Dragonomics – An Introduction


One of the cornerstone principals of Always a Dragon, and Dragonsspeak before it is the concept of showing one’s work.  It is easy to write from the heart, getting bested by one’s emotions.  It is much more challenging, and as a result, much, much more credible to spend time doing research to back up claims.  With that quest for knowledge in mind, we are excited to bring you a new statistically driven series called Dragonomics.

What exactly is Dragonomics?  In its simplest form, it is going to be an attempt to show the value of Drexel basketball utilizing both mainstream and advanced statistics.  We are going to take a deeper dive into what happens on the court, what the team is doing well, and the places where they need to improve.  For today’s edition, the readers get to take a peek behind the curtain to see where all of this information is going to come from.

For the more mainstream statistics, (think points, rebounds, and assists) the Drexel Dragons website is a great place to start.  The team is very transparent with the information that they share, as are most Division 1 programs.  If you haven’t checked out the Drexel Stats page on game day, you are missing out.  Updated in real time, the page ran by StatBroadcast gives real time updates to almost every metric imaginable.  When we are tweeting on gameday, that is one of the main sources that we use.

College Basketball Reference is a part of a conglomerate of pages that every sports fan should have book marked.  With pages dedicated to every professional sport, and college versions for football and baseball, the site serves as an encyclopedia of the sport.  Are you curious about how John Rankin progressed during his Drexel career?  You can see it.  Wondering how many rebounds Malik Rose averaged in his senior year?  That is there too.

For advanced statistics there is nowhere better to look than KenPom.  The website, named for its founder, Ken Pomeroy, uses your typical assortment of numbers along with some metrics created by the site’s namesake himself to take a closer look at college basketball.  The beauty of the site is numbers are present for all 351 Division 1 teams.  Villanova gets the same level of statistical coverage as Delaware State.

KenPom has analytics going back to 2002, and although it is a subscription site, the $19.95 annual price tag is well worth it.

One great statistic that is almost exclusively measured by KenPom is Adjusted Tempo.  Put simply, Adjusted Tempo is a measure of possessions per 40 minutes with consideration given to who they play.  How active is a team?  How fast do they play?  Are they a run and run Loyola Marymount University team or does the team just sit on the ball, hoping to make the most out of each and every touch?  Tempo does not tell us much about wins and losses.  For example, the team that is dead last in the nation is Virginia who is 8-1 in the ACC, ranked 3rd in the nation by the website, and 16th in the AP poll.  At the top end of the Tempo spectrum is Savannah St, who is 3-8 in the MEAC.

What Tempo does tell us, however, is the style of play that a team uses.  From 2002-2016, Drexel was a very low event team.  They held on to the ball when they were on offense, and relied heavily on defense to force a turnover.  Bruiser Flint’s Dragons were at their best when they were playing low scoring, tight games.  Their best teams, like the 29-7 2011-12 team ranked 326th in the nation.  Zach Spiker, on the other hand, likes his team to play a game with a little more pace.  In his last year at Army, the Black Knights were ranked 25th in the nation in Adjusted Tempo.  Drexel went from one extreme end of the spectrum to the other with their choice of coach.

Pace of play alone is something that can cause a team to have growing pains.  When an upper classman has had a coach’s system pushed heavily on them throughout their development, when a new coach comes in and asks them to do the opposite of what they have been taught, it can be tough.  Getting the guys into the program who fit the scheme can be just as challenging.  That is one of the things that makes players like Tramaine Isabell and Troy Harper so interesting.  Along with Kurk Lee, Drexel has three players in their back court who can push the ball and make opponents hustle a bit more on defense.  It’s a different style of ball than we saw with guys like Rashann London bringing the ball up the court and planting himself at the top of the offense, or the tight leash that Terrell Allen had on during his one year in a Drexel uniform.

Drexel has had some games this year where they have had to play a little more deliberate game, like the Lafayette game when they struggled to solve the Leopards’ zone.  Spiker has made it clear in his postgame press conferences that the slower, more deliberate style of play is not what he ultimately wants from his guys, but he has done what he feels best to try and put ticks in the “W” column.

For our next edition of Dragonomics, we will take a closer look at one of Drexel’s seniors and how he has developed during his four years with the team when compared to other players of his position during their careers.


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