Monday, February 29, 2016

21 Guns - Potential Head Coaching Candidates For the 2016-17 NCAA Basketball Season

Ryan Koechig, Eric Resnick, Scott Kier, and Bill Treichel contributed to the following post with volumes of research, writing, editing, time and effort.  To those, and the many others who provided their own thoughts, as well as the fans who completed the initial survey that put us in a position to find these names, I say "Thank You".

UPDATE: Advance to the end of the post to see an update on the reported Doug Overton interest in "A Philadelphia job" that broke today

Hot off the heels of the year's most read column on the blog, Searching For a Dragon, the devoted and massively underpaid blog staff headed out and did a coaching search of their own.  A paid search firm, and/or the Athletic Director's office have some advantages in their search, as they know budget and program goals.  And while we will have a followup on the absurdity of them not sharing program goals with potential donors, that fact won't stop the blog Powers That Be from stumbling around and conducting a whimsical, bumbling search that best resembles Stevie Wonder in a Carnival Funhouse.

We posted this today, as Conference Tournament Season begins, so that fans can follow and watch these potential coaches in action as we step into the madness of March.  We'll be watching with you here at Blog HQ.

For those looking for a shorter read, feel free to start in with Category 4 and read down for the most likely candidates.

Category 1 - Too Close For Comfort

Each of the following candidates have proven themselves worthy of consideration for Head Coaching openings around the country.  Going on the assumption that Drexel will be looking for a clean slate, DU may not be the best home for these candidates at this time.

Bashir Mason - Head Coach - Wagner University - Age 32 -   Lets just get this out if the way.  A Bruiser Flint player will not and should not get this job.  This is no knock on Bashir, or even Bru for that matter; it's simply best to use this opportunity to get a fresh start.  Bash has done well at Wagner and has a promising career in front of him; Drexel is just the wrong place/wrong time at this time.

Geoff Arnold - Assistant Coach - Saint Joseph's University - Age 51 - Geoff was Associate Head Coach to Bruiser while Bashir was playing at Drexel, but took some money to move out to City Line and bring his nephew, Langston Galloway with him.  That move was worth the price and more for SJU.  Geoff is a cancer survivor and a good coach who knows Philly and can recruit in the area.  Like Bashir, Wrong Place/Wrong Time.

Derek Kellogg - Head Coach - University of Massachusetts - Age 42 - Best postseason win at UMass?  When he led a comeback to beat Drexel on the road in the NIT.  Also, say what you will about Eric Zillmer, he's not going to hire a Calipari guy that UMass just let go twice in a row.  Kellogg is qualified, but with that other baggage, those qualifications won't matter in a Drexel search.

Ashley Howard - Assistant Coach - Villanova University - Age 35 - Of the former Bruiser players and assistants, Ashley will likely be the hottest commodity.  Known for his recruiting prowess, Ashley has quickly moved up, traveling from DU to La Salle, back to Drexel before heading on to Xavier and Villanova.  He's studied under some serious coaches, his father played in the NBA, and he's as much a Philly guy as they come.  That is the pedigree for this position, but if the administration is looking to clean house, then Ashley isn't a fit.

Category 2 - Square Peg Meet Round Hole

These qualified candidates may check any of the boxes that are ideal for a Drexel Head Coach, but for one reason or another don't seem to be a fit for the Blue and Gold at this time.

Blaine Taylor - Color Commentator - Comcast Network - N/A - Age 58 - Possibly the most qualified man for the job, Blaine spent the better part of the 00's owning Drexel while being well paid and productive at ODU.  A colorful past coupled with his age and his excellence in his current TV role means he may not be a fit for Drexel at this time, which is a bit of a shame for a man who knows the CAA and can coach on and off the court with the best of them.

Scott Nagy - Head Coach - South Dakota St - Age 49 -  One of the best resumes of the bunch, what he has done to take SDSU Division I and be successful is the stuff dreams are made of for a school like Drexel. If DU wants to make that same type of jump from NCAA doormat to A-10 level program and annual contender, a coach will need to overcome a hurdle similar to what Nagy has already achieved.  But at 49 and with 21 years at SDSU, he is unlikely to move, although he reportedly interviewed for the Bradley job last year.

Andrew Toole - Head Coach - Robert Morris - Age 35 - Andrew Toole spent a year at Lafayette under the great Fran O'Hanlon before heading to a Robert Morris program that was quickly rising and continued to rise under Assistant Coach, and then Head Coach Toole.  His resume has taken a couple of significant shots after the last couple of years, having a terrible year at RMU this season and being connected to his former Head Coach, Mike Rice.  Aside from that, he is a strong candidate on paper:  a New Yorker who played at and graduated from Penn, he is well known in AAU circles and if President Fry wanted to buy low, he'd be an interesting name.

Bill Barton - Assistant Coach - University of Pittsburgh - Age 55 - Barton's resume reads to be one of a career assistant coach.  A Boston guy, he followed Ron Everhart to Pittsburgh when Everhart moved from Northeastern to Duquesne.  Barton spent three season at Duquense before taking a job with the Thundering Herd of Marshall under Tom Herrion before signing a contract at Pitt.  Besides the CAA ties under his belt, his widespread success in east coast recruiting for Pitt gives him a key weapon anywhere he goes.  At 55, he may view himself more as a player development specialist than a head coaching candidate, though.

Darren Savino - Associate Head Coach - University of Cincinnati - Age 45 - Probably a moonshot for the Drexel brethren, Savino cut his teeth as an interim Head Coach during Mick Cronin's leave of absence.  His 20+ year coaching career has seen him at schools from St. John's to the University of New Mexico.  Particularly attractive to east coast schools such as DU, he went to St. Anthony's (NJ) and played under Bob Hurley, and alongside the coaches son and current Arizona State Head Coach Bobby.  Savino would bring an incredibly connected recruiting network and significant assistant coaching experience to a program, but as he has already been exposed to an associate head coaching gig at the high major level, may not be interested in the DU job.

Category 3 - Geographically Challenged

The below individuals are qualified and exciting applicants for programs but don't have any East Coast connections.  While being associated with the Philadelphia or East Coast hoops scene is not a necessary qualification, it's questionable whether these candidates would want to move themselves and their families away from their current regions.

Travis Steele - Xavier University - Associate Head Coach - Age 32 - A Villa 7 graduate who has an ear for the Midwest AAU scene, he started his D-I coaching career at Indiana before joining the Xavier program where he has been an assistant for the last seven seasons.  Steele has been mentioned for jobs across the Midwest over the last couple of off-seasons and is one of the youngest rising stars in D-I. Similar to Dayton, Xavier is a school that DU may be using as an example of a program at a similar level that is having success, something to attempt to emulate.  With young children and a familiarity with the Midwest it's likely he will be heavily involved with potential suitors closer to home, but he is certainly worthy of review by Drexel.

Michael Lewis - Butler University - Assistant Coach - Age - 37 - Two names.  Bobby Knight.  Brad Stevens.  Lewis played for Knight and assisted for both coaching giants.  For that alone he should be near the top of every AD's list of potential head coaches.  He has a Master's Degree that he earned during his stop at Texas Tech and also spent time at Eastern Illinois and Stephen F Austin.  He's been in a number of systems and Butler has continued to succeed even after Brad Stevens departure because assistants like Lewis stuck around.  He has never left the Midwest, but would bring a fresh and successful perspective and incredible connections to the DAC.

Jeff Boals - Assistant Coach - The Ohio State University - Age 42 -  One of the most discussed assistant coaches in the country over the last half a decade, Boals is ready for the next step.  Hailing from the heavily acclaimed Thad Matta coaching tree, Boals is known as a player development guy, a guy who has had to earn it every step of the way and has done so.  That he was a candidate for his alma mater's Head Coaching gig at Ohio University and didn't get the job is a warning sign.  That he has been a finalist in so many other searches but not selected is another.  But at 42, his time has come, and with coaching stops at Charleston, Marshall, Robert Morris, Akron, Ohio and Ohio State, he's put the work in.

Category 4 - The Dayton Section

Dayton gets a whole section!  With three highly qualified candidates and the type of success that Drexel aspires to at a conference level that is familiar to those in the Philadelphia area, each Dayton assistant gets a look here.

Allen Griffin - Assistant Coach - University of Dayton - Age 37 - A Syracuse basketball alum that shot so poorly in college you would have think Bruiser recruited him, Griffin has ground his way through his post-collegiate career.  After playing in Europe and the NBDL he has held four assistant coaching positions, including at Hofstra University under the questionable regime of Mo Cassara.  Most recently he's been under the slightly more heralded Archie Miller at Dayton for the last five seasons, dancing twice and having a shot to do so this season as well.  Not only did he work in the CAA, he lived three doors down from Charles Jenkins growing up!  Jim Boeheim, Archie Miller pedigree from a New York native with CAA experience make him a natural to be considered for the Drexel gig.

Tom Ostrom - Assistant Coach - University of Dayton - Age  45 - The key to Dayton's recruiting, Ostrom's roots are in the midwest AAU scene.  Prior to taking the gig at Dayton he had been a four year assistant at Arkansas (dancing once) and coaches at a Florida program under a guy named Billy Donovan.  A coaching lifer, he may not make as much sense as the other Dayton assistants as he doesn't have significant east coach exposure and he is a bit older.  Despite that, he's qualified for the job, his pedigree is strong and he could bring Midwestern recruits to Philadelphia, avoiding the local recruiting battle that is hard to win as the coach of Drexel Basketball.

