By Jon Rothstein
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The CAA has now become the premier mid-major league in college basketball.

After sending two different schools to the Final Four in the past five seasons with George Mason in 2006 and VCU last year, the separation between the conference and its counterparts is annually escalating to a different level.

“A lot of teams in this league have been able to beat BCS teams in the past few years,” Drexel coach Bruiser Flint said of the CAA. “The success that occurs with the teams that come from our league shouldn’t surprise anyone anymore.”

Flint, who led Drexel last season to a road win at Louisville, returns the majority of a 21-10 team that is the conference’s consensus favorite for the upcoming season.

“Everyone expected it because of the season we had last year,” Flint said of the expectations hitting his team this preseason. “We’re excited about it. We should think we have every chance to win a championship.”

A big reason for that is Chris Fouch.

Despite only starting two games last season, the talented junior guard seems primed for a breakout season but Flint admits he won’t have to single handidly carry the load.

“We’re not depending on him to shoot the ball every time anymore,” Flint said of Fouch. “We’ve got other options in addition to him.”

One of those is sophomore point guard Frantz Massenat. After a stellar freshman year, the 6-foot-4 floor general should take a major jump in his second season in West Philadelphia.

“He’s just got to take the next step and for him, that’s working on his ability to shoot the basketball,” Flint said of Massenat. “His basketball IQ is as good as I’ve ever had.”

Junior Derrick Thomas also returns in the back court and Flint is high on freshman wing Damion Lee, who should challenge for minutes in the rotation.

The Dragons front court maybe the team’s greatest strength and a big reason for that is Samme Givens. Undersized at 6-foot-5, Givens returns for his final season after averaging a double-double as a junior.

“He should be someone who is talked about as a CAA player of the year candidate,” Flint said of Givens.

Also returning are forwards Dartaye Ruffin and Darryl McCoy, both of whom give the Dragons help give the Dragons the most experienced front court in their league.

While schools like Hofstra, VCU, George Mason, and Old Dominion are all trying to create a new identity after losing several key pieces from last season, Drexel’s mantra remains the same.

“If my guys don’t guard people, they won’t play,” Flint said. “Our defense is going to be a given. As long as we can improve shooting the ball, we’ll be fine,” Flint said.

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