Thursday, November 20, 2014

Miami Jailbirds - Pregame

"I am DVRing the game today, I want to be surprised by how many points we lose by."

"Drexel is only a 9 point dog against Miami?  [Vegas] knows something we don't"

"[The Dragons] acted like they had never seen a press before"

Ladies and Fellas, I'm not even in Philly, the above are pieces of emails/tweets/text that I've gotten since Monday.  To say that there is no joy in Mudville right now may be the understatement of the century.  Going up against a team that will show the Dragons a bunch of different looks, apply plenty of pressure, and that just knocked off a small team from Florida, some concern is probably fair, but the tides may have shifted a little much for just two games in.

The bad news for the Dragons comes in threes here:

1)  There's usually some Dragon advantage in out of conference play because the opposing coach hasn't seen Bruiser's unchanged system 20 times before.  With Jim Larranaga on the opposing sideline, that advantage is wiped away.  And since "Coach L" changes tactics over time, he will have an advantage that Bru will not.

2)  For those who haven't heard, the injury of the week is Austin Williams.  After missing the SJU game, he's now reported to be out 6-8 weeks.  Sooren Derboghosian has moved from 5th to 3rd in the big man depth chart already this year, and he hasn't exactly earned it on merit.

3)  Miami is just going to press all day, and if you were an opposing coach that had seen the SJU tape, so would you.  As previously noted, that makes Wilson likely a better play than Allen, but it's highly unlikely that you see a whole lot of that because, coaching.

There is good news though!  For one thing, come on man (and woman), the DU hoops season isn't over yet.  I promise.  I think each of us should find a Dragon fan right now and do a little of this:

Certain teams are better in a fast paced game, and certain teams favor a slower tempo.  This is an area that I don't think coaches (not just as DU, but across the nation) frame in the correct way right now.  Beyond what your team seems best at, there are studies that will show that the lower the shot clock, the lower the odds of your team making a basket is.  Also, think of a coin flip, the fewer the number of times you flip it, the more often a statistical anomaly will happen, such as having all heads or all tails, even though we know that over time the coin should land heads or tails around 50% of the time each.  The same is true in basketball: the fewer possessions, the smaller the sample size, the more likely it is that a fluke happens.  This is why when DU has their best teams, the slow pace makes me want to slam my head up against the wall, but at times like this, when the program is struggling, it's just what the doctor ordered.

Last year, Miami was one of the slowest playing teams in the country.  This year there is no sign of that letting up.  Couple that with DU's slow pace and you have the recipe for a third straight Drexel University game where the first to 50 points wins.  That slow pace also pushes the odds of the statistical anomaly, such as Drexel, the underdog, hanging with Miami.  And it's also why the thoughts of Miami winning by double digits is so bizarre.  Miami would almost have to hold the Dragons in the 30's for the game to cover that.  That 9 point spread in a first to 50 game isn't small at all, it's huge.

Add to all of that the clear letdown spot Miami is in.  This game will be played in front of no one on a neutral court, and the Hurricanes are also coming off of the big cross state win over Florida.  So it's a huge line, in a let down spot, do with that what you will.  For Drexel though, it's about winning the game, and there is one simple way that they can do this.  Hold on to the damned ball.

In a game this low scoring every point matters even more than usual.  So foul shots will be critical (it's important for DU that once again Damion is the guy who gets sent to the line time and time again, another reason why he should be handling the ball more) and the game will be won and lost either at the stripe or with turnovers.  Miami isn't Saint Joe's, if a player provides them with 10+ free points, this game will get into blowout city.  The good news for the Dragons is that they came out of that SJU game knowing that the big concern was the turnover.  If they can hang onto the ball, and get through the press without providing the Canes with easy points, then this game is suddenly even lower scoring, and anybody's to win.  That's the key to the game: beat the press, and keep it slow and easy, a lesson that they should have learned after the Hawks game.  Do that and we'll have ourselves a ballgame after all.

And if all else fails, just remember Drexel fans:  It's not your fault*

Prediction:  Miami 56, Drexel 49
Vegas Spread:  Miami -9
TV note:  This is a 3pm EST ESPNU game

Alan Boston's notes:  A long time marginal top 25 program is now a semi annual threat to go far in the tournament. The fantastic Jim Larranaga has brought his scramble defense to the south. He uses a pressing style, which, if handled, will slow the tempo and if not will lead to many dunks for Miami. With Drexel's inability to handle St Jos press and their overall shaky guard play, Bruiser had better be working on a way to handle it, or Drexel will be in for a very long night.

* Eric Zillmer - Sorry, it might be

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