Kevin Kuwik - Assistant Coach - University of Dayton - Age  41 - Special.  That's the word that comes to mind when reviewing Kuwik's 41 years.  He graduated summa cum laude from Notre Dame with a degree in engineering, he also participated in the schools ROTC program.  Kuwik served in Iraq, including a recall to duty when he has been coaching full time.  While his personal life includes both triumph and tragedy, his on the court victories match his academic success.  He was Director of Basketball Operations for Brad Stevens at Butler, a video coordinator under Thad Matta at Ohio State and has spent the last five years under Archie Miller at Dayton.  That may be the best trifecta of coaching trees on this list.  And that is without mentioning that he was a team manager at Notre Dame under future NBA coach John MacLeod.  He's a tremendous academic success, he's studied under the best coaches in the game and has east coast ties, growing up in upstate New York and having coached early in his career at D-II Saint Michael's College of Vermont.  While he is lumped in with the other Dayton candidates, he could easily be in either of the next two sections.

Category 5 - Strong Potential Candidates

The below are exceptional candidates and are expected to be under consideration by the school.  While coaching within the CAA footprint, these coaches haven't seen significant overlap with the CAA or it's institutions, a feature that would make them more of a slam dunk for an interview.

Brian Earl - Associate Head Coach - Princeton University - Age 39 - The Drexel Powers That Be would be doing a disservice not to at least have him in for an interview if he is willing.  He was considered a top candidate for the Princeton job when his former teammate Mich Henderson got the gig in 2011.  Earl stayed on as Associate Head Coach to his good friend and it's been a very successful marriage.  With Ivy League talent the Princeton team has been in the top half of college basketball all 5 seasons that Henderson and Earl have led the program in both 2pt shooting and 2pt defense, which are some of the most predictive factors out there for overall success.  For perspective, Bruiser Flint and staff have accomplished that twice in 15 years with CAA talent on board.  Earl is smart, loved by his players, and has had Princeton, yes, Princeton, running more uptempo.  Add that to his youth and what you have is a very promising Head Coach candidate, who will be as concerned with his teams academics as he is with its on the court success.  The concerns at Drexel will stem from an Ivy League rooted career that didn't see a lot of crossover with CAA players or politics.  Also, would Earl have interest in leaving his longtime friend and a great gig at Princeton?

Scott Cherry - Head Coach - High Point University - Age 45 - Cherry checks all the boxes.  He played under a guy named Dean Smith at UNC, has CAA experience as part of Jim Larranaga's staff at George Mason, where he participated in the Final Four run, and as a Head Coach has brought High Point from doormat to competitive team.  Cherry even has a year of coaching women's basketball under his belt.  After seven seasons at High Point and with only one year left on his contract, he's expected to see significant interest this off-season.  At 45, Cherry can be considered at the older end of a "youth movement" and may demand a higher salary than other candidates but his record of success is unblemished.  The knock on Cherry if there is one is a reliance on the three ball.  If the strongest signal of excellence is consistency, relying on the most inconsistent shot in the lot is tough.  Similarly, his teams have never had a strong defense which is a significant warning sign.  X's and O's may oddly be an issue here, but credentials and pedigree are not.

Niko Medved - Head Coach - Furman University - Age 43 - Anytime you can hire a guy who has coached at the same SoCon doormat twice, you have to get him.  Medved has excelled well beyond what that first sentence implies.  Known as a recruiting specialist with connections throughout the midwest, Medved served as an assistant to Larry Davis (now Associate Head Coach at Cincinnati) during his initial stint at Furman.  After skipping town to develop his abilities at Colorado State under Tim Miles and Larry Eustachy he returned to Furman to accept the Head Coaching role that he was clearly ready for.  Inheriting the Kenpom #342 team in the country that had gone 3-13 in the SoCon the year prior was no easy task.  Medved has answered the bell.  The record and ranking has greatly improved in all three years that he has led the team.  Perhaps more importantly, the leading indicators, 2pt offense and defense percentages, rebounding, and free throw rate have all improved every single season.  A program that was an embarrassment for the five years prior to his return just finished third in the conference in Medved's third year at the helm.  His teams play slow, methodical basketball that shows off his staff's game-planning and execution.

With a number of returning players next year, Coach Medved may opt to see if his name becomes hotter with a potential conference championship in waiting.  It's unlikely he jumps from Furman to a high major job however, and at 43 it may be a good time to make the next step.  With one successful rebuild under his belt and the returning players that Drexel will have to offer, Medved is a top name to keep in mind.

Pat Duquette - Head Coach - University of Massachusetts Lowell - Age 45 - Well, its not that Umass.  There are plenty of coaches who have rebuilt programs.  Duquette has simply built at UMass Lowell, as he helped guide the program to Division I.  A former assistant to Al Skinner at Boston College and Bill Coen at Northeastern, Duquette has significant knowledge of northeast basketball and the CAA.  At Lowell, he has adjusted around his team this season, pushing tempo and becoming one of the better shooting teams in the country, but the fact that the program has not been filled out with Division I talent continues to hold it back.  Going around .500 in the America East while moving NCAA divisions is no small task and Duquette still has his work cut out for him if he sticks around, which is why he may jump at the offer of another opportunity.

On a personal note, Duquette's cousin made the trade that brought Pedro Martinez to Fenway Park, and I and hundreds of thousands of New Englanders will be forever grateful to the Duquettes.

Category 6 - Leaders in the Clubhouse

These candidates check every box on paper.  Success in their current positions, well spoken in NCAA circles and they have plenty of CAA or Philadelphia exposure as well.  All of these will almost certainly be considered within the walls of the DAC.

Chris Caputo - Associate Head Coach - University of Miami - Age 35 - Lets just get this out of the way now.  By all accounts, Jim Larranaga is not a guy you want to have a beer with.  Chris Caputo has spent 14 years with that man.  It's enough to make you want to take a shower just thinking about it.  Alas, Jim Larranaga is also one of the most successful coaches to come through the CAA.  And one man has been along for the whole ride, from "Hey Hey Hey I'm Jaiiiii Lewis" and ball busting Tony Skinn running to the Final Four at George Mason to the incredibly clean house at the University of Miami.  Larranaga may be downright Belichickian in his ability to walk close to the NCAA bylaws without tripping over them, and while that sounds bad, it's pretty good company to be in if the goal is to win games and stay on the right side of the law.  Larranaga and Caputo have finished in the Kenpom top 100 in nine of the last ten seasons split between Mason and Miami and have danced four times.  His CAA success made Caputo a solid DC area recruiter which is ripe ground for a coach trying to bring players to Philadelphia.  He is young and has no NCAA violations against him.  He may get bigger offers after this years run by the Hurricanes is complete, but for Drexel he checks all the boxes, and is beyond worthy of consideration.

Martin Inglesby - Assistant Coach - University of Notre Dame - Age 38 - If you want to talk fit, it starts and ends here.  Inglesby is a graduate of Archbishop Carroll.  His father played for Villanova.  His sister Chrissi married Baker Dunleavy, who is Associate Head Coach at Villanova.  Multiple sources have stated he had a good line on the UD opening had Monte been removed from the position last season, and he was looked at by Wagner before Bash took that gig.  He was also involved in at least the Bucknell and Monmouth searches in recent years.  And he's had enough puff pieces in local newsrooms that it's clear he may just be well connected across the small neighborhood that is college hoops professionals.  The concern with Inglesby, similar to that of Caputo, is that with the exception of a year at Wagner, his experience is limited to the viewpoint of Mike Brey: he has only been under one coach.  Brey himself isn't known as an X's and O's wizard, and a cringeworthy quote: “Everybody thinks coaching is about Xs and Os. Coaching is about having the ability to motivate people, to lead people and, more importantly, to understand people. And he has that. Martin is super” from Dereck Whittenburg, Inglesby's Head Coach at Wagner, leads to additional concern, especially from those who aren't quite over the fifteen year offensive car wreck that was the Bruiser Flint offense.  On paper however, Martin has put in the years, is well connected, and is ready and deserves a look for the Drexel job.

The Conclusion

There is no conclusion.  At Drexel, there is not even an official search yet.  That's not to be overlooked, as we should be sure to give these coaches and players the respect they deserve in Baltimore.

The names listed largely fit the successful, younger, up and coming mold that DU fans seemed to ask for when we spoke to them weeks ago.  In the end, the Drexel administration may agree with those wishcasting in the community, or they may go to someone who has shown success in the past.  Names that have seen some challenging times but had prior success, like Ron Everhart or Tom Pecora might get dropped, even a Jeff Capel might get mentioned just to try and fire people up or negotiate with others.  Perhaps Donald Trump, since we're told he's a winner and loves winners.  We will hear a lot and know much less.  But one could do a lot worse than any of the coaches on the list above, and certainly those in Categories four through six have had careers that make them excellent candidates for a position at Drexel, or many other schools across Division I.


Many people have quickly jumped to the conclusion that between this tweet and Doug's son Miles Overton playing at Drexel next season that the job being discussed is the Drexel job.  While Doug doesn't have the successful pedigree of the coaches listed above, the connection mentioned certainly makes sense, especially in an area that might be more about who you know than what you know.

