Monday, November 30, 2015

San Diego Postgame

Final Score: San Diego 62 Drexel 59
Player of the Game: Terrell Allen
Key to the Game: Shooting (That's more like it)
Next Game: Saturday December 5 @ La Salle

Refreshing.  Same old, same old.  Terrifying?

It's tough to define the Dragons loss to the University of San Diego in Alaska on Saturday. 0-6 is 0-6, but this felt so different than the other games this year.  Instead it felt like the losses of the last 14 years.  The (Prodigal?) Sons of Flint managed to waste a massive rebounding and turnover advantage, with a shooting display matched only by The A-team and their opponents.  Shot after shot was taken, miss after miss was recorded.  Drexel played so well off the ball that they took 18 more field goal attempts than the Toreros.  And they still lost.  That's hard to do.  It's also old school DU.

And that's a good sign.  The crashing of the boards was back.  The defense, less so, as they allowed USD to keep their season average 97% effective field goal shooting.  Even that is improvement on the disaster that the Dragon "defense" has been to date.  It's hard to have positive takeaways after losing to one of the worst 50 teams in Division I, but in this case there is.  As noted in earlier posts, the question for this team was one of effort.  In this case, while the shots didn't fall, the effort seems to have been there.  The biggest concern that the fanbase seems to have - has Bruiser lost the locker room - seems to have not been a problem in this contest, and that's big, especially coming off of a loss to a D-II program that could have led to heads hanging throughout the bench.

Will the level of effort keep growing over the next couple of weeks, with only one game to be played and a lot of time to think about how bad this team has been?  That's the million dollar question.  This team is not good enough to win anything, even a game, without making the effort plays.  If Bruiser can't hold this locker room together over the next two weeks then an ugly start to the season will encompass the entire season.  If he can get them back on the same page then things get interesting again.  Shots will fall (more on that in tomorrow's post) and Ahmad Fields will return.  With rebounding and defense this team becomes interesting once the conference season begins.

For now, we saw a glimmer against San Diego.  It may be a sad, sad glimmer.  It may be just trying in vain to take a positive out of a lost trip.  But for the second time this year (Hi St. Joe's!) Drexel won the hustle plays.  And that was the flicker of light we were all looking for.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

San Diego - Pregame

Insert Obligatory "Anchorman" Reference Here

Alan did a better job than I could ever do writing up this San Diego team's quagmire, so please reference his piece below for pertinent knowledge on the squad.  Quick and dirty version from my eyes: San Diego lost star Johnny Dee (great f'n name) and head coach Bill Grier last year.  Largely due to self inflicted wounds they should stink to high heaven this year. They have lived up to that billing, and I am totally convinced that UA-Anchorage is better than them (and had home court against DU).  This is a much easier game for the Dragons than playing the D-II team was.  Crazy world we're living in.

That short write-up on the opponent is indicative of where the Dragons are right now.  They need to treat their own wounds before they worry about who is on the opposite bench from them.  The good news is that after today's throwaway game the Dragons only play one game in the next 17 days - plenty of time to reassess, ignore statistics and breakdown video if they're allowed to.

The following statement is a true statement.  I want to make it very clear that it is NOT something that I am advocating.

If the administration were ever to make a move midseason, it would be after a loss today.  If the Dragons return home 0-6 and the admin was already considering moving on in the offseason then they need to consider making the move now.  The Dragons have one game in 17 days so there is time for a new coach to acclimate himself.  Generally when a new coach comes in their team plays harder for them for the first game (see: Dolphins, Miami) and the next game happens to be an embarrassment in waiting against city rival La Salle.  If there was one spot all season to make the move, it would be when the Dragons plane lands this week.

Here's why they should not make the move:  First and foremost, it's 800k in dead money.  That's an awful lot for President Fry to choke down.  Second, the interim coach would be someone from his staff, who are all Bru disciples, and they would need to carry the DU banner the whole season knowing that they weren't coming back next year no matter what they did.  Knowing they won't be there next year also kills any chances to recruit.  Beyond that, the current players (see: Mojica, Sammy and Allen, Terrell) have much longer for people to whisper thoughts of transferring in their ear, making it much more likely they leave the program.  Firing Bru at this time is a full reset button and ensures that the program is as bad next year and maybe the next few, as it is right now. 

The wiser play right now is to offer Bruiser the almighty "vote of confidence" and assure him he will get anything he needs to help this team get better.  And we can be reasonably confident that this will happen as Dr. Zillmer is, how shall we say, heavily invested in the success of Bruiser Flint.  And Dr. Eric Zillmer doesn't think Dr. Eric Zillmer is wrong very often.

So yes, I have seen your emails, I have gotten the texts, I know the CAAZone has been a "Fire Bru" cesspool for years now (and I continue to be upset that it has driven rational people away from that community, which is an important community in our small landscape.  The zone is an opportunity to have your voices heard by Drexel Admin pretending not to hear it, and that's critical feedback that they may not otherwise get so I encourage everyone to post there).  

Beyond DU fans, I have been contacted by multiple people outside our program about Bru's job and that's a noteable change.  It shows how bad this situation is - people around the college hoops community are noticing that DU's dumpster fire is getting out of control.  That's uncomfortable from the coaches to the administration to the fans.  But that perception doesn't mean an in-season move is the right call - just ask conference-mate UNCW, who may or may not have been heckled by Drexel fans after doing just that.

There's an on the court reason not to make the move too.  Excluding Tavon Allen's awful 9/31 (29%) from INSIDE the arc this year, the Dragons are shooting 56.4% from two this year, good for 26th in the country (tied with Kentucky).  The Bru led team record for 2pt shooting is 49.6%, accomplished by the team that should have danced in 06-07.  That's the beginning of good offense, and the coaching staff has adjusted towards it.  The Dragons are taking less 3's than almost any Flint coached squad before it.  He has them taking the correct shots, and they are making those shots, for the first time in his career.  

There's more good signs on offense: after an awful start to the year, turnovers are trending down. The Dragons are also 31st in the country at getting to the line which is outstanding.  If they control Tavon's shot selection (as in, none inside the arc) this has the makings of a real offense.  

The big, blatant, gigantic holes in this team come in the areas of rebounding and defense.  A person wiser than me reminded me yesterday that these things are 90% effort.  This is about guys buying in, trusting and supporting each other.  When Rob Brooks is talking about players not having legs in the first game of a tournament, that's not about lack of energy.  That's lack of heart.  

Ask a Drexel fan who has followed this program for a decade if Bru can fix someones shot and that person will laugh in your face.  But ask if Bruiser can get his guys to play hard.  He can.  This appears to be a fixable problem as it stands, and Bru might actually be just the guy for it.  But he can't keep sounding like a beaten man in interviews.  Fans get his confusion - the stuff that he normally does wrong is actually going right - so he thinks this team should be good.  And it's very clearly not a good team right now, he's said that himself.  A lot.

Much like an Athletic Department, this team is going to embody it's leader. That leader needs to find his voice and return to his basics - to hit the reset button for this team.  And he needs to do it before someone else hits the reset button for this program.

Prediction:  Drexel 67, San Diego 60
Vegas Line:  Drexel -4.5

Alan Boston's Take:

Drexel finally found a team they can beat, perhaps even beat soundly. San Diego U had all but hired Columbia coach Kyle Smith but it got nixed very late in the process. In comes Lamont Smith, an alum who was an assistant to Craig Neal. He has no head coaching experience and he has worked for Randy Bennett, so perhaps he knows something, but the way it went down just wreaks of politics which generally does not work out. Years ago, they had a solid program and a terrific coach in Brad Holland. With the success of Gonzaga, several in the league got greedy. San Diego U was one.  With only 2 starters returning, a freshman point guard and a coach who likely does not belong, San Diego U has been terrible.  They played their best game in the first round of this tournament. Even Bruiser can't fuck this one up. Yes, I have finally knocked a coach I have always had tons of respect for, but perhaps my respect for the man, has negated the fact that he is not a great head coach.

