Friday, January 29, 2016

Hofstra Home - Pregame

Last time the Dragons played Hofstra, they had come off of back to back strong offensive performances, had a win in the game prior and things looked to be going in the right direction in Dragonland.  No such worries this time, as Drexel comes into this game looking to avoid tying their longest losing streak of the season at six games.  Just like last time, this is a terrible matchup for the Dragons, with few reasons for optimism.

But there are reasons for optimism, no matter how much of a reach they may seem.  Hofstra took a significant blow this week with Senior Forward and sixth man Malik Nichols ending his season with a knee injury.  What was already a short seven man rotation on a run and gun team is even shorter.  Hofstra is now a six man team with only two forwards, likely All-CAA team member Rokas Gustys and senior transfer from Princeton, Denton Koons.  That's about as thin a front line as anyone will find anywhere.

The downside of that is that the Dutchmen will be going four guard for most of the game, and when Koon is in and Gustys is grabbing a blow, they will have five deep threats on the court at once.  This against a Drexel team that hasn't been able to guard a single big man at the three point stripe yet.  The image of both Rodney and Kaz out defending the perimeter simultaneously, leaving a vacuum underneath, is the stuff nightmares are made of for Drexel fans and coaches alike.  But outside of not being able to defend the paint or the perimeter things don't seem so ba... no, wait, outside and inside are all of the things.  The Dragons seem unlikely to be able to defend anything while Hofstra brings one of the conferences most efficient offenses to town.  In case that didn't sound great, HU is also second in the CAA in rebounding percentage, behind Towson, the nightmare of which DU just lived out in real time.

The other "reason for optimism" is scheduling.  The six man Hofstra team just went to the wire with Elon in a fast paced contest.  Having to play on the road two days later is the cruelty of the CAA Thursday/Saturday schedule.  Drexel will reap the benefit of Joe Mihalich's teams tired legs as well as a bit of a trap game situation.  Hofstra has won three in a row going into this contest with the Dragons and is awaiting a first place showdown with UNCW in their next game.  It's a look ahead situation for the Dutchmen, and they're going to a homecoming game against a team that should be, at some point, getting angry, some signs of which we saw when freshman standout Terrell Allen tossed a ball off of a backboard in the first half of yesterday's game.

This is about as tough a game to call as its going to get.  It's a terrible spot for Hofstra, but Hofstra is the toughest matchup in terms of style in the conference for these Dragons.  This blog has never shied away from statistics and analysis, but given the spot, and a fresh guard potentially returning to the rotation for the Dragons, lets take one last shot,

Prediction:  Drexel 72 - Hofstra 70
Vegas Line:  TBA

Alan Boston's Take:

Sometimes, you expect things to happen. Time after time, they do not. Sometimes, you just have to admit you are wrong. The cliche says, "go to the well too often". My bankroll says, please stop thinking Drexel will win a basketball game.  Ambivalence can be painful. Yes, I believe Drexel will win. When you watch their games or read their game stories, it is easy to believe that day will come. However, unless one can afford an endless supply of opiates, one must deal with reality. Drexel will win a basketball game. Perhaps that is true. Logically it makes sense. Then the last 5 minutes of the game gets played. Drexel loses. Deja vu. Here comes Hofstra, fresh off losing their 6th man for the year and fresh off a very tough win over Elon. Hofstra also will be playing after traveling on short rest. Certainly Drexel can close the deal this time. Logic and Drexel basketball are not a good match. If there was ever a game that Drexel could pull off an upset, it is this Saturday. When they played at Hofstra, Drexel took them to the wire. Logically, with a healthier Drexel team and Hofstra a man down, the Dragons will pull the upset. As previously stated, when it comes to Drexel basketball, one must eschew logic. Drexel finally shot the ball well vs Towson, yet still managed to blow a lead. I love to think logically. I have made a career of it. Sometimes one must ignore what logically should work.

Hofstra 78 Drexel 45

Towson Home - Postgame

Final Score:  Towson 77 Drexel 70
Drexel Player of the Game: Terrell Allen
Key to the Game: Losing the fistfight
Next Game:  Saturday January 30 vs Hofstra

Kleenex.  The Snuggles Bear.  Barack Obama's Syrian Red Line.

These are things that are tougher than Bruiser Flint's Drexel Basketball team.  On the box score it doesn't look so bad at first - Towson had 26 points in the paint and Drexel actually bested them with 28.  This is the time, with a nod to an old boss, to remind everyone of Mark Twain's quote: "facts are stubborn, statistics are pliable."  Step back and see the whole picture:  Towson shot double the number of free throws than the Dragons (32 to 16) and almost quadrupled DU's offensive rebounding percentage (33% to 9%).  The 8.7% offensive rebound rate was a season low for the Dragons.

When Towson wins, its due to defense and rebounding.  They're made in the mold of old Flint teams in that respect, so it's not a shock that they would do well in the paint against the Dragons.  But outside the paint the Dragons hit their shots.  And hit their shot.  And hit their shot again.  But they lost. And that is why when Bruiser Flint says things like he did in the post game presser:

“Tonight, we needed to make plays late in the game--they made tough plays late in the game, I’ll give them credit, and we didn’t."

Drexel did struggle down the stretch, They shot 2 of 9 with 4 turnovers in the final six minutes of game time.  And in that, Bru was right.  But they had lost the game well before that.  Midway through the second half the Dragons were shooting  over 60% from the field but still trailed.  The idea of a Bruiser Flint team shooting that well and losing is staggering.  It.  Does. Not.  Happen.  The Dragons 63.3% effective field goal percentage was the second highest efg% in a losing effort in the Flint era.  How does that happen?  Pretty simple:

Rodney Williams, 28 minutes, 1 rebound
Mohammed Bah, 18 minutes, 2 rebounds
Tyshawn Myles, 4 minutes, 0 rebounds

Each player who stepped on the court for the Blue and Gold was accountable for at least one turnover, contributing to the team turning the ball over on 22% of their possessions.  The most damning statistic of it all is effective field goal percentage.  Take the 63.3% effective field goal percentage away and replace it with their season average 43.3% and this team would have scored 52 points.  Truth is, Towson beat Drexel's effort wire to wire, it was just covered up with hot shooting by the Dragons.

Losing even when shooting the lights out is about as damning a signal as we're going to see.  The only good news for the Dragons is that no one is noticing anymore - for the second straight game they didn't even hit a four digit paid attendance, an idea of which would have been staggering even in the leanest of times past.  If you have to hit rock bottom before you can start back up, well this program - from top to bottom - is awful close to starting the road back.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Towson Home - Pregame

With the noteable exception of two games against the University of Delaware that will be played for pride, one of the biggest remaining games on Drexel's regular season schedule kicks off this Thursday night at the DAC.  The second game and by far most winnable game of a four game homestand will be played against the Towson Tigers, who beat DU by 19 not even two weeks ago.  It's a dagger in a season to go 0-4 on a four game home swing and with the following two games against Kenpom #76 Hofstra and #70 James Madison if the Dragons want to salvage a win to double their conference total, it has to be now.

In their first game against Towson, the Dragons were manhandled.  They scored only 12 points in the first half, were dominated in the paint - having 11 of their 45 2-point shots blocked while shooting only 33% on the shots that made it past their defenders.  The Dragons performance was softer than Hilary Clinton's Top Secret Clearance, a cashmere sweater and Ron Jeremy at the end of a busy day combined.

It wasn't all bad news, even with the garbage performance from the Dragons, it still took Towson punching above their weight to make it a blowout.  The Tigers shot 50% from inside the arc and 56% from outside.  That's unlikely to happen a second time, even in an empty gym.  The game should have hung close as Towson joins DU in lacking discipline and in that game had 18 turnovers - which is consistent with what they do.  With the Dragons possibly getting back Tyshawn Myles tonight, they gain some size inside which they have been missing the last couple of games as well.  This game is winnable.

