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