Drexel 80 San Diego U 63

Drexel-Alaska Post Game: Upset to No-one

Mark Walush returns to review the Alaskan catastrophe from yesterday:

Final Score: Alaska-Anchorage 71 Drexel 65
Player of the Game: Sammy Mojica
Key to the Game: Defense
Next Game: Today, 4pm EST vs San Diego

There is so much that can be said about this game that is covered in the first line of this post.  But for now, we will focus on the positives.  For the second game in a row, fans saw a solid performance from Sammy Mojica, who went off for 20 points on an efficient 15 shots and 3-4 shooting from the line, while also chipping in 6 rebounds and 6 assists with only 2 turnovers.  Sammy’s resurgence comes as a bright spot compared to his early play which left a lot to be desired that invoked fears of a sophomore slump year.  This game showed those flashes of explosiveness that the coaches saw last year and hoped would infuse this team.

Offensively, Drexel shot 38.3% inside the arc, 40% from 3, and only 50% from the line.  The also outrebounded UAA by 11 and had 9 blocks.  Drexel also assisted on 75% of their shots, showing an emphasis on moving the ball and players getting the ball to the open man instead of trying to force bad shots.

Unfortunately, that is about all of the good that can be said about this game.  For the second straight game, Drexel spotted their opponent a 10 point head start, had a furious comeback to get close or lead by halftime, only to see that lead evaporate after halftime never to get close again.  Drexel turned the ball over 13 times, committed 27 fouls to UAA’s 19, and only averaged a meager 0.96 points per possession.  The 4-big rotation was completely shut down, shooting a combined 4-14 against a team that they had a ton of size on.

Talent is not the issue in this case, as I believe that this team has the talent and ability to win in the CAA.  However, they are typically only performing to their potential on the offensive end, and basketball is a two-way sport.  Oddly enough, the defensive end has been the demise of the team this season, and even more surprising, is how bad the D has actually been.
The worst stat of the night is that the Dragons gave up over 1 point per possession, something they have done in every game this year.  The 1.04 ppp mark is actually the lowest mark the Dragons have conceded this season, but still ranks well above the D-1 average for defensive efficiency.  For a team and coach that used to pride itself on defense, take a look at defensive ranks since the 2002 season, when Bruiser took over as Drexel’s head coach:

Kenpom Defensive Efficiency Ranking
2016 (as of 11/28/15)

Drexel has consistently fielded one of the better defensive teams in the country for the better part of the last decade, except for the past 2 years.  This has also coincided with the new rule changes enforced by the NCAA.  Since Bruiser’s teams have always been physical, grind it out, beat your nose in defensive teams, these new rules emphasizing freedom of motion and cracking down on arm bars and hand placement of offensive players, something that was a staple of the Drexel defenses of legend.  The question now is, if defense was the glue holding this team together, how do they play Bruiser’s style within these new rules? 

All of the statistics aside, losing to a Division II school is unacceptable, no matter the circumstances.  Losing 2 games in as many seasons to Division II schools? That is enough to cost many coaches their jobs.  Unfortunately, the small, diminishing following that Drexel basketball has, was not surprised at that result of this game, with some even commenting that they would actually be more surprised if Drexel won this game.  That shows signs of greater program problems than can be discussed in this space, and a growing number of people see the only relief is a total change in program culture, which of course needs to start at the top of the food chain.  Unfortunately, we have seen this song and dance before and it looks like there is no end in sight.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Quick Preview - Alaska Anchorage

Much like the Red Sox never throwing at .260 hitters, the blog here doesn't usually have previews for D-II teams.  It's a tournament though, and given the fact that the Dragons are only 3.5 point favorites against this D-II team it appears that Vegas thinks Alaska has a very good chance to win this thing.  And this glorified exhibition game is actually important.

At 0-3 the Dragons could argue that they had played three strong teams, especially after Monmouth knocked off #17 Notre Dame yesterday.  At 0-4 and coming off of a double digit loss to a middle of the pack Big South team - putting the Dragons 0-2 against the Big South this year, that argument seems much less valid.  So now maybe three losses to good teams and then a game they were woefully unprepared for.  But if they lose tonight to put themselves 0-5 with two losses to the Big South and another to Division II, there will no longer be any defense.  Some folks are already there, such as Coach Flint who on last nights postgame sounded defeated already saying to Rob Brooks "We're just bad right now".

A win against Alaska and at least this bad team is on the board, maybe it sees a light or some improvement.  A loss, and it's going to be very hard for the team to show up to work for the near future.  Bruiser's calling card as a coach has been getting players to buy in, which was never more clear than when he brought Chris Fouch back when he could have transferred last year, or bringing back Abif this year.  Those skills will be pushed to the limit if they lose to Alaska.  Guys are already taking plays off - Rob Brooks commented to Bruiser about guys not having their legs out there last night and Bru said what we already knew, those guys should have been rested.  So let me say here what Bru didn't say - guys took plays off.  In this era of "defense" in college hoops, that can't happen.  It can not happen.

The larger concern from yesterday should be a concern for today as well.  Once again the Dragons couldn't beat a zone.  They don't have the shooters, and one expects to see zone all night from Alaska.  With the Seahawks deploying a zone, expect to see 20-30 jumpshots between Mojica, London and Tavon Allen.  The team doesn't get it inside enough, Terrell doesn't seem comfortable from deep.  So against a zone it's on those three until Fields gets back.  Going back to the postgame from the Monmouth contest - Bruiser thinks his offense is OK.

It's a holiday weekend.  Pour me some of what he's having.

Prediction:  Drexel 70, Alaska 67

UNC Asheville - Postgame

Didn't stay up for the game against Asheville?  Eric Resnick has you covered, here's his recap:

Final Score:  Asheville 85  Drexel 66
Player of the Game:  Terrell Allen
Key to the Game:  Can't beat the zone
Next Game:  Today, 6pm EST @ University of Alaska Anchorage

By the way the game started, you wouldn’t know that UNCA was picked 7th in a weaker Big South. The Bulldogs hustled out to a 12-0 start through the first official timeout until Tavon Allen finally got the Dragons on the board with 2 free throws 5:07 into the match.  Terrell Allen got the Dragons’ first field goal a minute later. Rodney Williams received his second foul and left the game not five minutes in and at that point had led UNCA in fouls 6-0.

Drexel survived the absence of Williams and managed to outscore UNCA 38-22 the remainder of the first half to take a 38-34 lead into the locker room. Drexel was much more physical and athletic than the undersized Bulldogs and the worm began to turn mid-way into the first half with strong play from Abif and contributions from Myles. Ahmad Thomas had a strong half as he was able to score some up close baskets isolating on the slower Bah.

Then came the second half.

The second half showed another bad start for Drexel as UNCA opened up with a 14-2 stretch the first five minutes behind a couple of threes from Robertson and some aggressive close in points from Sam Hughes as Williams and Abif road the bench with three fouls. Drexel lost its cool with technical fouls from Mojica and Coach Flint and UNCA goes on to win the second half big 51-28. Drexel faces the same fate to UNCA as Mars Hill (SC) did when they lost 85-66. This is inexcusable.  Being out rebounded by a small team 35-29, inexcusable.  Points in the paint? Don’t get me started.

Our prospectus on this game mentioned that Drexel needed to:

1) Win the turnover battle (lost that one 8-4 although 8 isn’t so bad- this shows how poor the press instituted with seven minutes left was); 2) keep Abif and Williams out of foul trouble (Williams fouled out and Abif ended with 4 fouls); 3) beat the zone (UNCA goes zone in second half and Drexel stops scoring) and 4) pound it in down low (you’re on your own, big man, go get your own basketball).

Some good signs were to be found.  Terrell Allen and Mojica were in synch on the break in the first half, something we have not seen yet this season. They finished with 19 and 16 points, respectively. Allen continues to show his smart play as his assist to turnover remains well above 2:1 for the season. Smart play cannot be said for Tavon Allen as he continued to struggle with the step back jumper and went 1-9 from the floor.