While we can breakdown the teams again, as we did here, we'll know the likely outcome to this one early and it has little to do with the matchups.  With the bulk and bodies of John Brown, Arnaud William Adala Moto, Timajh Parker-Rivera, and Mike Morsell in the starting five, Towson is going to once again punch the Dragons in the mouth.  They'll do so early and often.  Last time they did that, the Dragons did all they could to take their ball and go home - this was a time that Bru was right, no matchups or gameplan mattered.  In the first 10 minutes we'll know if the Dragons are up to breathe some fire and fight back, or run back to their locker room.  Talent-wise and matchup-wise Drexel is the better team, they're playing at home, and this is a game they should win.  But looking at the last handful of games, there's plenty of reason to believe that this teams mean streak is gone.  The fight isn't there.  This is an awful matchup for a team that doesn't want to throw a punch back.

Prediction:  Towson 61, Drexel 51
Vegas Line:  Towson -2.5

Alan Boston's Take:

Once again, we find Drexel in a spot where they appear to have a very winnable game. Two weeks ago, Towson hammered Drexel 69-50. It was perhaps Drexel's worst effort of the year, and that is saying something.  Yes, they played on short rest after putting in a huge effort at Hofstra, so they had a bit of an excuse. However, they never made a run and did not play with much intensity. There is no excuse for that. What do we get in the rematch? Excellent question. Towson has been the model of inconsistency. After the Drexel win, they lost at home to shorthanded C of C  and then went on the road and beat a very good Northeastern team. Yes Quincy Ford was out, still it was a desperate NU team that Towson beat. To start conference they won impressively at William and Mary, then came home and lost 90-58 to Towson.

Message given.

Drexel has shown flashes of being better, but they still can not shoot and I am not sure this team is equipped for the way the game is called. Until the rules are changed again,  it is de rigeuer to have guards that can break defenders down and either get fouled, make a layup or kick it out for a 3 point shot. Sadly, that is what the powers that be want. Drexel has not done well with that game.

Coming off their big road win at Northeastern, one would expect Towson, if they stick to this years formula, to put a clinker in. Drexel led for a long time vs UNCW before pissing the game away late. A repeat of that effort vs a shaky Towson team, should result in a win. However, I could never write with much certainty, the words, "Drexel will win"

With much trepidation

Drexel 66 Towson 63

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Things That I Think I Think

-I think that by the time February rolls around, there aren't many surprises left in college basketball, they are who we think they are

-I think that Rodney Williams is a great talent, a great teammate, and a good player, but is missing that mean streak that could make him a great player

-I think that when students are stuck on campus during a snowstorm, it can be a lot of fun when a few hundred meet up at a basketball game, one of the few events available to them.  This weekends student turnout was a bit disappointing, and while the product on the floor is partially at fault, we can still do better

-I wish that in 15 years, this staff had developed more than a handful of guards

-I think hens are weak, and I'm proud to be a Dragon

-I think that I really enjoyed glimpses of the inside out game we saw between Rodney Williams and Sammy Mojica

-I'm excited that Ahmad Fields, Major Canady, Rodney Williams and Mohammed Bah will all very likely be back next year, which will give a potential new staff a non-empty cupboard to start with

-I think this season is best with a drink in hand.  It pairs nicely with malt liquor

-I think Terrell Allen is special.  Besides his strong finishing game, free throw shooting and speed, he's quietly second in the conference in steals, while playing in a defense that isn't designed to force turnovers. I am less excited that he's top 10 in minutes in the conference as a freshman.  Freshman wall approaching... or here?

-I think sometimes, come late January thru the middle of February, writers can hit a wall and rely on a gimmicky crutch of a column to try to keep things fresh

-I think Dr. Zillmer knew he had a broken snowblower, but still acted surprised in front of his family when it didn't work during Winter Storm Jonas.  He was shocked he says!

-I think that Mohammed Bah has made strides in his understanding of the game this year, and that Rashann London is also slowing things down, showing discipline and figuring things out

-I think that Tavon Allen wants what is best for the team over all else, and it has shown in the adjustments in his game the last few weeks

-I think that if only 74 people show up for a basketball game, and the external relations department staff only make contact with 10 of the 74, we know one of the reasons why only 74 people showed up

-I think DU has fewer season ticket accounts than this blog has daily readers.  The fan base is still here, it's just talking with its wallet.  That makes me proud to be a part of the fan base

-I think that Bruiser Flint really liked his team going into this season.  We're seeing how strong the frontcourt can be offensively right now, and he likely thought that Terrell and Ahmad Fields were going to be a special combo.  Since he always liked Tavon Allen's offense, Bru seems to have liked his offense and assumed his defense.  Both have been an issue

-I think the silly thing is that with the way the inside guys are scoring, this team can actually be pretty good if they followed Bruiser's gameplans, played slowly and with discipline and fought on the boards.  They certainly were the better team against UNCW at the times that they did this

-I think Bruiser has resigned himself to knowing that this team isn't very good.  And I think the players know that he thinks that.  And with that comes "lack of toughness", regressing rebounding numbers and quit

-I think this team is better today than it was in November

-I think next years Drexel Athletics slogan will be "Drexel Athletics:  Squash the Opposition"

-I think Kazembe Abif has not only been the veteran presence this team has needed this year, but he has also been their most consistent force and is incredibly under-appreciated throughout this conference

-I think that Kaz's leadership is the only reason to have hope that this team can regroup and win a couple more games

-I think Bruiser's suit in the game last weekend against UNCW was made from a drapery hung in a ranch style home in 1973

-I think that the whole "this will get worse before it gets better" thing is closing in on the point where things get better

Sunday, January 24, 2016

UNCW Home - Postgame

The below is written by Scott Kier, a continued thanks to him for his contributions to the page.

Final Score: UNCW 77 Drexel 72
Drexel Player of the Game: Rodney Williams
Key to the Game: Personnel Management
Next Game:  Thursday January 28 vs Towson

Drexel and UNC Wilmington took the court against tens of fans at the DAC for a rare early Sunday afternoon game.  The attendance was not their fault as the northeast sat on the tail end of one of the worst snowstorms seen in the last twenty years.  What was initially supposed to be a typical Colonial Athletic Association Saturday afternoon game was moved late Friday allowing Drexel to play in front of Calvin Hicks and 73 of his closest friends.

As always, the game was televised on DrexelDragons.TV which allowed many Dragons fans to sit at home watching what should have been a heavily favored UNCW team be controlled by Drexel in the first half.  It is without a doubt that many were probably waiting for the other shoe to drop after the scoring droughts that this team showed in the JMU and Towson games of recent weeks.  Drexel, however, played one of their best first halves of the year and went to the locker room with a 37-32 lead for the first time since the College of Charleston game (credit: Rob Brooks for this one).

All of the credit for the five point lead goes to a rare display of offensive consistency.  The Dragons shot 52% from the field in the first half which was almost double of what they had shown in previous games.  Shot selection was solid and the bigs were involved.  Rodney Williams and Kaz Abif combined for 7-9 shooting and 17 of Drexel’s 37 points, and that was with Williams spending a good chunk of time on the bench with two fouls.  The team also shot 3-5 from downtown.  They limited their attempts from outside, something that had not been a sweet spot for them as of late.  There was a lot to be happy about in the first twenty minutes of ball, and a lot of things that appeared to be working.

The second half, however, saw a number of changes that were visible in the stat line.  The Dragons’ 52% shooting was followed up with a 37% display which still is pretty admirable by Drexel standards but was a definite dip.  Abif and Williams maintained a solid 50% shooting tick going a combined 5-10 while Tavon Allen, whose lone make had been a last second three pointer in the first half, followed that up with a 1-7 shooting display in the second half.

Rodney Williams once again earned the player of the game nod, not only for his team leading 17 points but more for his 7 blocked shots.  He was solid on the defensive end of the ball and when coupled with Abif, the pair just seem to be so comfortable with each other.  They bring a spark to the court that the Dragons seem to lack otherwise.  Despite the efforts of the Drexel’s two key big men, UNC Wilmington wore the Dragons down and ultimately worked a 10 point swing in the second frame to walk away with a 77-72 win.

