A simply dreadful performance by The Cougars (with a hat tip to another decent defensive performance by DU, the third in a row, more on that in the HU pregame) helped the Dragons stay in a game where the Drexel offense played just well enough to get blown out.

In the pregame, Charleston's interior defense was the discussion, as they had depth, skill and experience.  The way to beat these guys was a drive and dish game, and effective perimeter shooting.  The Dragons were 0/9 from downtown, with Chris Fouch only getting three attempts.  The entire team combined for three assists, and outside of two memorable passes, the guys weren't creating anything for each other, which is the reason why Tavon Allen took 17 shots in this game, never a good sign, and between those 17 shots and 5 free throw attempts he finished with only 12 points, an atrocious effort, led by some viscous looking airballs.  This was an offense that appeared totally unprepared to face a good Charleston defense, and that's the reason the Dragons lost this game.

Frantz Massenat should be the player of the game, he tried to take over late in the second and get to the basket, but it was too late when he kicked that game up, and after the 0/2 from the line, can't well give it to him.  Bruiser, who showed some terrible use of timeouts, didn't appear to have the offense prepared despite four days off, and with the illustrious tech, almost redeemed all of that with a play out of a timeout that was absolutely beautiful with a minute left to play and scored DU an easy bucket.  Dartaye Ruffin played extremely good defense and competed on the boards against the best rebounding team in the CAA.  He danced around foul trouble to stay on the floor for 34 important minutes, but I can't well give POTG to someone with zero points.  Rodney only had 5 boards in a half hour of playing time, Major Canady ran into his own man for a travel, and while I thought Bah played well, niether he nor Wilson saw much action.  And so for the first time, there is no player of the game.

Maybe next time they'll fly.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

College of Charleston - My First Car was a Cougar

My first car was a sweet '91 Mercury Cougar, gave my friends quite a few white knuckles with that bad boy.  It's been a nostalgic evening here in downtown Philly as the Twitter-talk after the Syracuse/Pitt buzzerbeater has reminded me of some pretty good times, times like this:

That guy losing his shit in the yellow, behind the Drexel bench?  He writes a Drexel basketball blog now.  He's also thankful that schools have better cameras now.

Or this:

Jerry, I apologize

And this wasn't so bad either:

And so I'm feeling good after looking back on these things, I'm enjoying the snow out the window while downing a Williamsburg AleWorks Coffeehouse Stout (a definite perk of dating a girl living in Virginia Beach), all while coming up with a plausible explanation for why the weather will keep me out of the office despite living in the city.  I finally have some time to get caught up on an email backlog that I never thought I would see the end of, and even have a chance to get a blog post ready early for the first time in a month.  Heck, I even spoke well of Bruiser's in game coaching today.  Life my friends, is good.

And then it all came crashing down.  I had to write this preview, and its not good.  The Dragons have a lot working against them going into this one:

1)  As noted on Tuesday, this game is very likely to be Foulpalooza 2014.  Coach Wojcik is going to have 10 players he's willing to throw out there in this one for the Cougars, Coach Flint would prefer to keep it to 7 men on his side of the ball...  good luck with that.

2)  Charleston's marketing department has had this game circled on the calendar for a while, and they're calling it a blackout game, black shirts to everyone in attendance.  The Dragons may catch a break there with the weather, but DU isn't a team that's ever played well in front of empty seats either.

3)  Someone (who surely had good intentions, but...) had the Drexel hoops team bus 13 hours to this game, even though between PHL and either Charleston, Charlotte, or Wilmington, NC, 11 of the 14 scheduled flights flew today.  While this gave me a great opportunity to have some fun at Bru's expense on twitter (see below for an example) generally cramming anyone on a bus for 13 hours isn't particularly healthy, especially when those people are 6'8".  Dartaye should be able to take a shot at a dunk tank that whoever decided on the bus is sitting in.

