The Drexel women's basketball team was picked to finish second in the CAA Preseason Poll which was conducted by the league's coaches at this year's basketball Media Day in Baltimore on Tuesday. The complete predicted order of finish for the 2015-16 season is:
- James Madison
- William & Mary
- College of Charleston
- Bre Bolden, College of Charleston (JR)
- Sarah Curran, Drexel (JR)
- Ashunae Durrant, Hofstra (SO)
- Jazmon Gwathmey, James Madison (SR)*
- Angela Mickens, James Madison (SR)
- Erika Brown, Delaware (JR)
- Shay Burnett, Elon (SO)
- Samantha DeFreese, Northeastern (SR)
- Rachel Pearson, Drexel (SR)
- Marlena Tremble, William & Mary (JR)
One glaring player missing from the preseason league teams is reigning player of the year Precious Hall from James Madison who will miss the season with a knee injury. The Dragons, picked second with a player on both the preseason first and second teams, are rightly being treated with a lot of respect heading into the season. This is without a doubt the most talented Dragons team Denise Dillon will send to the floor since Hollie Mershon and Taylor Wooton helped lead Drexel to the postseason WNIT title several years ago.
The Dragons should be a formidable offensive team this season with improved scoring throughout the lineup. In addition to Curran and Pearson (12.1 ppg and 11.0 ppg, respectively) the Dragons will once again have Meghan Creighton (6.6 ppg and 5.9 apg before being injured last season) running the point and will have sixth year senior Jackie Schluth (8.0 ppg and 4.6 rpg) at forward. Drexel newcomer Jessica Pellechio should be an offensive force for Drexel if her time in Europe during the Dragons' preseason play is any indication. Pellechio dominated scoring in every one of the team's five games and comes to Drexel after posting 9.1 ppg in just 21 mpg for VCU two years ago.
Drexel struggled to score at times last year, posting just 58.6 ppg (57.5 ppg out of conference), good for ninth in the conference. For perspective, league champion JMU scored 78 ppg during the conference season. The Dragons were second overall in scoring margin (+5.6) by way of a stout defensive performance that saw them give up just 53.0 ppg, the fewest in the league by several points. The Dragons gave up the sixteenth fewest points per game in the country last year for the season as a whole (55.1 ppg).
While Drexel's field goal percentage last year was middle of the pack (39.8%, tied for fifth), less than 4.5% separated the best shooting team in the league, JMU (43.7%), and the eighth best team, Northeastern (39.2%). The Dragons made the third least shots (388) and only beat out Northeastern and College of Charleston by way of playing more games. The slower paced game did help the Drexel defense which was first in the league in defensive field goal percentage at 36.0%.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Drexel ranked third in three point shooting percentage (37.4%), just under half a point off of league leaders JMU and Elon (37.8%). The Dragon were just fifth overall in three pointers made per game (5.3). The influx of deep shooting threats in Pearson, Curran, Creighton, and Pellechio should bring the Dragons higher to the top of that table this season.
A long time staple of Denise Dillon teams has always been fantastic free throw shooting and last season was no different. Drexel's season long free throw percentage of 77.8% was good for second in the entire country this past season. The team shot a league leading 79.2% from the line, though they went to the line at just the ninth best rate in the league. The Dragons would be well served to make more frequent trips to the charity stripe this season.
One place the Dragons struggled last year was on the glass where they finished last overall in rebounding (33.8 per game), a full 11 behind league leading JMU (44.9 rpg). That difference looms large when you consider that converting pulling in those rebounds could effectively net the team about eight points a game (turnovers and fouls, notwithstanding). The Dragons did marginally better, ninth overall, on the defensive rebounding side where they pulled in 23.5 boards per game (4.9 behind JMU). The offense glass was a real struggle, Drexel was dead last, a full 6 rebounds behind JMU. Drexel will look to bolster their positioning this season with the help of Curran, Schluth, Kelsi Lidge, and an influx of freshman forwards.
Drexel averaged the fourth least turnovers per game (14.3, JMU had 12.8) last year. They handed out the third most assists (15.1, JMU had 16.4) and thus ended up second overall in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.06. JMU and Drexel were the only two teams to hand out more assists than turnovers.
The Dragons had the fourth highest league attendance last season and certainly deserve even greater support this year. Drexel has once again lined up an impressive out of conference schedule that will see them play the following out of conference teams at the DAC: Dartmouth, Vanderbilt, Quinnipiac, and a host of local away games against Penn, St. Joes, and at a tournament at Lehigh.
Check back often, we'll have continuing coverage of what will surely be an exciting year of Drexel women's basketball this year. See you at the DAC!