After four sub par performances, Rashann London had what would probably be described as one of his best games this season.  Full disclosure: he had three fouls in the first nine minutes of the second half which resulted in combined 2 of 3 free throw shooting by Chris Flemming and CJ Bryce.  After committing the third foul London made two free throws, a three pointer, and a layup while not committing any additional fouls or turnovers.  His three pointer with 3:53 to go pulled the Dragons within one.  Thirty seconds later, with Drexel down 67-61, he found himself back on the bench and did not make another appearance.  London finished the game with 12 points on 4-5 shooting.  His only miss was a three pointer early in the second half.

London was replaced on the floor by Sammy Mojica, who also had a solid shooting game putting up 9 points on 3-7 shooting.  All of his points were on three makes from beyond the arc where he shot 3-4.  This would be the final sub that Bruiser Flint would make for the game as he decided to play out the last three and a half minutes with a lineup of Kaz Abif, Rodney Williams, Sammy Mojica, Terrell Allen, and Tavon Allen.  Since three of those five players have already been discussed above, lets take a look at the other two.

Terrell Allen again showed his youth.  Much like the Penn State game, it was evident that opponents were getting in his head.  UNCW took a physical approach to defending Terrell and he seemed to suffer because of it.  Allen has a temper that he needs to learn how to control.  Coupled with that, however, is a ton of talent and coming from a high school program like Dematha, one would expect him to get this part of his game locked down.  Terrell finished the game with 8 points.  He shot 2-8 in the first half but controlled the offensive end of his game in the second frame taking just two shots and missing both.  His contribution, however, was not in the points column.  Terrell finished the game with 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and just 2 turnovers.  His free throw shooting suffered, but that also could potentially be a reflection of the mental part of his game.

Then there is Tavon Allen.  As with every other late game situation for the Dragons when the game has been close, Tavon was once again on the floor.  We’ve seen a travel against Penn, and a series of shot attempts in the Iona game that no Drexel fan would like to relive.  Add to that many off balance shots, forced plays, and a few botched inbound passes.  When pressured in the late game situation, Tavon seems to come unraveled and yet time and time again he finds himself on the court.

The big question that one must ask from the end of this game is why him?  Tavon was 1-7 in the second half and 0-5 from three.  He contributed four rebounds, and one has to appreciate his length on the defensive side of the ball which is invaluable, especially with the style of basketball that Bruiser Flint coaches, but why keep him on the floor on the offensive side of the court?  Out of the three guards who regularly shoot three’s for the Dragons, Mojica was 3-4.  London was 2-3.  Allen finished the game 1-7.  Based on his performance in this game, and the in-the-clutch performances that he has had in this season alone, one must ask themselves why he was on the floor in this situation.

When trailing by 6, a coach is left with a few choices: go with your most consistent performers in this game, or go with your most consistent clutch performers this season.  Tavon Allen was neither of these options yet he was on the floor for the last three and a half minutes of the game.  After the game, Bruiser Flint once again discussed his team’s perceived inability to make tough plays, and in this case, drive the ball which he felt that UNCW “dared them” to do.  Once again, the onus of this loss was placed on the shoulder of the players.

In a game that featured several botched inbounds plays, a shift in shot selection from what worked in the first half, and what can be viewed as questionable personnel selection in a close and late situation, one has to ask themselves when Bruiser Flint will take any responsibility for the performance of his team on the court.  These kids are playing their hearts out when they are on the court, but when they are not given the tools to enhance their performance, or are put in situations where tough play and good shot selection will pay off, we are left with what will continue to be a painful situation for the players and fans alike.

Drexel returns to the hardwood of the DAC on Thursday night as they look to avenge last week’s 69-50 loss to Towson.   After that it is homecoming weekend!  Let’s hope that we can fill up the DAC for what will be a big game against emerging CAA powerhouse Hofstra on Saturday afternoon.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

UNCW - Home

A note:

I join the Dragons staff in enjoying my snow day.  Please enjoy the below from Alan as his posting mirrors my opinion of this game - Drexel abused UNCW in the first matchup and after back to back games of being outtoughed and looking tuned out, they can either answer the doubters here, or decisively prove them right.

This game is available to watch online, and if you're in the Philadelphia area and beyond the reaches of the El or BSL, I recommend that you watch from home.  The noon tip is an insult to public safety workers, from the Department of Streets to PPD/PFD to Drexel's own PD.  Lets once again rise up and try to do better than those that represent our school and keep the roads as safe as possible so those people can do their jobs.  Logistics are always challenging in situations like this, but we need to see better.


Prediction:  UNCW 72, Drexel 68
Vegas Line:  TBA

Alan Boston's Take:

Losers of 3 in a row all on the road, Drexel finally comes home to both some snow and a rematch with tied for first place UNCW. In the first game, Drexel was never truly in it, but never allowed UNCW to create a blow out. Drexel helped themselves by outrebounding UNCW 44 to 31, but hurt themselves by missing many easy shots. Given that JMU just crushed Drexel on the boards, it would behoove Drexel to get back some of the toughness that the program was known for. Getting blown out in back to back games is one thing but losing the rebounding battle 44-21 to JMU indicates more of a lack of effort and toughness.  To a Drexel fan should be extremely disturbing.

Despite all that, given how the first game played out Drexel has what looks like a winnable game. If you can limit turnovers vs UNCW, they are very beatable. I have written this before but I do believe that Drexel is all in on this one. I also believe that "all in" is good enough to beat what I think is a very over rated team in UNCW. This is certainly the last hurrah for Drexel. At least, I hope so.

Drexel 75 UNCW 71

Friday, January 22, 2016

James Madison Away - Postgame

The below is written by Jay Koeppel - The infamous "DrexelJay" of the CAAZone.  We welcome back Jay and thank him for his contribution below.

Final Score: JMU 68 Drexel 45
Drexel Player of the Game: Kazembe Abif
Key to the Game: Bench points. Points in Paint. Rebounding. 2nd Chance Points.
Next Game: Sunday January 24, Noon - vs UNCW

Tonight's game ends my personal boycott of Drexel basketball - but for only one game. I promised myself over a year ago that until Bruiser and Zillmer were removed from the Athletics Department, I would never watch another Drexel Dragons men's hoops game. I also made a promise that as soon as they were gone, I would pledge my support to the new leadership in hopes of helping get the program back to something that we can all be proud of. While our fanbase may not always get along,  everybody in our fanbase - but we have always had the same goal in mind. We want this team to WIN. We hold the team more accountable than our Athletic Department does. And the vast majority that I have spoken to have accepted that the time has come for changes to be made.

With all that said, I never expected this year's team to be this bad. 3-14 is shocking (even to the most cynical fan) and even though I am not watching the games, I still read this blog. I respect the people who put it together and the passion they display. But 3-14 is enough to get me to watch a game. Why? I want to see for myself if it is really that bad. I wrote this intro 45 minutes before tip-off knowing absolutely nothing about this year's team besides their record. I know nothing about JMU either. I have watched a lot of college hoops this year - but I haven't watched any CAA hoops. I am not going to go too crazy breaking down the x's and o's. I am simply going to give this team the eye test.

First Half Comments:

1. What a sad fan turnout for a first place JMU team. That gym is less than half full at tip-off.

2. Four of the first six Drexel shots were 3 pointers (3-6).

3. Drexel goes up 17-13 with 9:35 left. Solid defensive effort thus far.

4. JMU up 28-18 at halftime. Drexel scores 1 point in final 10:29 of first half.

Postgame Comments:

5. Drexel winds up shooting 31% from the field including 3-18 from 3 point range (0-12 after starting 3-6)

6. Points in the paint: JMU 34 Drexel 10

7. Bench Points: JMU 27 Drexel 0

8. 2nd chance points: JMU 17 Drexel 3

9. Drexel was out-rebounded 44-20. (15-4 offensive)

This was painful to watch. An absolutely pathetic showing. Today is Throwback Thursday and this was certainly a Bruiser Flint throwback game - only worse. Those were problems of the good old days. I feel like I have watched the final 10+ minutes of the first half at least 20 times before. The Bruiser Flint extended offensive droughts are the staple of our Drexel fandom. It is mind-boggling to think that a team could play more than a quarter of a game and not hit a single shot.