It's highly unlikely that DU is leaking this information just before their conference tournament.  So we can rest assured that this information is coming from the Overton camp, a group that should have a strong relationship with Coach Flint.  So what we really have learned from this tweet is that either Doug Overton is very interested in the La Salle job or he is aware that Bruiser Flint is gone, or possibly both.  On the list above, I'd insert him somewhere between category 2 and 5, square peg in a round hole for Drexel athletics.  His lack of coaching success is concerning, and generally the success rate of broadcasters coming back out of the booth to coach is slim to none.  Bringing in a "name" coach like Overton would bring some instant credibility back to the program which would help the situation at the DAC, but La Salle might be a better venue for a man who likes Bruiser Flint enough to entrust him with his son's promising career.

Northeastern - Home - Postgame

Score: Northeastern 61, Drexel 59
Drexel Player(s) of the Game: Kazembe Abif, Tavon Allen, and Chandler Fraser-Paul
Key to the Game: Composure and execution
Next Game:  Friday March 4 vs Elon at Royal Farms Arena, Baltimore, MD (CAA Championship)

Saturday’s contest against Northeastern marked the end of what can arguably be identified as one of the most difficult seasons in Drexel basketball history.  It was also the last time that Tavon Allen and Kazembe Abif would take to the court at the DAC.  There is so much that one could write about both of their careers, storied in their own ways, but for now the focus will be on the Saturday afternoon matchup against the Huskies.

Drexel has proven themselves to be a team that will break a fan’s heart.  A frequent shortcoming that has been discussed from the coaches mouth to the internet to the stands to the parking garage elevator across the street from the DAC has been their inability to string together 40 minutes of quality basketball.  This team will look great for 20-30 minutes depending on their opponent, and then they will crumble right in front of your eyes.  This was the case in Saturday’s contest as well.

For the first thirty minutes of this game, the team looked great.  They shot well.  They played aggressive defense.  Tavon Allen once again looked like a player possessed, at least for the first half, as he led his team on a 24-10 run over the course of the last 10 minutes of the first frame pouring in 23 points on 9 of 13 shooting.  His 5 for 8 three point display led once again to the Drexel record books and Mike Wisler’s 9 threes against Hartford on February 13, 1994.
When the buzzer sounded and the teams headed to their locker rooms to regroup, Drexel found themselves ahead 34-27 on 52% shooting from the field.  It also bears mentioning that no Dragon made it to the free throw line in the first half.  They outrebounded Northeastern 12-10, and won the turnover battle with 5 as compared to NU’s 9.  All indicators pointed toward a Dragon dominance.

The second half started out with more of the same.  In the first ten minutes of the half, Drexel controlled the game outscoring Northeastern 15-11 to finish a 39-21 run over 20 minutes.  During that stretch, Drexel shot 17 for 28 from the field, and 5 for 9 from three.  During the rest of the game they were 7 for 25 and 4 for 11 respectfully.

One of the in game matchups to watch was Rodney Williams against the Northeastern frontcourt.  Rodney found himself battling all day on the blocks.  The matchup was reminiscent of the first meeting with the team that saw Williams handle his foes admirably.  Saturday’s rematch did not see the same result.  Jeremy Miller, who earned his 4th foul of the game at the 11:36 mark of the second half, and to a lesser extent Kwesi Abakah were hammering him both on the shot and on the blocks.  Most of it went uncalled.  Williams finished with just 2 points on 1-6 shooting.

At the 9:30 mark, Williams made a play that showed just how much he has grown this season.  After being fed the ball on the low post, everybody in the building expected the Dragons big man to take the ball to the hole.  Instead, he kicked it back to a wide open Rashann London the perimeter who drilled a three pointer giving Drexel their biggest lead, 11 points, with 9:19 remaining.  Northeastern came down the court and called a timeout with 8:56 to go, and Drexel well in control of the game.

Northeastern came out of the huddle with a plan and a fresh outlook on the game.  Their 7-0 run in the following three minutes prompted a timeout by Bruiser Flint.  Two minutes later, Northeastern had poured in 8 more points bringing the run to 15-0 leaving Bruiser to call another timeout, and when I say Bruiser, I mean Bruiser.  He stood on the sideline yelling at the referee for a timeout while the ball was in play.  Finally, Terrell Allen who had brought the ball to the sideline called it for him.  The look that he shot at the ref was met with a lecture the subject of which was how he was no longer allowed to call timeouts with the ball in play, a rule change that went into effect at the beginning of this season.

Drexel, who had won 11 consecutive close regular season games when leading, walked into the last four minutes of this contest with a 50-49 lead and they now trailed by 4.  David Walker, who had hit five consecutive three pointers in the first meeting between these teams, had just put down his third in a row.  The Dragons were visibly rattled.  Their freshman point guard was not giving up though.  Terrell Allen took his game to another level scoring all 7 of his points in a two and a half minute stretch.  If one read the box score, they would imagine Terrell had slow game, but the young floor general turned in another top notch performance.

His efforts, however, were not enough.  With Drexel leading 59-58, Northeastern headed back to the huddle to draw up a play for Zach Stahl who made a layup in the paint.  There appeared to be some communication issues on the pick and roll executed by Caleb Donnelly and Stahl was left open for an easy layup.  Now trailing 60-59, with the shot clock off and 24 seconds remaining, Bruiser Flint used his last timeout to head in to a huddle of his own.

After running through the early stages of their offense, the ball found itself in Tavon Allen’s hands.  The senior, whose 23 point first half was followed up by a 2-10 performance with 4 turnovers in the second half, drove to the hoop for a leaning one hander from about six feet out that couldn’t find the mark.  Rashann London grabbed the rebound and put up an unsuccessful put back of his own.  The ball then found itself in Quincy Ford’s hands.  Kaz Abif’s wrestling match with the Northeastern senior resulted in a whistle that fans in the building thought would be a jump ball.  The referee disagreed, calling Kaz for a foul and sending Ford down the floor to shoot 1-and-1.  He made the front end, but the second free throw fell in the hands of Rodney Williams who handed the ball off to Terrell Allen sending the point guard barreling down the court with 6 seconds to go.

As Allen crossed half court, he looked as if he was going to try and go coast to coast.  Instead, he gave Tavon Allen one more shot at greatness as he handed the ball off to the senior on the right wing for an NBA range three that careened off the rim as the buzzer sounded giving the Huskies a 61-59 victory.  Once again, coaches, players and fans alike found themselves walking out the door saying to themselves, “we could have won this one.”

The players gave 110% on the court, as they always do, but just seemed to come unraveled when Northeastern started to fight back.  Walker became the hot hand on the court going 4-4 from three down the stretch.  Control became chaos, and what was a remarkably calm Bruiser Flint by Bruiser standards, became more animated.  The Dragons just could not hold the lead in the clutch, something that they have traditionally been able to do.  Drexel’s record at home fell to 3-9 in a game that meant nothing to the standings, and everything to the seniors who wanted to leave the DAC with a win.

The co-players of the game for this match-up goes to three players: Tavon Allen, for his years of dedication to the program.  His heart and determination speak loudly on the floor.  Kazembe Abif, who will get votes for Dragons MVP, for his ability to step back on the court and be this team’s heart and soul on the floor.  He showed true leadership out there throughout the season.

Finally, Chandler Fraser-Paul.  The grad student, former Lafayette soccer player, who wanted to use a year of eligibility to play basketball in hopes of a future career in coaching was this team’s biggest leader on the bench.  He cheered on each and every teammate on the floor regardless of the score or the situation that they found themselves in.  Despite his efforts, he has yet to score a point in college basketball, something that is a dream of his.

The Dragons now head to Baltimore for a Pillow Fight Friday matchup with Elon.  Here’s hoping that Kaz, Tavon and CFP have just a little magic left in their tank.  No team has ever won four consecutive games to go home with the CAA Championship.  Could Bruiser’s 0-14 streak finally come to an end?  We’ll have to wait and see.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Senior Day - Northeastern

In November, the Drexel Men's Basketball team took the court with a sense of optimism, a coach that would talk up this team to anyone who would listen, and a belief that the prior season was a bump in the road, that the offseason turmoil with Damion Lee could and would be overcome.  And then began a season that wasn't bumpy at all, just one flatline from start to finish.  The final game of the season pits a Dragon team coming off of a season high two game winning streak against a Northeastern squad that needs a win to try and avoid the CAA's Baltimore Pillow Fight Friday.  While the Huskies season has been disappointing to the Boston brethren, they still hold the current CAA Title Belt and will roll to a .500 CAA record with their likely win in Philadelphia today.  With that known, we shift our focus to the outgoing Drexel players, an ambidextrous 6'7" guard and a "6'7" (quotes are very much intentional) Master's Degree candidate forward.

Tavon Allen sat out his first year at Drexel as a redshirt.  When he finally stepped foot on the DAC court as a player, Drexel's returning guard corps included Frantz Massenat, Damion Lee and Derrick Thomas.  That's an elite point guard, an elite shooting guard, and a defensive specialist.  Tavon.  Did.  Not.  Give.  A.  Fuck.  He may have only seen 15 minutes a game on the court, but in those 15 minutes he was taking as many shots as Damion Lee was, and considerably more than Frantz Massenat or any other DU player.  That green light only turned yellow during his senior year when the coaches put a lid on his shot selection and sent him back to the bench for long stretches.  And that is the real story of Tavon's Drexel career.

