Drexel Men’s Basketball Preview: Dragons Looking For Leaders

Drexel seems to have a knack for being the in-betweener.

As a member of the City 6 – the informal competition between all of Philadelphia’s Division I schools and their athletic teams – the Dragons play their hoops in a city full of rich basketball history, yet they feel a bit on the outside looking in.

They are the outsider compared to the more well-known Big 5, and in the Colonial Athletic Association last season, they appeared to be just outside the elites of the elites and squarely in the middle of the pack.

Can Drexel finally break through and keep some sustained rich history of its own, especially just two years removed from the fifth NCAA Tournament appearance in team history?

The Dragons’ final standing this year may prove whether or not that burst of momentum was put to good use, or if there’s still much work to be done.

What’s there to look out for with Drexel men’s basketball this season? Below is a look into

What the Dragons will bring to the table this season, as FloHoops previews every team in the

CAA.

2021 Season Review

After Drexel spent the first four seasons of coach Zach Spiker’s tenure under .500, a major page appeared to have been turned in 2020, as the Dragons were the CAA’s representative at the NCAA Tournament, after they stunningly won the CAA Tournament as a No. 6 seeds.

The challenge in 2021 was using that huge boost of momentum to rocket the program back to the levels of success it had at times in the 2000s and 2010s under old leader Bruiser Flint.

Was that mission accomplished? Sort of.

Spiker did finish 2021 with his most single-season wins at Drexel with 15, but the Dragons had major consistency issues. They never put together a winning streak of more than two games in 2021 and bowed out of the CAA Tournament with a first-round defeat to Delaware.

Bang-average in many league statistical charts, Drexel largely was just kind of there throughout much of last year and rarely made any eye-popping moves that established itself as a threatening force in the CAA.

One Dragons player who did establish himself as one, however, was CAA Defensive Player of the Year Amari Williams, who led the conference in blocks with 2.0 per game and was a highly effective player, despite playing just a shade over 20 minutes a night in 2021, tallying totals of 9.5 points and 7.3 rebounds a contest.

On The Court

On the surface, it would seem like Drexel would be a team that rallies around its defense, as a strong shot-blocking squad (5.6% block percentage in league play, per KenPom, that ranked first in the CAA) and a team that held opponents to a fairly-low 33.6% from the 3-point line in 2021.

But when looking at the analytics a bit more closely, the Dragons’ had issues on defense below the surface.

Drexel was below average nationally in defending 2-point field goals (50.6% allowed) and had issues creating turnovers, ranking in the bottom 25 in the entire country in steals per game at 4.8.

Spiker’s teams at Drexel haven’t necessarily been known for causing opposing teams to cough up the ball – with a defensive turnover rate hovering around 14.5 to 17.5 over his six years in Philadelphia, per KenPom – and that doesn’t appear to be changing anytime. soon

Offensively, many of Drexel’s plays revolved around getting star guard Camren Wynter (an All-CAA first-team selection last season) involved in some way, but with Wynter now looking to blow up in the Big Ten after transferring to Penn State in the offseason. , the Dragons will have to look for a new focal point of the offense. Wynter was often the star of the show during his 114-game career in Philly – 112 of which he started.

Key Returner

Amari Williams, F, Jr., Nottingham, England

Williams and sophomore guard Xavier Bell (11.0 points per game in 2021) were two breakout contributors Drexel fans probably were encouraged to see after the highs of the run to the NCAA Tournament in 2020.

With Bell, a native of Wichita, Kansas, having transferred home to play with Wichita State, it’ll be up to the Englishman to keep the good vibes the underclassmen had going last year.

The 6-foot-10 forward’s defensive presence needs little explanation or convincing, as Williams likely is the league’s most feared returning interior defender as a shot-swatting machine, but his defensive rating (92.8) and total rebounding percentage (20.9) were also top. -ranked in the conference, despite being a late bloomer in the lineup. He did not pick up his first start of the season until Jan. 11 at Delaware.

His massive 21-point, 12-rebound, four-block performance later that month against James Madison proved Williams’ capabilities if all of his cylinders were firing, and although his final field goal percentage of 52.1% on the year was all right, a A substantial jump in that category in his junior year should put Williams squarely in the conversation of being the league’s best all-around big man.

Key Addition

James Butler, G, Soph., Greenbelt, Maryland

Drexel didn’t hit the transfer portal with the same urgency as others across the league this offseason, opting to roll with six wide-eyed freshmen and three incoming transfers for its new additions.

One of those in the latter category is Butler, who averaged 10.4 points and 4.1 rebounds per game for State Fair Community College in Sedalia, Missouri.

The Roadrunners have been a solid junior college program that has turned into a bit of a hub for future Division I players over the past decade, including past second-team All-SEC player and Tennessee star Kevin Punter, for instance.

Last season at State Fair, Butler was a second-team all-conference pick, shooting 44% from the floor and 35% from 3-point range. The 6-foot-5 wing did well in his lone year in the Show-Me State.

Now closer to home at Drexel, Butler – being a member of a backcourt that’s going to be thin on Division I experience – could be thrust into a key role, as the Dragons search for another sudden boost in contribution from within deep in their roster.

Fifth-year senior Coletrane Washington is the only upperclassman guard on the roster who has started games for Drexel in the past, so there are going to be plenty of minutes up for grabs at the guard positions.

Game To Watch: Drexel Vs. Monmouth, Jan. 7

Perhaps Drexel, depending on how it goes, could take some lessons on this game.

The Dragons’ date with Monmouth will be their first meeting among the flurry of new schools playing CAA men’s basketball this season, of which Drexel is 9-3 dating back to 1993 in its history against the Hawks.

However, Monmouth arguably is in a better, yet achievable, state as a program at the moment under coach King Rice, who has yet to take the Hawks to an NCAA Tournament since taking over in 2012, but has established a consistently competitive squad in the Meanwhile, winning at least 20 games for the third time in his tenure last season.

Rice has led Monmouth through one bout of conference realignment (from the Northeast Conference to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference for the 2013-2014 season), so the change won’t be anything new to the three-time MAAC Coach of the Year.

With all that being said, it is a matchup in which Drexel’s strengths could really take hold on the flow of the game.

The Hawks struggled to put the ball in the basket from close range (46.3% on 2-point attempts in 2021), and if there’s one thing the Dragons love to do well, it’s shutting down chances at the rim with strong shot-blocking.

With the meeting being each school’s third CAA game of the season, it should also provide a solid barometer for each team of how things are going early in the conference slate.

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