Where do we go from here?

If there is one stretch in the Drexel season that is absolutely imperative, it is the one the Dragons are in the middle of right now. 

Conference games versus Delaware, Hofstra, Towson and James Madison over a two week span are critical for several reasons.

First, Drexel had the opportunity to go 3-1 in this stretch by beating every team but the the exceptional Towson. This would've put the Dragons at 10-11 and 4-4 in the CAA, meaning there was a chance they could avoid the dreaded CAA Tournament play-in game. 

Secondly, following that 4 game stretch, the Dragons get Elon and Northeastern, two of the top teams in the CAA. 

I don't want to sound alarmist, but I believe I am being a realist when I say that in losing the first two games of this critical stretch, Drexel all but cemented their place in a CAA Tournament play-in game. In two winnable games at Delaware and at home versus Hofstra, horrendous defense and poor shot selection were Drexel's undoing. 

Now, Drexel sits at 1-5 in the CAA, and most likely will lose to Towson, and against bottom feeding JMU, nothing is certain. 

Having seen Drexel play against most of the teams in the CAA thus far, it doesn't appear this team can compete in this conference. 

Drexel doesn't have the size, interior quickness or intensity needed on defense. On offense, they look completely lost aside from the spurts of greatness from Tramaine Isabell. 

I have gone to bat for Zach Spiker, but he doesn't seem to be helping this team improve. Sure, injuries were tough, and they won some big games in spite of them. Against Delaware and Hofstra, Drexel found themselves in a hole and clawed their way back. These are signs that Spiker has managed games well and made necessary in-game adjustments. 

The knock is that his team has not gotten any better from game one to now. No matter the personnel on the court, the defense seems to be fighting against Spiker's scheme, or they're just totally inept, and the offense is just iso-ball where Lee dribbles around for 20 seconds and shoots, a reckless drive by Harper, a missed corner three from Mojica, a poor Austin Williams pass or an Alihan Demir forced shot in amongst larger defenders. 

The success for the Dragons usually comes in the form of a Tramaine Isabell drive, or him spotting an open shooter and firing a pass. Often times, his teammates aren't quite ready for the pass and it ends up being a turnover anyway. 

While we're on offense, I think it is time that Kurk Lee comes off the bench, and Isabell and Harper start together at guard.

Lee and Isabell just can't seem to click, and despite the affection Spiker has for Lee, he'd serve this team better coming off the bench to spell Isabell. Drexel's large point totals come against piss-poor defenses, and even with some impressive scoring games, they still don't crack the top 100 nationally in points per game. This minor change would have both players playing their natural position, and neither would end up matched up with a much larger guard. 

It's really the defense that needs to improve though, to give Drexel any sort of chance at salvaging the season. 

It's a shame Jarvis Doles and Tadas Kararinas have proven themselves useless, because interior defense is the biggest issue for the Dragons who allow 78.1 points per game which is good for 279th nationally. 

So, the defense is the larger of two problems which needs to be corrected immediately. 

The scheme changes depending on who the opposition is, but regardless of the type of zone or man defense they play, the Dragons just seem outmatched. 

Both Hofstra and Delaware losses can be attributed to the lack of interior defense. Austin Willams can alter shots, but if they're coming off the rim the Dragons are often out of position or missing box outs to get the rebound. It's incredibly frustrating as a fan, so I can't imagine how Spiker and Co. feel. 

If the opponent has a big man, Williams will try to stay home on him, so when a guard can penetrate and Williams slides over, a simple drop pass leads to a monster dunk. If Williams stays at home, Demir doesn't have the quickness to slide over, so you're just hoping for someone to block a shot in the trail. 

It's impossible to beat teams who get easy, high-percentage shots, as Drexel is proving. 

The coaching staff is paid to figure this shit out, and I'm pretty pissed off there has been a regression in not only their help defense, but the defense in general from the start of the season. Yes, I know Ty Myles isn't playing, but the problems go beyond the injury to a high energy, but ultimately mediocre player.  

