The Assignment: Heading into 2012-2013, Drexel was the near-universal pick to win the CAA. Injuries ravaged Drexel’s chance for a banner year. Give several reasons why 2014 may be finally be the year for #RevengeOfTheDragon.
On a sultry, stormy spring afternoon, my dad and I trekked to Glennmoore, Pennsylvania to celebrate my niece’s second birthday. Upon arriving at my sister’s house, I spied my brother-in-law and his father in the backyard. They were setting up a party tent, hammering stakes into the moist ground between intermittent downpours.
I walked over and offered to help. The 20-second exchange that occurred properly summarizes how Drexel fans feel about 2012-2013:
Brother-in-law: Are you here to brag about how much better (the mascot of your baseball team) are than the Phillies?
Me: Eh…it’s still early for all that. (Turning to his father, a proud Drexel alum) My real qualm is with the year Drexel had in basketball.
Father: Oh, you know how to hit where it hurts.
Heading into last season, Drexel was your mother’s pick to rule the CAA. The Dragons had the requisite blend of experienced seniors and talented underclassmen. But you can’t predict injuries (which makes what I said rather unfair), and when ace sixth man Chris Fouch went down with a broken ankle in the third game of the season, it became apparent that they’d be hard-pressed to meet their lofty preseason expectations.
For head coach Bruiser Flint and Company, it was a season to forget.
Fouch didn’t play another game. Damion Lee (17.1 points per game) and Daryl McCoy (8.6 rebounds per game) missed multiple conference games. Forwards Dartaye Ruffin and Kazembe Abif dealt with nagging injuries that kept them in and out of the lineup. All too often there were only seven healthy-ish Dragons, which severely hurts the team’s productivity in practice.
Frequently, the weight of the world fell on the shoulders of junior point guard Frantz Massenat, who was simply asked to do too much. As a result of the injuries, Massenat had to look for his shot more often. After averaging 4.8 assists per game as a sophomore, his assists were down to 4.2 per game. Massenat posted a 42.6% effective field goal percentage, down from 50.7% the year before.
Don’t take Massenat’s down season as an indication that he’s already peaked. He’s got a chance for a huge bounce-back season.
And so does Drexel.
Even with the struggles, Drexel was no slouch. Both Lee and Massenat were Second Team All-CAA selections. The Dragons got after it on the glass, and prohibited their opponents from doing so. Drexel’s opponents averaged just 6.7 offensive rebounds per game, the third fewest in D-I. We expect nothing left from a Bruiser Flint-coached team.
The win over Davidson in December was a microcosm of their rebounding dominance, as the Dragons’ number of offensive rebounds (19) exceeded the Wildcats’ total rebounds (14).
A sixth year of eligibility was the silver lining from Fouch’s injury. Fouch may come off the bench, but could slide into the starting lineup to replace graduated shooting guard Derrick Thomas (9.2 points per game).
Thomas’ leadership and perimeter defense will be missed, but his absence won’t stop Drexel from boasting arguably the CAA’s best backcourt. Yes, I do realize we just said something very similar about Delaware. Flanked by Fouch and Lee, Massenat can comfortably play knowing he’ll rarely be the first offensive option on the floor.
Lee built on his CAA Freshman of the Year campaign, and blossomed into one of the CAA’s top scorers. Lee is a huge matchup problem who will be a legitimate CAA Player of the Year candidate.
In his sophomore season, 6’7″ forward Tavon Allen could make a huge jump. As a redshirt freshman, Allen averaged 6.6 points in his 14.8 minutes per game. With improved shot selection, the ambidextrous Allen could create significant problems on the wing for Drexel.
The question is whether or not the defense can rise to the call. As Kevin Rossi noted in his season review, Drexel allowed 63.1 points per game, which was up almost six points from ’11-’12. It was unrealistic to expect Drexel to repeat as one of the nation’s Top 10 3-Point Defenses, but no one could’ve predicted such a precipitous fall to the middle of the pack (193rd).
And without the imposingly burly McCoy, it won’t be fair to expect Drexel to duplicate its rebounding dominance. Still, you know Flint has the blueprint for a CAA Rockfight in his back pocket.
Dartaye Ruffin (6.9 points, 6.8 boards per game) won’t be the same immovable force that McCoy was downlow, but he’ll have a chance for a big senior season. With Fouch, Lee and Massenat drawing attention around the perimeter, Ruffin should find much more room to operate. Abif had an efficient season as a sophomore, and should take a step forward.
The myriad of injuries made it impossible for Massenat to take a significant break. This season, Massenat might finally get the chance for a breather. Seton Hall transfer Freddie Wilson will be eligible at the end of the fall semester, and incoming 6’3″ guard Major Canady will boost the backcourt as well.
Freshman forwards Mohamed Bah and Rodney Williams will give the frontcourt the depth it sorely lacked. The 6’9″ Bah, who earned the nickname “Baby Shaq” in high school, should be good for some physical play underneath the basket. Knock on wood, Drexel might have some semblance of depth this season.
The CAA Tournament showed us what senior guards can do for a team. This bodes for a Drexel team that will boast the CAA’s most experienced backcourt. If Drexel’s defense can be just a little better than it was last year, the Dragons look good for a top-tier finish in the CAA.