Prior to Allen's arrival at campus fans heard regularly about how this coaching staff did not believe in making major changes to a players shot by the time they had gotten to college.  With Tavon, they asked him to change hands.  Generally coaching staffs will work on a players shot selection early in their careers.  With Tavon, they didn't begin to have an effect on his shot selection until he was the team's senior leader.  While the careers of players such as Gerald Colds, Damion Lee and Dominic Mejia are known to have been held back by the system that they chose to play in, Tavon is a bit of a different story.  He was the ultimate project, and the staff became frustrated and so did he, and it just never worked for anyone.  Even that is half true.  In his senior season, he is shooting the ball well from the stripe and the three point line, it's just the ill-advised midrange shots and soft play in the paint that's holding him back from being one of the teams better players.  Every year it's been something, but many of the lessons learned this season should have been learned much earlier in a five year career.

At the end of the day, you hope that Tavon's experience at Drexel has been educational.  For himself, for the staff and administration and for fans.  While his eating habits were questioned (eat a steak Tavon!) his work ethic never was.  And when he was on fire, he would light up the DAC like almost no one else has been under Bruiser, on par with his classmate Damion, Dominic Mejia or Robert Battle.  Tavon's great was very great, and his talent was without question.  There are plenty of professional teams out there that will light up for a 6'7" player who can ballhandle and shoot 35% from deep.  If Tavon wants to play at the next level it's likely he will have the opportunity, and to a man, here at the Blog, we wish him the best.

If ever there was an opposite to Tavon Allen, it came in the package of Kazembe Abif.  While Tavon was an oversized guard, Kazembe was an undersized forward.  Both came in like string beans, but in his graduate season Kaz comes closer to resembling a refrigerator than a string bean.  There was talk of Abif leaving the team after the 14-15 season.  He had his degree and had left the team midseason when the coaching staff was asking him to play sooner than he felt healthy.  It came on the back half of an injury plagued career, only 20 games played as a freshman, 16 as a junior and a completely washed out senior season.

Kazembe returned to Drexel for this season, showing loyalty that was incredibly kind to his coaches and teammates, even while classmate Damion Lee turned to allegedly greener pastures.  And during this season, not only has he been able to play cover to cover, the 5th year player has been a leader to his frontcourt mates and has put up significant numbers.  If there was one brightspot in Drexel's flatline season, it's been the double double machine up front (he has six this season).  He is putting up the best rebounding numbers of his career and showing a Samme Givens' like nose for the ball, and despite taking more shots this year than he had in the rest of his career combined, his shooting percentage did not fall off.  Even when there was pressure on him to fill out the stat sheet, he played smart, didn't force things and played within the flow of the offense.  His season this year was a dream this coaching staff desperately needed, an ironic twist after last seasons disagreements.

Kaz's performance goes much further than his own numbers however.  Watch the team come off of the court during timeouts and you will see him coaching up his teammates.  It's likely that having a friend and constant partner alongside him in the frontcourt has been a part of Rodney Williams' late season renaissance, as well as the always eager Tyshawn Myles growth.  That degree of learning and appreciation from his teammates rivals the leadership of almost any team member that was walked out of the DAC in the Flint era.  It's no wonder that he is staring down the barrel of a Masters Degree and the likelihood of a very successful post Drexel career.

In 2011, a five man class his campus.  Aquil Younger, and Casey Carroll didn't last long, Damion Lee's four years weren't nearly long enough, and Kazembe and Tavon's spent 5 seasons getting frequent flyer miles in the trainers room.  They represent what is without question one of the most dramatic classes that will ever come through the program.  The two that were strong enough to make it through, those two are Dragons.  They embody the campus spirit and ideals and have not just accepted an invitation to represent the Blue and Gold, they earned both that jersey and the fans appreciation.  Their scars are both visible and invisible, and represent the mental and physical strength that they brought to this program.

For that, this fan thanks them.  I genuinely hope for, look forward to, and expect their future success.

Congratulations to the Drexel Basketball Class of 2016.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Delaware - Home - Postgame

The below post is written by Mark Walush, who was lucky enough to attend a great home win over the University of Delaware on Thursday.

Final Score: Drexel 74, Delaware 64
Player of the Game: Terrell Allen
Key to the Game: Interior Offense and “Swag”
Next Game: Saturday Feb 27 vs Northeastern

In one of the most exciting games at the DAC this season, Drexel began its first winning streak in over a calendar year. So what did the Dragons do right? For starters, the offense was consistent in getting the ball inside to Rodney Williams, where he went a respectable 5-12 from the field and 5-8 from the line, a sign that he is becoming more comfortable absorbing contact and drawing those fouls that are needed to make the opposing big men think a little bit on defense. It has been said many times before, Rodney Williams is a joy to watch on offense, and there are few forwards in that league that can defend him on a consistent basis. The coaching staff has noticed this and has begun to make Rodney more of a focal point in the offense, and they deserve credit for instilling the inside game in the team's play.

Before the game, I mentioned that the winner on the boards would win the game, and while Drexel and Delaware tied with 37 rebounds a piece, the difference came in the rest of the box score: this truly was an all around team victory. First, they were careful with ball, only committing 6 turnovers in the game. Second, the Dragons assisted on 18 of their 25 field goals (72%), well above their season average of 56%. This was the first game all season that the team looked like they were in sync with each other, making the extra pass to the open man, looking for the outlet pass on lane penetration, and just having more fun.

Another standout star for the Dragons is yet again freshmen point guard Terrell Allen. He continued his recent hot streak, scoring 19 points on FIVE (5!!!!) shots, with 3 assists and 0 turnovers. Terrell has been the brightest spot of this rough season, and gives Dragons fans hope for the future of this program. Even beyond the boxscore, Terrell is playing with a poise and maturity beyond his years. At the end of the game, with time running out and Terrell dribbling the time away, he faced the alumni section and president's suite, put out his hand with the look of a simple “We got this”. This program is in good hands with Terrell at the helm.

One final note: A play in which Tavon Allen blocked a three point shot and took the ball all the way the other way for an easy layup was by far the loudest the DAC has been this year and was the highlight for a senior who has finally settled into his role on the team.  Tavon is taking smarter shots, and being more active in all phases of the game. Saturday is senior night, and Tavon and Kazembe Abif will be looking to end their careers on high notes, and make this team a dangerous, dangerous low seed in Baltimore.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Delaware - Sucks - Home - Pregame

The below is written by Dragons Speak contributor Mark Walush, we thank Mark for his strong writing and continued support.

Drexel vs SUCKS – “Battle for the Basement”

Delaware (7-20, 2-14 CAA) Kenpom: 260
Drexel (4-23, 2-14 CAA) Kenpom: 251

One of the things that makes college basketball so great is that every school, big or small, always has that one team on the schedule that even if you lost every other game, you take pride in beating.  It's the rival.  For Drexel, that team is Delaware. It is Drexel's longest running series against any opponent, dating back to 1911, and Delaware currently leads the series 79-74. Drexel vs Delaware has always been a circled game on the schedule, even in the roughest years. Even though most of their fans are in bed by gametime, there is a certain satisfaction about beating UD. In some years, perhaps this one, this game may be the only one to look forward to on the schedule. Three years ago, a group of Drexel juniors took a road trip to watch Drexel play Delaware at the Bob Carpenter Center. Drexel was winding down a rough season that saw incredible promise early on in the preseason NIT only to see their star player gone for the season, which then sent the team into a spiral leading to another first round exit in the conference tournament. Delaware was celebrating senior night and looking to maintain their first place seeding in the conference, but Drexel would play spoiler to that and pulled off the upset.

Walking out of UD, representing the winning team

This year, Drexel has once again played spoiler to a top of the conference team on their senior night, taking down William and Mary on Saturday. However, this Thursday's Drexel/Delaware matchup does not have the prestige of years past. Both Drexel and Delaware have had very disappointing seasons, with both coaches wondering about their job security, just trying to get their teams to play with intensity and finish the season with high effort plays.

In the game against William and Mary, Drexel won by being smart with the ball, limiting turnovers, making sure that Rodney Williams gets touches inside, and the continued improvement of Terrell Allen. Terrell has shown flashes of brilliance this season, and it was even mentioned to this writer that he was pulling off some “Steph Curry” moves.  Even with Rodney and Terrell's stellar performances, the team shot only 35.7% inside the arc, something that needs to change going forward, whether it be more ball movement, better shot selection, or greater offensive variety, they cannot expect to win with those kind of numbers.

While Drexel's issues have been well documented on this blog, Delaware is dealing with a slew of issues on their end. Their rotation has shrunk to mainly 6 players due to injuries, and they have struggled finding their rhythm offensively and defensively this season. Kory Holden has been one of the few bright spots on the team, and is the main offensive threat for the Blue Hens. He is shooting 39% from 3 on the season, good for 325th nationally, as well as shooting 81% from the line. Marvin King-Davis is the main interior presence, and is nationally ranked in both offensive and defensive rebounding, which means the Drexel forwards will have their hands full trying to keep their position on the boards. Poor shooting can be overcome by decisively winning the rebounding battle, so I see this game coming down to the wire and the winner being decided by simply who wants it more.

Drexel 64 – Delaware 60
Vegas Line:  Drexel -3.5

Alan Boston's Take:

Delaware showed some life late in the year. After their win over Drexel they beat College of Charleston and took Hofstra to the wire. In their last they ran into an angry James Madison crew. The blow out was expected. Credit must be given to the Hens as they have suffered numerous injuries, have played short handed for quite some time and yet when you would expect them to have had enough, late in the too long hoops season, they play their best ball.