If Drexel does appear to be defending the post, it's because their opponent is kicking out for open three's or to a wing with a clean path to the lane. 

There are definitely some games where a team is just "on" and consistently knocking down tough shots. That has not been the case for Drexel. The reason they fall behind and can never mount a full comeback is because even if shots start falling for the offense, the defense doesn't make enough stops. Therefore, if you go into a shooting slump, which a team like this is prone to do, you better have strong defense to stay close and turn stops into offense. 

Delaware shot 47.5% from the field, which is actually pretty good for Drexel, but it was one of those offensive slumps that buried the Dragons. 

Next up is Towson, a team that averages 76.3 points per game, and we have to play them at their place. Between 6'5 and 6'4 guards Mike Morsell and Zane Martin, Drexel will have their hands full.

This team can surprise, but I don't see how Drexel can compete if their defensive struggles persist.  



Fill The Moat on January 13th

There are stories from ancient history recounting the military tactic of building a moat around a castle to protect it from unwanted intruders. 

As if the deep, water filled trenches were not enough to keep intruders at bay, stories of fire breathing dragons being placed in the moats were circulated to ensure the enemies wouldn't dare attempt a crossing. 

When I started my blog, Magnificent Basketball, I used the imagery of the fire breathing creature, and even took a piece of the Drexel mascots name for my title. I just thought it was awesome to have such a badass mascot, but what I want to convey here, is the fact that we have a pretty badass fanbase and team as well. 

If you read Magnificent Basketball, then you know how fond I am of this group of guys and their leader. The Dragons are not a great team by any stretch of the imagination, but the players play extremely hard, and just about every game at the DAC so far this season has been at times excruciating, but always exciting. 

My plea to you, in simplest terms, is to Fill the Moat. 

We are the Dragons, and that court is our castle. We need to fill the moat surrounding our castle with fire breathing Dragons to ensure that no opponents have an easy time infiltrating our house.

I am pleading with all Dragons to help fill the moat surrounding Sam Cozen Court on January 13 at 4:00PM. This is going to be a huge game for current students to get rowdy for as it's their first game back from break. 

The Blue and Gold Club is hosting a pregame party in the Blue and Gold Room inside of the DAC for alumni to catch up with one another. This is set to begin at 3PM and you can RSVP here. Following the game, there has been talk of the party continuing at Landmark to watch the Eagles game. 

Of course, the January 13 game versus Hofstra is just the start of what we want to build. 

Who do I mean when I say "we"?

The quick version is still pretty long, but I'm going to tell it to you anyway. 

I started a blog and didn't think anyone would read it. An alum named Rob Falcone did, and invited me to a Slack group with about 15 Drexel basketball fanatics in it. 

In that group I met the gentlemen who run this website and the podcast that started it. We decided to team up to put our content in one spot, making it easy for fans to get a dose of Drexel hoops without having to scour the internet. 

The aforementioned Rob has since rebuilt the Blue and Gold Club newsletter, and the Drexel basketball community is fortunate for it. I encourage you to sign up to receive the e-newsletter here

The reason I tell you this is because there is a whole community of Drexel basketball fans that you can be a part of. Four months ago I had no idea this community existed, and now I'm trying to do my Dragonly duty and help to fill the moat. 

CAA play is underway, the Dragons have the opportunity to make some noise, and I want my fellow alums to join me in at the Dac on January 13. There are still tickets available, and when you go to www.drexeltickets.com to purchase them, be sure to use the promo code BLUEANDGOLD and get 10% off your purchase. 

At the top of this page there is a link to our Slack channel so feel free to join and share your thoughts on Drexel basketball. 

This is goin to be an awesome day and a great start to what we hope to build. I know there is a fanbase of Drexel alums out there who will join me on Saturday to fill the moat and protect what's ours. I can't wait to see everyone there. 


CAA Play: Not off to the Best Start

Alright, so not a GREAT start to CAA play. In fact, this is about the worst start imaginable for our Drexel Dragons. 

