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If you haven’t heard by now, Drexel is supposed to be good this year.
It was the talk of the CAA’s basketball media day last Tuesday and it will continue to be as the season quickly approaches.
It’s a change of scenery for a conference that has long been dominated by three powerhouses. And it also sparks an interesting topic of conversation.
Will the CAA break away from the domination of, we’ll call it, “The Big Three” in VCU, Old Dominion and George Mason?
And before I continue, let me justify my reasoning for titling these three teams “The Big Three.”
Since the conference expanded in 2001, a Big Three team has lifted the conference trophy seven times. Five of those years featured two Big Three teams facing each other in the tournament final.
Not enough? Here’s a little more food for thought: A Big Three team hasn’t placed outside the top six spots in the standings since 2001. Also, a Big Three team has finished in the top spot eight times over that span.
But enough of this Big Three talk, right? At least that’s what other coaches around the CAA are saying. Including the always-colorful Bruiser Flint, whose Dragons were picked to finish first in the conference this year.
“We know we’re in a tough league, we’ve got some tough teams,” he said. “And we hope to break that ODU-VCU-George Mason triangle, which a lot of coaches in this league are hoping to do.”
And if anyone has the tools to break that triangle, it’s Drexel.
Flint, a three-time CAA Coach of the Year, returns four starters including a very talented frontcourt led by unheralded senior Samme Givens.
Givens finished 23rd in the country in rebounding and is undoubtedly the strongest player in the conference when it comes to cleaning up the boards.
The experienced frontcourt complements a backcourt that returns three pivotal guards in Chris Fouch, Derrick Thomas and Frantz Massenat.
In fact, the Dragons are so experienced, VCU coach Shaka Smart believes they belong far ahead of the pack.
“I think actually Drexel at this point in the year, should be way out in front of everybody,” he said. “Because of everybody they’re bringing back and then teams 2-10 could all be really, really good.”
Drexel has finished in the top five six times since joining the conference in 2001 and has always been on the cusp of breaking through as one of the top teams.
My question for Bru and the Dragons is whether or not they can show up when it counts. Since Flint took over at Drexel a decade ago, his teams have been knocked out of the CAA Tournament in the first round four times. Last year, they narrowly escaped a dreadful Towson team in the first round before falling to VCU in the quarterfinals.
And in this league, being successful during the regular season and failing to do so in the tournament will get you nowhere.
That will be the question for Drexel this season: Can they win when it counts? But right now we know nothing. The only thing we know is that they are the preseason favorite.
And if you’re smart, when the season starts, you’ll throw away all your predictions and prognostications, because they won’t matter.
Vote in our poll on whether you believe Drexel will win the CAA here