Drexel is still behind the national curve getting used to the rule changes, but it was better tonight.  Too many illegal screens, hand checks and restriction of player freedom of movement fouls. You wonder if the new rules are being stressed to the players by the staff.

Unfortunately Drexel now finds itself in a no-win situation Friday having to play D2 host Alaska-Anchorage who beat the Dragons back in 1981. A game Drexel should win but one you don’t feel so confident it will. Vegas won’t handicap it, but I will, U of AA -2.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

UNC Asheville - Pregame

The Dragons landed in Anchorage on Sunday, arriving a few days before their participation in The Great Alaska Shootout.  We're in the Era of Exempt Tournaments with every team in the country seeming to participate, but the Shootout is a classic.  The contest started in 1978 and the list of Most Outstanding Players includes Jesus Shuttlesworth, Nate Robinson, Klay Thompson and a young sophomore from Marquette known as Dwayne Wade.  Even in the recent "down" years for the tourney, three of the last five Shootout champions danced, and all five made the postseason.  In 2014 the tourney moved into the brand new American Airlines Center which should assist with a rebirth of sorts for the Tournament.

The tournament history is mentioned on these pages because, amidst Drexel's struggles, this trip and the timing of it can help remind all of us what this is all about.  By being a part of this Drexel Basketball program these guys are getting a once in a lifetime trip to see some amazing sights and play in a historic tournament.  It's great to be able to support a program and school that does that.  For all of the frustrations that come with being a 15-year Drexel fan, I'm thankful that we have a staff with the character and class that the DU staff has.

In the first matchup of the tournament, the Dragons find themselves opposite the UNC Asheville Bulldogs.  Coach McDevitt inherited a bad situation when he came to Asheville three years ago and the only thing that has changed is that they have a New Belgium Brewing brewery in town now.  Last year’s Bulldog team finished the year at kenpom ranking 232 and lost 7' senior shot blocker Jaleel Roberts to graduation.  They also lost their best offensive threat, sophomore Andrew Rousey, who transferred to Marquette.  That's a lot to lose from a team that was playing at the level of Drexel's six man squad of 2014-15 with those guys.  This year they are 0-3 in D-I competition but it's worth noting that all three games were on the road and two of the three were high majors teams: Tennessee and Texas A&M.

Asheville may be better named the Angels both for the alliteration and their lineup full of wings.  They're starting five is entirely between 6'2" and 6'6".  They don't have a lot of size and they turn the ball over, a recipe for disappointment.  This is a very winnable game for the Dragons, they should win the turnover battle and so the key will be, as always it seems, keeping Abif and Rodney Williams on the floor.  Those two should have their way with the young and undersized Bulldog frontcourt.  Expect a lot of zone from an Asheville team that has already used a lot of it this year.  That will test the patience of the Drexel guards and coaching staff.  Is this another game where they come out of each half getting the ball inside, and then walk away from it and become a (poor) jumpshot team with a scoring drought five minutes in?  Or will they keep pounding the paint where their main advantage will lie, even against the zone?  That's where discipline comes in to the equation.  If the Dragons can consistently stay with what works out of the gate, regardless of personnel of the floor, that will be a great signal of growth for this team  It would be a sign that yes, this team is moving forward, adapting, and improving.

Prediction:  Drexel 70, Asheville 65
Vegas Line:  Drexel -2.5

Alan Boston's Take

Thank you Dan for allowing me to say a few words because this preview has me a bit crazed. The Great Alaskan Shootout in its prime was the king of the preseason tournaments. It was an honor to be invited. The host had little chance to win, but they put on a great show. It gave East Coast hoop fans, great late night fun. That was when schools were not allowed to start until after Thanksgiving.

Phil Martelli was the last to not allow his team to play until after Thanksgiving. He also thinks all big 5 games should be played at The Palestra. Of course they should, but king scumbag Rollie Massimino felt his team was too good to allow a long time tradition to continue. Others followed. There is no reason to play basketball games on U Boats, in China, Japan and other assorted places that have nothing to do with getting an education. The main reason all this evil started, ESPN, actually did well and got a Big 5 game to be played at The Palestra. It was a huge success. Still, home games remain. It is sad when money trumps all. No more relevance to Great Alaskan Shootout, no more neutral court wars at The Palestra with half tickets sold to each school, a building divided, but in a good way.  And for UNC Asheville, there is no more Andrew Rowsey.

Rowsey was supposed to be Asheville's best returning player, but he is one of 700 D1 transfers from last year. Oh, Rowsey went to Marquette. You see, when power schools let one slip through the cracks, they send one of their boys to the player, explain to him how he is wasting his time at the lower tier school or whatever lie they dream up and voila, we have another transfer, something which Drexel fans are well aware of..

The new rule changes have nothing to do with speeding the game up and everything to do with making sure that there will never be another George Mason. More possessions mean more rebounds, mean more athletic teams get more chances to break the back of the underdog. Also, they no longer can run good offense for 32 seconds, culminating in a great set, an open look and a frustrated favorite. 5 seconds is an almost 15% reduction in time needed to defend. Oh, and the hand check fouls allow more athletic guards to break defenders down one on one more readily. They want to make sure the money gets to the right places. Point being big money breeds evil which breeds corruption. High major college basketball is nothing but a big business. They only care about the almighty dollar. They do not give two fucks about the kids.

With Rowsey's transfer, Asheville still has 4 starters returning. It is also the 3rd year for Nick McDevitt. Oh, the prior coach was the great Eddie Beidenbach. I can only imagine why he left. One may recall Beidenbach's Asheville team dominating the game against clueless Syracuse. They led late. After when Coach Beidenbach correctly stated that UNCA outplayed Syracuse, scumbag Boeheim could only say, "Look at the scoreboard."

As for Asheville, they played Tennesse tough, lost to their big rival Western Carolina before being blown out by Texas A&M. something A&M has done to all their opponents thus far. In short, they are a good Big South team that would be a threat to win the conference, had their best player not decided that Marquette suddenly was the dream school to attend. In short, it is a game that Drexel should win. However, Drexel should have beat Monmouth and played High Point a bit closer. Perhaps Drexel's style is not a good fit for modern hoops or perhaps Bruiser has lost his mind. Either way, I have no faith in Drexel winning any game.

Drexel 72 Unc Asheville 71

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

They Change, We Change

First year Season Ticket Holder Scott Kier joins the cast of characters writing for the blog with this entry on this years rule changes and what they mean at Drexel.  I welcome Scott's basketball IQ and writing style to these pages, I hope you all enjoy his writing as much as I do.

As some might know, there have been some subtle rule changes to the game of college basketball for this season.  They are, however, changes that could significantly impact our beloved Dragons and the game that they play.

During head coach Bruiser Flint’s tenure with the team he has played a certain style of basketball both on offense and defense which has changed little in the fifteen seasons that he has been at the top of the program.  On the offensive end of the floor, they grind it out.  They hand the ball off at the top of the key.  Sets are deliberate and made to create shots and space more off of opportunity.  Back door cuts and pick and rolls are rare occurrences.

Last season, we saw the likes of Rashann London occasionally push the tempo of the game only to have his leash jerked by his coach.  It’s not Bruiser’s game.  He’d settle for a low scoring slug match rather than running up the score and trying to out shoot his opponent.

On the defensive end the game is about intense man to man.  There were a couple of instances last year where associate coach Mike Connors was permitted to attempt to install a 2-3 zone which did not last long.  Man to man is where it begins and ends for Bru.  They push the point guard once they are over half court, and try to force him into making a bad play resulting in a turnover, a steal, or a forced error with frequent switches and hedges.

