Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Damion Lee Figured It Out

Twitter lit up yesterday about Damion Lee's upcoming departure from the Drexel Basketball program.  Amongst other things, it was called a good move for him and a crushing blow to Drexel Athletics.

A crushing blow for Drexel Athletics?  Perhaps only in the same sense that one crushes a car into a cube after it was ruined in an accident.  This is an Athletics Department with a Communications Director that does not understand Twitter in the year 2015.  It promoted an individual to Vice President of Development who went out of her way to insult a former donor shortly after taking the position (the department was notified and took no action).  Supporters have watched ticket sales drop significantly* while the university community has grown dramatically in size.  The individuals in charge of External Relations have received promotions throughout the decline.

To be fair, many of the people listed above are very good people who are Drexel Blue and Gold through and through, but unfortunately they have been working in an environment where status quo has been very much accepted and promoted.

Drexel is a technology driven campus, yet the Athletic Director has never shown a push for communications technology, he hasn't asked for accountability in ticket sales.  The Athletics Department has not come remotely close to keeping pace with the technology focus of the rest of the University, and that is not on the department's employees, but rather on their leadership - it starts from the top.  Even the flagship  men's basketball program did not have funds available to purchase a login for advanced metrics software, leaving them well behind the "Moneyball" technology curve of their competition.  Rather than pushing for a technology focus that embraces the Drexel philosophy, Dr. Zillmer has let the DAC offices embrace the status quo in the same way a tenured professor might as they wind down their career towards retirement.  When he doesn't give the staff the tools and guidance that they need to succeed, it's not the staff's fault when they don't succeed.

This attitude is visible even deeper into the basketball operation.  After going zero for eleven in his annual quest for a conference title, and within two years of having two of his players arrested for armed robbery, Men's Basketball Coach James "Bruiser" Flint was given a lengthy extension and a one hundred thousand dollar raise.  Maybe Zillmer approves of Bruiser routinely putting some of the worst shooters in the country on the floor and encouraging them to shoot.  How else could he justify convincing President Fry to sign off on making Coach Flint the third highest salaried Drexel employee at almost a half a million dollars per year.  Donors and Administration alike have seen that investment turn talented players such as Chris Fouch, Frantz Massenat and Damion Lee into a mediocre (26-26) conference record in the three years since the new deal was signed.  While investing in athletics has proven successful at many national colleges and universities (including conference peers) it is harder to get a return when the money is being used to try the same strategy a fourth time, continuously expecting different results.

Bruiser won't take you where you need to go.  It took Damion Lee only four years to figure out what Dr. Eric Zillmer couldn't when he signed the latest deal with Coach Flint, eleven years into their Coach/AD relationship.    Says Damion: "I've got to do this for myself."  The supporters of this program - people who believe that investment in Drexel Basketball can yield a positive return for the university - have been overwhelmingly supportive of Damion's decision.  They uniquely understand that Damion was not getting the return on investment that he was hoping for when he came to Drexel - and neither are they.

Was Damion's announcement a crushing blow for Drexel Athletics?  Nope.  It's just another kick to a shrinking donor base that is growing tired of the status quo.

I reached out to the Athletics Department for comment on this story and was told that Dr. Zillmer was unavailable for comment.  

The Athletics Department has been maintaining a policy of not commenting on Fan Blogs.  I reached out to them this past Thursday to discuss that policy, and as of this time I have not received a response to that request.

*In the Dragons worst season under Coach Flint they went 12-20 (5-13 in conference) in the 2007-2008 season.  They averaged 1,695 fans per game that season.  This season, with a better team than that one, DAC attendance averaged just 1,360, an almost 20% decline since the 07-08 season.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Bracket Tips from the Analytics Department

Before you last minute folks start, or while you early birds can still edit your picks, here's some guidance from the stat room floor:

Location Matters

Studies have shown over and over again that referees calls are influenced by fan behavior.  This is a fact of life.  In arenas where there is a strong rooting interest, there will be an advantage at play for the well supported team.  In the NCAA tournament, those fans will also root for a live underdog in the other game at the same arena, hoping their team will get an easier draw.  Here are some teams with large followings who will see some type of home court draw:

Kentucky, rounds 2&3 (Louisville)
Kansas, rounds 2&3 (Omaha)
Dayton, rounds 2&3 (Columbus)
Virginia, rounds 2&3 (Charlotte)
Duke, rounds 2&3 (Charlotte)
Gonzaga, rounds 2&3 (Seattle) (fans will also root for Davidson)

Look for Balance

In the last two seasons, 14 of the 16 Elite 8 teams were in the top 50 in the country in both offensive and defensive efficiency.  Only last years Dayton and Michigan teams were the outsiders.  Here are a list of contenders that people are picking this year, but will not end the year in the top 50 in both categories.  Don't expect a deep run from:

Team (Seed)
Iowa St (3)
Notre Dame (3)
Louisville (4)
Arkansas (5)
Butler (6)
Cincinnati (8)
Oregon (8)
NC State (8)
San Diego St (8)
LSU (9)

(So if you didn't like Wofford before in that 5/12 game in Jacksonville, being played in an arena full of UNC fans rooting for Wofford, well...  it might be time to hop on that bandwagon)

