Now, put yourself in Bruiser's shoes this January:
--You just lost the only forward that you trust implicitly at both ends of the court, Rodney Williams, to injury. Now the cupboard has only 3 forwards in it, two of whom are freshman. Forwards tend to take longer to develop than guards in Drexel's system, so pushing them along faster doesn't seem like a sound tactic.
--Iona and Penn St both just shot >40% against the Dragons from behind the arc, and an area that you have always prided yourself in, perimeter defense, is as shaky as it's been in the last decade.
--Your offense is in the bottom 50 in offensive efficiency in D-I. Since you don't ask the forwards not named Rodney to contribute to the shooting effort, you had been playing 4 on 5 on offense. Without Rodney available, if you stuck with 2 forwards, you would be playing 3 on 5.
These were the pressing issues at that time. So looking back, it gets much easier to see why they went to the four guard. And after a few games of adjustment, the perimeter defense was light years improved, Sammy Mojica - previously buried behind Tavon Allen on the depth chart - was found and his shooting led to a significant increase in offensive production that took some of the load off of Tavon and the point guards shoulders. And after years of begging for Bru to make adjustments, to change his offense with the times, and to make things prettier, that's exactly what happened. As a fan, if you're looking at this move in isolation, it should have been reason for applause, not complaint.
However, there is a reason why coming off of making this change, shoring up those problem areas, and then winning six in a row, there is still cause for concern. Some thought that the four guard was struggling since it needs an athletic, solid defender at the center spot who can move well and help out all over the floor. Then Rodney returned, and the Dragons rolled. Why then, the concerns? Lets start with facts:
|Assuming 61 possessions / game (current Drexel average)|
Some of the original issues were solved with the four guard. The offense is better with the four guard to the tune of 4 points per game. Both the 3G and 4G styles have seen a significant boost since Rodney returned, and also since Sammy Mojica started getting minutes - something that may never have happened without the move to the new set. Opponents are attempting and hitting less three pointers. But all of those gains are taken away in multiples by how bad the interior game became.
Even with Rodney back, DU is having an impossible time keeping opponents away from the rim, an issue that runs well beyond last weekends Hofstra encounter. The rebounding is just as poor, if not worse: Drexel is last in the league in both offensive and defensive rebounding during conference play. Drexel is only grabbing offensive boards on 24.6% of their missed shots, which would be in the bottom 20 nationally. To illustrate, if both teams shoot the same from the field:
The problem with that graphic is that we're assuming that both teams shoot the same percentage. We know from experience, as well as from Bru calling his team the worst shooting team in the conference, that this is unlikely. Here are those numbers again using current shooting averages:
Since those numbers include shooting and rebounding, the only way to counterbalance them is to beat the opposition badly in the turnover department. That's a tough hill to climb, although we've seen huge improvement in the DU guards since their early season troubles. All of that, quite frankly, is inside baseball when the top line is all we need. Defensively, there is a 17 point per game difference between the three guard and four guard sets. That's the ballgame. There may be some bottom feeders that don't take advantage of it, and sometimes Drexel can outshoot a team like UNCW. But don't miss the point there, Drexel shot 60% against UNCW at home, and still had to hold on late to win. With their expected year in and year out defense, when DU shoots 60%, they crush people. They didn't do that to the Dub, and that is a significant red flag.
This team has vastly improved since the start of the season and the staff should be thanked for that. Part of the reason for that improvement is this new wrinkle to Drexel's game, it found some depth and talent at the end of the roster that had been underutilized. And if you're a believer that Bru can't teach or adjust offense, but can fix any defense out there, then maybe this is attractive and we just need to give the four guard time. The offense is better with the four guard, no one is questioning that, so if the defense gets fixed... That gets interesting, doesn't it?
Having not seen enough signs of defensive improvement (and it would have to be massive improvement), I still believe it's time for this experiment to end. This team is better doing what it knows, what it practiced all offseason and what it has been successful with since Rodney's return. Once again on the blog, we reference this:
In the 6 games since Rodney Williams return, the Dragons +/- vs opponents has been:
3 Guard: +25
4 Guard: -13
This Drexel team may not be a great team, but its looked good in its base set. While it can beat the conference dregs in the four guard, Hofstra just showed what happens when the Dragons face a real offense in its small lineup. With Northeastern and William and Mary looming, it's important to get this fixed now. If they want to win in Baltimore, they will need to beat the big dogs. If they want to win in Baltimore, I think we all now know what they need to do.
The four guard is better on offense, the coaching staff is entirely correct about that. As a result, here's the lineups that would optimize performance down the stretch when going offense/defense late in games:
Offense when the opposing team is fouling:
Some data from this article was sourced by hand. That data can be found at on this Google spreadsheet if you're interested or want to double check my math