Two rule changes this season, however, could potentially blow a hole in Bruiser’s game plan.  On the offensive side of the ball there is the reduction of the shot clock from 35 seconds to 30.  Five seconds might not seem like a significant amount of time but for Drexel Basketball it can be an eternity.  While I cannot back up my anecdotal theory with evidence, which violates Dan's first rule of "show your work" I can say that a considerable number of offensive attempts from the team came in the later part of the shot clock.  The change will result in more shots, and less time for things to develop.

First, we must look at defense because, after all, Drexel is a defense first team.  The NCAA has eliminated the five second dribbling rule when tightly guarded.  Guards can patrol the area in that second quarter of the floor with a player right up in their face without being forced to make a move towards the basket.  The result should be less forced errors for Drexel to capitalize on.

The effects of these two changes have already been seen in the early days of the 2015-2016 season.  Prior to this season, over the course of his coaching career at Drexel Bruiser’s teams have averaged scoring 65.6 points per game and have given up an average of 63.8 points per game.  They gave up 82 points against a St. Joseph’s team averaging more points than any St. Joseph’s team since 2003-2004.  High Point scored 75 against the Dragons which, aside from a 93-69 dismantling of North Carolina Wesleyan, is about what they’ve averaged this year.  Finally, Monmouth and their 28 points from Justin Robinson put up a season low 82 points against the Dragons.

Altogether, Drexel’s opponents are averaging 79.7 PPG through the first three contests and judging by production across the nation, while we should expect that number to come down some, it is still going to be considerably higher than any team Bruiser has put on the floor.  In fact, the highest points per game by an opponent in the Bruiser Flint era was 73.3 in his first season when he was still playing with Steve Seymour’s team.  Since then, the highest was just 68.1 in their 2003-2004 campaign.

On the offensive side of the floor, so far this season Drexel has put up 73.7 points per game, considerably higher than their 59.6 average of just a year ago, and the highest in a “non-Seymour” year since that 2003-2004 season when they averaged 72.9 which, incidentally, was one of the most offensively productive season since their NCAA run in 1995-1996, a team that featured some guy named Malik Rose.

When it comes to what this team can and should do on the offensive side of the floor, the bottom line is they need to adapt.  Over the past ten seasons Drexel lineups have featured three point snipers such as Dominick Mejia, Chris Fouch, and Damion Lee.  This year he has Tavon Allen and Sammy Mojica, who are none of them.  What he does have though is the deepest front court in recent memory anchored by Rodney Williams and Kazembe Abif both of whom have looked terrific in these three early contests.

What I have seen in my two trips to the DAC this season though is more of the same offense.  Pick and rolls are rarely happening, and entry passes to the post are even rarer.  Rodney Williams has developed a nice unblockable hook shot from the left block, and Abif’s game has looked better than ever.  These guys are the key to any success that the Dragons might have this season and not the guard play of the past.  Bruiser needs to realize that and he needs to adapt.

The game has changed more this season than it has in any year that Bru has been here at Drexel and the need for him to show his ability as a coach is needed more now than ever.  It is no secret that I am a rather harsh critic of the way that this team is managed both in game and based on my perception of what happens during practice.  Bruiser needs to show us that he can coach a team with a different, unintended makeup after the loss of Damion Lee.

Pick and rolls, post play, and allowing penetration and dishes by his point guards need to be part of this team’s offensive scheme.   If we continue to rely solely on guard play as we have in the past, this could prove to be a long season.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Monmouth Postgame

Final:  Monmouth 82, Drexel 74
Player of the Game:  Kazembe Abif
Key to the game:  Perimeter Shooting
Next Game:  Thursday November 26 vs UNC Asheville (Great Alaska Shootout)

 “Every time we needed to come down and execute a play, somebody went to the wrong place. I told them, if we keep doing that, we’re going to frustrate ourselves.”  ~B. Flint 11/15/15

“My team never scores 70-some points, offense isn’t our problem,” he said. “Our problem is, we play really stupid sometimes. We play really bad basketball. We play good defense for a while, play good offense for a while, but then we just shut it off and play bad defense, play bad offense. Now what happens, we play it team who’s good enough to beat you if you play that way. We’ve played three teams that way.“It’s been frustrating. I told the guys, last year I knew we were going to have our problems.  This year, I don’t get it.”   ~B. Flint 11/21/15


At the DAC, on the CAAZone, and on my phone, it appears that Bruiser got one thing right in the quotes above: if they keep doing this they are going to frustrate themselves, and the couple hundred people that follow this team closely as well.  On Saturday "this" meant throwing inbounds passes away (twice), players not where they were supposed to be in offensive sets, not getting back on defense off a missed shot, and another poor showing on the foul line.  These are execution issues, lack of discipline issues, issues that one expects from freshman, not a team that is only playing one freshman. The optimist says that these are issues that are so easy to clean up that with just a bit of work, the talent of this team will shine through and the wins will come pouring in.  That optimist isn't wrong, that vision is entirely possible and the outcome all Drexel fans hope for.

The startling reality for Dragons fans is that this isn't the first year that they've heard these quotes.  Do a web search for the keywords and the quotes all still preserved out there, 15 years and three contract extensions into Bru's Drexel career.  Fans and staff alike are so used to this that they almost - almost - drove right on by the line that "my team never scores 70-some points" as if it isn't news.  But think about that quote critically, because the mind bogglingness of it is mind boggling.  First, he mentions not scoring 70 ever like that's an OK benchmark.  Then, Coach Flint says that this years team is scoring in the 70's, so he's not worried about the offense.  Letting the numbers speak for themselves here:

As a Drexel fan or administrator, which part of the quote scares you more?  That Coach Flint understands his offense is always poor, or that he thinks that this years has been good?

This team has talent, but there has been a lack of discipline and enough boneheaded plays to sink the ship, Bru is right about that.  But be sure to read the new rules listed above.  Because Bruiser has tried to call a live ball timeout in all of the games this year and picked up an unrelated technical as well, in the first half of the first game of the season.  It's easy to agree with Coach Flint that it's not lack of talent, but rather lack of discipline and mental lapses that has been killing this team.  But his quote makes it seem that he doesn't understand that he, just likes the players he tutors, is making those mistakes.

I apologize if you were looking for a gamestory about the Monmouth game, something that spoke to how well Kazembe Abif, Rodney Williams and Rashann London played, because they did play well and they deserve that praise.  There is talent on this team, and I urge fans to be patient, because these mistakes - from player and coach alike - can be cleaned up.  Ahmad Fields will come back.  This season isn't over after just three games.  I promise.  Remember this season that was "lost" after three games?  These guys will grow, mistakes will be cleaned up, the rhythm of the season will set in, and hey maybe someone will teach Bru basic math (don't blame Bru, it's the Saint Joe's education at fault).  

For now, we're on to Alaska.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Monmouth Pregame

For the second time this week, the Dragons will host a game against a team from a lessor conference with no basketball reputation that is actually pretty good.  The Monmouth Hawks play their third game and third road game of the year at the DAC on Saturday.  Monmouth began this season with a west coast swing that saw them beat a small, little known school called the University of California Los Angeles on UCLA's home floor.  They followed that game up with a game against USC which was a bad spot for them, coming off of a big win, having been on the road for days, and all they did was put a 90 spot on USC in a losing effort.  These guys can fill up the basket.

The matchup of the afternoon will be Terrell Allen vs 5'8" speedster/floor general/sharpshooter/guy who stirs the drink Justin Robinson, a junior three year starter for the Hawks.  This will be Terrell's toughest test to date, by far, and it will give coaches and fans alike a big look into his defensive abilities.

The Hawks go deeper than just Robinson, with a team made up of 1 senior, 6 juniors, 2 sophomores and no freshman seeing minutes. The senior is 6'6" Deon Jones out of Wilmington, Delaware.  He likes to go out to the perimeter and that should be encouraged, as his three point shot reminds many of the state of Delaware - it sucks.  Jones pairs with 6'7" junior Collin Stewart to form an inside pairing that Drexel can beat, and needs to beat if they want to stay in this game.  Rodney Williams and Kaz Abif, come on down, those two need to step up big on the offensive side today.