What can you say about Drexel?  The team that has shown flashes of brilliance, put together enough good to win at William & Mary. It makes absolutely no sense to this writer. When I first saw the score I thought rampant drug use had finally caught up with me, but later, I saw it official. How does Drexel follow that up? I thought Drexel would handle Delaware the first time. With the players available, they are the better team. With this Drexel team. better does not matter. However, it is entirely up to them. If Drexel plays with a modicum of intelligence - and they can - they win. It really is that simple. Does the William and Mary game encourage more good or do they get complacent and play with enough stupidity to lose a game that they should not. There are at least 3 games left for Coach Flint. They should send him out a winner. Bruiser for sure, deserves that.

Drexel 69 Delaware 59

Monday, February 22, 2016

William and Mary - Away - Postgame

Final Score: Drexel 74, William and Mary 69
Drexel Player of the Game: Terrell Allen
Key to the Game: Perimeter Shooting
Next Game:  Thursday Feb 25 vs Delaware

Blaine Taylor may have said it best on the broadcast: "Tony Shaver might be calling the league office asking to play anyone other than Drexel on Senior Night."  After a season in which everything that could go wrong has seemed to go wrong, the shoe was on the opposing Claw and Moccasin for the Dragons and Tribe.  William and Mary, one of the top shooting teams in the country, missed layups, shot 50% from the free throw line and shot under 30% from deep.  Drexel on the other hand saw 27% three point shooter Rashann London splash both of his attempts and 26% three point shooter Terrell Allen hit a pair of his three attempts as well.

Flying under the radar, Terrell Allen has shot a team leading 35% from distance during conference play.  After a benching a few weeks ago due either to injuries or performance, depending on which moment Bruiser Flint is talking about it, Terrell has seemed to bring an added fire and some discipline in this game.  He showed that beautifully when backing off of a fast break opportunity to feed a wide open Tavon Allen for three.  Terrell also showed the ability to take his man and get to the basket, at times for layups and at others, when the help came, to take a short jumper that he's hit with some consistency.  If his team leading 20 points weren't enough, he also had a pair of assist and not a single turnover in his 30 minutes running the point.

That last statement might be the most impressive.  This Dragons team has been riddled with mistakes this year, but in this game they only had 6 turnovers.  On the defensive end, not all was perfect.  In the first half, the Dragons took a beating from the William and Mary cutters.  All of the warning signs were there when the game was tied at the half with The Tribe having only shot 1 of 10 from deep in the first period.  Certainly they wouldn't do that again in the second, and they didn't, shooting 5 of 11 (46%) in the second half.  Not only did Drexel answer that salvo with their three point shooting, they separated themselves at the foul line.  Terrell Allen, Rodney Williams and Kazembe Abif all made multiple trips to the stripe in the second half with much success.  Meanwhile, William and Mary stars Omar Prewitt (3 of 7 from the line) and Terry Tarpey (no ft attempts) - celebrating his Senior Night - had no answer.

So the Dragons caught some breaks - an emotional, off night from William and Mary, "let em play" referees and some hot shooting, but in a lot of ways they made their own luck as well.  Rodney Williams had 16 points on just 13 shots in front of his family, Kazembe Abif put up another double double (his sixth of the year) and Terrell Allen played with the poise of a senior.  When those three can stay on the floor and the pieces around them simply contribute at a league average level, this team isn't a bad basketball team.  And when they stop shooting themselves in the foot (and they tried a couple of times down the stretch in Williamsburg) they can win some games.  Credit also goes to the coaching staff that tightened the screws of their defense at halftime, and sat down Terrell, likely losing the Delaware game because of it, until he was playing with the discipline needed to help this team succeed.

Not to rain on the parade, but last year after winning in Williamsburg the Dragons came out flatter than a pancake that Daryl McCoy just stepped on in their next game.  That was in the CAA Tournament.  They blamed fatigue, but they had just had 6 days off and anyone watching the events unfurl in Baltimore recognizes horseshit when they see it.  This years team has a choice when they hit the floor against Delaware on Thursday night.  They can use this newfound momentum of their one game winning streak, or they can be satisfied with their win and pack it in the rest of the way.  It is absolutely a choice.  And while none of these games seem like big games, the home game against UD is a rivalry game, a revenge game and will determine who comes in last place in the CAA.  The motors on guys like Terrell Allen need to stay running from now through the end of the season, or this stand in Williamsburg will just be a step on the way to representing the British in Yorktown.

Friday, February 19, 2016

William and Mary - Away - Pregame

Saturday February 20th is senior night in Williamsburg.  The fans of the Pantsless Griffins will be honoring Sean Sheldon and Terry Tarpey for their significant contributions to William and Mary athletics.  These two have been part of a core that has brought William and Mary from a conference cellar dweller to perennial twenty game winners.  Every season they have played at W&M has been a double digit win season, the first class of teammates to achieve that accomplishment since the 1978 graduates.  These two joined Tony Shaver and Marcus Thornton to help bring this program to the next level and deserve all of the accolades given to them on Saturday.  Marcus Thornton's senior night was Saturday, February 28, 2015.

The story of Tony Shaver at William and Mary is told through offensive metrics.  The Tribe is currently 12th in the country in effective field goal percentage.  They were 6th the year before, 6th the year prior to that and 23rd when the current class of seniors were freshman.  They are not elite for the CAA, they are elite nationally.  They have finished better than Michigan State, Villanova and Kentucky in that category every year for the last four years. Doing that at an academics first institution in the CAA?  That's a hell of a basketball program.

There's a flip side to all that goodness that the Tribe staff and writers won't tell you about though:  Tony Shaver made one big, bad mistake.

There was a high school student just up the road in Richmond.  A top tier player, a high character person that would have fit in in Williamsburg, he's the son of a Pastor.  And when his mom shows up to a game, look out.  Just look out.  Coach Shaver didn't bring Rodney to William and Mary, but being that close to home, Rodney brings his mom there.  And in 62 minutes of game time in Williamsburg, Rodney has 27 points, 13 rebounds and just 1 turnover.  And for the second senior night in a row, Rodney Williams will be in attendance in Dragon Blue and Gold.

Prediction:  William and Mary 72, Drexel 66
Vegas Line:  William and Mary -15.5

Alan Bostons's Take:

There will be no obscure song references. Sadly, there will also not be much original thought. It is hard to know what to say when a desperate Drexel team loses at home to what was likely a less than enthused Elon bunch. Perhaps with the heat off, Elon relaxed and hit every shot. Or perhaps Drexel does not defend quite like they once did. So I write this brief preview, feeling a bit lost.

Perhaps the most shocking score of last year, was a beat up Drexel team going to Williamsburg on senior night and beating first place William & Mary. Once again, Drexel goes to William & Mary on their senior night. I do not expect them to pull the upset, but senior nights can be hard on the home team. I have found that big favorites often struggle on senior night, the emotion overtakes the focus for a game that deep down they know they will win. Drexel also catches William & Mary off a huge effort in their easy win over first place UNCW.  Although the setting is right for the upset, the team attempting must be capable. Well, Drexel has shown flashes of brilliance. They do seem capable. William & Mary handled Drexel rather easily in Philly.  This time, it may be different. Either way, enjoy watching the Tribe run their offense. Tony Shaver is one of the top ten coaches in the COUNTRY.

Wm+Mary 78 Drexel 72

Elon - Home - Postgame

Final Score: Elon 81, Drexel 76
Drexel Player of the Game: Terrell Allen
Key to the Game: Perimeter Defense
Next Game:  Saturday Feb 20 at William and Mary

The first time the Dragons played Elon in a conference game, at home at the DAC on January 3rd, 2015, this was written in the postgame blog post:

Many, including Coach Flint, want to say that the key to the game was the three point shooting in the first half by Elon.  Those that want to make that argument may not be wrong but they're completely missing the underlying point.

Taking a second and granting them the point, lets note this:  Tanner Samson took 10 attempts from long range in this game.  Tanner shoots 80% of his shots each year from 3.  He's the definition of a one trick pony.  Tanner is going to take jump shots from behind the arc, and that's it.  He's not going to drive by anyone.  He's not going to cut to the basket away from the ball.  He's the easiest guy on the court to guard, and it's not close.  In the preview I even said: 

Samson takes 80% of his shots from behind the arc though, so against a man to man defense, as long as his man doesn't leave to help out, there is no reason Samson should threaten the Dragons. 

(In my best Bruiser voice)  Dude took 10 shots.  He was open to shoot the ball 10 times.  (/Bru voice) For perspective, the other player in the conference who just sits outside the 3 point line is Towson's Four McGlynn.  McGlynn took 6 three point shots against the Dragons last year in two games combined.  More perspective: Last year when the Dragons played against the Phoenix in the Preseason NIT, Samson only took 5 shots.  

Samson was left open to shoot the ball 10 times in this game.  There were only 68 possessions in this game!  You're telling me that this guy, who only has one move, was left open to do it on 15% of the possessions?  And you want to give them credit for it?  Last year the Dragons only allowed 22% of the points against them to be scored from three point territory.  This year it's 28%.  

That was then, after a game in which Tanner Samson scored 12 points against the Dragons.  It turns out, after three more head to head matchups with the Dragons, that all of that was written after Samson's lowest scoring performance against the Dragons.  In the games since that time, Samson scored 22, 19 and 19 points.  He did that on 16 three point attempts and just 7 shots from inside the arc.