Winning Streaks Lead to Winning It All

In the past decade, 6 of the 10 NCAA Tournament winners were "major conference" teams that also won their conference tournament.  Since only 7 of the teams in the field were major conference winners (6 before the American Athletic Conference came around), an over 50% hit rate from those 7 of 64 teams is extremely impressive.  The sample is small, but it seems to point to the idea that no one "needs a loss" to go into the tournament hungry.  Here are your major conference tourney winners this year:

Iowa St*
Notre Dame*

* These teams were "unbalanced" in the section above, leaving the other 5 teams as better selections to be likely to move deep into (or win) the tourney

Defense Wins Championships

As mentioned in the prior blog post, in the past 5 years, every national champion has been in the top 15 nationally in defensive efficiency and done that against top 20 offensive strength of schedules.  Here are the teams that could do that this year:


Going back more than 5 years, the defense stat holds, but strength of schedule becomes slightly less important. If you lax the SOS requirement, Arizona comes into play here as well.  Also, if Georgia had been a top 9 seed, then they would have been on the unbalanced list above, so don't buy in quite yet.  And Georgetown has been on this list and lost in the first weekend many times before, so they aren't worth the buy in either.  If we cross reference these three list, only 3 teams avoid the first category and hit both of the next two:


As a Drexel fan, it's scary to see how easy Villanova's path is to an Elite 8 battle likely with Virginia or Oklahoma.  With no Philadelphia representative in the tournament this year, that run would be very well covered, and with it being the 30 year anniversary of the 85 team well, I hope you like hearing about Nova if you're in the local Drexel area.

That Wisconsin/Arizona Elite 8 rematch from last year is must see TV if it happens.  On the revenge aspect alone, I would favor Arizona in what will likely be a pick em in Vegas.

One Last Note

I've never won a bracket pool in my life.  The greatness of March is that it supersedes number, every game is one small sample size after the next, and we will cheer like hell for Cinderella the entire way. So after you're done with this and carefully made your picks...  rip it up and just flip a coin for each game.

March is here.  Enjoy the holiday.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Fade to Red and Black

First off, lets appreciate and extend our congratulations from our small Drexel supporter community to our brothers and sisters in co-op up at Northeastern.  For the second year in a row, a former America East team has won the Colonial Athletic Association Championship, which probably has no relationship at all with the tournament's move north to Baltimore.  This year the title was won by a team that had been 24 years removed from cutting down the nets, that plays in a gym that exactly no one besides themselves appreciates, led by an academic "everyone gets a trophy" type AD, with minimal capital expense contributions from the school or alumni base.  I'm not saying they have an apathy problem, but there were about 12 students in attendance at the CAA Championship Game that weren't paid to be there.  And I'm not sure those 12 weren't.  For Drexel fans, this represents hope.

And that is the biggest message coming out of this years CAA Tournament.  Want to be the next VCU?  The CAA is ripe for the taking.  Looking at the investment that Towson has put into basketball, it's easy to see them being the next team to take off, and that is a pattern that can be easily followed.  As weak at the Colonial may be at the moment, this is what makes today the easiest time yet to invest in excellence and make this a launching pad for any CAA school with a stomach for the investment.  The big dogs from Virginia that had to be beaten in Virginia to advance aren't there anymore.  If you're a value investor, now is the time to buy in the CAA.

The next league-wide message that was sent this weekend is a simple one.  Listen to Calvin Hicks and play defense.  Including this years Northeastern team, six of the last seven CAA Champs have been either first or second in the league in defensive efficiency.  This obviously knocks the new tendency to try running the four guard, as defense starts at home - protect the rim.  Tip for your bracket pools:  In the last 5 years, every national champion has been in the top 15 nationally in defensive efficiency and done that against top 20 strength of schedules.  Teams that look like they can end with those stats this year are limited to:


Whenever we look at stats we should be looking at why they show what they show.  I invite your thoughts in the comments below, but my thoughts are simple:  Shooting is hard.  Heard it here first folks.  Teams can play defense and rebound with dead legs.  Shooting is a bit more of a challenge.  When college teams get to the late season, and have back to back to back games, or even games on a single days rest such as the end of the weekend tourney game, those are pain points for teams full of shooters, and where defensive teams make their money.   Just ask William and Mary.

The final takeaway from this weekend has to be about the CAA Championship itself.  I stayed through Sunday and then commuted on Amtrak on Monday night.  From the Inner Harbor hotels, to the bars of Fells Point to the Royal Farms Arena itself, hospitality was top shelf all the way around.  The era of roof leaks onto the basketball floor, restrooms out of paper towel, and boarded up blocks of commercial space between the hotel and the arena appears to be over for the CAA, and that is a great step forward.  For Drexel fans, the 4:55pm Amtrak Northeast Regional from 30th Street Staion had me inside the arena at 6:25pm when I traveled during Monday's rush hour for the title game, and I could have been back in Philly by 11pm.  That's an opportunity that only Virginia teams had for a very long time, and now that we have that opportunity here in Philadelphia, I encourage you to make that trip, even if only for one day, when Drexel fields a competitive team in the tournament next year.  This may be the first CAA Tournament that I've been to where the only complaints were about the officiating, and credit needs to be given where it is deserved, both with the city, and yes, even the CAA League Office for putting together a very successful weekend.  With one year left on the deal with Baltimore, lets all hope, and speak up, for an extension with the city.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Previewing the CAA Final

There have been longstanding rumors (at times verified) that if you want to find a younger member of the Boston Red Sox around 3am during a homestand, you may want to start looking in the dorms and apartments of Northeastern University co-ed's.  A much lessor known fact is that I also considered Northeastern my second home during my collegiate career, albeit with fewer women involved.  I've never had a bad experience on NU's campus, even when the I tried to oversleep the Red Sox 2004 victory parade that I'd flown up just to witness.  Drexel's sister school in co-op, much like Drexel itself, is full of class acts, runs a clean athletics program, and may, according to rumors, have a slightly noncompetitive Athletics Director.  It seems more exact replica than sister school.