The last item to watch for is the officiating.  Monmouth plays up tempo, there will be a lot of possessions and likely will be plenty of fouls.  The Hawks are the better free throw shooting team (yeah, yeah, so is every other team in D-1, we know, also not true, there's about 40 teams worse thus far this season!) and as we learned last game, the Drexel frontcourt depth isn't really depth.  A quick whistle in this game is a huge, humongous, advantage Monmouth.  

In the bigger picture, this game is as big a red flag trap game as they come for the Hawks.  Monmouth is just back from a very successful west coast swing and their next game is against a certain team full of Fighting Irishmen.  It's very easy to take this Drexel team lightly when that's the case, and this DU team is talented enough to exploit that.  At 0-2 and needing a win, this is a good spot for Drexel to show up in, despite missing Ahmad Fields.  The line is Monmouth by 4, and in normal circumstances I'd agree with the Vegas money coming in on the Hawks, but given the situations both teams find themselves in, with the Dragons just much more desperate, I think they bring the fight, get out there on defense, get to the loose balls and get on the board today.  I mean how many times ya gonna lose to a team named the Hawks?

Vegas Line:  Monmouth -4
Prediction:  Drexel 83, Monmouth 79

Alan Boston's Take:

Wow. Does Drexel ever catch a break? Last season they ended with a 6 man rotation. This year begins with projected starting point guard Major Canady being lost for the year. Elite transfer Ahmad Fields from Utah being unavailable. To top that all off, it seems as if Bruiser has lost his mind. Losing to High Point is no disgrace, but if Drexel hopes to contend, in what is shaping up to be a much tougher Colonial, than I anticipated, they have to be able to win home games vs teams similar to High Point.

Before the season started, Monmouth looked like a very winnable game. Now, with their impressive win over UCLA and then possibly even more impressive was 2 nights later, they quickly get down 15 to USC, but rally to get the lead by 1 before fading late.  King Rice has done an excellent job in bringing Monmouth back to relevance. This is Coach Rice's 5th year. This is his best team. Drexel has the talent to win this game, but they will have to play their best. They also need a healthy Fields, if they want to win the Colonial. Even with him, it sadly looks like that will not happen. Even sadder to me, if they do not win or come close, that will likely be all for Bruiser.

I do think Drexel is all in, while Monmouth may level off a bit.

Drexel 72 Monmouth 71

Thursday, November 19, 2015

High Point - Postgame

Final:  High Point 75, Drexel 66
Player of the Game:  Rodney Williams
Key to the game:  Interior Defense
Next Game:  Saturday November 21 vs Monmouth

The Dragons opened their home slate against an underrated High Point on a warm DAC Wendnesday.  With a home game against an opponent that should be playing at a level similar to the high end of the CAA talent pool this was a great opportunity to learn who the Dragons are as a team.  In a game with plenty of takeaways, there was one overriding theme.

High Point coach Scott Cherry knows what he is doing.  His team members know their role and they were very aware of opposing personnel, which was clearly exemplified in the paint throughout the game.  In the era of valuing each shot, Coach Cherry has his shooters behind the three point line and his guys who play on the blocks or penetrate taking high percentage shots or none at all.  Of their 60 points scored from the field last night, 56 were scored inside the paint or behind the arc.  No midrange jumpers to be seen.  This is what coaches who understand modern basketball do, and his team has completely bought in, in very impressive fashion.

The challenge of defending smart offense was given to the Dragons, and Bruiser Flint's starting five did surprisingly well defending it.  They did a good job in the paint which enabled the guards to hang with their men on the perimeter.  And then Rodney Williams picked up his second foul, just 3:41 into the game, causing Coach Flint to sit Williams for the remainder of the half.  That's the moment when Drexel fans learned that we'd all been fooled with talk of depth, five forwards and ten interchangable pieces that could be pushed in and out to best matchup with an opponent.  As it turns out, Rodney Williams is not an interchangeable piece.

With Williams in the game those first three minutes and change, High Point had only scored three points and that was on one of their two mid range jumpers throughout the game and a free throw.  John Brown was 0/2 from the field with a turnover and no rebounds.  Williams left and Brown's line for the remainder of the half was 5/6 from the floor, 14 points and 4 rebounds.  Looking at the full game, the Dragons outscored the Panthers by 11 in the 19 minutes with Rodney in the game, and were outscored by 20 in the 21 minutes without him.  Brown's full game line with Rodney in the game?  5 points, 5 boards, 2 turnovers and 4 of his 5 missed shots.  Drexel coaches and fans knew going into the game that how they played Brown 1 on 1 would weigh heavily on the outcome of the game and what everyone learned was that DU only has one frontcourt player that can guard a player on that level.

There were some positives coming out of this game for the Dragons as well.  Kaz Abif seems like he could be a real offensive threat this year and a guy that the Dragon guards can and should look to feed the ball to.  Then there was the real stunner of this game, when Tavon Allen put on one of his career best showings, at one point he was 6/6 from three. If Tavon is going to take 11 shots in a game, it's good news when 8 of them are from behind the arc as his midrange game has been a four year struggle. The other continued sign of hope was the play of Terrell Allen who continues to look like a veteran at the point.  Fifteen trips to the free throw line along with 4 assist and just 2 turnovers along with a genuine leadership when on the ball makes Terrell continue to be the bright beacon of hope in the young season.

While there was low points (someone put starting sophomore Sammy Mojica on a milk carton please) including the release that Major Canady is out for the season due to injury again, there continues to be hope for this young looking team.  While they seem a year away, if Bruiser can fix the interior defense, he's already found some consistent offense from Terrell Allen, and Kaz Abif along with hopefully getting Ahmad Fields back soon.  What we learned in these first two games of the year is that there is plenty of potential here in a season that could be the truest measure of this coaching staff in a long time.  And with that, we're onto Monmouth.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

High Point Pregame

It'll be 60 degrees outdoors in Philadelphia on Wednesday, so it'll be a hot one in the DAC when the Dragons tip off their home schedule against the High Point Panthers.  The Panthers and Dragons both come into this game off of similar season openers, losing close games on the road to perceived similar opponents.  The Panthers version came with a three point loss at Texas Tech last Friday evening.

The similarities don't end there.  While both teams feature a predominately upperclassman lineup where they really parallel is in pace.  Both of these teams look to slow it down, value the basketball and get the open shot.  But when the Panthers get open, they make baskets.  Like make it rain baskets.  Perspective:  Damion Lee shot 39% from deep last year to pace the Dragons.  The Panthers shot 39% from three as a team.  It will be a test of a Dragons defense that was shall we say - suspect - in their opening contest at St. Joe's.

That right there is what makes this game a great one for fans and coaches alike to watch - plenty of reason to make the trip out to the DAC tonight.  After an uptempo foul fest to lead off the season, this game should be played at a much more Flint friendly pace.  Couple that with a gameplan that should be back to the old emphasis on perimeter defense and while it doesn't quite call for "CAA rockfight" levels of painfulness it checks a lot of boxes for what Bruiser tries to get games to look like.  Put simply, by the end of the night we should have a much better idea of if this Dragons team is as for real as their Coaching Staff has been hinting that they are.  And if they are pretenders, we should know just as quickly because High Point might just be pretty good themselves.

Last year the Panthers went 13-5 in the Big South and impressed out of conference as well, taking down CAA runner up William & Mary among others.  That team lost talented sharpshooter Devante Wallace and swingman Brian Richardson but kept their biggest threats.  Fifth-year Senior Forward John Brown was the Big South Preseason Player of the Year and outright winner of the Big South Conference Most Generic Name balloting.  Brown brings a post presence that the Dragons won't see for much of the rest of the season and sets up his shooter teammates with the ability to feed from the inside out.  He's complimented by junior point guard and Second Team Big South-er Adam Weary.  High Point doesn't start any freshman and will take the court with every college coaches nightmare:  Talent at the point and in the post and upperclassman shooters on the wings.  If these guys played any defense, they could arguably contend nationally.  And that is where Drexel needs to take advantage.

