Here on the blog, we like to look at numbers (if you like to skip the math, see the summary below). So put this in the ole pipe and smoke it. Even with the superhuman Player of the Year level effort from Damion this year, his team is still only averaging .98 points per possession, which is 257th out of 351 DI teams. If we eliminate the possessions the 27.9% of Drexel's possessions that he was involved in, that number sinks to .92 points per possession, a number that would have the Dragons below every member of the Patriot League. It equates to about 57 points per game for the Dragons. That's a team that isn't guaranteed to break 50 each time they hit the hardwood. So again, lets remember that even men cry, take a good sob, and try to figure out just how screwed the Dragons are as their anticipated offensive average drops from 60 points per game to 57 in one fell swoop.
Can't be all about the numbers though, can we? We have to consider the intangibles (trademark Danny Hinds). Damion Lee brought leadership and beyond that made his teammates better. How many times has Sammy Mojica been open in the corner because the defense was worrying about Damion? Seen a double team down low? Not going to happen because they're worrying about DLee. And now defenses can throw zones with even more aggression, because they aren't scared of Damion shooting them out of it. Wipe away that tear, brothers and sisters.
Wipe away those tears because: math. As noted at length in this space, the coaching staff of the Dragons has been shooting themselves in the foot all year with the four guard defense. When that unit has been in, DU has actually been one of the worst defenses in the entire country. With Lee gone and only four guards left, expect that defense to go too. Not only will more pressure be put on the front court, which is something to be excited about as we watch them get involved with the rest of the team, but the defense will almost surely improve significantly. How significantly? Here's an update since last weeks four guard column:
|*Includes games since Rodney Williams return vs Northeastern 1/28/15. Regarding NU number, please see note below|
Quite a turnaround and illustration of small sample sizes in the two games since the last report. While both sets regressed slightly when playing two of the better CAA teams in their home gyms, the significant differential stays. We do see a whale of an outlier vs NU. Note that I did not include the overtime of that game which would have brought the four guard back to the mean. Without Williams available, with the team clearly spent and with most of the OT spent at the FT line, I decided that those 5 minutes were more garbage stats than worthy of including. Any number of statisticians just rolled over in their graves because I did that, but since I am only discounting data that helps my argument, I feel alright about it. These numbers just became more conservative than they needed to be. As for the rest of the NU game, it's an outlier. They beat NU going mostly 4 guard in Rodney's return too, so those games may be worth a review at some point, but for now lets credit NU's softness, see it as the one off that it is and move on.
Now, lets be conservative. Say the 25 minutes per game that DU spends in the 4 guard now will go to the 3 guard and the defense will allow .934 ppp, a 5% increase over what it has been giving up with that set. That change from the 4 guard "defense" to the 3 guard defense is worth a stunning .21 points per possession, or about eight points a game.
Offensive points per game lost by Damion's absence (not including intangibles): 3 points per game
Conservative estimate for defensive points gained by killing the four guard: 8 points per game
Using these numbers, expected average score for DU games going forward: DU 57, Opponent 58
Scoring average for total year thru today: DU 60, Opponent 65
The offense had improved a bit during this recent stretch so the drop may be slightly more than shown above, especially with the other guys on the roster seeing more attention. The conservative numbers used on the defensive side should help offset those possible additions on the offensive ledger. The immediate takeaway is this: The Dragons should still be competitive, even with the loss of Lee. While losing Damion is a body blow to the offense, backing the coaches into a corner that involves improving their defense by at least 7 points a game is almost, if not more than, as significant of a change. With only three games left, averages don't mean much and it comes down to matchups more than anything, but if these numbers are indicative at all, the Dragons still have some fire left to breathe.