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:
William and Mary 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?