In order to win this game, the Dragons will need to win a one on one battle with John Brown in the post.  Bru never double teams, and if Drexel helps too much they will get abused by the perimter shooters.  On the offensive side, it'll be all about repeating their performance in the back half of the Saint Joe's game:  Get to the basket.  If they can get to the paint and avoid the Rashann and Tavon jumpshot show it means higher quality shots and more fouls on Brown.  If the cost of forcing the ball into the paint is a few blocked shots - this is a game where that might be worth it.

This game should be a closely contested fight and a stark contrast to the season opener.  Look for the Drexel defense to progress and a final score in the 60's.  This is a very winnable game for the Dragons, but I still fear that they bring their jumpshot game against a team that will allow them to get to the rim.

Prediction:  High Point 67 - Drexel 65

Alan Boston's Take:

High Point had never won a title until four players who are now seniors arrived on campus. They have won 3 consecutive Big South regular season titles, but have not made the NCAA tournament. They are the favorite to do that this year. John Brown is their marquee player, who I believe has a pro career ahead of him. The sleeper of the four is Adam Weary whose entire college career has been plagued by injury, but says he feels 100% healthy this year.

Coach Scott Cherry is entering his 7th year at High Point and does a terrific job. With all their experience and the extra edge coming from never having made the tournament, I feel well coached High Point will get there this year. They began this year leading Texas Tech with 3 minutes to go before losing late.  Tech shot 35 free throws, High Point 20. No comment.

Sunday they killed N C Wesleyan, who is a D2 school that I know nothing about.  With me thinking that Drexel has an excellent team this year, I make them a 31/2 point favorite tomorrow. This will be a good test to see where Drexel stands as High Point power rates at the higher end of the Colonial, 2 points worse than where Hofstra ended last year, to give you some idea.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Drexel vs SJU Postgame – And We’re Off!

Below is the first post on the blog from Mark Walush, who formerly worked the end line as a member of the DU Pep Band.  It's always a great sign of a healthy program when the Spirit Teams enjoy the games they work, and Mark continues a proud tradition of Pep Band members filling that role.  I am very excited that he is willing to share some his thoughts in this space this year.

In what was my first game as a Drexel alumnus, I left Hagan arena feeling much better than I thought I would.  Coming in as the preseason 8th placed team in the CAA, losing the best offensively talented player in Drexel history* and playing against a team that has had Drexel’s number the past 4 years, I  expected Mr. Benbry and his almighty fro to have his way with the Drexel defense and get this long season started.
For the first 10 minutes, it seemed like my fears were realized, the triple handoff was once again ineffective, long range 2 pointers seemed to be the shot of choice, and SJU seemed to do as it pleased on the offensive end.  But then Drexel started doing un-Drexel things, working the ball inside, driving to the hoop instead of settling for fade-aways, and actually making shots inside.  Unfortunately, they could never quite get over the hump as SJU always seemd to have an answer for every Drexel run. Whether it be Bembry slamming it home, or Oliva draining a three, the Dragons were never able to close the gap.  As with every close game, there was the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Good

  • Terrell Allen: Looking at the box score, it is easy to see why the new T. Allen belongs in this category.  In the first (!!!) game of his collegiate career, he went for 20 points on 13 shots, 2 rebounds, 4 assists to 1 turnover, 4 steals, and only 2 fouls in a game which saw a total of 51 fouls called.  He played beyond his years, directing players, and keeping the rest of his teammates calm during the horrendous start.  I can see why Bru was high on this kid and he seems to have a bright future ahead.

  • OFFENSE!: Rarely seen in the Bruiser era, the Dragons averaged 1.09 points per possession, a mark they only beat in 7 games last season and they showed signs that they could be even better than that.  The bigs only would up with 26% of the points (21/81) but the Dragons definitely worked the ball around more, which led to the guards being able to drive to the basket.

The Bad

  • Free Throws: Called free throws for a reason, the Dragons only hit 64% of their free throws, a mark that must improve for this team to compete for the CAA title.  Granted, the number is skewed due to the bigs, Bah and Rodney combining to go 1-8 from the line.  If they are going to keep getting to the line, they need to convert better.
  • Defense: Normally known for being a defensive team under Bruiser Flint, the Dragons yet again gave up over 1 Point per Possession to their opponent.  A lot of this number has to deal with sending opponents to the line way too often (more on that below)y.  This is not your typical Drexel defense, and the grind it out, physical type of defense is long gone. Drexel gave up way too many points inside the arc, allowing SJU to shoot 60%.  I did question Bruiser’s choice of Mojica on Bembry to start the game, and it showed with Bembry getting open and to the rim with ease, scoring 7 early points.  Later in the game, Tavon was moved to guard Bembry, which proved to be a better matchup and slowed Bembry's production.  Luckily, there are no Bembry’s in the CAA, but the interior D needs to tighten up.

The Ugly

  • FOULS: As mentioned above, there were a total of FIFTY ONE fouls called in this game, making it over 2 and a half hours long, and painful to watch.  This is definitely a trend in the national college basketball scene as teams adjust to the new rule changes, but with 3 Drexel players fouling out, cleaner play must be stressed in practice in order to compete in games this season.  In addtion, the ever popular Bruiser technical made an appearance, and Bruiser does need to keep his cool in these early games, as everyone is going to be upset at how the new version of college basketball is going to be played.

There is a lot to look forward to this season, and if Saturday night’s game is any indication, this team is much better than an 8th place finish in the CAA.  Looking to the next week, a matchup with High Point and Monmouth are coming up, the latter just coming off a win over UCLA.  We will learn a lot about this team before conference play, and I, for one, am excited that college basketball ia finally back, and that I can enjoy it from the comfort of my own cushy seatback this time around.

*Apologies, Malik Rose

Friday, November 13, 2015

St. Joseph's University (Pregame)

Many thanks to Ryan Koechig for returning to the blog and writing up this preview for the SJU game.  My prediction is at the bottom but the words above are all his:

The squeak of a sneak, the bounce of a ball, the reverberating echo of an F-bomb in the rafters;
that’s right Dragon fans, Drexel basketball is back for what should be another interesting (surprising successful?) campaign of college hoops. The Bru Crew begins its quixotic quest for a prom invite (20 years?!) with a short trip (unless you're stuck behind a trol) up Lancaster Ave for a city battle at Alumni Memorial, NutriSystem Centre, er, Hagan Arena against the SJU Hawks. After alternating wins with the Hawks for eight years, the Dragons now find themselves on a four game losing streak against the perpetual molting, arm flappers, including last year’s ugly 52-49 loss at the DAC. In that game, only one Dragon managed to score in double figures, and he’s taken his talents elsewhere. In his stead, we have some old friends returning from injuries (Major Canady and Kazembe Abif) and new friends to meet and watch grow into their roles with the program (Ahmad Fields and Terrell Allen).

First games can be tough to forecast, and this year that should be doub so. Beyond the year addition/subtraction of players, this year also sees the tweaking of several rules – most notab the elimination of 5 seconds from the shot clock. However, it doesn’t take an SJU education to understand the Hawks main source of offense will once again fall upon the luscious, luscious fro of one DeAndre Bembry. The 6-6 junior enters the year with an impressive list of pre-season awards and the potential to find himself in the NBA by this time next year. Odds are that he will get his, although the Drexel D did a decent job of limiting him last year, holding him to only 13 points, so the main focus is to not let him explode and instead lock down on the supporting cast.

That supporting cast shot the ball only a little bit better than Drexel was able to last year.  Running the point will be 6-0 Sophomore Shevar Newkirk who posted a seemingly solid 1.6:1 A/TO ratio that helped mask a TORate of 26% last year as a freshman, but only hit roughly 28% of his shots from the field. The other starting guard will be 6-5 Senior Aaron Brown. He, with Bembry, will challenge their defender by driving the ball towards the hoop to finish or draw the foul. The Hawk starting forwards will challenge their Drexel defenders by stretching the floor out to the arc. Issah Miles was actually SJU’s leading three-point shooter percentage wise, and freshman Pierfrancesco Oliva is expected to hit from distance as well.

