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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Got To Loooooove The Drake

I assure you, that is The Drake

Yes, a headline that is surely being reproduced throughout the tubes today, in honor of the Drake Bulldogs, Kings of the Valley, who beat Bradley last night to improve to 6-0 in conference and 15-1 on the season. They unseat Dayton, which was cannibalized by UMass last night, as the mid-major du jour, following in the footsteps of Gardner Webb, Southern Illinois and Davidson. Hopefully it works out better for Drake.

The win last night was a big one, despite Bradley's 8-9 record (1-4 conf.) heading in. The Braves were without their best player Daniel Ruffin for the sixth straight game (1-5 over that stretch) but were still picked to finish second in the conference preseason poll. Drake was down seven with 3:46 left, took a late two-point lead, suffered a bomb from Sam Maniscalco from Bradley to trail by one with 17 seconds left and got a timeout. Guard Adam Emmenecker drove to the hoop, shot with four seconds, missed, got his own rebound, missed and somehow got the rebound again, all in four seconds mind you, and scored the game-winner at the buzzer. You cannot stop Adam Emmenecker when he hits the glass. You can't and you won't.

Anyway, let's take a look at Drake's resume this year and see if the team picked 9th in the league in the preseason could possibly get the topsy-turvy Valley two bids again. For a nice feature on The Drake, check out Gary Parrish's story from a couple days ago.

- Their one loss was to a respectable St. Mary's team in the second game of the season, back when the Gaels were beating Oregon and all that. It was a six-point road loss, not too bad.

- Their "notable" non-conference wins include Iowa, Iowa State and Duquesne. In conference they won at Wichita State and beat Southern Illinois, Indiana State and Missouri State at home.

- The numbers over at basketball Bible KenPom aren't too bad. The RPI is 19th, SOS is middle-of-the-pack at 130th, the Pythagorean Winning Percentage (much-needed explanation here) is not much lower at 24th in the country. And their luck rating, contrary to popular belief I'm sure, is only 61st in the country.

- Offensive efficiency is solid, ranked 42nd in the nation and the defense is even better at 22nd. They are ranked No. 266 in tempo, which means they play slow (brilliant, I know). And the most telling number is Drake's Turnover Pct. (turnovers/possessions) which ranks 6th in the country. Their steal pct. is high too. Without having seen Drake play this year, I already know they take care of the ball, play tough defense and get high percentage shots. Sounds like a radical idea for a successful mid-major to me.

- Still at KenPom, they are projected to go 25-3, 16-2 in conference, which would surprise every person in the world, but would certainly be enough for an at-large if they fail to win the Valley. tournament.

- Taking a look at Drake's players, it has been without leading scorer Josh Young for the past two and a half games. But luckily they are a deep team, with ten players getting at least ten minutes. Like any Valley team from Iowa that's existed over the past 30 years, they have a Korver - Klayton (the K is for Kool!), a senior forward, who just so happens to shoot a ton of threes. Besides Emmenecker and Korver, they have some other last names found only in mid-major basketball: Heemskerk and Baryenbruch. They do lack size however, with only two true big men, both of which are only 6-8. Although one of those guys, Johnathan Cox, a junior, averages 8.5 rebounds (20th in the country in defensive rebound rate) and 1.3 blocks.

- Now of course, ALL of this is temporarily moot because Saturday, in a most surprising Game of the Year in the Valley, 6-0 (14-3 overall) Illinois State goes to Drake to play for the conference lead. If the Redbirds pull off the victory, the nation will Hate the Drake (and the Drakette) as if they donated the big screen you gave them to charity after the loss.



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