For this morning’s post, we turn the reins over to season ticket holder Eric Resnick who gives us his yearly out of conference schedule preview. Thanks again to Eric for his help! Check back this afternoon for our freshman class preview!
The first couple of months of the season is a great opportunity for a college basketball team to gel both on and off the court and prepare for conference play. Last year, the Drexel Dragons posted a 5-7 out-of-conference (OOC) record, excluding the why-oh-why Division III Kean game.
The Dragons will take to the court thirteen times this year prior to playing their first CAA game, including four games against former conference mates: Lafayette, Rider, LaSalle and Temple. The level of competition may be slightly better than last year, but nowhere near what Bruiser Flint would schedule even in a down year. Coach Spiker apparently believes that there is no benefit in killing his team’s confidence early on playing top notch opponents.
The season starts off with two consecutive home games, a first since 1992. This article intentionally omits the D-III Arcadia game on November 13 because you know as much as we do about them. We do believe though that in the era of the Internet and search engines, changing your name from Beaver College to Arcadia was a strong move.
November 10 – vs. Bowling Green (13-19; 2017 RPI: 228): The Dragons open their 2017-2018 campaign against the Falcons of the MAC. This will be the first ever meeting between the two schools, one of approximately 200 Division I opponents Drexel has never played. The Falcons graduated their two leading scorers but they return 6’9” junior Demajeo Wiggins who recorded six double-doubles last season. He looks to be Austin Williams’ first challenge of the year. The Falcons also boast freshman Daeqwon Plowden (ESPN Top 100 small forward) who will be playing his first game in what happens to be his hometown of Philadelphia (Mastery Charter North).
Drexel appeared in the Paradise Jam in 2014 which was held in the US Virgin Islands. Unfortunately for everyone involved in the Drexel program, the tournament was being moved to Lynchburg, Virginia due to the devastation of hurricane season. Liberty University made the top bid to host. A full preview of the tournament will be coming immediately prior to each game, but Houston is the only known opponent. We know the second game will be against either host Liberty or Mercer.
November 17 – vs. Houston (21-11; 2017 RPI: 62): The one known game for the Paradise Jam will be against the Houston Cougars, a team Drexel last faced at their tournament back in 1987. This is clearly the best opponent on Drexel’s schedule this season. Houston was in the top 10 percentile in team scoring margin at 8.8 PPG last season as well as points per possession, 1.089. They also play well defensively holding their opponents to 40.8% from the field. While Guy Lewis’ Phi Slamma Jamma teams might be a thing of the past, Houston poses a formidable threat for the Dragons, returning 4 of its 5 starters from last season. The Cougars return Robert Gray Jr. a 6’2” guard who averaged over 20 PPG last season and is first team AAC preseason. He is dangerous from inside the arc (51% for his career) and from the line (81.3% last season). Houston has not made much noise in the post season since 1984 and has only made one appearance in the NCAA tournament since 1992 (2010), but this is likely Drexel’s best opponent this season. Kelvin Sampson has turned the team into winners in the last 2 seasons since joining the upstart AAC in 2013-14 with 22 and 21 win seasons. But in both years they disappointingly lost in the first round of the NIT. Houston is a preseason third pick in the AAC.
Other Paradise Jam potential opponents – Liberty (21-14; 2017 RPI: 167), Mercer (15-17; 2017 RPI: 196), Quinnipiac (10-21; 2017 RPI: 270), Colorado (19-15; 2017 RPI: 101), Drake (7-24; 2017 RPI: 316), Wake Forest (19-14; 2017 RPI 43). Drexel will play either Mercer or host Liberty in the second game. All teams will be playing three days in a row.
November 25 – at NJIT (11-20; 2017 RPI: 293): The Dragons head up the Jersey Turnpike to Newark to take on NJIT on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The Highlanders (there are actually 3 D1 teams with the name Highlanders) are coached by another second year head coach, Brian Kennedy, who took over the program from previous head coach Jim Engles who left for Columbia. This will be the first matchup in history between these two teams. NJIT comes from the conference of misfit teams, the Atlantic Sun Conference; its members consist mainly of teams that became Division I in the last 15 years. 6’10” South Alabama transfer Abdul Lewis has flourished in his hometown at NJIT and holds all major school rebounding records. He averaged approximately 8 boards per game last season.
November 29 – vs. Lafayette (9-21; 2017 RPI: 320): The Dragons welcome the Lafayette Leopards to Sam Cozen court. Drexel bested the Leopards, 74-70, on Lafayette’s home court last season after trailing by 16 at halftime with a balanced scoring attack and an impressive 48% from the field. The Dragons lead all time head to head 21-16. Lafayette’s leading scorer, senior Matt Klinewski, returns for his senior season. The 6’8” senior averaged 16 points and 6 rebounds last season for the Leopards. He scored 11 and added 9 boards in last season’s matchup. Fran O’Hanlon will be coaching his 23rd season at Lafayette despite having little success in recent memory. Lafayette could only manage .918 points per possession last season resulting in only 65.2 PPG. Just as poor, Lafayette had a bottom 10 percentile 45.7% rebound rate.
