Editors note: I called an audible and asked Cyclone Fanatic and Always Race Day writer Connor Ferguson to write about Drake basketball and how if you live in central Iowa or anywhere in Iowa you should be watching them.
It’s time to start watching Drake Basketball.
There’s a reason why Drake Basketball’s upcoming matchup against Loyola Chicago got flexed to ESPN2. There’s also a reason the squad is 13-0, and numerous reasons why they won all but one matchup by double digits.
The Bulldogs are buzzin’ in Des Moines and it’s time to hop on the bandwagon.
If you follow me on twitter, you know that I’m a huge Drake guy. My grandma went to school there and I grew up going to games; it holds a spot in my heart.
I’d be watching the Dogs run no matter what the circumstances were this season, but Darian DeVries is giving everyone in the state – and the entire college basketball world – legitimate reasons to watch Des Moines’ hometown team.
When DeVries got the job at Drake he had waited nearly two decades to be offered the position. Then he took a nearly empty cupboard and brought in an army.
In his first year at the helm DeVries recruited primarily Des Moines talent to lead the Bulldogs to a 12-6 mark in the Missouri Valley Conference, winning the MVC Regular Season title.Embed from Getty Images
That’s that thing that Kansas used to win all the time in the Big 12, yeah that one.
Fast forward to this season and his team is off to the best start in school history. The previous best was 6-0, but they’re improving on it with every win.
Drake sits 13-0 (4-0, first place in the Valley) going into this weekend’s games against Loyola Chicago at the Knapp Center. Because of the schedule the conference went with, the two teams will square off on back-to-back days this Sunday and Monday.
With a win or even a split in the series, Drake would establish itself as the best team in the conference. They’ve done it with a roster constructed by DeVries that brings out the best in some high quality talent.
Point guard Roman Penn is thriving in his role and averaging 12.1 points per game while dishing out 5.8 assists per night. I don’t know if it’s possible to compare a point guard to Naz Mitrou-Long from Iowa State, but the pair are strikingly similar in their confidence shooting the ball.Embed from Getty Images
Starting center Darnell Brodie was brought in from Seton Hall after breakout star Liam Robbins left for Minnesota. Surprisingly, Drake’s offense has benefited as from the move, as Brodie has shown his ability to use his feet to score. It’s just another example of DeVries’ eye for talent.
One of DeVries’ established pipelines has been an area fans call ‘the region,’ a part of Indiana that seems to just spout out talented ball players. Three of Drake’s starters hail from the state of Indiana and each of them are producing at impressive rates.
D.J. Wilkins might be one of the quieter scorers, but the junior guard is good for a 3-ball any time, shooting 53% from behind the arc on five attempts per game.
Tremell Murphy was the leading scorer on Drake’s MVC title team, averaging over 10.4 points per game. He hasn’t needed to be close to that average for the Bulldogs this season, and that should say something about the team’s talent.Embed from Getty Images
If you haven’t seen ShanQuan Hemphill on SportsCenter yet, you haven’t been watching top plays. The player they call “Tank,” was on the top 10 segment two nights in a row for dunks he threw down against a conference foe and currently leads the team in scoring at 13.7 points per game.
Throw in Joseph Yesufu and Garrett Sturtz each averaging over 8.0 points per game off of the bench and the team’s rotation is set for any situation.
If you can’t take it from the stats written on the side of the horse, take it from the horse’s mouth here. This Drake team scores at a high rate. They utilize a soft press on the defensive side of the ball that leads to turnovers and transition dunks. They’ll throw down an alley-oop, even, but when it’s least expected.
Seriously though, this is the most tooled team the Bulldogs have had since that run in 2008 (though I don’t need to remind anyone of how that ended).
You can catch Drake on Sunday evening (5:30 p.m. CT on ESPN2) and Monday night (6:00 p.m. on CBSSN) in two of the biggest games of the season.
There’s plenty of room on the bandwagon, and no one is judging if you decide to hop in now. Get on up here and ride with the Dogs.Embed from Getty Images