For Drexel, the goal will be to see how you take a team that averaged 59.6 PPG (good for 331st in the nation) and replace 36% of those points in order to score more than a Dungeon Master on a Friday night. Luckily, they enter the season with full Health and higher Experience XPs. It’s hoped that Utah transfer Ahmad Fields, who sounds as though he’s had a strong offseason, will take up a lot of that scoring slack. From limited data from Utah, he seems to be a driver and finisher at the net. He also appears to be relative competent from three. The remainder is going to need to come from the hopeful freshman to sophomore growth of Rashann London and Sammy Mojica as well as a much stronger post scoring presence, aided by the return of Kazembe Abif.

With two poor shooting teams, it should be apparent that he who controls the glass should control the game. It’s been reported that Phil Martel is looking to run a smaller lineup out on the court this year. A strong rebounding presence by the Drexel bigs is going to be a must if the Dragons are to launch their season with an impressive win. Another advantage should come from the charity stripe. St. Joe’s was one of the worst free throw shooting teams in the country last year hitting only 61.5% while Drexel was top 25. If Drexel can run their offense through the post and see the guards drive instead of settling for two-point jumpers, those free points combined with strong rebounding could see Drexel grab their first win at SJU since 1978.

If you’re heading to the hill, remember to bring some aspirin for the drum headache, sunglasses to protect you from the glare (like the Sun, DO NOT stare at the top of Martel’s head) and be sure to comment on Phil’s contract extension to any Hawk fans. That last one is sure to provide you some entertainment whether Drexel is winning or losing. Most of all, remember that it’s opening night and the possibilities are endless. Sure, Drexel was picked to finish 8th in the CAA and some would argue that the Pope walking on their campus blessed SJU making tonight’s game a mere formality, but secretly we know whom he’s rooting for tonight:

Bless you Father.

You may have noticed a lack of the use of ly’s or li’s or, really, anything sounding like Lee. Well, he’s gone; and yet you, like the team will have to figure out how to get through it. It may not have been as easy as you are accustomed to or visually pleasing, but it can get done. Go DU Dragons!

Prediction: SJU 66, Drexel 57

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Out of Conference Preview

With the below Out of Conference preview we welcome Eric Resnick to the blog.  Salty and satirical, we're thrilled to have his talented writing on these electronic pages.  Without further ado, enjoy his season preview:

One of the most anticipated parts of the Drexel basketball season is the release of the non-conference schedule. Never mind that it is on average the 332nd schedule released in Division I, it’s the suspense that takes us through Labor Day and the High Holidays that piques one’s interest for the most unpredictable aspect of Drexel’s season.

This year’s non-conference schedule features the rekindling of an old rivalry that should never have been interrupted, return revenge matches against two local foes, an SEC match up, and a trip to America’s last frontier.

Notwithstanding the 2012 wins in its non-conference schedule which contributed to Drexel’s expectation of making the tournament, but was also its downfall when the quality of opponents didn’t pan out, Bruiser and his staff have always done a good job scheduling teams that befit Drexel’s contemporary abilities. This year is no exception.

AWAY November 13 at St. Joseph’s (PA)- You have to acknowledge Phil Martelli’s respect for the Drexel program, scheduling the Dragons on a home-and-home basis for many seasons running. Last season’s home opener was one of the best games played in the DAC all season and was played at the time you thought the Dragons might have had some life. The Hawks had come off a sobering loss to Fairleigh Dickinson and were out to right themselves. In last year’s game, Damion Lee’s three-pointer came up short at the buzzer as St Joe’s won 52-49. DeAndre Bembry was the only player who stood out for the Hawks that game and it certainly wasn’t his best performance. He is the first Hawk to ever lead the A10 in scoring and he also led his team in rebounds. The 2016 All-America Candidate also handled the Dragons two seasons ago on City Avenue. Isiah Miles returns as a senior as the Hawks return four starters. St Joseph’s will also debut redshirt freshman Markell Lodge and his 39 inch vertical leap.

HOME November 18 High Point - You may ask how can a season’s high point come so early? It’s the first of two Big South games on the schedule. The Panthers boast red shirt forward John Brown, who is the third highest scoring returning senior in the country with 1,680 career points, 142 more than Damion Lee. He was named to the second team of the preseason mid-major All American list. Drexel bigs will have a tough time staying out of foul trouble defending the big man. Last season, High Point amassed an impressive 23 wins on their way to the school’s D1 record for wins. Head coach Scott Cherry will have familiarity with coach Flint’s strategies, as Cherry was an assistant coach at George Mason for seven seasons.

HOME November 21 Monmouth - The Hawks should benefit early on from a tour of China this past summer, giving players needed practice time together. The Hawks are preseason MAAC #2 pick, which beats a #8 CAA pick any day. Monmouth returns its two double digit scorers from last season, Deon Jones and Justin Robinson.  They don’t hit the boards too hard so this is one of Drexel’s most winnable OOC games.

NEUTRAL November 26-28 at Great Alaska Shootout in Anchorage, Seward’s Folly -  This tournament is being attended for two reasons- it is a great life experience for the players and national TV coverage. A win in Drexel’s opening televised game guarantees two more nationally televised games on the always available CBS Sports.

The tournament does not have the same team draw it used to have with the abundance of exempt tournaments now out there. None of the seven potential opponents made this past year's national tournament (RPI)- Alaska-Anchorage (NA), Loyola (Chicago) (87), Middle Tennessee (152), UNC Asheville (248), San Diego (164), San Jose State (336) and Toledo (76). The Division II host, Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves, beat the Dragons in this tournament back in 1981. Alaska-Anchorage is the last team you want to play given that they are always competitive in this tournament as they get up for their D-I opponents, they don’t have travel issues and are already acclimated to the dark climate. The program has the backing of a D-I program, but has not elected to step up to that level.

A potential encounter with Anchorage would not happen until the second round. The Dragons open up with UNC-Asheville who could only manage a 15-16 record in the Big South last season. They lose their best player, Andrew Rowsey a Marquette transfer. You don’t replace 19.2 PPG too easily, so the Bulldogs will have to rely on junior guard David Robertson who started all of the games for Asheville last season.

AWAY Dec 5 LaSalle – “Wait a second here, you guys aren’t expected to be good? Let’s play then, glad I thought of it” - John Giannini.

It’s no surprise that the Explorers scheduled Drexel this and last season given Drexel’s slide. The Explorers as a team were on par in almost every statistical category against its opponents and it showed in a mediocre 17-16 showing last season. LaSalle loses Jerrell Wright and Steve Zack, but returns junior Jordan Price. Price averaged 17.2 PPG last season after a successful transfer from Auburn. He looks to improve upon his 26.7% from the field and 6 turnovers in the slop-fest against the Dragons last season. LaSalle also has a late addition in Dusan Majstorovic, a heady Serbian sharpshooter. He has additional experience having played at a prep school in Maine and was a member of the competitive Serbian U-16 Super League and U-16 national team.

AWAY Dec 15 U of South Carolina- This is one of the Dragons’ most challenging opponents and the only one from a power conference. Drexel always manages to schedule a big-time conference opponent that is completely beatable on a good day. It is the perfect opponent as SC has been known to sleepwalk against lesser teams. SC does return about ¾ of its production from last season, but there is no one from the returning class that would give most teams fits.

