Wednesday, February 18, 2015

JMU (away) - Pregame

The Dragons head to God's rest area, Harrisonburg, Virginia to take on James Madison University tonight.  When last they met, the Dukes kept switching up their defenses, from a base 2-3 to a 1-3-1 and on and on, en route to one of the most disappointing offensive efforts of Bruiser Flint's career.

Lets not say that Drexel played right into their hands, lets use familiar terms:  They took what they were given.  The zone will concede jumpshots, and make it hard to get inside.  How little did DU get inside?  Their forwards took a combined 6 shots, while every guard had at least 5 by themselves.  So that may be an area to look for improvement in.

The really scary point from that game is that the Dragons were up 9-0.  JMU spotted DU nine points before they got their DAC legs under them, and the rest of the game was 54-26, Dukes.  When Drexel traveled to Kentucky to play John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and friends in 2009, they were doubled up 88-44.  The last 35 minutes of the home game against JMU was worse than that.  No, no, I can not wrap my head around that, but thanks.

Assuming Rodney Williams health (and he sent out an "I'm OK" tweet, which bodes well) [UPDATE:  He will play] his presence obviously helps this game.  If he is left in a 1 on 1 situation in the post, he'll be expected to win it, and his teammates will feed him the ball in a way they have yet to with the other forwards.  Sammy Mojica only took 6 shots in the first meeting (he went 4 of 6) and you can expect Drexel's second best three point shooter to pull the trigger more often and with more confidence this time around.

In other shooter news, we're starting to hear some fans rumbling about Damion Lee's stamina and his regular 40 minute outings catching up to him.  That certainly could be happening, he's 4th in the country in percentage of teams minutes played.  I'm of the camp that Damion is infallible though, and I take you back to NFL Week 4, 2014.  The Patriots were utterly destroyed and all we saw on ESPN for the week was Stephen A Smith & Co telling us Tom Brady was washed up.  Damion Lee is a great player, and just perhaps people are confusing two games of him looking human as signs of trouble.  The guy hit 18 of 18 free throws and averaged 18 points in the last two games.  Does that sound like a guy with no legs to you?   Because it sounds like the conference player of the year who is about to put up 25 on James Madison to me.  Great players love to answer the critics.

As for the Dukes, they're better than you think.  Joey McLean was a DNP freshman to start the year, now he's picking up some of Andre Nation's disposed of minutes and scoring with efficiency.  Jackson Kent is still a 6'7" perimeter shooter who you can't cheat off of.  Yohanny Dalembert is putting together an All-CAA caliber season while leading three other forwards as a deep and skilled pack.  Ron Curry has very quietly turned into an elite point guard, showing distribution skills, a 39% shot from distance, and an ability to drive and get to the line.  I started trying to sneak this out there last week, but JMU is currently my favorite to get to the Dance from the CAA.  So this game becomes quite a road test for a Dragons team coming off of a staggering loss at home.

The cynics will say that the JMU Athletic Department kept giving Andre Nation chances until he was no longer effective for them on the court.  I on the other hand... will let the cynics say that without interruption.  Since his dismissal, JMU is 7-3, is one game out of first in the CAA and has only one road game left on the calendar.  Once again Matt Brady has positioned himself and his team to finish strongly.  If anything gets the Dukes, it will be their defense, and this is the main concern for the Dragons.  The JMU team profile: lackadaisical on defense, effective on offense, profiles similarly to Hofstra, even though they get there in very different ways.

One thing to look for when studying the #3G/#4G tonight?  One of the biggest weaknesses in a zone is rebounding.  If they put him in, a second forward (specifically Tyshawn Myles) could have a very good night and keep this game interesting.  In the first matchup, the #3G was used for only 3 minutes.  We will learn a lot about the effect of Rodney Williams return by the end of this one, and hopefully it helps this team break the zone, stop taking jumpers, and keep it close.

Between the first meetings outcome, the likelihood that DU goes four guard against the zone and settles for jumpshots yet again, and JMU's marked improvement, it's tough to pick the Dragons here.

Prediction:  JMU 71, DU 64
Vegas Line:  JMU -5*

*This has had a significant drop in early action, insinuating that some of the wise guys out there have already backed the Dragons.  Can't complain about that as a DU fan, hopefully they're right.

Alan Boston's Take:  James Madison plays zone. Everyone knows, Drexel included. Yet when they first met in Philly, it appeared that Drexel had never seen a zone. Much to my chagrin Drexel lost 54-35. Yes, they put up a whopping 35. What would the 30 second clock that they are going to further ruin the game with do to the score? Likely nothing. Since Bruiser is incapable of learning that 4 guards does not work, I am sure that they have not figured out how to attack a zone yet either. James Madison has shot the lights out recently. Perhaps they will head to the norm. If so, they could stay within 10. If not, another rout is on.

James Madison 60 Drexel 42

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