December 2 – vs. Rider (18-15; 2017 RPI: 197): Drexel holds a record of 30-28 all-time edge against Rider, but Drexel lost last year’s matchup 90-82 in a mid-December game played in New Jersey. At that point in time, this was the best game by Miles Overton shooting 6-10 from the field- coming into the game he had a FG percentage of less than 23%. Last year’s Broncs roster featured five players who averaged in double figures- four of them graduated. The lone returner is sophomore guard Stevie Jordan who scored a season-high 26 last year against Drexel. Jordan, who is just 5’10”, averaged 4 rebounds per game which included a 12 rebound double-double against MAAC conference tournament champions Iona. The Broncs are projected to finish seventh in the MAAC.
December 7 – vs. La Salle (15-15; 2017 RPI: 143): Drexel heads back to the LaSalle gym to take on a LaSalle team that has dominated Drexel throughout history, winning 17 of their 23 matchups. In recent times, LaSalle has a tendency of playing Drexel in down years. Junior guard Pookie Powell and senior swing man B.J. Johnson, who averaged 17.6 points per game last season, will look to duplicate double digit point performances and La Salle’s 89-78 victory from a year ago. LaSalle shot an impressive 54% from the field and 62% from 3 pt in last year’s match up, but turned the ball over 19 times in the most up-tempo game of the Drexel season.
December 10 – vs. Robert Morris (14-19; 2017 RPI: 240): Junior guard Isiah Still (15.7 PPG) will lead a Robert Morris team that finished in the middle of last year’s Northeast Conference. This will be surprisingly just the fourth time these teams will have met, with Drexel holding a 2-1 lifetime edge. The game will be played at the PPG Paints Arena (home of the NHL Penguins) mainly in front of an abundance of empty seats. The Colonials boast freshman 6’6” Koby Thomas who led Imhotep Charter to its sixth Philadelphia Public League Championship since 2002, but Robert Morris loses both of its double digit scorers from last season. Robert Morris had the 8th worst scoring efficiency at less than 0.9 points per possession last season and only shot 40% from the field, yielding an extremely low scoring output of 64.4 PPG. Defensively they were a little better last season ending 18th in the country in steals per game.
December 16 – vs. Temple (16-16; 2017 RPI: 134): Tim Perry Sr. will likely get to watch his son play his alma mater. The most notable matchup between these two teams in Drexel’s history was a 61-39 loss in the first round of the 1994 NCAA Tournament, the first of the Drexel’s three consecutive NCAA appearances. Drexel has won just 8 of its 36 games against the Owls. The Owls return two of their double digit scorers from last season in Obi Enechionyia and Shizz (sic) Alston Jr. as part of four of its five starters (Dingle was lost to graduation after playing part or all of 5 seasons). Enechionyia has grown nicely over his career and is expected to be the feature player in the Owls’ line up this season. Alston played over 36 minutes per game average nearly 14 points per game. Temple also brings some depth and a few players that make up a three-star recruiting class, ingredients of which should make for a team with an outside shot at an at-large NCAA berth despite being picked preseason only 9th in the conference. Temple relies heavily on 3 point shooting- three’s accounted for nearly 38% of Temple’s points last season.
December 18 – vs. Quinnipiac (10-21; 2017 RPI: 270): In a potential second matchup against Quinnipiac after the Paradise Jam, the Dragons will look to duplicate arguably their best game of the 2016-17 campaign. Last season, Rodney Williams scored 25, and Kari Jonsson shot 5 of 8 from 3 to add 17 as the Dragons went on the road and beat Quinnipiac 91-74 to improve their all-time record to 3-1 against the Bobcats. Quinnipiac will be without transfer Mikey Dixon who left for St. John’s; Dixon scored 16.5 PPG for the Bobcats last season. Another change is the hiring of Villanova assistant coach, Baker Dunleavy, son of Mike Dunleavy who currently coaches at Tulane (Baker’s brother Mike Jr. currently plays for the Atlanta Hawks). Dunleavy replaces Tom Moore who coached 10 seasons. Dunleavy has his work cut out for him as the Bobcats surrendered 83.3 points per game last season, 12th worst in the country resulting in a -6.6 per game team scoring margin. Lafayette and Quinnipiac are the only 2 teams on the Drexel OOC schedule who gave up more points per possession than Drexel’s poor 1.072 PPP.
December 21 – vs. Loyola (MD) (16-17; 2017 RPI: 200): Loyola is the second team that Zach Spiker is undoubtedly familiar with. Coming out of the Patriot League, the Greyhounds return their leading scorer, 6’0” senior guard Andre Walker who averaged 14.9 PPG last season and shot a lights out 86.3% from the free-throw line. The head-to-head matchup is currently in favor of Drexel five wins to four defeats. Loyola turned over the ball on an abysmal 21.4% of its possessions last season, thus they could only manage 0.948 points per possession, not even Top 300 in the country.
The schedule is mild as one might expect, but it does feature two teams who finished in the top 100 of last year’s RPI rankings, with Colorado just missing the cut at 101.
A notable absence from the schedule is Steve Donahue’s Penn team. There will be no Battle of 33rd Street this year, an omission that is disappointing to some Drexel fans. Also missing is a match up against St. Joseph’s (PA) which will likely return to City Avenue next season.
Out of Conference record prediction: 8 wins, 5 losses.
As always, each game will feature its own individual pre-game write-up.