And if we're talking about squeaky clean programs, lets talk William and Mary.  Little known fact about Tony Shaver:  The alleged CAA guru's record is 82-132 in regular season CAA play, a 38.3% winning percentage.  After getting 10 wins combined in his first three seasons in the CAA, he's now hit 10 wins a piece in both of the last two campaigns.  That's developing a program.  He has put in the work and the time, brought in good kids and hasn't gone all Tommy Amaker to turn the program into a contender.  If he ever shaves that stache again, Tony will be running the cleanest program in North America, and tonight that program can get over the stigma of being one of the 5 original NCAA members never to have danced come March.  As someone who bleeds clam chowder (side note:  I'm allergic) and Red Sox red and blue, how can I not root for that?  It's ironic and conflicting that the opposition in this game has a fanbase full of fans who can appreciate the Tribe's futility.  It's hard to imagine any Sox fan who was of age in 2004 not rooting for the Tribe, opponent be damned.  This Red Sox fan certainly is.

And it's that underlying guy, that underlying skeptic who never thought the Sox would win and still doesn't think that they can, who will be picking the Northeastern Huskies to win a ticket to the dance tonight.  And it comes down to one simple reason that all Drexel fans can understand:  Defense.  Six of the last seven CAA Champions have been in the top 2 in the league in defensive efficiency.  This year NU came in second in that category.  The Tribe?  Dead last.  And the problems for the Tribe extend well beyond that.

The Pantsless Griffins are a shoot first, ask questions later bunch that Steven Seagal would be proud of.  Both times that they have played the Clothed Huskies, they have been smoked on the boards, and one can expect that to happen again tonight which makes the Tribe's reliance on shooting percentage that much stronger.  Making things worse, William and Mary isn't just in a back to back to back situation when they play today, they are coming off of an epic double overtime 81 possession thriller.  To put that in perspective, Drexel played two triple OT games last year, and neither of those hit 81 possessions.  The Hofstra and William and Mary game was a crowd pleaser, it was an instant classic, but is also was a leg buster.  William and Mary only need to look at Drexel to see how teams with no legs play in the second half of CAA tournament games.  It can get ugly quick.

So we will continue to follow the trend of the season and let the numbers guide us with today's prediction.  But don't forget those 04 Red Sox.  That team was in a whole lot more trouble than this William and Mary team is.  They had to win four straight, two in the Bronx, and they came out clean on the other side.  Sometimes it takes that kind of performance to shake the demons of history.  Some nights the numbers don't mean anything.  Tonight, it's one small sample size over and over again, one possession at a time.

So Why Not The Tribe?

Prediction:  Northeastern 76, William and Mary 67
Alan Boston's Prediction:  William and Mary 78, Northeastern 73
Vegas Line:  William and Mary -1.5

Saturday, March 7, 2015

College of Charleston (CAA Tourney) - Postgame

Final:  Charleston 56, Drexel 48
Player of the Game:  Freddie Wilson
Key to the game:  They were done
Next Game:  Friday November 13, 2015, Location TBA

There's only one way that this can start:  They got it right.

Some view these pages as a fan taking an opportunity to bash the team and the program.  They see the post all season on the four guard, the missed substitutions or the flat out failures, like the lack of adjustments from the first Hofstra debacle to the second.  They see the tweets about how empty the DAC VIP area is, and they feel my frustration when the building feels flatter than pita bread.  They ignore the recognition that is posted here when things are made right, when the team clicks, and when Tavon catches fire.  That's ok.  Part of that is my frustration as a fan and a writer showing through and creating a tone, and that's on me.  The larger part of it is that the program - all parts of it - simply hasn't been very good since this blog started in the fall of 2013.

The purpose of that last paragraph was to ensure no one misses this one: The coaches got it right in Baltimore.

The offense ran through the post.  Rodney Williams received a ton of touches, well beyond what the four field goal attempts noted in the box score insinuates.  It wasn't the Charleston defense that stopped the Dragons when the ball was in the post, it was more the Dragons themselves.  Rodney Williams' four turnovers and 50% free throw shooting were a disappointment and given the guards heavy legs, it was a very bad time for Drexel's best forward to have a bad game.  When the Dragons twitter account and Bruiser himself were talking about the guards fatigue in the first half of the game, coming off of a weeks rest, you knew the cavalry wasn't coming for the Drexel forwards.  So did the coaching staff, who continued to challenge Charleston in the post, running isolation play after isolation play for Rodney & Co in the second half.