After losing to Elon by 15 points and giving up 90 in their first conference matchup of the season, Drexel outdid themselves with a 20 point loss in which they surrendered 107 points to UNCW. The Seahawks were 3-10 heading into this game with only one victory against a D-I opponent. 

Elon is a talented team and Drexel at least showed some fight. UNCW is a conference win you need to get. To lose by 20 points and show absolutely no ability to defend is maddening. 

Drexel shot the ball at a clip of 51.6% from the field, scored 87 points, and only turned it over 12 times to UNCW's 16. The fact they found a way to lose by 20 is mind-blowing. 

Tramaine Isabell, Sam Green and Tyshawn Myles didn't play, and yes they would've made a difference, but unless Tramaine Isabell turned into Scottie Pippen, then it wouldn't have been enough. 

Drexel was shredded like an old water bill. It wasn't like UNCW was making difficult shots. They were making uncontested jumpers, and essentially doing lay up drills through the paint. 

It wasn't just the seeming disdain for playing defense, but the Dragons were also crushed on the boards, 43-24. Austin Williams can't do it all, and he found himself in foul trouble, making it difficult for him to play as aggressively as he'd like. 

I have come to the conclusion that Tadas Kararinas and Jarvis Doles are not ready to play Division I college basketball. Kararinas has looked completely lost out there on both ends of the floor, and is honestly doing more harm than good. Doles has seen his minutes rapidly decline and for good reason. These young bigs need time to season, and I assure you if his hand wasn't forced, Spiker would very sparingly have either of them check in. 

The young guns are the last people I want to blame though.

I understand Harper and Overton are both working their way back from injury, but they have been underwhelming in these first two games. Overton seems like he's scared to play defense for some reason, and his shot selection has been poor. Harper, while showing an ability to score, has whatever the opposite of finesse is when he's driving. If his whole game is attacking the rim with reckless abandon in the hopes that the stripes will blow their Fox 40's, then he will not be a player that can help his team win. 

Kurk Lee, who played so exceptionally well in the absence of Isabell at La Salle has struggled in CAA play thus far. 

in the games he has played, Isabell can usually get a bucket or make a play on defense or sky for a rebound if things are getting out of hand. Him being on the floor puts more defenders eyes on him and makes things easier for his teammates. His absence has been felt mightily in the last three games.

Overton, Harper and Lee all had stretches in both the Elon and UNCW games where they seemed like players who could stop the bleeding and start a run, but after every big shot on offense came a lapse on defense. One step forward, two steps back. You'll probably throw their point totals at me in these past two games, but when they're still losing by 15 or 20 something is horribly wrong. 

It all comes down to defense. Drexel can score, but cannot get key stops. When they get down by a huge number early like they did against UNCW, the game is basically over because they will never be able to get enough stops, despite their scoring prowess, to get back into the game. 

So, what needs to happen for Drexel to get on the right track in the CAA?

Obviously, you need Isabell back and healthy. He's not the greatest defender in the world, but his scoring and rebounding ability is desperately needed. It would also be nice to see his passing skills on full display with players like Overton and Harper who should be the beneficiaries of easy buckets compliments of Tramaine. 

Secondly, Spiker and his staff need to go back to the drawing board and figure out which way to best utilize their personel on defense. 

Contesting three point attempts is obviously the easiest way to stay in games, but it's easier said than done. Drexel is usually too slow on rotations and getting to the ball once a team starts whipping passes around. Their laziness and lack of communication also makes it difficult to defend the three pointer. UNCW and Elon both utilized high screens to free up a shooter and the Dragons either didn't call out the screen or no one helped on defense. 

Harper and Overton need to get their legs back under them sure, but that will only help if these guys want to hustle on defense, and right now that doesn't seem to be the case. 

Alihan Demir needs to play around the rim and clog up the paint. He is too slow to chase down shooters. The guards need to force the ball into the paint so Demir, and especially the shot blocking menace Williams can be effective on defense. 