When you can't stop a perimeter spot up shooter at any point over the course of four games, you don't deserve to win.  The Drexel offense played well tonight.  Terrell Allen was animated, got his teammates involved, and the Abif/Rodney Williams tandem was totally unstoppable.  Tyshawn Myles and Austin Williams combined for 6 rebounds and 5 blocked shots in just 23 minutes.  They only had 8 turnovers and they shot well from the free throw line.  But when the other team, who everyone knows is in love with the three point jump shot, is allowed to shoot 59% from the perimeter, there's just not much of a chance of winning.

In 4 CAA games against the Dragons, @ElonMensHoops shooting from three:

11-20 (55%)
7-17 (41%)
11-23 (48%)
10-17 (59%)

Total: 39-77 (51%)

It might be time for a defensive adjustment.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Elon - Home - Pregame

In a game that was played so long ago that Ahmad Fields played in it, the Dragons took a tough loss in their last meeting with the Elon Phoenix.  The rematch tips at 7pm tonight at the DAC and shapes up to be one of the better men's basketball contest in the building this year.  Elon runs an entertaining, uptempo pace and last decided to play defense around four years ago which leads to, if nothing else, exciting basketball.

In their first meeting, Elon shot the doors off (48% from behind the arc) to sneak by Drexel by 5.  That was on the second leg of a two game southern road swing that the Dragons were playing on short rest.  In that game, Tavon Allen was 2/11 from inside the arc, while Kazembe Abif was 1/1 from the field in 24 minutes.  Times have changed, as has the Dragons offensive balance.

The Drexel frontcourt dominated the Phoenix in the earlier contest, doubling them up in rebounding percentage all while Rodney Williams went 7/11 from the floor and got to the free throw line eight times.  While Matt Matheny's team may still not be playing much defense, expect to see them switch in and out of zone, and run double teams on the blocks in order to keep the ball out of the hands of Drexel's frontcourt players.  Coach Flint has yet to show us the big to big passing that can beat a double team on the inside, so it will likely be up to guards like Terrell Allen to take the kick out pass and dribble drive against an out of position defense.  If the Allen's, Rashann London and Sammy Mojica do that they can make a complete living at the free throw line.  If they settle for the patented "step in front of the line two pointer" then this becomes much more of a dogfight.

On the defensive side of the ball for the Dragons, the word is extend, extend, extend.  They did a very good job limiting Christian Hairston on the inside the first time around and will need to continue to beat him with single coverage in this game  That will enable Kazembe Abif and the guards to get out to the perimeter.  Drexel's big men have had tremendous difficulties all year long guarding the perimeter (part of what has Mohammed Bah in the doghouse) and Elon loves to shoot triples.  Over 45% of their shots are from behind the arc (14th highest in the country), which seems silly once you note that they are 205th in the country in three point shooting percentage.  Nonetheless, Tanner Samson and the game will keep throwing those shots up, and it will be important to see the guards to fight through screens and hold their off the ball assignments.

With the Phoenix coming off of back to back to back losses and the Dragons not having won for 40 days and 40 nights expect two hungry teams to come out.  Even with both teams looking the CAA Pillow Fight Friday play in games in the face, bodies will be on the floor and with Elon's run and gun style on top of all of that, this should be worth the price of admission.  So what the hell, come on out and support your Blue and Gold one more time, you're running out of chances to do that this year with only two home games left after tonight's showdown.

Prediction:  Drexel 73, Elon 72
Vegas Line:  Elon -4.5

Alan Boston's Take:

Back in the old days, before college hoops became a big business, back when kids played a sport a season, the end of the basketball season was a time when teams would often mail in games. In modern hoops, with kids used to playing 365 days a year and coaches jobs always being scrutinized, there are fewer flat spots to be found.

In his 7th season Coach Metheny has done an excellent job at Elon. Once a middling Southern conference team, they are slowly becoming relevant in the Colonial, a stronger league.  If they do not find some reason to get rid of him, I believe he will have Elon competing for the title within 2 years. It will not happen this year. Elon needed to beat College of Charleston at home to have much hope of a first round bye in the conference tournament. Prior to that important loss, they put in a huge effort in a close loss at UNCW.

Drexel showed a ton of fight in not letting the game get out of hand at Northeastern. If they play any semblance of that game, they do figure to beat a team that in the old days, for sure would put in a clunker.  In modern times they will have a tough time at best at being energized.

Drexel 76  Elon 69

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Searching for a Dragon

It's apparent that the wagons have been circled in the Athletic and Executive offices at Drexel.  Basketball game attendance is down sharply, but number of business suits at basketball games is up.  The leaks are getting tighter and the cloud within the DAC thicker.  With three weeks left in a stubborn, frustrating season it's not too early to be looking forward to the next chapter, and if planing for the future, it is well past time.  When the college basketball season ends in Houston the Drexel Men's Basketball program is more than likely going to have a new steward.

When that person is chosen, supporters can only hope the next coach will treat this program with the same class and dignity that Bruiser Flint did.  We can hope that the coach will also buy (of age) students a round when they see them at a watering hole, and that they will treat their fellow staff like they would like to be treated.  Writing this piece at this time is tremendously insulting to a man who has never been anything but outstanding to those who have supported the program.  It's kicking dirt when we should be saying thank you.  Today we plan, but when that time comes, we will say thank you, although not nearly - not even close to - as loudly, as passionately or as brilliantly as his fifteen years of service deserve.

When it became clear that the likelihood of a coaching change was high, an informal questionnaire was sent out to a number of Drexel Men's Basketball supporters and stakeholders.  It received a 60% response rate to the one question that was asked:  "What would you look for in a potential Head Coach?"  It was kept as broad as possible and no recommendations or ideas were provided.  What was received back had a handful of consistent threads, and some surprises.  Those answers are below:

  • The overwhelmingly most common and in fact unanimous response was said in a number of different ways.

    "Youth" "Upcoming" "Not a big conference retread" "Successful at a lower level" "Promising Assistant" "Ambitious"

    Not that we would ever give a weary eye towards a former conference mate, but it certainly sounded like an all out avoidance of a Paul Hewitt/ George Mason situation would be appreciated.

  • The second most common piece of feedback was split down into two remarks.  The first was not just to avoid the Flint coaching tree, but rather the entire Calipari coaching family.  There is a desire for a clean break, to use this opportunity to put a fresh face on a program that seems in decline both on the court and in the stands.  The second segment of that commentary is a desire to bring in someone who will surround themselves with a staff that will add value to the Head Coach.  The Head Coach and Athletic Director need to understand the coaches areas of weakness and bring in staff that will fill those gaps.  Perhaps out of need (those positions were allegedly underfunded) and perhaps out of desire, those positions had been filled as a way to promote from within, and to recognize and develop potential coaching talent.  Potential donors indicated a preference to see those positions used tactically rather than developmentally going forward.

  • One of the other areas of consistent feedback was a strong preference to continue one of Coach Flint's legacies.  The phrase "Student Athlete" may not be dead, but it is to the NCAA what Donald Trump is to the Republican Establishment.  It's an eye roll, a joke or outwardly trampled on at many Universities.  While no school is perfect, that the Men's Basketball program has largely stayed out of legal and APR trouble over Bruiser's tenure is admirable and was shown a large amount of respect by the respondents.

  • The importance of recruiting was mentioned by the entire group, but in a very inconsistent manner.  Some spoke to the importance of knowing Philadelphia basketball, or at least Drexel's place in Philadelphia basketball.  Others spoke towards recruiting for specific skill sets, or finding people to fit the coaches specific system.  The takeaway here seemed clear, there are multiple ways to skin this particular cat, the next coach simply needs an effective, actionable plan that fits their goals.
  • Respondents were extremely varied in their opinion as to stylistically what they would like to be represented by.  As such, no thought will be presented on the subject.  One related area to consider is Ken Pomeroy's recent study showing the predictors of future offensive performance.  One of the very troubling indicators when the Administration resigned Coach Flint in 2012 with an extended deal and a raise was that his offense had only ranked in the top half of college basketball twice in eleven seasons.  When we have predictors like 2pt shooting percentage available, they should be used and while that may not have barred a new deal at the time, it may have given the Administration some pause and concerns to address as part of the deal.  Going forward, this knowledge can be used to help highlight potential candidates and programs that have shown consistently strong results in areas that indicate future success.
  • One respondent noted Dragon Athletics pride around gender equity, and suggested that female candidates should be considered.  I wholeheartedly agree, and would like to use that to speak to a broader "money where our mouth is" approach.  The Drexel mission statement states that:

Drexel is an academically comprehensive and globally engaged urban research university, dedicated to advancing knowledge and society and to providing every student with a valuable, rigorous, experiential, technology-infused education, enriched by the nation's premier co-operative education program.

The next Head Coach needs to embody the University's principles.  Technology should be used to the best possible advantage, and a budget needs to be available to allow that.  The staff should be composed of individuals that will challenge each others assertions and bring arguments to the table that will enable an experimental learning process.  A thirst for knowledge and a constant desire to improve and adapt is the foundation of all education, and it is critical in this constantly changing sport.  Drexel has a phenomenal campus environment that appreciates and embraces those ideals.  It's time for the Athletics Department to join it.

Not all of this is easy.  None of this is inexpensive.  But there are approximately 1400 assistant men's basketball coaches on D-I, and another 1400 assistant women's coaches.  In a city that makes college basketball a front door to their learning institutions there is no reason why Drexel lags behind their peers.  The time is long past due.  The location is sound.  The resources can be made available.  Drexel can succeed.  The change is coming, and we look to our leaders to cultivate that desire for success.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Northeastern - Away - Postgame

Scott Kier returns with a recap of the Drexel/Northeastern game.  Thanks as always to Scott for his continuing contributions to Dragons Speak.