The defensive game plan wasn't bad either.  Until the end of game foul shots, Charleston was held under a point per possession.  The pace of the game was in Drexel's favor.  But with Charleston crushing Drexel on the boards (they grabbed the offensive board on an alarming 42% of their shots) once again it was the frontcourt that let down the Drexel staff.  Rebounding  specialist Tyshawn Myles looked like he could help stem the tide, but with bogus fouls called on him for his 3rd and 4th fouls, the refs kept him out of the game just as much as Bru did,  When Austin Williams stepped in to help out, he proved again that he needs to further develop before he will be an effective part of this team.

With the forwards letting down the exhausted guards, maybe the calls for the four guard this year weren't warranted.  More likely, changing the entire offensive system in March with a team that can't practice to install it was the uphill battle that couldn't be overcome.  It sure seems the correct call to make, but fans have to wish it had been made well before March, so the team would have been ready to play a hard nosed defense, knock you around on the blocks style of game.  A Bruiser style of game.  But it was refreshing to see the return of a once great defense, something that will hopefully carry forward.

And so begins an off-season with more questions than answers.  The Dragons could return Bru and the whole team less Freddie and Sooren.  Less likely, but possible, we will see some program altering changes.  Come back here for thoughts along the way, and analysis whenever news hits the wire.

Thanks to all of you who have read all season long, your doing that allows me to continue enjoying this.  Our record is 0-0 again now.  Let's go Drexel.

Friday, March 6, 2015

CAA Tournament - Charleston - Preview

You can take the CAA out of the South, but you can't take the rockfight out of the CAA

And on the 8th Day, they drove to Baltimore.

For the last 12 years, on this weekend, I've joined my friends, hopped in a bus or car, and headed to Richmond or Baltimore.  I've met some of my closest friends on these trips, I've met some fantastic fans of other schools and VCU fans too (though I've still never seen a UD fan under 50 years of age). I've even met the people who inspired me to start writing on these electronic pages a couple of years ago.  Little known fact, this blog actually started when I began commenting on the pages of much better writers than I.  I've never been a guy who tries to bloom his rolodex, and at one point I was a quiet kid (some folk wish I still was), but all of these people are very much an influence on my life today, and I wanted to take this time to be thankful for this holiday we have.  It's not MARCH MADNESS, it's our madness, and I'm very thankful for those who I will see once again, those who I won't, and especially for those that I will meet for the first time.

Welcome to the conference tournament where none of the schools are close and all of the people are.

Family Tradition also speaks well to today 
because if this is your first time in the Tradition, you must fight.  Rockfight actually, which is a CAA tradition from Bruiser's first full recruiting class  in the league.  And at 8:30 tonight, we will have a doozy.

From Kenpom's 'Week in Review VII', and gloriously posted with his permission:

Slowest game: #285 Drexel 53, #235 College of Charleston 51 [48], Saturday. On the other 
end of the speed spectrum, Drexel played its second sub-50 possession game of the season. 
They got a 3 from Damion Lee with 17 seconds left to earn the victory.

Oh yes, the slowest game in the entire country that week went to DU/ C of C.  The following matchup featured a whopping 54 possessions.  Pretty basketball?  I mean, if four corners floats your boat and you're into that kinda thing, well then, still no.  The good news is aplenty for Drexel, and it begins with this nugget:  In games of 56 possessions or less this year, the Dragons are 6-0.  Now, those Dragon teams featured more players, included Damion Lee, and those wins were against... Towson.  Twice.  Charleston.  Twice.  Southern Miss, and...  interesting... William and Mary.  And that team only had 7 guys and no Damion Lee.

It's no secret that this Dragons team can't afford to run.  And the less possessions the less fouls, which also benefits DU, since playing with 4 guys is hard.  Charleston doesn't run.  As in, Charleston plays one of the slowest games in all of DI.  Music to Bruiser Flint's ears.  And he needs that music.  Because while Charleston has struggled all year, they've still got a lot that scares an opposing coach.  Seniors.  Shooters.  Nothing to Lose.

And that's the thing with this Charleston team.  They had the pieces.  Shooters in Canyon Barry and Cameron Johnson.  A very legitimate big man in Adjehi Baru.  Chealey has been a very good point guard in this league.  The pieces just never added up.  Normally this is where we point to a coach, but in this case it falls on the Athletic Director.  The late offseason firing of Doug Wojcik set this team up to fail but this goes well beyond that.  As the outstanding @King_Kresse pointed out to me, the seniors on this team have played for 4 coaches.  It's tough to mature and grow in a system when it's a different season every season.  That and accumulating knocks on Baru have added up to a class of seniors whose numbers don't nearly state their talent level, in much the same way as I spoke of Tavon Allen two weeks ago.  It not fun to watch from afar, and it's tough to imagine it's not much worse to watch as a Cougars fan.  The Cougs went 1-16 against top 200 teams this year, and Drexel is playing like a top 200 team (yes, it's like 199th).

Both of these teams have some exciting young talent.  Barry, Chealey, Gilmore and Johnson on one side, names like London, Williams, Bah and Mojica on the other.  All of these guys have played wire the wire this year and are the foundation of very bright futures, and in two years these squads could be playing each other on Monday night rather than Friday.  But for this year, it's a bad matchup for the Cougars.

