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.