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Drexel trying to find its way in second season under Zach Spiker

Kurk Lee, the super quick point guard from Baltimore, had some help last season, but not nearly enough.

Drexel coach Zach Spiker yells to his team during a February game against James Madison.
Drexel coach Zach Spiker yells to his team during a February game against James Madison.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

When you are trying to teach an entirely different style with a lineup populated by players you did not recruit, there will be problems, a fact clearly demonstrated by Drexel in its first season under coach Zach Spiker.

The Dragons went from a defense-first, methodical philosophy under Bruiser Flint to a more free-flowing, much faster offensive game under Spiker. It was a way of playing the former Army coach learned when he was an assistant under Steve Donahue at Cornell as the Big Red was building to three consecutive Ivy League titles and a 2010 Sweet 16 appearance.

The Dragons played much faster (70.3 possessions per game, 68th nationally), but they were not terribly efficient (202nd) on offense and the defense (283rd) was just bad.

Kurk Lee was the perfect recruit for Spiker when he got the job in March 2016. The super-quick point guard from Baltimore was given the freedom this offense demands and produced from the first game to the last. He had some help last season, but not nearly enough.

And unfortunately, the other recruit who really fit the system, Kari Jonsson, the terrific three-point shooter from Iceland, chose not to return for a second season, citing homesickness.

The good news is that two transfer guards who sat out last season are now eligible and should help immediately.

Troy Harper (Neumann-Goretti) averaged 13.5 points as a sophomore at Campbell. Tramaine Isabell once scored 47 points in a high school game. Playing for Missouri, he had 17 points against Ole Miss and Texas A & M as a sophomore.

The Dragons played faster, but they simply did not have enough firepower to make it work, which is why they finished 9-23, including six consecutive losses to finish the season. There were five losses that were close enough that a play here or there could have changed the result.

Harper and Isabell may be good enough to turn some of those close losses into wins. It would also help if Miles Overton has a bounce-back season. After missing nearly two full seasons following his transfer from Wake Forest, Overton could not make a shot at the beginning of the season. His shot got better and his defense was always solid, but Spiker really needs the former St. Joseph's Prep star to have a big final season.

Sammy Mojica and Austin Williams have been solid players for the program and have more than enough experience so that there will be few situations they have not seen.

Be interesting to follow the career of freshman big man Tim Perry Jr., son of the Temple shot-blocking star from, hard to believe, 30 years ago now.

Drexel was supposed to go to the Virgin Islands to play in the Paradise Jam. That changed after the hurricane devastated the island. The tournament will now be played in exotic Lynchburg, Va., home of Liberty University.

Drexel does not play Penn this season, which is unfortunate, but it does play at La Salle and Temple.

The advanced-analytics website projects improvement for the Dragons in the coach's second season, an overall record of 14-15, 7-11 in the Colonial Athletic Association. That sounds about right.

With teams that have flaws, and Drexel certainly has them, the record likely will be determined by success or lack of it in the inevitable close games. Kenpom projects Drexel's offense to be in the middle of the NCAA pack, with marginal defensive improvement as well. And the projection is that the Dragons are going to play even faster, all the way up to 75 possessions.  So, it should be, at very least, entertaining. How successful will be determined over the nearly four months of the season.