By Jon Rothstein
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1. GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Any time you return almost every major piece of significance from a team that won 29 games and you’re going to enter the season with a high bar — but with Drexel it’s more than warranted. VCU’s decision to join the Atlantic 10 made the Dragons the unanimous favorite to win the CAA and reach the NCAA Tournament and Bruiser Flint’s team may have still been the favorite even if the Rams were in the conference. Drexel has a pro prospect at point guard in 6-4 junior Frantz Massenat as well as a burgeoning star in 6-6 sophomore Damion Lee, who tallied 20 points and 10 rebounds in last year’s CAA title game. The pieces are in place for Flint’s squad to be one of the better mid-major teams in all of college basketball.
2. DEPTH PERCEPTION
The biggest difference between Drexel from this season and last? Overall team depth. The Dragons look like they have nine capable bodies if Tavon Allen and Kazembe Abif can stay healthy while veteran guard Chris Fouch will be one of the more experienced sixth men in the country. If backup point Aquil Younger becomes more serviceable, Flint will have the options and the ability to mix and match different lineups. The Dragons are more versatile and therefore, more dangerous than they were in 2011-12.
3. KAZ A KEY
Finding a capable back up to Dartaye Ruffin was something Flint talked about all summer and the likeliest candidate to fill that void is Abif. The red shirt freshman was extremely active in Thursday’s practice and showed a penchant for finishing around the rim with accuracy. The 6-7 forward missed the majority of last season with an illness but could be a valuable energy guy in reserve.
4. TAVON’S TALENT
Tavon Allen could play for certain BCS programs — he’s that talented. The 6-7 red shirt freshman will play three or four different positions for Drexel, including point guard. Versatile and exceptionally skilled, Allen exudes ambidexterity as he shoots three-point shots left handed and everything inside the arc right handed. This is an all-conference player a year or two down the road.
5. SOMETHING TO PROVE
There is still obvious anger from this group that they didn’t play in last year’s NCAA Tournament. The Dragons were one of the hottest teams in college basketball a year ago when they won 19 games in a row and the CAA regular season title. Anything less than a trip to the field of 68 will result in a major disappointment for a group that’s dying to get Flint into the bracket for the first time since he’s been the head coach of the Philadelphia school.
Make no mistake about it, this team has far greater upside than they did a season ago. Massenant and Lee are good enough to match up with any perimeter in the country and senior guard Derrick Thomas will bring toughness and stellar perimeter defense — something the Dragons severely lacked when he was suspended during the last year’s CAA Tourament. Ruffin and 6-9 center Daryl McCoy are a savvy, experienced power forward-center combo that should produce at a high level after another year of experience. The buzz is palpable surrounding this team but they appear to be more than ready to handle what’s ahead — after the disappointing end to last season, we’d hardly expect anything less.
Your prediction for Drexel? Let us know in the comments below!