Basketball season tips off at Drexel in mid-November, but the teams have already given fans a lot to be excited about this year. At the Colonial Athletic Association Media Day on Tuesday, October 18, “Bruiser” Flint’s men’s team was dubbed preseason favorites to win the competitive CAA in a poll of the league’s coaches and media members. While the voters tabbed Denise Dillon’s Dragons, who have made three straight postseason appearances, for a top five finish on the women’s side of the league. Adding to the anticipation for the coming season is the Dragons’ extensive television schedule, which features five appearances on ESPN’s family of networks including a place in the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon on Nov. 15.
High hopes for this season have continued to mount after strong performances by both squads last year coupled with the return of most of their rosters, including the top players. For the men, leading scorer Chris Fouch and top rebounder Samme Givens, who were both selected for Preseason All-Conference teams, will be back on the Drexel hardwood this season. In addition, sophomore Dartaye Ruffin, one of the league’s stand-out freshmen in 2010-11, earned honorable mention preseason honors, and his classmate Frantz Massenat returns from an 2011 All-Rookie performance as the team’s point guard.
In a mid-major conference whose national respect could be at an all-time high after two Final Four appearances by its members in the last five years, the respect of being picked to finish first is both an honor and a challenge for the Dragons. But coming off a 21-win season that included wins over nationally ranked Louisville, NCAA qualifier Old Dominion and Final Four participant Virginia Commonwealth, this respect has been hard earned.
“We have an experienced group of players coming back this season,” Flint said. “We know that the expectations are going to be much higher than they were a year ago, but with an experienced group we understand that and look forward to the challenge.”
On the women’s side of the league, Drexel has represented the CAA in postseason play in each of the last three years and is firmly in the midst of the program’s golden age. Two trips to the Postseason Women’s National Invitation Tournament followed Drexel’s historic run to the 2009 CAA Championship. Seniors Marisa Crane, Tyler Hale, Ayana Lee and Kamile Nacickaite are the lone holdovers from the championship team and will be driving their squad toward another shot at hoisting the CAA trophy at season’s end. Nacickaite, who led the league in three-point accuracy last season, received First Team Preseason All-CAA honors, placing her among the top five players in the league according to its coaches and media representatives.
The Drexel women will open their 2011-12 campaign, among the field of the Preseason Women’s National Invitation Tournament, with a Nov. 11 contest against Long Island University. They will also welcome Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer Dawn Staley’s South Carolina team to the Daskalakis Athletic Center on December 28 and open a New Year’s Day doubleheader with the men’s team by hosting Ivy League power Princeton.
“We’re excited to get practice underway,” Dillon said. “We have a lot of veteran players returning and they understand what needs to be done to be successful and win a championship. I think our team and our schedule has a lot to offer for our fans. Playing in the Preseason WNIT forces you to be ready from the very beginning to face top competition.”
Fans will get the chance to see the Dragons in televised games at least twice during the season when they host rival Delaware on January 22 and against William & Mary on February 23. Both games are sure to draw support from the passionate fans of the Drexel community who pack the DAC throughout the season.
“The crowds at the DAC have grown each and every year,” Dillon said. “We count on our fans, because it’s tough to play in front of a big crowd on the road, and when the DAC is packed, that’s an advantage for us against even the best opponents. We hope fans want to come out and watch this team and these seniors after following them through the most successful years of the program.”
In an era when sports teams and their players often fall victim to undeserved hype, a rare opportunity to see a pair of teams whose recognition has been wrought through sustained levels of exceptional performance exists right here at Drexel.
Men’s Basketball Schedule 2011-12 Season
- Tuesday, November 15, 2011 Drexel at Rider on ESPN, 6:00 a.m.
- Saturday, December 3, 2011 Drexel at Delaware on TCN, 4 p.m.
- Sunday, January 8, 2012 VCU at Drexel on CSN, 8 p.m.
- Thursday, January 12, 2012 George Mason at Drexel on ESPNU, 8 p.m.
- Saturday, January 21, 2012 Northeastern at Drexel on TCN, 4 p.m.
- Saturday, January 28, 2012 Delaware at Drexel on TCN, 2 p.m.
- Saturday, February 4, 2012 Drexel at Towson on ESPN3, 7 p.m.
- Tuesday, February 14, 2012 William & Mary at Drexel on CSN, 7 p.m.
- Wednesday, February 22, 2012 James Madison at Drexel on ESPNU, 7 p.m.
- Saturday, February 25, 2012 Drexel at Old Dominion (ESPN Wildcard) on CSN, ESPN, ESPN2, 4 p.m.
Women’s Basketball Schedule 2011-12 Season
- Sunday, January 22, 2012 Delaware at Drexel on CSN, 3:30 p.m.
- Thursday, February 23, 2012 William & Mary at Drexel on CSN, 7 p.m.
For ticket information, visit www.drexeldragons.com.