There’s no doubt most of you have seen different publications and media outlets putting Drexel at the bottom of the CAA this season.
I for one, don’t think it’s as black and white. National outlets, and local ones who only care about Jay Wright’s suits really don’t know what they're talking about when they talk about Drexel basketball.
The lazy way out is to say “They lost their best player on a team that was bad, so they’ll be terrible,” but I don’t think that is necessarily the case.
Tramaine Isabell had no bigger fan than me last season, but the team sort of grew around his talents. While Isabell no doubt was responsible for some wins on the schedule, I’m not sure we were able to see the true Zach Spiker scheme.
This season will see more ball movement in an effort to get easy shots. The losses of Stretch Williams and Sammy Mojica are massive, but Drexel will have a much deeper bench than a year ago.
Could this season just be a total disaster from the start? Kurk Lee can’t regain his form, Drexel gives up too many points in the paint, the freshman are too fresh and the transfers don’t gel?
That’s certainly possible, which is why I’m including a worst case scenario, but I believe in Zach Spiker.
I’m not going to predict an exact record, but the best case scenario would see the Dragons finishing 3 to 5 games over .500. This is the best case scenario, not my prediction keep in mind. It may also seem light that the best case would only see Drexel 3-5 games over .500, but I need to be realistic. The Dragons have lost 3 starters from last season, including, and I don’t care what anyone says, the best player in the CAA and arguably the best defensive player in the CAA.
You’re saying, “well, Joe, if they had all that talent, why didn’t they win more games?”
There a few reasons, the biggest one being depth. Remember, the Dragons were bit by the injury bug a few times last season which hurt them. Most of the starters were playing huge minutes, and didn’t have the legs to get stops late in games. This year, Drexel will be able to go 10 deep into their bench if need be.
As I alluded to in the intro, the team that takes the floor this season will not play like last year’s squad. Kurk Lee is running the point where he’s at his best. He will be counted on for scoring and facilitating, and most of the success of the season is on his shoulders. Lee is capable of averaging a double double this season with points and assists.
Last year, the team built their offense around Isabell and the perimeter defense suffered greatly with undersized guards on the court at the same time. Drexel added some length to their wings in Coletrane Washington and Zach Walton, and Cam Wynter also has the size to defend bigger opposing point guards.
I would imagine 5 games over .500 would see Coach Zach Spiker in the running for the CAA Coach of the Year award. I wrote last year on more than one occasion that I think he is a very good coach, and while he has a lot of new ingredients to mix into the stew, I believe he’s up for the task and has a group of players who are going to buy in.
Spiker doesn’t have the most talent in the conference that’s for sure, but there are pieces to the puzzle. He just may need to do some maneuvering to get them to fit.
This is where everything goes wrong.
If all of the new pieces are duds, if injuries hamper the Lee-Harper-Demir trio, and if Big Z incites crowd technicals by throwing streamers too quickly, the Dragons could regress.
The losses of Isabell, Williams and Mojica are absolutely huge, no one can deny that, and many people argue this is why the team will realize this worst case scenario. The cupboards have been replenished to some extent, but if the new players can’t fit in, or just aren’t as good as they need to be, it could be a disaster.
The key to my best case scenario is Drexel playing team basketball. If some pieces aren’t carrying their weight, Lee and Harper will begin to force things because they’ll feel they need to do more. Harper plays with incredible intensity, but if you see him trying to dribble though 3 guys in paint and throw up a shot hoping for a foul, you know we’re in trouble. The same goes for Lee. If he is firing up ill-advised shots, it will not be what Spiker wants to see.
Another factor that must be considered, and one that could lead to a dismal season, is interior defense. As the old expression goes, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone, and that could be the case with Austin Williams. Can the Doles, Demir, Perry combination protect the rim? That remains to be seen, but someone will need to step up to avoid defensive letdowns which will lead to losses. And as we know, those losses can pile up pretty quickly.
Most Likely Scenario
I think the most likely scenario for this team will combine elements from the best case and worst case, but not to the extreme.
This is basically a brand new team, so it’s very difficult to make any predictions, but when I look back over last season and see the games the Dragons should’ve won but couldn’t couldn’t close out late, and I think if they have more depth which equals fresher legs, I can turn those losses into wins.
There’s no reason we shouldn’t stomp Delaware and Towson both times we face them this season, and there is no reason we can’t beat Northeastern or Charleston at home once again. The out of conference schedule poses some challenges, but La Salle is beatable, as is Temple.
Last season, Drexel lost 5 of their final 6 games. I don’t see Spiker letting that happen again. The home overtime loss to Towson was crushing, and I don’t feel as though the team every really got over it. If they had won that game, I think they would have gone 3-3 in their last six, increasing their win total by 2 games.
That is what I think the outcome of this season will be. A 2-3 win improvement.
This is still not a Spiker team through and through, but we are getting closer to see what he can do with a group of his own players buying into to his system with a common goal. I feel some of the gains outweigh the losses, and the Dragons will look like a more cohesive unit this season. Let’s turn some of those late season losses to wins this year, and keep things moving in the right direction.