Thursday, January 29, 2015

Northeastern – The Happy Recap!

Final: Drexel 65, Northeastern 60
Player of the Game (non-Lee edition): Rodney Williams
Key to the Game: Limiting NU opportunities
Next Up: Saturday, January 31 VS UNCW @ 4 PM

Hi, I’m not Dan, I’m Ryan, but you probably know me as DrachenFire (if you ever visited Busch Gardens Williamsburg, my namesake may have given you a concussion) or, if not that, as bottom right hand corner guy:
I was honored to be asked to fill in for last night’s game and provide a post-game recap. It’s probably a bit long and I wasn’t able to make the game, so I watched while trying to balance a two year old and keep him from knocking over the table holding my iPad with the game on. So here are my thoughts, if you don’t like them, blame Dan. It is his blog after all.

If you had checked the CAA standings prior to last nights’ games, you would have found 5 teams sitting above .500 in league play, separated by a game between the tied for first 6-2 teams (WM, UNCW and NU) and the 5-3 teams (HU and JMU). That Drexel was 0-4, and had lost by an average of 20 points to 4 of them, probably didn’t elicit a great deal of confidence as they hosted the fifth of those teams in Northeastern to wrap up the first half of conference play. However, the Bru Crew were coming off a 53-51 homecoming win against Charleston and received the good news that Rodney Williams would be making his conference debut which hopefully would turn into the great news that the 4 guard lineup was dead.

As posted in the pregame, and as should be remembered by anyone who watched the NU/DU tourney game last year, Northeastern is a heavily in the paint centered offense. Here’s the chart again:

48.7% of their shots occur at the rim and they make 56.5% of them. While it was mentioned that their overall offensive rebounding isn’t the best, they are currently 3rd in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage in conference play. So the key was to limit their shooting opportunities by crashing the glass and causing them to keep turning the ball over (fun stat: Drexel is #1 in defensive turnover percentage in CAA play) while limiting our own turnovers. Special focus would be placed on keeping Scott Eatherton from reaching the 17.0 PPG and 13.3 RPG he averaged in three meetings against Drexel last year.

As the game tipped, we were treated to the familiar 3 guard, 2 forward setup, and there was much rejoicing. Burry the 4 guard, pee on its fresh grave and onto getting things turned around! For the first 9:16, things were going relatively well. Northeastern was running their offense, but the Dragons were right there hanging tough, playing at a good pace and only down by 3. At the under 12, Eatherton subbed out with 6 points and 2 boards and the hand of the 4 guard punched its way through its freshly dug grave and checked into the game. Drexel went on a quick 4-0 run to take the lead and Coen sent Eatherton back in and Bru did not respond. While Eatherton only provided 2 more points, NU’s continuing focus at the rim as well as their first two made three-pointers allowed the Huskies to end the half on a 19-8 run to head into the break leading 29-19. The half ended with Drexel having the same amount of shots, while shooting worse, even rebounding and -1 in the turnover department while playing over half the time with 4 guards. That led to this internal conversation during halftime:

Me: Hey Dr. Zillmer, what diagnosis do you give a coach that continues to go 4G expecting different results?
Zillmer: The same diagnosis as someone who continues to watch and has imaginary conversations with the AD.
Me: Curses. You win this round Imaginary Zillmer.

The second half should be a reason of great optimism for the Dragon faithful – almost all 3 guard, 2 forward. They limited the Huskies to only taking 21 second half shots to their 32, they out turnovered them 8-0 and, while winning the total rebounding margin by only 3, they only permitted the Huskies 1 offensive rebound, just to not be poor hosts. It was an almost complete reversal of the first half; one that saw the preferred lineup go +18 for the half to erase the 10 point halftime deficit, and ending the game +15, compared to the total game -10 of the 4 guard lineup. It’s time to bury the 4 guard for good, at least during meaningful game time. There may be a place for it on offense when trying to hold a lead late in the game.

I know I’m going to get some flak for picking Rod as the POG. We all know what Damian can do, and Sammy played very well last night contributing 10 points, but I’m sticking with Rodney. The post-Samme era has been plagued by injuries, yes, but also the complete unbalancing of the offense. Since the 06-07 season, which best I can tell is when we went to primarily the 3G/2F set, the shot distribution has been about 60-40 to 65-35 in favor of the guards. The bigs provided 33-45% of the points each season and scored a combined 20 or more points around 24 times each season. Drexel went 93-49 when the bigs provided 20+ points, when they didn’t 23-27. Since Samme’s graduation the shot spread has gone 75/25, 80/20 and through the Iona game this year 75/25. Big point contributions shrunk from 35% in Samme’s last year to 24%, 23% and 25% post Iona. Rodney was responsible for 60% of big FGAs, and was 3rd on the team in FGAs. In the first 8 CAA games, guards shot 9 out of every 10 shots and scored 91% of the points. The bigs were only averaging 4.6 shots per game. In his first game back, Rodney had 8 attempts and the spread was back down to 80/20. Still not good, but better, and as Rodney knocks the rust off, hopefully things even out a bit more. It’s important. They don’t get the 20 nearly enough post-Samme, but they still win – 12-5 past three years, opposed to 23-41 when they don’t.

As for Lee, who I haven’t really mentioned until now because he truly deserves to stand alone, he went off for 33 (24 in the second half) on 9/16 shooting, 3/5 from three and 12/12 at the line. If this were broadcast on one of the NBC networks, they would have had to superimpose the peacock feathers as he strutted to the line towards the end of the game he was so confident he would knock them down. I know the team has had issues this year, but you owe it to yourself, Damion and the team, because they have played their butts off this year, to head to the DAC because he is special to watch. Hopefully, the team can start to pull themselves out of the hole they dug the first 8 games so his POY chances start to increase. His odds should be high now if you look at his conference rankings beyond points (he’s up to 23.1) and minutes played. He’s 5th in RPG, 2nd in defensive RPG; he’s 13th in assists per game and 5th in steals. Seriously, just give him the award now. Consider all that, and what this team would look like if he wasn’t on it. The horror. There’s no way to know how many more chances you’ll have to see him live and in person on Sam Cozen Court. Pack the DAC, cheer him on, cheer on the rest of the team and let’s keep the momentum going!


  1. Good piece. Question, you named Rodney POG, but didnt say why. Love historical stats, but I got a brain cramp, and they didnt explain Rod POG.

    1. He did explain this. By having another forward back, it forced Bru in playing 2 forwards and killing the 4 guard lineup.

    2. I kind of got bogged down in the numbers.

      Rodney was more a symbolic selection vs the output he provided. The premise being, besides Damion, guards that don't shoot well should not be taking 8 of 10 shots when Rodney is healthy. When Rodney gets hurt, you shouldn't throw another guard out there and then let them take 9 of 10 shots while only having one big to grab boards. Things went from ridiculous to ludicrous.

      Rodney back for only one game got guard shooting back to 8 of 10 and kept 4 guards off the court for 75% of the game. It's still not where I would like things to be, but it's sub-plaid.