“HOME” at Palestra Dec 19 Penn State - Last season’s match resulted in a 73-68 loss for the Dragons in a game that did not appear as close.  The Dragons mounted an un-Drexel-like 15-0 run in 3 minutes with 7 minutes left behind the shooting of Tavon Allen and Freddie Wilson, with plenty of offensive rebounding and 6 forced turnovers on 8 Penn State possessions, only to come up short against the Lions. The game was right around the high-water mark for Penn State who after the next game had been an un-Penn State-like 12-1, only to realize that the Big 10 schedule is tougher than what Penn State schedules out of conference and went on to go 4-14 in the Big 10. Brandon Taylor was too much for Drexel, particularly in the first half with a double-double and then senior D.J. Newbill led PSU with 20 points, his season average. Newbill is gone to graduation and no one else for PSU averaged double digits in scoring last season. Shep Garner started at guard as a freshman in almost every PSU game and played nicely for the Lions and is the leading returner in assists. 7’1” Jordan Dickerson as a junior will look to play more minutes and compete for the Big 10 lead in blocked shots.

HOME Dec 22 Penn Quakers - HOME, you read that right. You will not find a team that has been an inferior opponent with a lopsided home/road ratio like Penn: Drexel. Maybe Penn realized that drawing several thousand for a non-conference, non-Big 5 game to its building every other year, with no travel costs, is better than not at all. The fans win when these two teams play, no matter the teams’ expectations. Steve Donahue comes in as head coach to replace Jerome Allen. The Quakers look to enjoy Donahue’s successful run at Cornell and relive the 90’s glory days when he was Fran Dunphy’s assistant, but the expectation is not there this year. Last season, Penn managed to have one player who was able to average in double figures scoring and one player who averaged over 5 boards per game on their way to 9 wins. Penn brings 19 players in on their roster. It will be interesting to see if the visiting bench at the DAC can accommodate this many players. Drexel has won the last 5 meetings between these teams.

AWAY Dec 28 Iona- This is the most difficult game on the schedule and will be played 1 year to the day Iona smacked Drexel at the DAC by 19. The Gaels are coming off a successful campaign going 26-9, finishing first in the MAAC, but losing to Manhattan in the finals of the MAAC tournament; they missed the NCAA tournament with a gaudy 26 wins and 51 RPI. They have made the postseason in the last 5 seasons, including 2 NCAA tournament appearances in 2012 and 2013 under Tim Cluess. They also won at least 20 games in all of those years. The guard-heavy Gaels showcase shooter AJ English, a first team preseason All American who scored 20.1 PPG last season with 5.1 APG and 5.0 RPG, who can score from just about anywhere on the court. Iona returns three of their four 13+ point scorers.

The Dragons have once again managed to schedule some competitive OOC opponents without stretching itself against expectations. Drexel has gotten away from the quick pay days whose payday was being pummeled. It’s one thing this program always gets right.

Fun fact: every OOC team on the schedule has been to the NCAA tournament more recently than when Bruiser Flint began coaching at DU in 2001, except for High Point, who went D1 just a year prior to Flint’s arrival.

Out of Conference Prediction:  4-7

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

It's All Coming Back, It's All Coming Back to Me Now

Ladies and Gentleman, welcome to the 2015-2016 Dragons Speak coverage of Drexel Basketball and year 15 of the Bruiser Flint era.  This year we'll enjoy the usual jokes that a team picked eighth brings to the table, consider season slogans* and enjoy raising pints up and down the east coast with the Friends of the Blog.  But behind the fun there will be there will be plenty of business to attend to.

The biggest business decision coming up for Athletics is the one that is a buzz across college athletics: Cost of Attendance Stipends.  Using a round number, a COA Stipend would be roughly $3,000 a player.  Apply that to 13 players each on the men's and women's basketball teams (equality remaining a focus at DU Athletics) and that comes to $78,000 a year to pay to realistically attempt to compete at the Division I level in basketball.  That may sound do-able, but remember that when President Fry came to Drexel he gave Bru an almost $100,000 pay raise.  And then there's the other side of the coin: Return on Investment.

Currently Drexel is still benefiting financially from VCU's 2011 Final Four run.  That money runs out after next season and in case one hasn't noticed, the CAA has not experienced many similar runs since that time.  The money that DU had been pulling in from the conference is about to drop significantly, which is in line with the conferences play and Drexel's own play (the more successful the program is, the bigger slice of the pie the CAA gives of it's tournament income). In 2012 when Bru was getting paid, the school brought in over $225,000 from the CAA for hoops.  It won't be anything close to that in two years, and don't expect a paycut for Bru if he's still here at that time which means the school will have to find well beyond $78,000 to pay for current program cost and a COA stipend.  That obviously leads to the question of a coach making almost half a million dollars relative to his return on investment for the school, something else that will certainly be a storyline this year.  For now, we hope for some after midnight TV exposure for diehards, degenerates and third shifters when the team travels to Alaska and a tournament berth that would alleviate so many of these concerns.

And that segways nicely into the on the court discussion.  The team was picked eighth.  They weren't good last year and they lost their best player.  They were first in the conference in turnover percentage, handled the ball very well in conference play with a point guard that really struggled to shoot the ball.  This year Bru decided to take the point guard that accomplished that, Rashann London, off the ball and make him a shooter - an interesting decision, although somewhere Gerald Colds is nodding in approval.

Nonetheless, there is hope.  While the lone senior last year was little used until necessary Freddie Wilson, this year the team will be seeing plenty of minutes from two fifth year seniors, Kazembe Abif and Tavon Allen.  The team has an exciting prospect at the point in Terrell Allen and he is the only freshman likely to see significant minutes, a stark contrast to last year when the Dragons ran four froshes on the floor at times.  The front court alone now features five players with experience: Abif, Juniors Rodney Williams and Mohammed Bah, and Sophomores Austin Williams and Tyshawn Miles.  That's a frontcourt with options to go twin towers with the Williams', go athletic with Abif and Bah or hammer the offensive glass with Abif and Miles.  That flexibility is a game planners dream.

On the outside, a team that was struggling to find a point guard last year suddenly has three options.  The preseason performances of Terrell Allen and Major Canady seem to project a minutes cut for Rashann London.  Fans and staff alike are excited to see electric Utah transfer Ahmad Fields at the two, and Tavon Allen will take his usual spot at the three, where he almost has to improve offensively, if just by blind luck.  Meanwhile off the bench they'll have the aforementioned London and fan favorite Sammy Mojica, who would have earned a starting job at many CAA programs after last seasons performance.  With five guards at three spots, the theme of depth and flexibility continues.  An experienced nine man rotation in this version of the CAA was picked eighth?  That's as much a joke as picking Damion Lee to the All-CAA Defensive team.

While we still need to wait and see where the points are coming from (keep this challenging goal in mind:  25 ppg from the front court) after Lee's abrupt departure, the defense should be much improved.  Any coach will tell you, especially when in man to man, when one man isn't handling their business defensively, the impact to the defense as a whole is exponential.  Damion Lee was that broken link, and throwing freshmen out all last year along with the infamous four guard only added to those challenges.  The defense finished the year last year ranked 216th in defensive efficiency, good for the worst finish since Bruiser's first year at DU.  That.  Will.  Not.  Happen.  Again.

So please ignore the preseason rankings, ignore the usual suspects from other Philly schools who make jokes about University of Sciences and ignore how depressed and unmotivated this fanbase was at the end of last season.  It's a new year and there's plenty of reasons for excitement.  There's even exciting news here at Dragons Speak where for the first time since these pages began in 2013 you won't just need to read things from one mans perspective.  Entering this season a handful of other fans have offered to step up and contribute their voices as well.  I'm extremely excited for the addition and for the more rounded approach and thoughts that will be available here to further represent our fanbase.  Come back on Thursday to see the beginning of this movement as contributor Eric Resnick has an excellent piece previewing the out of conference schedule for the season.

Welcome to 2015-16 Drexel Men's Basketball.  It's time to get excited.

*Slogan ideas considered:  "Drexel Basketball:  Better than you Think!', "Live from The World's Most Famous Arena That Uses a Fire Exit as a Main Entrance" or personal favorite:  "We Have Point Guards Now!"  Feel free to add yours in the comments.