The table above isn’t a problem. It’s the problem for Drexel basketball. With a young team (third youngest in the CAA) it is expected to see improvement as the season moves on. Maybe there comes a time where there is a wall, where the length of the season catches up to the athletes, especially younger guys you’ve been leaning on. Some say that college athletes these days can handle that grind, and forty minute game after forty minute game is fine – those people are best referred to as “wrong”. When athletes get pushed too hard over a thirty plus game schedule, they do tire, which is quite frankly why Joe Mihalich has had multiple NBA draft picks play for him at Hofstra, but he has never been to the dance with any of them. They may not complain, but they aren’t indestructible of the course of a season.
Despite a bevy of youth, the Dragons haven’t seemed to hit that wall. Even though our eyes say that the offense still doesn’t seem to be clicking, the 1.05 points per possession they averaged in February is as good as last years team averaged during their season, and is the best average at Drexel since Bill Herrion had a guy named Malik playing for the blue and gold. The offense is clicking, and that there still seems room for improvement speaks greatly to a very high ceiling for this young team on that end of the floor.
If 1.05 points per possession is a good offense, what does one call a defense that allows 1.14 points per possession? How about “has never happened in Drexel history” (although last years team came close). It would put the Dragons in the bottom 15 of all 353 Division I teams over the court of this season. It is putrid, wretched, and for a team that is relatively healthy at the end of the season, inexcusable. Even before Coach Spiker arrived at Drexel, one of the first questions asked was about his ability to coach up a defense and he hasn’t answered that bell in his time here. In the offseason, going into what looks to be a very big year for the program, he should feel the need to address that issue, possibly with either an offseason consultant or a defensive specialist added to the staff. But as the calendar flips to March, the offseason is a distant picture. What happens this weekend is what counts.
And what happens this weekend is a concern. Because what those nine games in March represent is the second time through the CAA. Those are the games when coaches have already seen each team play, have made adjustments, and come out better prepared. And it is a decent indicator for more tournament like preparation, when coaches and teams see each other a third time. In short, the league has seemed to make adjustments to the fact that Drexel is going to stay man as much as possible, and that Butler and Wynter avoid fouls like the plague, so you can get space against them, and that the Dragons will overplay the three point line and get beat on back door cuts like a drum. The Dragons have not seemed to be able to adjust in kind. And that’s led to a brutal February.
In the CAA Tournament, the offense will be there. That seems to be something fans can have faith in. It will be the effort (and defense starts and ends with effort), whatever junk defense the coaches seem to need to insert to help surprise an opponent, physicality and discipline that will determine if this team can win or lose. Then the big question: Is this team too soft to win when the games count the most, at the end of the year?
Count me as someone who wouldn’t mind seeing some early fouls in Washington DC on Saturday.