The shame of it is that James Madison is also a bad team and they are in first place in the CAA and just beat us by 23 points. Please don't tell me that they aren't bad. Any decent team from the golden era of the CAA (George Mason, VCU, ODU, even Drexel) would mop the floor with the JMU team I saw play tonight. It is amazing that we play in a conference that is so winnable - yet we continue to regress.

I am not going to write about any of the players. They are not the ones to blame. But now - at 3-15 - I can't figure out how anybody willingly watches this. At halftime, my girlfriend needed me to help her pick up empty boxes from a neighbor's house in the freezing cold. It was the most entertaining part of my night. And with that, I will be fading back in to my self imposed Drexel basketball ban. I wish I could write more but I am not quite sure what else to say that hasn't been said yet - except...

See you when I see you. The apathy is real.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

James Madison - Away

The Dragons traveled from Philadelphia to God's Rest Stop, Harrisonburg, Virginia, on Wednesday afternoon in anticipation of a Thursday night showdown at the Convo.  Coming off of back to back seasons of 200+ finishes in the Kenpom ratings, it comes as something of a shock that Matt Brady's gang are in the top 100 this year in both Kenpom and the RPI, backed by a 13-5 D-I record.  This team seems for real, and had they been able to defend their home court in the early CAA season, would be locked into an NIT bid.  Instead JMU is just 1-2 at home in CAA play with losses to Elon and College of Charleston which has to be frustrating to a team capable of much better.

The Dukes cup runneth over with upperclassmen depth, led by senior sharpshooter Winston Grays and perennial underrated CAA Player of the Year candidate Ron Curry.  Not only will Curry hang out around 40% from downtown all season long, he will be in the top 250 nationally in both assist rate and turnover rate.  The fact that Curry came in alongside Andre Nation and not only stood tall on his own, but ended up being the better basketball player, is a testament to Curry both on and off the court.

And therein lies the rub.  It was going into a game at Drexel last season that Andre Nation's last major suspension was handed down.  He was removed from the program at that time, at which point the team's record was 9-8.  The Dukes went 10-4 from that point on and clinched a share of the regular season title.  This year the tide kept rolling behind a sudden attention to detail, defense and discipline.  The Dukes may finish in the top 100 nationally in defensive efficiency this year, a far cry from the past two years where they have been at or near the CAA basement in that category.  Inside Yohanny Dalembert continues to build towards his potential and is a formidable body for opposing big men to deal with.  At the other post position, the Drexel big men will be forced to go and do that which they don't want to do and guard the perimeter as the rotation of Shakir Brown, Tom Vodanovich and Dimitrije Cabarkapa all can shoot from 18 feet.

So there you go:  As long as you have a big that can guard the perimeter, all you have to deal with is a talented mountain of Yohanny Dalembert, an all CAA point guard, a senior sharp shooter and a junior 6'7" sg/wing who has hit 37% from distance over his career.  And they have instilled discipline and defend now too.  It might be time to be less surprised about how good JMU's record is and more surprised by how they lost two home league games.  This game shapes up to be a serious uphill battle for the Dragons.

And maybe that's not a bad thing.  Bruiser Flint was factually correct in saying that his players were outtoughed at Towson.  They have also lacked discipline for the vast majority of the season.  Coming off of an embarrassing performance last weekend, maybe going into the lion's den will show them how tough they can be.  Without a doubt, another performance like they showed at Towson will mean an even bigger blowout this time.  This game will be all the proof needed to know if the coaching staff still has a hold on their team.  That question has been asked before, both this year and in years past, and the team and its staff have always risen to the occasion.  Between that, the slow pace that both teams have played at this year and the old home court disadvantage theory that JMU seems to be abiding by, there's a chance this might just be a ballgame.

Prediction:  JMU 65 - Drexel 62
Vegas Line:  JMU -11.5

Addendum - The CAA All Underrated Team

PG - Luke Eddy (Yes, I took him off the ball so I could cheat)
SG - Caleb Donnelly
Wing - Ron Curry
SF - John Brown
C - Kazembe Abif

Addendum two

Open question:  Are the ladies of JMU good looking enough that, were Rick Pitino to coach there, he wouldn't bother hiring strippers to help recruit?

Alan Boston's Take:

It would appear to be teams headed the opposite way in Harrisonburg. Experienced and well coached JMU is coming off the week of all weeks, with upset wins at both Northeastern and then even more impressively at a very focused Hofstra in overtime. With 5 returning starters and an excellent Senior point guard, Ron Curry, you would think this team would be consistently good, Strangely, they did lose at home to both C of C and Elon.

Drexel arrives off an embarrassing and given their recent improvement, a very disappointing effort at Towson. On paper looks like a mismatch. JMU after last week, is certainly one of the favorites to win the Colonial. Drexel is one of the favorites to finish last. However, it does not work quite that way with sports. The Dukes recent home run efforts could lead to a bit of complacency and Drexel off their worst effort of the year, will certainly be all in here. Doubt it will be good enough to get the win, but I do think Drexel gets back to some of the good they showed and keeps this close.

JMU 65 Drexel 61

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

This Aggression Will Not Stand

The conference season is now one third over, and with the Dragons on a three win pace it could perhaps be going better.  There was some light just two weeks ago when the Dragon offense woke up and broke the point per possession barrier in consecutive games against William and Mary and College of Charleston.  Sadly, that light couldn't make it eight days before coming crashing down with Drexel's following two games, which were their worst and third worst offensive outputs of the season.  It appears that opposing coaches noticed Drexel's change away from the midrange game and are now having their players collapse in the paint.

When a team has gotten smarter than the midrange game, but also can't consistently hit from three, they have to run an offense of cuts, ball movement and speed.  Not once during the game at Towson did we see a driving player draw an extra defender and then pass the ball, perhaps the reason that the Tigers blocked almost 25% of Drexel's shot attempts.  Between the 11 shots blocked and the 9 turnovers the Dragons had 20 empty possessions in a 68 possession game.  Good luck with that.

And while an entire post should be devoted towards how ball movement and speed can take this offense to the next level right now we acknowledge that the following things are true:  Drexel's offense is one of the 10 worst in college basketball at this time.  The teams effective shooting percentage of 42.4% is behind such legendary teams as Louisiana Monroe, McNeese St, Quinnpiac or even Delaware.  In conference games that effective shooting percentage number is 40.6% which would be next to last in all of Division-I.  Thank Prairie View for keeping them out of the cellar.  Without any question at all, Drexel is dead last in the country at shooting % relative to size of basketball program budget.  The schools return on investment for basketball funds also needs a whole post of its own, and it will get one at the end of the year.  The end of the year is the time for a review and critique of the overall problem, during the season is when we look for bandaids.

The first bandaid was to get the ball into the post.  While there are certainly execution issues, and Bruiser was correct, his guys were "out-toughed" at Towson, the coaching staff has made that change, and with some tinkering, hopefully results will follow.  The next bandaid can be a simple, easily executed one:  bring back the rock fight.  When your team can't shoot, defensive slugfests are your friend.  Run and gun is decisively not.  And to prove that out, the numbers:  In games with 70 or over possessions this year, opponents are averaging 1.07 points per possession.  In games with under 70 that number is 1.01.  The difference between the two next to about 4 extra points for an opponent per game.  Drexel on the other hand, is averaging .94 points per possession both in games with 70 or over possessions and in games with under 70, no change.  The Dragons aren't turning the ball over any more or less in uptempo games, they are simply poor at transition defense.  The slower these games go, the better the outcome seems to be.

