Can Drake Keep It Going?
(St. Louis, MO) – Preseason polls are funny things. Picked to finish tenth in the Missouri Valley Conference, the Drake Bulldogs (9-7)(3-0) are tied for first place and travel to Indiana State today for their second road game of the conference season.
Can the Bulldogs keep it going?
While the Bulldogs are the Valley’s highest scoring team (78.6 ppg), first-year head coach Niko Medved told everyone that would listen, that his team had to defend better to be competitive. They post the Valley’s second worst scoring defense average (75.1), but that is five points per game better than last season’s average. In their three league games that number tumbles to 64.3 points per game.
While Medved’s defensive improvements are nominal, the offense has been outstanding. Drake leads the Valley in free-throw percentage (.771), assists (16.3 per game), assist/turnover ratio (1.3) and in three-pointers per game (9.9).
After a brief shooting slump, preseason All Valley guard Reed Timmer is back firing on all cylinders, reaching the twenty point plateau three of DU’s last four games.
Standing in the way of a 4-0 start are Greg Lansing’s Sycamores (7-8)(2-1). They were picked eighth in the preseason poll. Drake’s defense will be tested by the Valley’s third best offensive team (74.3 ppg) and a dangerous backcourt of Brenton Scott and Jordan Barnes.
While Timmer (19.4) leads the league in scoring, Barnes (16.7) and Scott (14.1) are fifth and eighth in the league’s scoring race. This has been a ‘break-out’ season for Barnes. The sophomore from St. Louis leads the Valley in threes per game (3.8) and ranks in the league’s top 10 in assists, free-throw percentage, 3-point percentage, assist/turnover ratio and in minutes played.
How the Bulldogs defend the perimeter on the road at Terre Haute will determine the outcome between two teams that are attempting to turn those preseason polls upside down.