4)  The Dragons don't particularly matchup well with this Charleston team.  Charleston's interior defense and rebounding is very good with three upperclass forwards alongside a 7'2" sophomore in David Wishon.  This will really cause problems for Fouch and Massenat when they penetrate and force more outside shots then we've seen from this team in a while, along with more Tavon Allen crazy looking 15 footers.  Shot selection hasn't been a strength of the Dragons this year, but they will need to be disciplined in this game if the offense is going to keep on humming.  Only two Dragons even attempted a three last game, so the drive and dish  game from Massenat needs to be featured more than ever.

5)  The Cougars have been playing good basketball lately.  Don't believe me?  This was Coach Doug Wojcik talking about their two losses:  "My team played really well.  I couldn't ask for more effort and execution from them."  Since freshman Canyon Barry has returned to the lineup, College of Charleston has beaten Hofstra by 18 in a game that wasn't as close as the score indicates, lost at Delaware in a one score game and took Towson to overtime on the road at TU.  They're finding a groove and have had four days off to prep for the Dragons.

The Dragons haven't been playing badly themselves.  If they can restrain the fouls a bit, a well rested Dragons team certainly has the talent to play with these guys.  They're going to have to shoot well from three to feel comfortable in this game, and Fouch is in that zone right now where he could just go off.  Settle in, reminisce a bit, get comfortable, get in front of the TV and cheer on your Dragons.  If you get a minute, throw your favorite Dragon memory into the comments below, it'd make for a fun read on a snow day.  Also, for an opposing view, the King Kresse Blog has done a really good job of covering things for C of C this year, and is worth a read.  

Stay safe, stay warm, and enjoy.

Prediction:  Charleston 69, Drexel 62
Vegas Line:  Charleston -3.5

In Which I Praise Bruiser Flint For an In Game Basketball Decision!


The above line was copied and pasted from the first half play by play available on (that's for all you longtime radio listeners out there).  Dartaye subbing in with nine to go in the half is nothing unusual, until you note these lines prior to the above listed line:


Ruffin had two fouls on him, and usually that's an automatic to the bench for the half for Bru, especially from a big man.  And while the injuries have caused a short bench, Bru still had options, neither Bah nor Williams had two on them, and with Tavon out he could have gone back to the four guard experiment.  Instead, Bru showed that he trusted his senior and Dartaye rewarded him in return by playing more than 7 solid (if not quiet) minutes without fouling.  He ended the game with 34 minutes played, 8 points and 7 boards and 4 fouls.  

The hoops nerds,  of which I am an undereducated but proud member, will tell you that sitting a guy due to fouls accomplishes very little.  Most coaches continue to do it, because that's the way its always been done, and they view minutes at the end of the game as more important than minutes in the middle.  In the case of guys who need to handle the ball against the press or shoot free throws with a lead, that's an argument worth making as those players can be critical at the end game.  For everyone else, there's not a great argument to be had for holding them until end game.  All that sitting Dartaye in those 7 minutes would have done would have him end the game with 27 minutes played and 4 fouls instead of 34 and 4 fouls.  Even if Dartaye had ended the game with just 28 minutes and 5 fouls, he still would have played an additional minute because Bru got him back in there, so the gamble is worthwhile.  In the past, Bru has been sitting almost all of his players with 2 fouls in the first half, in this game he took a gamble and won.  He's also played Massenat this year with 2 in the first half and generally seems to be evolving on this issue.