Drexel Game

Prediction:  Drexel 51 - Charleston 43
Bold Prediction:  One teams score is in the teens at halftime
Vegas Line:  Charleston -1.5

Other CAA Games

Prediction:  Elon 64, Towson 58

Alan Boston's Notes:

With all the injuries, it is very difficult to answer, who is Drexel? Are they the team that got drilled at home by bottom feeder Delaware? Are they the team that won easily at first place William & Mary? Probably they are neither. One thing the injuries have done and both Dan and I have hammered this point home, is that Drexel was forced to play basketball, Drexel style. Rebound, play defense and limit turnovers. Sure, their half court offense will still be shaky at best, but Drexel has had a ton of success with that formula.  C of C is the type of team I typically like to bet on in conference tournaments. They were big time underachievers during the season, but C of C could not beat Northeastern in their last home game and failed in many good spots, so I do not think they have it in them, to return to the level that the Charleston program typically plays to. Drexel beat them both games during conference and if they play their game should do it again.

Drexel Game

Prediction: Drexel 52 - C of C 50

Other CAA Games

Also Elon 53 Towson 50

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The CAA Tournament: A Conversation

We enter a CAA Tournament tomorrow with 5 very legitimate contenders and 5 underdogs waiting in the wings.  Rather than writing a traditional preview on each team, Alan "Boston" Dvorkis was kind enough to join me for a conversation on the subject as we enter the tourney weekend.  Here is that conversation, along with our picks:

DC:  Hi Alan, thanks for offering your insights in this preview and all year long.  Let's start with an easy one.  CAA tourney:  Who is your pick and why? 

AB:  William and Mary played to the highest level of all in the conference. Their home loss to shorthanded Drexel, when trying to clinch the title was to say the least, bizarre, and almost unexplainable. Strangely, it may help them. They had played a bunch of big games in a row. A clinker was coming. Better to get it out of the way pre-tournament, than during. I am a bit biased as I absolutely love Tony Shaver. I root hard for schools that stick to their guns when it comes to athletes and academics, so there is a slight chance I am a bit biased, however, it is really pretty simple, William and  Mary was the very best team during the conference schedule, they have tons of experience and their focus should be overwhelming as this is a chance for the school to finally make the NCAA tournament. As just stated, the awful game vs Drexel, should make it easier to keep that focus, the energy sky high. They are a flawed team no doubt. Athletically, they are underwhelming, therefore, their defense is not the best and they can get beat up on the boards, but I do not believe that those issues will outweigh the spectacular offense they run. The teams that are close have holes bigger than theirs. Unusual for me, but I am going with the favorite with both my heart and my head.

DC:  I don't have any issues with the pick.  My challenge to that is that as you said, they are so reliant on shooting.  It's hard to be consistent when you're so poor at fundamentals like defense and rebounding.  They went 20-12 but only won 3 games in a row once all season.

My pick is James Madison.  Ron Curry has developed so well, Yohanny Dalembert is so skilled and Matt Brady showed two years ago that his teams can peak at the right time.  I like them a lot against Hofstra on Saturday since HU is 0-6 against the top 4 offenses in the conference, and JMU and William and Mary are both in that fold.  Tough draw for the Pride.  If we get JMU/W&M on Sunday, that will be worth the price of admission.

Do you have any teams from the top half of the conference that you don't like to win?  Or a sleeper from the bottom 5 to compete?

AB:  I do not like Hofstra, not at all. They too rely on offense and are shaky on defense. In their biggest game of the year, they lost at home to William & Mary. They were very good at beating the weak, but failed against the better teams. Like you, I think they lose to James Madison, but if they get by them, they certainly will lose to William & Mary. They are similar to The Tribe but their shot selection will not be as good. 

I would love to say that Drexel is the best of the lower seeds. With all the injuries, Bruiser was forced to play Drexel basketball, the way I remember. Yes, they shot the lights out in the shocking win over William & Mary, but they rebounded well and did not turn it over. They must have also defended well. That is a formula for winning tournament games, however, winning 4 games in 4 days as shorthanded as they are is just too much to ask. Delaware played extremely well the last few games. They had a very  young team. I suppose there is some chance that they grew up. They could possible pull off a surprise or two. 

DC:  Totally agree with you that the only potential active underdogs are Drexel and Delaware.  I can't stop being bummed out that it took Bru 6 injuries to play the game that he should have been playing all year long, but they're there now and will certainly be a live dog.

The only teams we haven't seemed to cover are a Northeastern team that I expected to be much better than its been, and a senior laden UNCW team that no one is giving any respect or paying attention to.  Could either make a run?

AB:  UNCW overachieved big time. They are one of the bigger surprises in the country. Coach Keatts should be one of the finalists for coach of the year but he is in the CAA, so The Powers That Be will not allow that. I did not expect a Pitino assistant to do much, but I could not have been any more wrong. That being said, teams that overachieve during the year, are good to go against at conference tournament time. I expect UNCW to lose their first game, even with the benefit of opponent playing the night before. They will certainly not win 2 games.