It's ironic and beneficial to discover this prior to playing JMU on Thursday.  Besides being one of the conferences slower teams, JMU has also been playing much more disciplined, defensive basketball this year, a perfect rockfight recipe.  Coming off of a game in which they were just "out-toughed" a snotknocking, slow tempo, slugfest might be exactly what the doctor ordered for this defense.  No long rebounds on poor shots, no dumb run and gun passes into the seats, just boring defensive basketball.  That's how this team gives itself a chance.

One last stat:

In games with 70 possessions or over the Dragons are 0-7
In games with less than 70 possessions the Dragons are 3-6

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Towson Away - Postgame

Bill Treichel, frequent behind the scenes contributor, makes his writing debut with the below wrap of the Towson/Drexel showdown from this weekend. Thanks, as always, to Bill for his continued support.

Final Score: Towson 69, Drexel 50
Drexel Player of the Game: Terrell Allen
Key to the Game: Aiming for the broad side of the barn
Next Game: Thursday Jan. 21 @ JMU

The Dragons visited the Artist Formerly Known As Towson State on Saturday.  Those fans that chose to skip an afternoon of NFL playoff football were treated to a bit of a lopsided affair in favor of the home team.  The short short version for those of you in a hurry: Towson paired solid defense with pace in transition to race to a 33-12 halftime lead, and cruised the rest of the way.

For those of you not yet finished drinking your after dinner digestif (or morning coffee, whatever the case may be), let’s look at this one some more.  The defense was about the same as it’s been all season.  Drexel should crash the offensive boards better or get back more quickly in transition, but seem to be doing neither of those things well these days.  Let’s focus on the offense.

The first thing that we see is this contest is another illustration of a common theme this season:  Shot selection.  Some observations:
  • At some point in the first half: Drexel had more shots blocked (4) than points (3)
  • At the half, Drexel had only scored 5 baskets from the floor, all at the rim.  The were 0-for-everything elsewhere (minus the 2 foul shots)
  • The first non-layup, non-charity stripe shot: an inbounds play!  Well not so much a play, rather Tavon finding Mojica in the corner for 3.  This didn’t occur until at the 16:45 mark of the second half.
  • Throughout the first half, the Dragons were making a somewhat uncharacteristic attempt to attack in the paint: both by passing it in to forwards who didn’t reflexively pass it back out to the perimeter, and by guards slashing to the rim (sometimes a bit too recklessly).

While this was an illustration of the point (higher percentage shots usually go for higher percentages!), this game was not lost because the offense was taking ill-advised shots, for the most part.  Rather, they were simply outmuscled on the boards and outhustled down the court.   That inbounds 3-pointer by Mojica mentioned earlier?  That proved to be the only points in a 4-minute span until another inbounds play (this time for a dunk) brushed the dust off of the scorekeeper’s “visitor +2” button.  

For most of the 1st half, the baskets weren’t coming, but the defense was able to keep the game within reach.  Once the offense started pressing and playing hero ball, the Tigers were able to make Drexel pay in transition and build an insurmountable lead.  The Dragons were able to make up little ground in the second half, and finished the afternoon shooting 26.7% from the floor.  The team didn’t make their first mid range jumper until there was just 12:30 left in the game, and only one player shot above 38% on the day.  That was freshman Andrew Cartwright who drained a 3 in the waning seconds of the contest.  Freshman Terrell Allen led all Dragons with 15 points, but did most of his damage from the charity stripe (8-for-10).  The PG didn’t have the greatest assists-to-turnover ratio, but it’s hard to pick up assists when 73% of the team’s shots aren’t falling.

It seems obvious that despite this weekend’s outcome, the offense is moving in the right direction.  For the last few games, the team has begun doing some of the things that fans (or at least this fan) has been hoping to see all season.  For a team without a true deep threat, you have to manufacture ways to get the guys to the rim.  I didn’t think that a minor modification to the trademark Bruiser Weave (patent pending) would do that, but that’s what we saw the offense do at Towson.  The wheel wasn’t reinvented, but the players were coached to look for something better than just the open look that the defense gives them.  That, my friends, is a big step in the right direction.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Towson Away - Pregame

The Bill Batemen's Wings Drexel Fan Trip to Towson leads up to a 4pm tip at the State Employees Credit Union Arena on the campus of Towson University.  A postgame highlight reel has already been released:

If napalm in the morning isn't your cup of tea, how about the smell of two bad teams in a poorly officiated free throw contest?  It's #CAAHoops on a Saturday afternoon!

The worst kept secret in the CAA is that the Saturday games, when the best east coast officials are spread throughout the ACC, SEC, A-10, or American conferences often get third tier officials.  Now take note of this particular stat from Kenpom,com:

Lay your eyes on the bottom line here, which shows the Towson offense, behind stud forward Arnaud Willaim Adala Moto, is 11th in the country in getting to the line.  There are 351 D-I basketball teams right now, so doing some loose math with a base of 10, only 7 teams in the country put more players on the line than the Dragons.  Add to the recipe the back bench officials and the emphasis on this game needs to be around the foul line.  That breaks down to three key points:

1)  Who gets fouled:  Tyshawn Myles and Timajh Parker-Rivera for example, are about 50/50 propositions when they're at the free throw line.  That's only a point per possession when they're put at the line.  Tavon Allen or Adala Moto on the other hand are closer to 80% shooters, an expected 1.6 points per possession.  That's a massive difference over the course of the game.

2)  Who does the fouling:  Rodney Williams importance to the Dragons team has been clearly showcased over the last two weeks.  After only playing 8 minutes at Hofstra, he needs to keep himself in this game, as do Moto and the very underrated John Brown for Towson.

3)  Forcing the issue:  Both of these teams have a tendency for lazy offense from time to time.  The team that will get to the line the most will be the team that passes up the jumpshot and goes hard to the basket.  As a coach, this is a game to be accepting of offensive fouls, as long as they are in the course of a player being aggressive.  Every mid range jumpshot is worth roughly .7 points per possession for these team, each trip to the line is closer to 1.4.  Taking that jumper in this game is essentially spotting your opponent a possession - a turnover - and completely unacceptable.

We would much rather write a pregame post on the battle between Rodney Williams and Arnaud William Adala Moto, or the similarities between Mike Morsell and Tavon Allen (both leading their team in shots while poorly shooting, evidence of completely irresponsible coaching) or how John Davis has always been one of my favorite players in this conference to watch during his three year career.  Or about X's and O's and how DU needs to figure out zone offense to contend in this game.  But this is much more likely to be a poorly officiated Saturday rockfight between two bad teams.  Or as we like to call it, CAA Hoops, where somebody has to win!

Prediction:  Towson 68, Drexel 60
Vegas Line Towson -6.5

Friday, January 15, 2016

Hofstra Away - Postgame

Thanks to Mark Walush, who wrote the post game wrap below:

Final Score: Hofstra 69, Drexel 61
Drexel Player of the Game: Kazembe Abif
Key to the Game: Missed Opportunities
Next Game: Saturday Jan 16, @ Towson

Coming into this game, it appeared to be an absolute mismatch on paper, with Hofstra's offense being an absolute wrecking ball so far this season, going against a Drexel team that has not only struggled to defend opposing teams, but also being unable to put up significant points on their own. The Dragons had shown promise the past few games, putting up over 1 point per possession, but this game was far from the offensive showcase it was expecting to be.

In a game that saw 76 possessions per team, only 130 total points were put up, a paltry 0.85 points per possession, a rate which would be bottom 10 nationally for a team. Due to both teams offensive struggles, Hofstra was never able to pull away from Drexel, and Drexel was never able to mount a significant comeback. This led to a game that was within a few possessions cover to cover, with Drexel actually taking a lead 56-54 late in the second  half. Hofstra then went on a quick 10-0 run which sealed the game for the Pride.

As we have seen with this Drexel team throughout this season, late game situations have proven to be a trouble area. Multiple times from the U-4 timeout, there were botched inbounds plays leading to untimely turnovers, poor shot selection (aka mid range jumpers) leading to easy transition buckets, and telegraphing passes leading to easy steals and even more transition baskets.