I'm sure a lot of what Bru has done this season that's away from his comfort zone, let it be the zone, the four guard, playing guys with foul trouble, is due to the injuries.  That doesn't mean that he hasn't been watching and learning.  Earlier this year Bru probably goes four guard in that spot, especially against a team like JMU that brings their forwards out to the perimeter on offense.  This time Bru didn't bite, but rather showed faith in his senior that I'm sure Dartaye not only appreciated, but that Dartaye rewarded the coach for as well.  That's the way these things should work.  A hat tip to both player and coach for making a potential bad situation a positive there.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Boogie Man

If you've been watching Drexel games this year, reading your well put together game notes, or reading this blog, you may have noticed the Dragons among the elite in the nation in turnovers.  As of this print, Drexel has moved into the #1 position in the country at turnover rate, and as a fan, as a numbers guy, and I'd imagine as a coach, that's been the cool thing about this years team, this is a team that won't beat themselves.  With a couple of exceptions this year, they've held their own or better on the boards, and they don't turn over the ball, so the number of offensive possessions that the other team receives are limited, and they need to perform well in them in order to beat the Dragons.  Well, that's the plan anyway, until The Boogie Man joins the Drexel roster.

Presented without comment, the conference play Free Throw Rates for CAA Teams (OK, there will be a lot of comments shortly):

Really looking forward to DU/C of C this week.  Or not.

FTR nationally is up this year, but the Dragons still find themselves in rarefied air relative to their teams of old.
   Free throw rate is derived as Free Throw Attempts over Field Goal Attempts.

In five CAA losses, the most consistent player against the Dragons has been FT Line.  Opponents have scored over 20 points per game from the stripe in Drexel's losses in conference play, and they haven't even been shooting lights out in those games, they're averaging 28.2 attempts.  Giving up 20+ points per game from the line will make your defense look worse than it is, except that fouling is part of the defense.  On a team that has the bodies to compete, but doesn't have the depth that they would like, foul trouble will be even more important just in keeping bodies on the floor too.  With the offense playing well, avoiding cheapie fouls should be priority 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 down the stretch, with maybe a hint of focus on rebounding as well.

We ran thru some of the fouls from the JMU game yesterday that put JMU on the line, here are some more examples from the UNCW game, many of which fit into the "low hanging fruit" basket insofar as fixing them goes.

Here's foul type one, the rookie.  Nothing here that isn't easily fixable, no reason to try the faceguard against this guy, and Rodney needs to be using both arms and getting them up:

Here's a second foul and this time it's a team effort:

In the first shot, you see the transition defense has held its ground and the Dragons are in their standard man to man.
In the second step you see Kazembe getting blown by in two steps by Chris Dixon as the Dub has a small lineup on the floor and the Dub pushed the mismatch.
Lastly you see Rodney coming over to help but not getting there in time.  He goes for the block and again, he isn't straight up.  Dixon is still able to get the shot off after the bump on the body and a mismatch on Abif just became Williams' fourth foul and an and one opportunity.

Rodney's fifth foul?  You guessed it, Mike Eades alleged that his arms weren't straight up on this shot:

Mike Eades probably needs an eye exam - go Tech yourself sir

If it seems like we're beating up on Rodney Williams here, it's for two reasons.  First, DU TV didn't get the first time UNCW went to the line on camera (it happens), two, this was a rare game where DU didn't put a team on the line that often, and three, PUT YOUR DAMN ARMS UP!  Five bucks says that's nicer than the coaches will tell it to him.  For the record, he only picked up three fouls in 29 minutes against JMU in the game following this one, and the foul rate has come way down for Rodney from early in the year, this was the only game that Williams has fouled out of in the last month, and good on him for showing that kind of improvement as a freshman.  It's that time of the year where freshman hit the wall now, and while it looks like he punched through that wall like a Sochi hotel room door in the last game, its a situation worth monitoring.

There's real, easy, cleanable stuff here.  The team has a few more days this week, while preparing for the soon to be Pre-Valentine's Foulfest Massacre in Charleston on Thursday, and then the week before the conference tournament to hit on these easy markers.  Clean them up, put The Boogie Man back in his place, and gain 5 points a game.  That's real and that's spectacular, and there's no easier way to get it.  Cut down 5 points a game on the defensive end?  Suddenly this team becomes really, really good.