Northeastern began conference with an impressive non-conference resume. However, teams that have 5 starters returning have a big advantage in modern college hoops. With little practice time before the season begins, their prior experience shows. So when conference began Northeastern had high hopes. What seems to be a disappointing conference season, in fact is not. This is the highest rated Northeastern team ever under Coen.  Coen is a terrific coach and this is a good Northeastern team. But a good Northeastern team is still lacking athletically.  Nevertheless, lesser Coen teams have tortured opponents in tournaments. I think they are a notch below William & Mary, but they are certainly the only team that I think can beat them.

DC:  That's interesting, and with the Matt Janning NU teams I'm very surprised to hear that this is the highest rated.  I have them second behind JMU in my picks, but there has just seemed to be something missing from that team all year. 

As noted on Tuesday, my Coach of the year pick is Brady over Keatts, but it's razor thin.  UNCW really started playing defense for the first time in a while this year and that's why they are interesting to me.  Six of the last seven CAA Champs have been in the top two in the league in defensive efficiency the year they won, and that bodes well for NU and the Dub this season.

Assuming the seeds hold and DU and Elon make it thru Friday, which game is the most likely upset in your opinion, and which team has the worst matchup?

AB: As stated prior, I think UNCW loses its first round game. Since I also felt Drexel was a bit of a sleeper, they are the team that can pull of a major upset.  I also think that it may be the worst match up of the lot. With Drexel only having 7 available bodies and about to be pressed the entire game, fatigue could be an issue. 

Trigger happy Hofstra has struggled vs Matt Brady's zone defenses. JMU beat Hofstra twice during the year. I see no reason why that will change this week end. 

DC:  Completely agree on the JMU/Hofstra matchup.  Looking at both angles on the DU and UNCW game is interesting.  I hope we can preview that late Friday night.

All that's left is the picks. 

Dan Crain's CAA Tournament Picks:

Alan "Boston" Dvorkis' CAA Picks:

Dan Crain works in the Philadelphia area staring at numbers for a living.  As a hobby, he writes this blog in order to give himself the opportunity to stare at even more numbers in his spare time.  He enjoys supporting the Philadelphia Union, the Drexel Dragons, New England Sports, visiting National Parks, summers on Cape Cod, volunteering and being a beer snob.  His dislikes include Bruiser Flint's offense.

Alan "Boston" Dvorkis was featured in the book "The Odds" written by current ESPN The Magazine Editor in Chief Chad Millman.  He sat through many a Big Five game while studying at the Wharton School of Business before moving to Las Vegas, Nevada and establishing himself as a predominant college basketball handicapper and professional poker player.  His in the money finishes include a runner up at the World Series of Poker.  Alan is a student of the human condition, and does not use statistics to analyze college basketball.  His dislikes include Bruiser Flint's offense.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Holding Myself Accountable: Reviewing The Predictions

On January 2nd of this year I posted conference predictions.  While other voters have to make those votes before the out of conference season starts, I wait until the conference season is about to kick off, which is cheating already.  That still doesn't make it easy as CAA teams play schedules of very different difficulty levels out of conference.  That one team went 7-4 and another went 3-8 tells us very little actually.  Since that effects both counting and rate stats as well, those can be thrown out the window as well.  What we're left with is Kenpom, Sagarin, Vegas and maybe even the RPI, but after only 11 games even that data has limited accuracy.  And so it goes.  Here was the results of the 10 Beers of the CAA preview:

1) Northeastern
2) William and Mary
3) Hofstra
4) North Carolina Wilmington
5)  Drexel
6) College of Charleston
7) Towson
8) James Madison
9) Elon
10) Delaware

The Hits

With the exception of the Dukes, the top and bottom halves of the conference shook out pretty well.  The UNCW pick was probably the most daring of the group and that played out nicely.  A couple of important notes and hints for tomorrows tourney preview regarding those top two teams.  But first, one of the notes from the preview:

Outside of the first week of the season when every team must play 4 games in 8 days (necessary evil to get every team to 18 games) there are 10 times this season that teams play on both Thursday and Saturday.  In those 20 instances (10 games x 2 teams per game) 15 times the teams are playing the Saturday game on the road.  We've seen over and over again that teams traveling on one days rest underperform.  By having those teams play on the road so often, the league schedulers (outsourced by the league office, the CAA offices will refuse responsibility for this even though they could have intervened) have changed the competitive balance of the league.  Northeastern is particularly hurt by this with 3 short rest road games, while William and Mary only has 1.  If W&M wins the league by a game, they should send flowers to the league offices.

William and Mary tied for the league title, so...

Northeastern lost 3 games in their 4 Thursday/Saturday back to backs, all on the road.  William and Mary only had 2 such Thurs/Saturday scenario and lost 2 of those games.  What is very interesting here is that the Tribe lost the front end, not the back end, of those short turnaround games, and they did so against bad teams (Elon and Charleston).  A similar look ahead mentality entering the CAA tournament could make their Saturday game very interesting.  If I'm Tony Shaver, I'm praying to play Elon since they Phoenix have already beaten the Tribe once and his team can focus on revenge.

The Misses

I forgot them.  They reminded DU fans twice.  So far.

So the Dukes.  The good news is that both Alan Boston and I caught on fast, noting immediately after they cut Andre Nation that they would be just fine, and possibly improve, without him.  They came around with abandon and a team that I said had to prove it to me, threw it right back in my face.  Over the past three years I have very much adjusted my views on Matt Brady upwards, and it seems that he has his team ticking right now, winning 6 of 7 as we head into tourney time.