Final Score: Northeastern 70, Drexel 60
Drexel Player of the Game: Rodney Williams
Key to the Game: Sticking to the Gameplan
Next Game:  Thursday February 18 vs Elon @ the DAC

One of the frequent criticisms that the Dragons have found themselves facing this season has been their inability to continue doing what works.  As games progressed, the team seemed to regress back to their “guards first” strategy that they have commonly turned to in years past.  With the makeup of this team, and the general lack of a consistent three-point shooter, Drexel has had to find another answer.

Up against a nine game losing streak, Bruiser Flint and his team headed to Boston, Massachusetts to face the Northeastern Huskies for the first of two meetings that will happen over the next couple of weeks, as the CAA regular season winds down.  The Huskies, who feature some of the best three-point shooters in the CAA this season, came out of the gate firing.  Led by David Walker, who was a perfect 5-5 from three in the first half, the Huskies ran out to a 15-point lead at halftime.

As they have done on more than one occasion this season, Drexel battled back in the second half.  Getting as close as 8 points with just under 4 minutes to go.  Northeastern held out, however, ultimately beating the Dragons by a score of 70-60.  Topically, this game might have seemed like just another double digit loss suffered by this year’s team, but when you dig closer there were a lot of good signals shown by the Dragons on Saturday.

First, as a team, the Dragons showed themselves to be very disciplined sticking to their initial game plan: get the ball inside, and create from the post.  Rodney Williams put up a career high 23 points on 9-11 shooting.  Kazembe Abif added 6 points of his own.  The Dragons shot 52% from the field for the game, 65% from inside the arc.  Subtracting Tavon Allen’s 1-6 performance from downtown, the guards were 4-11 from three which, as compared to past games, was pretty admirable.

Rodney Williams played like a man possessed.  He frequently found himself double teamed, and after Jeremy Miller picked up his fourth foul shortly into the second half, Northeastern was forced to turn to Kwesi Abakah as Miller’s replacement.  Abakah just could not keep up with Williams who went 4-5 from the field.  When Abakah picked up his fourth foul, Northeastern was forced to shift from their normal 2-3 defensive set to a 3-2 set, creating more space for Williams on the block.  All in all, the Dragons scored 28 of their 60 points in the paint and shot 61% from the floor in the second half.

Now for the not-so-good.

The Dragons struggled to cover Northeastern on the perimeter.  David Walker, in particular, was lights out from three, and the Dragons initial response to this was to cover him with Sammy Mojica.  Tavon Allen, who has found himself coming off the bench more often this season, has proven himself to be a strong defender despite his struggles on the offensive side of the court.  Time after time, early in the game, Walker found himself taking a virtually uncontested three pointers.  They needed to “D” him up a little tighter, and Tavon might have been a great option there.

Late in the first half, Bruiser decided to make the rarely attempted move of taking both Kaz Abif and Rodney Williams off the floor.  The big men were replaced by Tyshawn Myles and Austin Williams who had played together for all of nine minutes thus far this year.  In an even bigger head scratcher, Bruiser then shifted his team into a 2-3 zone of their own.  The problem is one of the biggest vulnerabilities of the 2-3 is that it is a traditionally weak defensive scheme against strong outside shooters like the Huskies.  Thankfully, in the 90 seconds that the Dragons played their rarely used zone “D” which has not been seen since Mike Conners tried to construct it last season, the Huskies only made one three pointer.

Then, there was the foul shooting.  Coming into Saturday’s contest, the Dragons were shooting 69% from the free throw line.  In Saturday’s game, they found themselves at the line 16 times making just 7 free throws.  They kept their turnovers down, made their shots from inside, but could not convert from the line.  While they were 6 for 9 in the second half, the 1 for 7 start in the first twenty minutes created an even more difficult mountain to climb for Bru’s crew.

Mohamed Bah once again found himself at the end of the Drexel bench.  His demotion was so severe in the Northeastern game that he never made his way on to the court.  Bah played a total of just 8 minutes in the three contests prior to the Northeastern game.  One has to wonder if he has fallen out of favor with the coaching staff or if he has some nagging injury that has not been publicly reported. It seems reasonable to lean towards the latter based on the fact that his minutes did not gradually decrease but he just completely fell off the face of the earth after the Hofstra game.

There was plenty that the Dragons did, or did not do that contributed to their loss, however there was a lot to be proud of in this game.  Their presence on the blocks was remarkable, and the team fully embraced that aspect of their game.  At the 8-minute mark, Bruiser Flint decided on the lineup that he would use for the rest of the game.  While some offensive/defensive subs might have been helpful as the game wrapped up, Bruiser put his best five on the floor when the game was close: Kaz, Rodney, Terrell, Rashann, and Mojica.  Tavon Allen, who has struggled in late game situations, found himself on the bench for the first time this season when Drexel had a chance to battle their way back into the game.

While his defensive presence would have been helpful, Tavon has shot 3-18 over the past three games from three.  He has not been making shots and Mojica, who had a good shooting day, was a much better option.  A Sammy/Tavon offense/defense tandem might have been helpful, but ultimately, the Dragons battled back and have a lot of things to be proud of.

The Dragons return to the DAC Thursday night in a rematch against Elon.  In their first meeting, Rodney Williams had a dominant 19 point performance.  With some hard work and a little luck, here’s to hoping that Rodney can build on his performance Saturday in Boston.  If the team sticks to their game plan, they will have a great chance at ending this ten game slide.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Northeastern Preview

Life wins today, so no preview, but Alan was kind enough to put together his take so you're not without commentary!  For what it's worth, I'm in total agreement with Alan.  We're in mid February, and this is the end of the end of an era now.

Thanks again to Alan and everyone who has assisted in this place coming together this season.


Prediction:  Northeastern 67, Drexel 42
Vegas Line:  Northeastern -11

Alan Boston's Take:

As I begin to write, I am reminded of the opening line of the gorgeous song from Damien Rice, The Blowers Daughter (check out Matt Corby's version from Australian Idol. You will not regret it):

"And so it is . . . . . . ."

Perfect. Well, for me it is. What else can you write about Drexel' basketball program? They somehow managed to lose to Delaware. There, I finished the sentence. Let me begin again. And so it is. And so it is. Drexel got a bit unlucky as they get to play Northeastern with a healthy Quincy Ford, twice.

Even more bad news. In 35 minutes against Towson on Thursday night, Ford was 2-11, scoring a grand total of 4 pts. Northeastern still won the game. Ford figures to be 100% tomorrow. He also figures to score more than 4 pts. When he is healthy, Northeastern is one of the best in the conference. When he is not healthy, they are still better than Drexel. Then there is the not so small matter, that Bill Coen coaches Northeastern basketball. He will out coach the majority of coaches in D-I. Given that Bruiser still roams the Drexel side lines, that already puts them at a huge disadvantage. Let me be a bit more succinct. If you can not win at Delaware, you are not going to win on short rest vs a healthy Northeastern team. Drexel got one field goal in the first half at C of C.  Northeastern just won 47-44. Is a first half shut out possible?

Northeastern 69 Drexel 32

Friday, February 12, 2016

Delaware (Still Sucks) - Away - Postgame

Drexel fans know this feeling well

At the 9:14 mark in the first half of last night's Drexel loss at the University of Delaware, Rodney Williams was called for a dubious foul.  He was moving away from the direction of the basketball when a referee blew the whistle and indicated he was pushing the man in between him and the ball.  Bruiser Flint, as he is known to do, went after the official, providing his interpretation of the play and perhaps his thoughts on the call.  Once this was done, the signal went to the bench to send in a substitute for Rodney, as that had been his second foul and the coaching staff wanted to protect him from getting his third in the first half.

Unfortunately, Coach Flint spent too much time jawing at the official, and as a result the subsitute came off the bench too late to check in during that stoppage of play.  Kazembe Abif had to wait until the following stoppage to check into the contest.  The following stoppage was due to a Charging [Player Control] foul on Rodney Williams, his third foul.  Because of that third foul, the Drexel coaching staff held Rodney out not just until halftime, but through the first four minutes of the second half.  In those first four minutes, Delaware scored 15 points, and the game went from tied to a seven point Delaware lead.

Delaware ended up winning by nine.

It's rare that we can draw such a straight correlation from a coaching mistake to a games outcome, but if there was a game, this was it.  And it went well beyond just taking too long speaking to an official.  This was a two point game at the "Under 4" media timeout in the second half.  The teams starting point guard, who had 5 first half assist and no turnovers on the night, Terrell Allen, never entered into the game during the final four minutes, a head scratching personnel decision.  And then there was this:

Coming down the floor down 4 with 1:12 to go, the Drexel guards passed the ball around the perimeter for 18 seconds before Tavon Allen took the shot in the above picture.  Bruiser only used two second half timeouts in this game, leaving one in his pocket, perhaps thinking it could be used next game, a la Donovan McNabb's second overtime snafu.  Instead of using the last timeout, instead of calling a play and getting the ball to Rodney Williams on the block, who had already scored 10 points on just 6 field goal attempts, this was the shot the Dragons took, an off balance three, while down four with 51 seconds to play.  If you're still looking for a reason this team struggles in close and late games, look no further.