Monday, February 10, 2014

James Madison - The Happy Recap

Final:  Drexel 78, JMU 60
Player of the Game:  Rodney Williams
Key to the Game:  55% field goal shooting
Next Game:  Thursday Feb 13 @ College of Charleston

Matt Brady and his marginally fighting Dukes rolled into the DAC on Saturday without the assistance of one Andre Nation, being held back at school due to what has only been described as "personal reasons".  (NB:  Nation is due back today it appears, so the Dragons really dodged a bullet there).  Well the easy read on this game will be that it was tied at the half before Drexel pulled away in the second half, the truth is a bit deeper, and the news is all good for the Dragons.

On a home court that Drexel has looked awful on for the last two years, JMU came in and was down only one at the half while missing their best player.  While that looks like a disaster of a no show from DU, once you look deeper at the numbers you will see that the worst three point shooting team in the conference (and one of the worst in the country) needed to shoot 50% from deep in the first half (6/12, for 18 of their 35 points) in order to stay close, and even that didn't have them leading.  In the second half regression came at them and came hard, as they pulled an o-fer (0/6) from downtown.  Once they gave up on the deep ball it looked like they spent the rest of the half passing the ball trying to get it into the hands of Andre Nation, who as mentioned, was sitting in Harrisburg.  No one wanted to shoot, the possessions got longer and longer and it became Drexel's game more and more.  JMU was never going to shoot 50% from behind the line for the game and without Andre Nation they were never going to win this game, a clicking Drexel offense ensured that.

The player of the game goes to Rodney Williams.  Rodney wasn't perfect, and in fact was called out by his coaches at times for not working hard enough to post up, but we can't overlook a double double with four blocks (I think he should have gotten credit for a steal as well).  As you'll see below, his help defense continues to improve and he's starting to gain some discipline.  At a time of year when most freshman are hitting the wall, Rodney had been struggling for a couple games so seeing this kind of performance from him in front of the home fans was spectacular to see.

Lest we forget the seniors, Fouch, Massent and Ruffin combined for 50 points on 19/36 (53%) from the field, including 7/15 (47%) from distance, 5/5 (100%) from the line (all Fouch), 9 assists, 4 turnovers and 2 steals.  Just as importantly, when Canady and Bah made mistakes, we got to see pictures like this one:

Coaches can only do so much, and a player is much more likely to listen to a senior player than just about anyone else.  Having these guys step in and help out the underclassman, especially in a year that they need their underclassman badly, is invaluable.  That is supplemented by the recent dominance of Massenat and Fouch, with Massenat finding his forwards (two more assists to Williams in this game, now 65 assists and only 16 turnovers in conference play, a league leading... by almost double the guy in second... 4.1 assist/turnover ratio) and Fouch finding his stroke (28% three point shooting in out of conference play, up to 40% in conference play).  Fouch is hitting that rhythm where open threes look like layups (and JMU gave him plenty), and it's a beautiful sight to see for Drexel fans.

The one area that was highlighted in the pregame, concern about the JMU guards getting to the line, did prove a worthy concern.  As projected, Charles Cooke got to the line on a regular basis in front of his hometown fans as JMU took 30 free throw attempts to Drexel's 17.  Had Andre Nation played, this could have gotten really ugly and with the loss of Kazembe Abif the DU frontline really can't sustain foul trouble at this point.  While getting to the line is a strength of the JMU offense, it has also been a brutal liability for the Drexel defense, as they've given up more than one foul shot for every two field field goal attempts their opponents have taken this year in conference play, good for eighth in the league.  They're actually giving up 51 free throws for every 100 opponent field goal attempts, which would fit in around around 318th in the country.  If the Dragons were able to fix that, their defense would look a hell of a lot better.  As a result, I took a look at Charles Cooke's trips to the line in this game, and I anticipate looking at another game during the week this week as we try to figure out what is causing this issue.  In the case of Mr. Cooke, his five trips to the line appear to be caused by abject stupidity.