This, of course, is going under the assumption that every team can shoot the three. Well, if you give enough open looks to D-I players, the three-ball will fall. Drexel features a premier shot blocker so if the guys on the wings can force the ball to the middle, Stretch will not find himself behind the play or out of position and can alter the shot. 

After the non-conference schedule was completed, I was fairly optimistic. It seemed like Drexel was at least playing very hard, and the coaches were getting the most they could out of what they had, despite never being healthy. 

Right now, it feels like they're simply outclassed. Like every team just has more talent top to bottom. 

My hope is that's not the case. My hope is that Drexel has talented pieces that need to be healthy and play together for a while.

This is what I hope because what the reality might be is just too damn hard to face two games into conference play. 


Back in Time for CAA Play

Listen, 6-7 is not that bad of a record for Drexel to have compiled in non-conference play. 

One of those wins did come against Arcadia, and one of the losses was at the hands of Loyola, but wins over La Salle and Houston, and a close game versus Temple should give Drexel fans confidence as we head into CAA Play.

It's tricky to make any kind of prediction as to how the Dragons will fare in conference play this year. At the beginning of the season, I did predict Drexel would finish one game over .500, so going by that, Drexel would have a winning record in conference play. 

This is still doable, but it will not be easy. 

You're reading a blog on a website with "Dragons" in the title, so unless you're a Game of Thrones nerd who stumbled across this site, you probably know Drexel has battled injuries all season. I won't elaborate, but it looks like Troy Harper will definitely be ready for CAA play, Miles Overton might be, and Sam Green most likely won't be. 

It is so crucial for Drexel to have these guys back and healthy for conference play for several reasons. 

Number one, Overton and Harper can be used to break up the two headed point guard of Tramaine Isabell and Kurk Lee the Dragons have been running this year out of necessity. 

The emergence and strong play of Alihan Demir has enabled Coach Spiker to use a big lineup where he plays Mojica at the two, and Demir with Stretch and Doles/Kararinas/Myles.

Harper will be able to get a bucket when Drexel needs one. and Overton should be able to make an impact on defense, but above all, they will be able to break up some minutes. 

Lee, Isabell and Mojica have all been playing way too many minutes and it has effected their production late in games. Just look at Quinnipiac. Lee knocked down the game winning three pointer. He only played 30 minutes that game as opposed to his usual 40. Would he have had the legs and concentration to make that shot with 10 additional minutes of play?

Isabell, who played all 40 minutes in that game made a costly turnover very late as he tried to dribble between two pressing defenders. Tramaine usually has the ball on a damn string and can make that look easy, but if you're tired, nothing is easy no matter how skilled you are. 

There is no doubt in my mind Lee and Isabell will both be more productive if they can get a blow every once in a while, and especially if neither is forced to be without the ball. 

They are ball dominant guards and neither is good at moving without it. 

I am curious to see Isabell and Harper playing together. Both have the ability to drive and score, and both are phenomenal athletes. I think Isabell will make it easy for Harper to get clean looks all over the court, and it wouldn't shock me if he averages double figures in scoring this year.

The concern one might have would be how do you fit these new pieces into the puzzle. The good news is Drexel really has not developed an identity yet. 

At their best, they have guards who can score, Mojica hitting three's, Demir putting up numbers and Stretch dunking the ball and blocking shots. Those games are few and far between. At their worst, you have Lee and Isabell passing the ball back and forth to one another and everyone else standing still. 

For the most part, the Dragons have been somewhere in between that. Lee, unsurprisingly has put up his best numbers when Isabell hasn't played. Different players have stepped up on the scoring front in different games. They have never been healthy enough to become a well oiled offense. 

When Harper and Overton get acclimated, which shouldn't take very long, Drexel can be a very dangerous team. Spiker knows what he is doing, and when the players get enough reps in his system it will show. 

The bottom line is getting players healthy will result in a better team. I know, I know, I'm a regular John Wooden. 

Drexel can be a top four CAA team just as easily as they can finish in the bottom four. I anticipate they'll lose a few games early and win a few surprising ones later on. What I am certain of is if they stay healthy, we will see this team develop an identity which is key for any good program.