All season long, the other big miss for me has been Towson.  I expected Timajh Parker-Rivera to explode this year, and it never happened.  The Tigers are as good as it gets on the offensive glass and getting to the line and with that kind of physicality and interior dominance, along with Four McGlynn's shooting, their poor season is just baffling until you remember one thing.  They don't have a point guard.  The biggest reason why Drexel went from laughingstock to competitive this season even while losing a body a week was that their point guards developed.  At Towson, it never happened.  Flint 1, Skerry 0.  The Tigers have beaten Elon twice this year, a team that doesn't have a point guard either, and with the home floor in Baltimore, maybe we pick them one more time.  Or I could learn from my mistakes.

The Middle

I predicted Delaware to suck.  They sucked.  I give myself no credit, because there was no risk in that pick.  Delaware always sucks.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

CAA Awards

I have no vote for the league awards, but the following is how I would vote:

First team All CAA:

Player of the Year:  Damion Lee

Terry Tarpey
Marcus Thornton
Juan'ya Green

Player of the Year to Damion Lee was a no-brainer for this Drexologist (or perhaps Drexapologist).  Ignore the leadership, the scoring, and the rebounding.  With opposing defenses hounding him (Northeastern had four (4) FOUR four guys defending him at times in his final game) he was first in the league in turnover percentage.  Dude is 6'6", helping press break and  working with a freshman point guard, he's getting double teamed (or more) and he still turned the ball over at a rate less than anyone in the conference.  That's mind boggling.  Back to the secy stats, Lee missed the final 2 games of the seasonnand still finished second in the conference in points produced, and first in scoring.  He was first in efficiency rating and win shares, 4th in steals per game, 6th in rebounds per game, he was as complete a player as we have seen in this league since...  well, I don't know.

Ron Curry was up for a first team nomination, but a colleague who was mistakenly hired out of JMU talked some trash while this was being written, and in the interest of being unnecessarily vindictive, and in good humor, we will create a four man first team and a six man second team just to knock my colleague down a peg.  That works out ok since the top 4 listed above are the no doubters from the Association this year, and there is a considerable gap from them to those next in line.

Second Team All CAA

Ron Curry
David Walker
Ameen Tanksley
Addison Spruill
Scott Eatherton
Yohanny Dalembert

If there was a conference MVP award, Curry may have been my selection.  With Andre Nation leaving the program mid year, the Dukes badly needed someone to step up at the guard position, and Curry filled the void.  While folks will point to UNCW as the surprise team this year, I had them ranked 4th going into conference play.  It's JMU which was the much larger surprise to me.  Addison Spruill doesn't have the efficiency to backup a first team bid, but given his impact on a first place team, he has to get a nod for at least the second.  Tanksley and Walker both have their deficiencies, but are on the list for the same reasons:  They are elite shooters who also do something else.  They are 4th and 6th in the conference steals list, played on very strong teams, and Walker was 4th in the conference in assists while Tanksley was 16th on the boards.

Third Team All CAA

John Davis
Omar Prewitt
Freddie Jackson
Joe Chealey
Sammy Mojica Jr

Davis, Prewitt and Dalembert were the final three on the second team list for me, and the tiebreaker went to the guy leading the conference in field goal percentage.  I'd want John Davis on any team I was starting, he has stepped up when asked, is nationally relevant in rebounding rate and has defined Towson's gritty, hard working interior game despite being only 6'5".  Chealey needs to develop, but he was a point guard without a lot of help and was still successful as a sophomore.  I reserved the Tom Yeager Memorial Homer Pick (Brought to you by our good friends at Virginia Commonwealth University) for Sammy Mojica.  Not only was he the spark that helped create Drexel's midseason run, if he qualified for it, he would be third in the league in three point percentage.  He was also top 10 in the league in steal percentage on a team that was brutal defensively for much of the year.  Put simply, if he doesn't step up when he was given the opportunity, Drexel is a 6 win team and in the 8/9 game as we enter the tournament.

Also receiving votes

Tanner Samson
Marvin King-Davis
Kyle Anderson
Four McGlynn
Elijah Bryant

These guys should receive votes from others, but won't get mine for a variety of reasons.  The two UD players chose to go to Delaware, and irresponsible decisions lead to repercussions.  Tanner Samson is too much of a one trick pony, and while his defense and leadership value are underrated I couldn't get past his 26% shooting from inside the arc.  Four McGlynn deserves to be on here based off of the numbers, but Towson was unlikely to get a second guy, and he's not exactly who you think of when speaking of players who make those around them better.  I could do a whole section on Elijah Bryant, and much of the blame goes to his coach, but he had no business taking over a third of his teams shots while he was on the floor.  He led the league in turnovers by a wide margin, and I don't reward guys who score lots of points because they take a ton of shots.  Bryant has the talent to be a special player in this conference, but needs time to grow and a little bit more of a leash to learn with.