Here's the first trip:

See Tavon Allen in front of Cooke on the perimeter:

See Tavon Allen getting blown by, in a manner so bad that if this was a cartoon his pants would be down.  Also note Chris Fouch in position under the basket in both this screen and the one prior.  Once again, just like W+M, JMU brings their bigs out to the three point line and empties the Drexel forwards out of the paint.

Despite Chris Fouch having been under the basket for long enough to start and finish War and Peace, his feet are moving when he steps in to help out, thus the defensive foul.  There's no way Cooke should have been shooting, Bru and the fans are right, since Cooke lost the ball on his own, but it's Chris' own fault that this wasn't an easy charge.  Good block call by the official.

Here's Cooke's second trip:

This time it is Massenat defending him.

This is not called, as Bah attempts to reach in and Massenat hand checks Cooke on his way to the basket.

Frantz actually recovers and does a good job of being straight up and in front of Cooke when he releases.  This probably shouldn't have been a foul, but with friend of the program Andrew Marotta on scene, all bets are off and Cooke gets the call.  The biggest thing worth noting on this, is the clock.  JMU doesn't get this possession if Frantz doesn't drive the ball with the shot clock off and twenty seconds left in the half.  Without looking, this is the third time Drexel has done this this year, with Allen shooting early at least twice.  These are errors that don't happen in grade school.  Someone needs to step up and be accountable for that because a foul on one of Drexel's best players is a big price to pay for being stupid.

Cooke's fifth and sixth foul shots were a one and one situation after being fouled on a defensive rebound he was getting.  Bah missed a bunny of a shot, but that happens and we move on.

Cooke's fourth trip to the line was the result of Tavon Allen throwing a lob about five feet short of the man he was throwing it to, the lob being intercepted, and becuase Allen watched his lob instead of getting back, he was behind the play and force to foul on the ensuing JMU fastbreak.

Cooke's final trip to the line is shown here:

Fouch is on Cooke this time and follows him through AARP member Semenov's screen:

Freddie Wilson reads the drive and starts cheating in to help, which is somewhat foolish since he's guarding a three point shooter but given JMU's propensity to drive and be awful from three may have been a coaches call and is fine.

Fouch still is in great position (although a little crossed up) as Cooke turns the corner.  Wilson on the other hand has gotten so up close and personal with the unnecessary help that you can't even see him in this frame.

As Wilson is left standing there, Rodney Williams comes with good help and him and Fouch have played this perfectly.  Canady is sliding in to help on Williams man and deny the pass and Ruffin is in position to box out Semeov on the rebound.  It's close to textbook.

Williams is in prime position when Cooke goes to shoot and the shot goes harmlessly off the hands of Williams... but the whistle had already been blown on Fouch.  Fouch didn't do much wrong, maybe got a hand caught in there well after Wilson had initially caused contact but since it looked like Cooke had been mugged when Wilson came out of nowhere and got into him, it was an easy call for the officials to make even when it shouldn't have been one at all.  There was just no reason for Wilson to leave his man and get in there, and it cost Chris.

Little things like these have cost the Dragons all year long.  A lot of these are effort plays, Freddie is trying to give something extra on the defensive end a known liability of his.  Frantz see's a lane and shoots for it, irregardless of the clock.  Allen... well I've got nothing for Allen, that's just bad basketball, in one of his weaker efforts of the season.

It was a good game, and the strongest the Dragons have played at home in quite some time.  But as is the case of any game, there's still things to work on.  Some of them are simple fixes and with five days between games (and probably a lot of upcoming flight problems on Wednsday, they should be looking to leave on Tuesday) now is the time to fix them.  It's time for the Dragons to stop giving away free points, and start hitting a stride before Richmond (eat it CAA Commish) Baltimore.

And one last add on, but an important one:  Great crowd on Saturday, and after taking a snowday off, the DAC Pack was back in force.  Not only were they present, large and loud but over half of the frontrow was female.  I'm pretty sure that is a (by a lot) record.  Way to represent DAC Pack!