Heading into the Jan. 16-18 weekend set of Colonial Athletic Association games, William & Mary was looking like a team of destiny: undefeated in league play, led by an NBA draft prospect and dominating all competition.
Then, the Tribe ran into a buzzsaw at Drexel.
“It just shows how competitive our league is,” said Dragons guard Camren Wynter. “Any team can beat any team on any night.”
Wynter isn’t wrong on that. Behind 6-1 William & Mary is a 6-2 Charleston bunch, and the Cougars are among a group of six with two-to-four losses.
But Wynter’s sentiment is especially true for Drexel. The Dragons have the pieces to beat any team in the CAA, starting with a Big Three foundation of Wynter, swingman Zach Walton, and post James Butler.
The core trio of Dragons average 12.5 points per game and 4.3 rebounds per game (Walton), 12.5 points and 12 rebounds per game (Butler) and 15.6 points, 5.3 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game (Wynter).
Statistically speaking, Drexel’s is one of the best trios in the country. They also provide ideal tent poles for a team’s make-up, with Wynter as the ball-handler, Walton an effective long-range shooter, and Butler manning the interior.
🔒 in— Drexel Men's Basketball (@DrexelMBB) January 22, 2020
Drexel tops the CAA in scoring defense against conference opponents
CAA foes are scoring just 65 points against the Dragons
Drexel also owns the 3-point arc, where conference opponents are shooting just 30.8% pic.twitter.com/RcUXUPqt7z
“I think we’re pretty good when we all put everything together,” Wynter said.
What makes them similar is also as vital to the Dragons as what differentiates the three.
“All three are great leaders, and they want to be good, and they compete,” said Drexel coach Zach Spiker. “That’s the first thing. The second is, they all have the ability to make shots.”
That’s true on the season, and especially in the 84-57 rout of CAA-leading William & Mary. Butler shot 85.7 percent from the floor en route to 17 points, Walton went 5-of-7 from behind the 3-point arc and finished with 23 points, and Wynter went 8-of-14 from the floor for 20 points.
Wynter also came away with three steals and distributed seven assists, a line could enough to lock up CAA Player of the Week.
The win also made a significant statement about Butler. The double-double machine pulled down 12 rebounds to go with his 17 points, demonstrating his ability to go toe-to-toe with an NBA draft prospect like Nathan Knight.
4️⃣3️⃣‼️— Drexel Men's Basketball (@DrexelMBB) January 21, 2020
That's how many points Cam Wynter and Zach Walton combined to score in Drexel's 84-57 win over William & Mary on Saturday pic.twitter.com/fJyk8ufo8Z
“That game was just a chance for me to be on display, but he’s been doing it all season,” said Drexel coach Zach Spiker. If you look at his numbers, double-digit double-doubles, right?”
Right. Thirteen, to be exact, including one during each win of Drexel’s on-going, three-game winning streak.
It’s a run that places the Dragons right in the mix of the ultra-competitive CAA title race, sitting at 5-2 with one weekend road swing before the conference season’s midway point.
Drexel hits the road for a possible contention-defining trip, first at Northeastern and then at Hofstra. The Huskies and Pride won last season’s CAA Tournament and regular-season championship, respectively.
The road has been tough on the Dragons thus far: Their 78-71 defeat of James Madison on Jan. 11 marked the first true away win of the season. But since falling to 0-6 on the road with an 89-73 loss at Towson on Jan. 9, Wynter said Drexel’s gained perspective.
“That’s been in our mind a lot since Towson. The way we played at Towson, we weren’t mentally ready for what was ahead of us,” he said. “But on this road trip, I think we’re ready.”
And as William & Mary can attest, the CAA better be ready for the Dragons.