The gameplan going into this should have been to keep Hofstra off the perimeter, and maintain focus in the paint to prevent easy cutting layups and keep Hofstra off the free throw line. Drexel did manage to do at least 1 of those, holding Hofstra to 3-18 shooting on 3 pointers, well below their season average. However, sloppy defense on penetration in the lane led to fouls and easy and-1 opportunities. Hofstra shot 28 FTs compared to Drexel's 6, due to their ability to drive the lane and aggressively finish at the rim.

If you had said before the game that the Drexel defense would hold Hofstra to 0.91 points per possession, many would have assumed that the Dragons had won, or be in a position to win the game. Unfortunately, the Dragons countered the Pride's offensive performance shooting 40% inside the arc and 25% from 3.

One positive takeaway was the Dragons once again showing willingness to involve the forwards in the offense. This has exposed a weakness in the offensive game, though, the lack of a true outside threat. Without a legitimate 3 point shooter, defenses can easily clog the paint when Drexel passes inside and stifle the forwards. More consistent shooting from outside can stretch the defense out to the 3 point line, opening things up for the forwards, significantly improving the offensive efficiency.
At the end of the day, while the team does show signs of improving, and the talent is there, execution and preparation continue to rear its ugly head in clutch situations, leading to many close losses. (10 of Drexel's 13 losses have been by single digits) With another game in the books, we look towards Towson on Saturday and hope to gain some momentum for the rest of the season.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Hofstra Away - Pregame

The Dragons return to the hardwood tonight in Hempstead, New York.  Let me rephrase that.

The rising tide of Dragon basketball returns to the hardwood tonight in Hempstead, New York!

The thing about tides is that as often as they come in, they go out.  And while on any given Thursday in the CAA anything can happen, this... may be a good Thursday to be otherwise occupied.  The Dragons played Hofstra twice last year and lost the games by an average of 26 points, and those games were only that close because Drexel had 21 points a game from Damion Lee.  It was during that series that we learned that it is very hard for a team built like Bruiser Flint's current squad to beat a team built like Hofstra.

With the Drexel defense showing average at best this year, and a true lockdown defender no where in sight, Hofstra's offense makes for a fearsome foe.  Seniors Juan'ya Green, Ameen Tanksley, and Denton Koon all can shoot from deep or penetrate and get to the line.  The leagues best sharp shooter, junior Brian Bernardi gets open since everyone on the floor for HU demands a defender.  Sophomore big man Rokas Gustys is hitting 61% of his shots and is second in field goal percentage in conference play.  The four guard that Hofstra often plays also means that the a Drexel forward is going to have to extend out and guard the three point line, something that they have seemed totally unable to do thus far this season.  And with the Dutchman offense rested, in their home gym, this game shapes up to be a house of horrors for the Drexel defense.

So then the pressure is on the Drexel offense to keep pace.  There is optimism in the ranks, and it's deserved, as the team has played well on offense in their last two contest, pushing the ball into the paint and not just getting to the line, but executing from it.  While that is a real and believable gain, it's hard to fight the history here.  In only one of his fifteen years as Drexel Head Coach did a Bruiser Flint team finish in the top third of the country in effective field goal percentage.  That was over a decade ago, in the 03-04 season.  Only three times in his fifteen years did his teams even crack the top half of Division I.

So while the Hofstra defense is a sieve, a submarine with a screen door and barn in which the cow has already left all rolled into one, it's still a challenge to believe that the Dragon offense will be able to do what they need to do in this game.  It'll be the stoppable force against the moveable object, all while the Hofstra offense, currently leading the CAA and 33rd in the country, gets to run the other way.  It's a problem.

The Dragons are getting better.  And it's important that no matter the outcome of this game, they stay disciplined and keep building on that.  So if you do happen to be watching the game, watch the defense, see if the bigs can get a hand up at the three point line, or if the guards can stay in front of their men without putting their hands on them.  Look at Terrell Allen and Sammy Mojica and see if they follow defensive fundamentals when their man is away from the ball.  On offense, look to see the ball get into the paint, where Rodney Williams and Kaz Abif should be able to get to the basket nearly at will, at least until HU throws the zone.  Check out the shot selection, and if the team can avoid the "Heroball" that plagued them in the early season.  Ultimately growth in those areas, with consistency and discipline, is how this team comes together and gets stronger.  Comparatively, the final score of this game matters much less.

Prediction:  Hofstra 84, Drexel 63
Vegas Line:  Hofstra -10.5

Alan Boston's Take:

My objection with big sports is that it makes a college a team owner, rather than a place to learn. No, I do not believe there is room for both. It defeats the spirit of the process. I am an old school romantic, perhaps anachronistic, however, when schools pay millions of dollars for coaches and $100,000 for professors, something is very very wrong. I am not putting this into words very well, but I do believe you know where I come from. I understand the need for schools to generate money. I do not believe acting like corporate America is the way to go.

Onto more important matters.

Drexel finally got off the schneid in conference play with their wire to wire win over shorthanded College of Charleston. There have been moments of excellence from Drexel this year. Unfortunately, ephemeral is not longstanding. and to win on the road vs one of the top teams in the league, Drexel will need 40 minutes of excellence. In 2016, with this coach, that will not happen. I mention the year, as I do believe at one time, in a different era, Bruiser's teams played 40 minutes of solid hoops, more often than not.

Hofstra is not the most consistent lot either. Like Mihalich teams of the past, Hofstra is excellent offensively but shaky defensively. They absolutely can be beat, even at home, but Drexel - on top of their lack of consistency - is quite simply just not good enough.

Hofstra 84 Drexel 71

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Good Luck This Evening

After a tough, but fair read yesterday and going into a tough matchup tomorrow up on Long Island, we enjoy a relative off-day on the blog today.  So as we await the Powerball drawing to find out which Drexel supporter will have a building named after them, we look back to Saturday night when some CAA fans joined me in some fun, acknowledging that nowhere in this conference (or formerly in this conference) is perfect.  Enjoy the read.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A Response to President Fry

The below is written by Dr. Nathan Hemerly, Drexel Class of 2006, who has continued to follow and support Drexel Athletics while living in Iwakuni, Japan.

I was directed by a fellow Drexel alum to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal written by Drexel President John Fry. It's a fascinating article because it gives us some good insight into his views on athletics. He spends most of the article beating up on other schools that are blowing millions of dollars on college football while painting a rosy picture of Drexel because it doesn't do the same.

You won't find a bigger college football fan than I am - I've been lucky enough to see games all over the SEC, a conference whose teams probably spends more money on football than anybody - but even I recognize how wasteful it is. It's become a have vs. have not business like everything else in the American economy and unfortunately there are many more programs struggling to survive. Bowl games are an outright scam where schools shell out thousands of dollars to play a meaningless game in mostly empty stadiums. I agree with Dr. Fry that Drexel is doing the right thing by avoiding the business. They'll never beat Alabama or Ohio State in football anywhere outside of video games.

The problem with Dr. Fry's apparent self-righteousness about avoiding football is he's currently sitting on a basketball program that's a disaster. As decisive as he makes himself sound in this column, he could not appear any more indecisive in how he's managed Drexel's only Division I
sport of financial concern.

Let's not kid ourselves that being nationally ranked in anything other than football or basketball gives our administration permission to brag about their business practices to other schools. Most of us aren't going to dress ourselves in Drexel gear from head to toe and run down Market Street screaming after a big squash win. I don't mean to diminish their accomplishment, although I inevitably am and unfortunately offending these athletes is almost unavoidable, but their success must be put into perspective of what it means on a larger scale. I hope the young men and women from sports not named men's basketball use the lessons they learned playing sports to represent Drexel positively in whatever career they choose.

