Drexel's Damion Lee (US Presswire)
With the college basketball season now almost a month old, we have enough of a sample size of games to start to determine which teams are better or worse than projected. Here's a look at the teams who have failed to meet expectations so far:
1. Drexel (2-5)
Losses: at Kent State 66-62 OT, Illinois State 86-84 OT, Saint Mary's 74-64, Xavier 69-65, Rider 75-66
Why they've disappointed: Drexel returned all but one key player from a 25-win team that narrowly missed the NCAA tournament last season, which is why the Dragons were optimistic about landing a bid this season for the first time in 16 years. That goal is not out of reach in an unusually weak CAA, but the Dragons have already squandered any hope for an at-large bid by losing five of its first seven. What's really odd is that so many of Drexel's problems have been on the defensive end, by far the program's biggest strength last year when it had much of the same personnel. The Dragons are eighth in the CAA in field-goal percentage defense and they're struggling to control the glass or force turnovers.
Can they recover? All hope is not lost for Drexel this season in spite of the massively disappointing start. First of all, they're capable of getting better defensively, especially if big men Dartaye Ruffin and Darryl McCoy step up and better fill the void left by the graduation of Samme Givens. Secondly, the CAA is weak enough this season that the Dragons probably don't have to play at the level they did last year to repeat as league champs. VCU is gone, Old Dominion is rebuilding and George Mason and Delaware have been the class of a down league thus far. Even with the defense regressing and guard Chris Fouch lost for the season due to a broken ankle, Drexel has the backcourt firepower to challenge both the Patriots and Blue Hens.
2. UCLA (5-3)
Read More »from Five teams that are the biggest disappointments so far this season
Losses: Georgetown 78-70, Cal Poly SLO 70-68, San Diego State 78-69
Why they've disappointed: Under pressure to succeed this season after missing the NCAA tournament two of the past three years, UCLA coach Ben Howland landed an elite recruiting class in hopes of sparking a resurgence. So far, that hasn't happened. A team ranked in the top 10 in many preseason polls has tumbled out of the Top 25 thanks to losses to Georgetown, Cal Poly SLO and San Diego State and close calls against UC Irvine and Georgia. Worse yet, guard Tyler Lamb and talented center Joshua Smith have transferred, leaving the Bruins with only eight scholarship players available — four freshmen, three North Carolina castoffs and sophomore guard Norman Powell.
Can they recover? Not only does a deep March run seem unfathomable from this group, a lot will have to change just for the Bruins to sneak into the NCAA tournament. Shabazz Muhammad needs to shed 10 pounds he put on over the summer and regain the burst he had in high school. Kyle Anderson either needs to find a comfort zone playing off ball or persuade Howland to put the ball in his hands and let him showcase his passing ability. And UCLA has to find a way to mask its lack of quickness defensively, whether that's via a packline man-to-man defense or a two-three zone. Even if the Bruins improve defensively as the season goes on and get more out of their two prized freshmen, this is still a team that's very vulnerable to foul trouble or injuries. In other words, there's considerably less hope for UCLA than there was a few weeks ago.