Coach of the Year

With full respect to Kevin Keatts, who put together an oustanding year in Wilmington picking up a program that was in shambles, his cupboard wasn't quite empty.  He walked into the CAA's best frontcourt with Spruill and Cedrick Williams (who was criminally underused) and had a senior floor general with Jackson.  He sculpted that into something impressive, especially given where they came from, but my COY goes to Matt Brady.  It may have taken him about 100 chances, but it still takes some cajones to dismiss Andre Nation, a kid who got them to the tournament two years ago, from the team.  Curry did a wonderful job of sliding over to fill that void, Yohanny Dalembert has developed into a wonderfully skilled sophomore forward, and on a team that I thought would struggle with depth issues after Nation's departure, he is still running an 8 man rotation.  The next man up was ready to go.  JMU has been my pick to win the league for the last month, and that team doesn't have a senior on it.  That's a hell of a job, and squeaks out Keatts for Coach of the Year.

All Defensive Team

I have a ton of respect for the writers around the conference, but I think this one should be left to the coaches.  It's hard to see kids enough to really know who is deserving unless you're breaking down game film, and usually this becomes the "good offensive player who I saw guard someone once" category.  For what it's worth, and I mean this with sincerity, I would vote for Bruiser for Coach of the Year before I voted for any Dragon for this award.

Monday, March 2, 2015

UD & WM - Postgame

All season long, the Drexel versus William and Mary tilt has been circled on the calendar.  Short rest.  Coming off of a rivalry game.  Against a top level contender.  On their Senior Night.  In a matchup that is always horrendous for the Dragons.  No freaking chance.  Then the day came and Drexel was down to its Magnificent 7, comprised of a transferred in senior, a historically bad shooter of a junior, two sophomore forwards whom their coaches can't pick out of a lineup, and three freshman.  If a partridge in a pear tree was eligible, he would be wearing blue and gold for this one.

So of course they won.

All season long I have refused to review games that I did not have the opportunity to see, and that still applies here.  But after coming home to messages talking about how great Bruiser was!  And Bruiser himself calling it great!  And folks on the CAAZone were just fucking demonstrating happiness!  I had to investigate.  What follows is not a game analysis, but a summary of two games and relevant takeaways:

What an odd surprise there was when I went and did that investigation.  It was great to review these games together, since they were statistically the same game.  Let me try that again:  A 14 point loss to a team that should be at the bottom of the conference, and a 14 point win against the conference's one seed were the same.  A statistical tie.  Let me throw this one down.  If the Dragons shoot their season averages, 33% from behind the arc and 43% from two, in these games, the score would project to:

Delaware 58
Drexel 59

William and Mary 66
Drexel 66

So that's interesting.  The Magnificent 7 don't need to shoot NCAA average to compete in the conference tournament this weekend.  They don't even need to shoot CAA average.  Just Drexel average, which is good for 312th in college basketball.  This is not a high bar to clear.

While I want to talk about how great the defense has been now that the three guard is permanent, there was a surprise there too.  Delaware achieved 1.02 points per possession.  William and Mary came in at 1.18 ppp.  The Dragons didn't compete due to outstanding defense and games in the 40's as one expected to see with the three guard.  They competed because of rebounding and turnovers.  Turnovers you say? What?!  Great question hypothetical questioner: On this one, I give one James "Bruiser" Flint and staff full credit.

In the 2014 portion of this season the Dragons played 10 games.  10 of those times, they turned the ball over on at least 13% of their possessions including a high of 32% against USC.  At best the Dragons were only getting a shot off on 87% of their possessions.  After a season of development, and working with Rashann London and Freddie Wilson that number has been under 10% in 4 of their last 6 games, including both of the last two that featured Drexel's 7 man roster.  This is why when William and Mary plays a good game, only turning over the ball 4 times, Drexel can still matchup with them.  That is a sign of huge growth at the point this year, and credit there goes where its due.

On the glass, we knew these guys could pound the boards, especially against an opponent like William and Mary.  Not only did Rodney Williams do what we all know Rodney Williams can do with 9 rebounds in 40 minutes, but Mohamed Bah and Tyshawn Myles combined for 16 in their 40!  What's makes that crazy is that there wasn't a lot of missed shots in this game, both teams shot the ball well.  16 boards in 40 minutes in that case is domination.  That is especially great to see from Bah who has been up and down with his rebounding production this year.  When it comes to Myles' 8 boards in 18 minutes, it's more of what we already know.  If this kid gets minutes, his name will end up in the DU record books for rebounding.  He's rebounding like Samme Givens, and he's a rarely used freshman.  Imagine what happens when he becomes a full time player and gets comfortable on the floor.

This team enters the CAA tournament shorthanded.  And we can't lie to ourselves, they are short on shooters, despite what happened in Williamsburg this weekend.  Realize this though:  only twice in Bruiser's term at DU has he had a team that was a plus ballhandling, rebounding and free three shooting team.  Those were the 2010-11 and 2011-12 teams.  Both were 20 win teams.  They combined to go 27-9 in the CAA, and even went 3-2 in the CAA Tournament.  Without the four guard experiment, I still believe that could have happened this year as well, and now that experiment is clearly over.

The guys won't shoot like they did in Williamsburg.  Hopefully they won't shoot like they did at home against UD either.  But what the stats say is that we should expect them to compete.  And we've seen enough to know they will put every last bit of fight out there on the floor.  As Drexel fans, we have a team - a seven man team - who will compete with any team in the league and give 100% effort.  Can we ask for more as we enter tourney time?