But as we experienced in 2006, beating Villanova and Syracuse at basketball will fill the DAC and bring back Drexel alums who have wandered astray. Beating them at pretty much any other sport will undoubtedly be a milestone event for those participating, but will cause only a fleeting sense of pride
for the rest of the university community. So in the only sport that can have the greatest positive (or negative) impact on the perception of Drexel University, we fail. Our last NCAA Tournament appearance was in 1996 when most of the DAC Pack alumni were still in grade school.

The only postseason tournament run the men's basketball program has had of significance was the 2012 NIT which ended in an epic collapse that saw the team blow a 20 point lead.  Many other seasons have ended in first round CAA Tournament losses to lower seeds that the team should've handled easily. The struggles of this season have been well documented so I won't get into it too much. They're 2-12, but worst of all, they're still guided by the same head coach who has made the same excuses after failed seasons for a decade and a half.  His postgame interviews put the blame squarely on his student athletes because they "didn't make a shot".  Bruiser Flint couldn't get away with his performance record at any university that's making an effort to have a successful program.  We've been beyond patient as supporters.  Firing a coach after 2-3 years of mediocrity is another example of the dark side of college athletics, but what we've had to watch in the DAC for years has given even the most enthusiastic Drexel supporters no good reason to continue following the program.

Which brings us back to Dr. Fry. He seemed careful to focus on football rather than basketball as he only very briefly mentioned the sport that's sadly become so embarrassing to Drexel. It couldn't have been by accident. A more interesting column would be his philosophy on the major Division-I sport he does have. It wouldn't make his overall business model look too great so he's smart for this omission.

We're only left to speculate, and given his attitude towards football along with the mediocrity turned failure he's allowed over the last few years under Bruiser Flint, my guess is he would pull the plug on basketball in a heart beat. It would be really unfortunate if he's keeping basketball around just to collect enough TV money to keep the squash team running. I'd call that hypocrisy and wanting to have your cake and eat it too.

It's been even more frustrating to watch the Drexel program fade because we've have a front row seat to VCU basketball's rise to prominence.  Even La Salle has been treated to a Cinderella run within the last 5 years.  We've chosen to let ourselves become stale which should sacrifice our right to tell any other university how to go about their business.

I guess my response to Dr. Fry is it's time to either fish or cut bait. Either you're willing to spend enough funds to at least get us an NCAA Tournament appearance every decade or let's scrap basketball all together.  We could drop down to our level of competition with teams that have already beaten us like University of the Sciences.

One last note: it drives me nuts that this article was in a business magazine. Higher education is not a business. It shouldn't be wasteful and should be wise with how it spends money, but mixing business with education is dangerous. It ignores things like the value of having an actual professor teach you a course instead of a computer. And it ignores the value of setting a campus on fire with enthusiasm during an NCAA Tournament run or the life experiences and friendships that are made by supporting your school all over the country.  Some of those friendships have unfortunately faded because we don't have a basketball program we're proud of to talk about.  A once vibrant online message board where fans from as far away as Asia and Europe gathered to talk Dragons basketball just recently
went offline after months of little to no traffic.  I've driven hundreds of miles to see us play Kentucky and I'll get up at 3 AM to see a game from over here in Japan while proudly wearing my Drexel gear in a foreign country.

Sorry ladies and gentlemen, but I haven't set any alarms for squash matches.

Monday, January 11, 2016

College of Charleston - Postgame

Final Score:  Drexel 61, College of Charleston 54
Drexel player of the game: Rodney Williams
Key to the game: Free Throws
Next Game:  Thursday Jan 14, @ Hofstra

The first win of the conference season for the Dragons wasn't just their first win of the conference season.  It was, on January 9th, the first time during the 15-16 season that this team has earned a win.  It was widely circulated that the win against Penn was a fight to see which team was less terrible that day, and the Dragons win against La Salle came against one of the poorest efforts this decade by the La Salle program.  While College of Charleston certainly didn't light the world on fire, they didn't hand the Dragons this game either.  With a well earned win, and the offense looking effective in back to back games, it appears that we have confirmed signs of improvement, which has to feel good for coaches, players and fans alike.

The story of the week for the Dragons was the suddenly conscious offense.  After not going over a point per possession in a game since Thanksgiving, they did it in both games this week.  This was directly correlated to the shot selection.  The ball finally made many an appearance in the paint.  In the Charleston game, 24 of 33 points scored from the field (73%) were scored in the paint, and that is indicative of what we have seen since the new year.  In out of conference play, 50% of their points in the run of play were scored in the paint.  In the young CAA season, that number is 59%.  And while that won't cure all of the ills of this team, it's a very good place to start a rebuild.

On the Charleston side, the story was lack of adjustments.  Despite getting pounded in the paint, they never looked to a zone.  When the Dragons came out and hedged hard on the perimeter, they never moved the ball fast enough to catch the defense out of position from it.   Rodney Williams didn't just score 19 points, he did it by abusing his defenders, multiple times simply walking around them for a dunk.  Never did the doubleteam come.  Add to the lack of adjustments the loss of Canyon Berry with a separated shoulder, and the Charleston freshman frontcourt having to face the veteran Dragon bigmen (although we saw flashes - Jarell Brantley is going to be a real good player in this league), and you get a game that not even 47% 3 point shooting could bring C of C back from.

While there is clear improvement in both the Drexel game-planning and the frontcourt execution, the Dragons still have a ways to go.  Sammy Mojica has shown considerable improvement, taking the ball to the hoop much more often then settling for pullup jumpers of late, but Terrell Allen seems to be hitting a freshman wall, more has been less from Tavon Allen, and Rashann London has not shown himself to be a consistent offensive threat.  Find a team that can handle the Dragon frontcourt, or simply get Kaz Abif and Rodney Williams in foul trouble, and there still will be issues.  Still, this game was a step in the right direction, and the team should walk away feeling good that the work and effort that they have put in all season is starting to pay dividends.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

College of Charleston - Pregame

The surprisingly 2-1 College of Charleston Cougars come to Philly to attempt to continue their hot start.  All three of the Cougars opponents in the early conference season were projected to finish in the top half of the CAA, so that record is no fluke.  The Ken Pomeroy ratings system seems to like this team more each passing day, after starting the season ranked 264, the team is all the way up to 108th, putting them 4th in the CAA according to those rankings.

In their last game and presumably the game at the DAC as well C of C had to go without their junior star Canyon Berry due to a separated shoulder injury.  Without him, they are playing almost an entire squad of underclassman, but that didn't stop them from getting an impressive win against CAA frontrunner Hofstra on Thursday.  And with this momentum they roll into a DAC that was last seen with tumbleweed rolling through the seats and past the concession stand.  And yet, it is a surprisingly bad time for them to be walking through that door.

While the Cougars are coming off of a big win and needing to travel to Philadelphia, the Dragons are coming off of yet another loss and will have the chance to rest and prepare on the offday between.  And at 0-3, and looking at a likely home loss to Hofstra next week, the Cougars walk, perhaps unsuspectingly, into a desperate Dragons lair.

Beyond how badly this team needs a win, there's also an undeniable truth about these Dragons:  They've been playing better.  Against William and Mary they scored over a point per possession for the first time since November.  The defense has limited the opposition to reasonable free throw rates (shots attempted) in three of the last six games.  The frontcourt has made the largest strides, with significantly increased rebounding numbers when compared to the first leg of the season.  In the prior two contest, Kaz Abif and Rodney Williams have combined to shoot 18 of 26 on their way to 46 points scored.

There are a lot of similarities between this Charleston squad and the Flint teams of yesteryear.  While the Cougars may not have a premier offensive player, they do have a number of pieces.  Jarrell Brantley will give Rodney Williams a good battle in the paint, Brantley will certainly get votes for the CAA All Newcomer team.  Marquise Pointer and Cameron Johnson are both skilled ballhandlers and sharpshooters, so the Cougars can attack in multiple ways.  But more importantly, they all play tough, hard nosed defense, and when the offense doesn't have enough pieces, or the inexperience shines through, it's that backbone of defense and rebounding that keeps the team in games.  Sound like anyone we used to know?