And so Monte Ross and Delaware have their first win.  Their defense was terrible and their front court were nothing but turnstiles, but after making jumpshots early, Drexel fell in love with the jumper for the rest of the first half until the staff re-adjusted their focus during halftime.  Again.  They turned away easy points for harder ones.  Again.  They lost a close game.  Again.  At this point, it's time to be concerned about the University's tax-exempt status, because there is clearly no education going on in the men's basketball suite.

Thanks to Chris Mlynarczyk of Blue Hen Studios for providing photos from the Drexel/Delaware contest.  He continues to be a pleasure to work with.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Delaware - Sucks - Everywhere - Pregame, Postgame & Every Game

University of Delaware alum Chris Christie spent the last eight years, and possibly his entire life, preparing to run for a job that he learned on Wednesday he wasn't going to get.  He is certainly having the worst year of any Delaware related individual as of early 2016.  Monte Ross, coach of the 5-18 (0-12) Blue Hens Men's Basketball team isn't having a great time either.  And then there's Monte's agent, who is also Bruiser Flint's agent.  Plenty of pain to go around.

If you feel like you need a shower after that opening paragraph, you know how it feels to root for the Dragons or Blue Hens this year.  The teams are a combined 1-23 in conference.  Drexel isn't just the worst shooting team in the conference, they're 347th of 351 teams in the country.  But as Drexel fans, we know that.  What is exciting is that Delaware is dead last in the conference in defense, and the number is so astronomically bad that they can't even claim they are only in last just because they haven't played Drexel yet. UD's conference play defensive efficiency number is 351st of 351 nationally.  By a lot.

Most in the game will tell you that defense is mostly effort, and there's certainly an extent to which that can be believed.  While many apologist will look towards Monte's mere 6 scholarship players and the injuries that have hit his team, it's hard to see a way in which any team is winless in this CAA.  The players left on the floor for UD simply aren't putting in effort on the defensive end.

On offense, it's a bit of a different story.  Kory Holden is trying to set a school record for shots taken, which is all the more impressive because Devon "Ballhog" Saddler played at Delaware and sometimes accidentally attended class there as well.  Normally one player taking that many shots is a questionable strategy, but given what is around him, Kory's perma-green light is excusable. Kazmon Hayes has taken a step backwards in his junior season and his classmate Devonne Pinkard isn't CAA talent.  On the inside, Marvin King-Davis is both still on the team and temporarily not suspended, giving UD a legitimate threat.  He is joined by Maurice Jeffers who spends most games looking like he is trying to run in a 4 foot deep pool.  Not a lot of motion in that ocean.

So in some ways, what we have on our hands is an exciting contest between two longtime rivals who will be more than excited to be seeing each other.  Mohammed Bah and the Dragons should be able to get to the rim, while the best player on the court likely is bringing the ball up for the Blue Hen's.  If Drexel wins, they will likely lock up not last place in the CAA, so they've got that going for them, which is nice.

Prediction:  Pass.  I won't pick UD to win their first game, and I won't pick a DU team that has yet to win outside of Philly this season.
Vegas Line:  Delaware -2.5

Alan Boston's Take:

Wow. What can you write? Both teams have been tortured by injury. Both teams have coaches that would appear to be in trouble. I could never fire a coach who loses multiple players to injury, but big money makes the most honorable, evil. Both Bruiser and Monte have not done a great job, so their imminent departures are more deserving than most. However, if, for example,  La Salle canned Giannini after this year, that would be undeserved.

Both Drexel and Delaware have put up little fight in the last couple of games.  Delaware has played much of the year with 6 scholarship players. That is obviously catching up as they have offered little resistance in the last 2 games. Drexel similarly since jumping out 13-4 on JMU has not put up much of a fight. Who shows up? Delaware has not won a conference game. This may be their only shot. I do think they will be all in. Drexel has had flashes of being a good team. That is something, Delaware has not. So we have the better team on the road vs a desperate home team. If Drexel has not mailed it in, they should win both the rebounding battle and with it the game. I make this call with much ambivalence.

Drexel 72 Delaware 69

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Building a Mystery

Please note the following chart:

Kenpom's O-Rating is essentially points per possession times one hundred.  For reference, the scale loosely translates to:

124 - Damion Lee
115-124 - All CAA 1st Team Player
105-115 - Very good CAA Player
100-105 - CAA Starter
95  -100 - Potential CAA Starter
90 - 95   - CAA 6th Man
Below 90 - CAA Liability

So that Kenpom rating is a bit of who we are on offense.  I stress on offense because this next chart is where things get interesting.  It shows a players +/- rating over a 40 minute span.  That's how much Drexel outscores or gets outscored by their opponents when this player has been on the floor:

This illustrates a much larger point.  Anyone good, when they want to, can make numbers tell virtually any story that they want.  If you want to argue Mohammed Bah is terrible, you can from the above.  If you want to argue that the team would be lost without Mohammed Bah, you can from the above.  It's with investigation, context, and study, that you can find the underlying story behind the digits.  Knowing that, let's take a deeper look into plus/minus.

First, note the two plus/minus columns before.  In the first column, I have removed any part of games following the final sub before there were two minutes remaining.  The reason is simple, and is best seen when looking at Terrell Allen and Rashann London.  When subbing in a close game during that time of the game, coaches will go offense/defense.  Bruiser generally has Terrell in on offense only, and London in for defense.  That will skew a stat like +/- because Rashann London can only see a negative impact if he only plays on defense, and visa versa for Terrell Allen.

Beyond that, when looking at the +/- there is, among other issues with the statistic, a sample size issue.  None of these numbers have stabilized yet, and with Mohammed Bah's limited playing time, his is even more unstable than the other significant contributors on the team.  With those disclaimers in place, lets allow ourselves to be blown away:

Mohammed Bah has a positive +/- on a 3-20 basketball team.  With an O-Rating in the 70's!

Additional perspective:  This "really bad", "you don't need to guard us" (thanks to Bruiser Flint for the quotes) team has outscored their opponents when Mohammed Bah has been in the game.  And that's not just any opponents - the Dragons have played a top 50 strength of schedule nationally.  They've outscored some very good opponents, but only when Bah was on the floor.

And that's where numbers end.  They have provided the question, and from there the smart fan looks to the tape, examines him closer on the floor, and tries to find out what he is doing that is so beneficial.  Could it be that past DU teams only had one forward scorer on the floor at a time, and he is a better fir in that system?  Perhaps Bah's high screen's/ high post offensive sets clear out the bodies from under the basket making it easier to get to the rim?  Is it a defensive contribution, helped by him being larger than most of the other forwards?  Is it the plays that the coaches are calling when he is in the game?  Whatever it is, it's worth looking at, because Drexel seems to be a much, much better team when Mohammed is on the court.

We find the questions to then look for in the tape.  That's how numbers can be best used in the modern game.  And that is what has given us this mystery.

So fans what is your hypothesis?

Monday, February 8, 2016

College of Charleston - Away - Postgame

Final Score:  College of Charleston 60 Drexel 38
Drexel Player of the Game: Tyshawn Myles
Key to the Game: It's like the NY Lotto - You Gotta Play to Win
Next Game:  Thursday Feb 11 @ Delaware

If you ever want to beautifully setup a game for last place, it's tough to do much better than Drexel and Delaware did this past Saturday.  While Delaware knocked out their second straight 20+ point loss, the Drexel Dragons stumbled and bumbled their way through a no show appearance in Charleston.

Giving Tyshawn Myles the Player of the Game for this one is still somewhat stunning to me.  Tyshawn had three turnovers and four fouls in just 18 minutes and only played at a .72 points per possession efficiency.  But he also filled up the box score with 7 rebounds and 5 points in those 18 minutes, and was the only player on his team to record more than 1 field goal, so congratulations Tyshawn Myles!  At the very least, Tyshawn entered the game and tried to make an impact, which, with apologies to the walk on's,  is much more than any of his teammates could argue for themselves.

The problems in South Carolina started slow and low.  Coach Earl Grant apparently has gotten word from around the league, and Rodney Williams was double teamed early in the game, effectively making him disappear from the start.  Kazembe Abif was 1-6 from the floor and just 3-7 from the line, while being kept off the boards and sitting in some foul trouble.  Tyshawn Myles came in and quickly saw the fouls pile up as well.  And so this game was left for the guards to try to keep it competitive against a Charleston team that isn't a bad matchup for this Drexel team.  The four player guard rotation combined for these gaudy numbers:

2 pt: 3-9 (33%)
3 pt: 2-11 (18%)
Assist(s):  1
Turnovers; 13

The only player in the game for the Dragons to average over a point per possession was Terrell Allen, who came off the bench for the second straight game and was held to just 24 minutes, his third shortest appearance of the season.  Bruiser Flint appears to be cutting off his job nose to spite his face with the current benching as Rashann London and his 1-8 shooting and zero assists is not looking to be ready for a starting pg role on this squad.  When all of this added up, it really didn't matter what Charleston did, so long as they were physically present.  This game was an open net goal for them and they easily slipped it between the posts.

For the longer term, after the amusing and bemusing 10 point first half featuring a lone field goal (thanks Rashann London) the messages were coming in hot and heavy to Dragons Speak HQ.  And yes, there certainly are significant problems in Dragon Land right now, and if you're a donor, you may be seeing the lowest return on investment of any basketball program in the country.  It's a terrible message to send, and while we're not sure how much longer it will be tolerated certainly the end appears near.  More on that later this week, but for now we turn our eyes to the last place battle in Newark on Thursday.