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.