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Season Preview: Drexel Dragons

September 27, 2011

Samme Givens

2010-11 Record: 21-10 (11-7, 5th place in CAA)

What happened last season: The Dragons puffed their chests defensively, upset Louisville in non-conference play en-route to a 21-10 mark and lost to VCU on a Jamie Skeen buzzer-beater in the quarterfinals of the CAA Tournament.

What’s Changed: Not much. And that’s a good thing in college basketball. Drexel returns six of its seven rotation players and coach Bruiser Flint is back for his 10th year in Philly, making him the longest-tenured CAA coach (along with Old Dominion’s Blaine Taylor) after previous Colonial mainstay Jim Larranaga took his talents to South Beach.

Key Team Stat: (59.4) Points allowed per game last season. It was lowest in the league, and 10th nationally. The Dragons also allowed a league-low .92 points per possession.

Key Player Stat: (30.14) Usage percentage (a comprehensive formula estimating how often a team’s offensive plays involved a player) of fire-breathing junior guard Chris Fouch. Higher than Charles Jenkins… higher than Denzel Bowles… higher than Chad Tomko. Fouch, who played 28.5 minutes per game coming off the bench, was used at a higher percentage than any other CAA player.

Who’s Vince: While that stat would clearly indicate that Fouch (who will miss the start of this season because of a knee injury) is the key man for Drexel, he’s probably not. Second-teamer Samme Givens – who, unlike the third-teamer Fouch, actually starts – is the heartbeat of the Dragons. The 6-foot-5 Barkley of a power forward averaged 12.2 points and a league-best 10.2 rebounds per game last year. With a soft inside touch and lefty stroke, Givens, not Fouch, is who opponents gameplan against most.

Who’s E: Fouch can be the running-mate, a role he’s better-served to fill. The 6-foot-2, 178-pound Bronx native seemed to wear down late last season, shooting 22-for-83 (26.5 percent) in seven games before the Dragons’ CAA tournament ouster, in which he was magnificent in a comeback try. When fully healthy, he’s one of the league’s most fun offensive players to watch. Maybe sitting out until December will be good for Fouch and the Dragons, who hope to battle deep into March.

The Entourage: The Dragons have the ultimate entourage – janitorial role players who’s hands are never clean. Rangy 6-8 forward Dartaye Ruffin was an All-Rookie coming off the bench to add 8.4 ppg and 7.4 rpg. The Stoughton, Mass., native (shameless hometown plug) garnered plenty of All-CAA team votes in this year’s preseason poll. Daryl McCoy is a 6-9, 270-pound wall on defense, even if he never leaves the ground. He’s so respected defensively that Bowles called him “The Denzel stopper.” Frantz Massenat showed he could be relied upon as a freshman point guard. This year he could spread his wings a bit more. Derrick Thomas, a 6-4 junior, might be the best perimeter defender in the league, two years running. While ODU’s Kent Bazemore wins the awards with blocks and steals, Thomas straight Master-locks up his man.

Realistic Goal: Become the first team not from Virginia or Wilmington, N.C. to win the CAA since 1987 Navy. Return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1996, when Malik Rose (Mouse in the house!) strolled around Philly.

Postseason tournament chances: There’s no excuse for this team to miss out on postseason play.

DN-R Prediction: 1st in the CAA

Next Up: George Mason Patriots…

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