Charleston had one of their best shooting games of the year against Hofstra (although by the end of the year, a lot of teams may be able to say that) and with short rest it's hard to see them doing that again.  And with the Dragons playing desperate, this looks like a classic, intense CAA rockfight in the making.  Be sure to get down to the DAC at 4pm for one of the more intense games we'll have a chance to see on the homecourt this year.

Prediction:  Drexel 65, College of Charleston 59
Vegas Line:  Charleston -2.5

Alan Boston's Take:

College of Charleston began conference play by winning impressively at James Madison. They then went to angry league fave William and Mary who were coming off a loss and lost. Then, at home with Canyon Barry (Yes, Rick's son and yes, he shoots free throws underhand and yes he makes almost all of them) their leading scorer and leader of a very young team out with shoulder injury, no problem, they shoot 60% in the 2nd half and beat one of the other league favorites, Hofstra, easily.  They come to Philly with a 2 and 1 record with a coach who only figures to make them better and better, the longer he is here. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we find Drexel, with a coach who apparently will make them worse and worse the longer he is there. I was surprised with how easily they lost last to William and Mary which leaves them 0 and 3 in conference. It is rather obvious that College of Charleston figures to win this game. However, at 0-3, I hope Drexel plays with desperation. The Cougars are coming off of a home run effort, and they could be a bit flat. One more shot for the home team.

Drexel 69  C of C 64

Friday, January 8, 2016

William and Mary - Postgame

Final Score:  William and Mary 72, Drexel 63
Drexel player of the game: BaBiNey
Key to the game: Points off turnover
Next Game:  Saturday Jan 9, Home vs College of Charleston

Bruiser Flint has been coaching at Drexel for 15 years, but Thursday night January 7th he may have done something brand new.  Because on that night, in front of a crowd that would have sold out most neighborhood outdoor basketball courts, Bruiser Flint's Drexel Dragons shot 54% from the field and were blown out of the gym.  The Dragons shot the ball well, shooting 50% over the first 30 minutes of the game before a torrid final quarter made the game look respectable, but even shooting that well they were no match for Tony Shaver's William and Mary Tribe.

What most Drexel fans will remember from this contest was the 21-0 run that William and Mary went on when they implemented a vanilla 2-3 zone in the first half (actually only 20 of those points were scored while they were playing a zone, but who is counting?)  What fans won't notice is that Bruiser, while admittedly not calling a timeout, was screaming, imploring and begging his team to penetrate to break down the zone.  Coming out of the half, they did just that and left Tony Shaver constantly checking in and out of the zone trying to catch the Dragons off guard.  Sammy Mojica was particularly effective driving from the wing and passing up the jump shot to get into the paint.

Mojica was actually 4/4 from inside the arc against the Tribe, and that was indicative of an entire team effort.  Rare were the two point jump shots until the final few minutes of the game when the outcome wasn't in doubt.  Instead a real effort was made to get the ball to the paint, either via penetration or feeding a big man on the block.  The combination players of the game went 11/15 from the floor, with 13 rebounds in a game where rebounds weren't plentiful.  The team as a whole shot an unheard of 73% from two point range in this game which is a stunning achievement from a coaching staff that never looked like they were going to fall out of love with jump shots.

While the Drexel offense struggled from the perimeter, the positive impact of getting to the paint led to Drexel's third best offensive performance of the season, with 1.02 points per possession.  People may point to the offensive rebounding numbers, but when most of the missed shots are from three, which are shots that don't tend to lend themselves to offensive boards, that's just what is going to happen.  If the missed shots were from close range, you can count on the fact that there would have been many more rebounds for the Dragons.

So how then, with that strong offensive performance, did the Dragons get blown out?  Well the Tribe wasn't so bad either.  Terry Tarpey had a game, putting up 21 points, 6 rebounds and an incredible 6 steals.  His quick hands led William and Mary to 21 points off of Dragon turnovers.  And while the defense by the Dragons was at time embarrassing, getting beaten multiple times in transition for no good reason and some silly fouls, on the balance the half court wasn't that miserable.  Only 26 of the Tribe's 72 points came in the paint, and aside from the Penn game William and Mary spent less time at the foul line than any Drexel opponent this year.  What they did do was execute.  They hit some tough shots (including an incredible mid range fading floater at the end of the first half) and when they got to the line, they made it count, to the tune of 89%.  Sometimes, you need to tip your cap, and while Drexel has a lot of cleaning up to continue with, this was one of those nights.

One last note, for one of the friends of the blog.  At one point in the second half, Bruiser was assertively giving some notes to Sammy Mojica, Someone made a joke that Bru may have been telling the young man that the team hadn't passed the ball around the perimeter enough on that particular possession, that 5 or a dozen more pointless passes were necessary.  Well, a certain someone didn't think that was a joke.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

William and Mary - Pregame

On Thursday, Drexel will be hosting a problem at the DAC, and that problem's name is William and Mary. William and Mary has the conferences highest shooting percentage, Drexel has the lowest.  William and Mary is undefeated when holding the opposition under 1 point per possession, Drexel hasn't had a game above a point per possession since before Thanksgiving.  William and Mary has nine wins, an optimist thinks that Drexel might get to 9 wins this season, maybe.

In the past, road games could be a challenge for a William and Mary team that relied on outshooting their opponents to win games,  While the Tribe still relies on shooting to win, this year they're doing it inside.  Taking 45% of their shots at the rim is how they have been able to withstand the loss of star player Marcus Thornton.  No longer are they relying on the less predictable outside shots, no longer will they be as vulnerable in road games like they were when they went to the wire at Drexel two years ago.  Instead they will use more backdoor cuts than ever, more quick passing and more pick and rolls.  It's become about the technique now just as much as it was about sharpshooting then.  And against guards like Terrell Allen and Sammy Mojica, who have been very poor off the ball defenders in their short DU careers, it spells trouble.

While Drexel's physical man to man defense has showed some signs of life of late, the fouling continues to be a concern.  In a game like this one where the guards are likely to be beat regularly, expect to see the forwards rack up fouls early when they jump out to try to help.  Expect the Tribe's top free throw shooters, junior leader Omar Prewitt and sophomore point guard David Cohn to get the ball early and often and challenge the interior defense.  With penetration and a focus on off the ball defending, the Dragons should counter with extended bouts of Rashann London at the point and Tavon Allen going for as long as he can stand to be on the floor.  Fans will also be watching Ahmad Fields closely as extended minutes on his behalf would both show health and give an idea of what to expect from him on the defensive end.  Inside, it will be about alertness and how well Kaz Abif and Rodney Williams can pickup the Tribes plays and get to the spot in time.  This has actually been a strength of Tyshawn Myles over his time at DU as he has shown an ability to not get beat by the same play twice that may find an important role in this game.

Knowing that they will be outshot, the Dragons absolutely must crash the glass and be smart with the basketball.  They'll only be able to stay in this game if they take more shots than the Tribe.  Last year when DU hosted this game they were blown out in embarrassing fashion, 73-47.  This year, it's tough to see them making it all that much better.

Prediction:  William and Mary 76, Drexel 61
Vegas Line:  William and Mary -5

Alan Boston's Take:

Don't really know what to say: Bruiser has apparently lost his way. Once known for great defense and mostly good shots, this years team has evolved into not that. Sad, because they have rebounded well and hit some threes, but you can not continue to take bad shots in conference and expect to win. William and Mary is not known for defense, so if Drexel runs their stuff, open looks could be had, however going the other way could be trouble. There is no prettier offense in the country than what the wizard of William & Mary Tony Shaver runs. People know what is coming and can not stop it. A crippled Drexel team somehow beat William & Mary on senior night last year. At 0-2 in the conference and at home, you know Drexel will be all in, however, if they continue the bad habits of games past, no amount of focus, energy or talent edge will help them here. This should play at as your classic home dog. Lets hope Bruiser corrects a couple of things. It is a big hope. Against my better judgement:

Drexel 78 William and Mary 76