Patriot League Preview 2015-16

Patriot League Preview

1.     Lehigh
2.     Bucknell
3.     Army
4.     Boston
5.     Loyola (MD)
6.     American
7.     Lafayette
8.     Holy Cross
9.     Navy
10.  Colgate

Player of the Year: Tim Kempton, Lehigh
Coach of the Year: Zach Spiker, Army
Rookie of the Year: Matt Holba, Lehigh

All-Conference 1st Team
C/F Tim Kempton, Lehigh
F Tanner Plomb, Army
G/F Cedric Hankerson, Boston
G Chris Hass, Bucknell
G Kyle Wilson, Army

All-Conference 2nd Team
C/F Kevin Ferguson, Army
F Nana Foulland, Bucknell
G/F Nathan Dieudonne, Boston
G Nick Lindner, Lafayette
G Kahron Ross, Lehigh

All-Conference 3rd Team
C/F Jesse Reed, American
G/F Eric Laster, Loyola (MD)
G Austin Price, Lehigh
G Dylan Cox, Army
G Andre Walker, Loyola (MD)

All-Freshman Team
C/F Paulius Zalys, Lafayette
F Matt Holba, Lehigh
G/F Kyle Foreman, Boston
G Delante Jones, American
G Kimbal McKenzie, Bucknell

1. Lehigh

Key Losses: Corey Schaefer
Key Returners: Tim Kempton, Austin Price, Kahron Ross

Key Newcomers: Kyle Leufroy, Matt Holba, Caleb Sedore

C Tim Kempton, Jr.; (15.3/8.7/1.0/0.5/0.4)
F Justin Goldsborough, Sr.; (7.5/5.8/0.6/0.4/1.3)
F Matt Holba, Fr.;
G Austin Price, Jr.; (11.4/3.0/2.0/1.5/0.4)
G Kahron Ross, So.; (10.4/2.8/5.8/1.2/0.1)

Reserves: Jesse Chuku, Brandon Alston, Kyle Leufroy, Caleb Sedore, Devon Carter
Postseason Prediction: 15 Seed (Auto-Bid)
Here come the Mountain Hawks. Lehigh, former Duke defeater, is back as a powerful mid-major to be reckoned with. The Hawks return almost everyone from last year’s 3rd place Patriot squad including reigning player of the year Tim Kempton and All-Conference guard Kahron Ross. Expect the Hawks to push for their 3rd tourney appearance in seven years and first since 2012.

Let’s begin with the man in the middle, Tim Kempton. Kempton is hands down the league’s best player and is poised to repeat as POY. The junior led the Patriot in rebounding last season and was 5th in scoring; he owned the 30th best DR% in the nation in 2014-15 and shot 50% from the field, 70% from the stripe and was even 1/1 from downtown. Kempton gives the Hawks a chance to win every night in the Patriot League.

Lending support to Kempton will be point guard Kahron Ross and off-guard Austin Price, both of which averaged double digits in scoring last season. Ross was spectacular as a freshman posting the 10th best assist rate in the land (37.9) while shooting 114 free throws (a lot for a point), hitting 80.7% of them. Ross is steady and should be a calming force handling the ball at the top of the Hawk offense. Price is the team’s best shooter, connecting on 39.6% of his 111 three point attempts last season; he also doubles as one of Lehigh’s best perimeter defenders. Price and Ross make up one of the strongest backcourts in the Patriot.

Filling the starting holes will be senior forward Justin Goldsborough (6’8’’) and either freshman forward Matt Holba (6’7’’) (my pick) or sophomore guard Brandon Alston (6’5’’). Goldsborough is a workhorse in the paint; he is one of Lehigh’s best rebounders, protects the rim better than anyone on the team, and finishes well. Lehigh’s frontcourt, like their backcourt, will be formidable to say the least with Kempton and Goldsborough. Holba is a top recruit out Indiana; he was the 9th ranked player in Indiana and the 36th small forward in the nation according to ESPN (yes, yes he did pick Lehigh). Holba can fill it up, especially from deep; expect special things from this lad in 2015-16.

Lehigh’s bench will be a combination of Jesse Chuku, a 6’9’’ forward with rebounding chops and a good shooting touch, Alston (average guard), Devon Carter, a seldom-used defensive specialist, and possibly two freshmen – Kyle Leufroy and Caleb Sedore. Leufroy is a high scoring guard and Sedore is a skinny tall guy with range.

The Mountain Hawks will be very, very good this season. They have the best starting five in the Patriot, the best player, one of the best freshman, and possibly the best backcourt AND frontcourt. Depth is a bit of an issue, but they should overcome that without too many issues. Lehigh is the favorite in the Patriot this season and should be able to fend off Bucknell for the conference crown.

2. Bucknell

Key Losses: Steven Kaspar
Key Returners: Chris Hass, Nana Foulland

Key Newcomers: Kimbal McKenzie, Nate Sestina, Nate Jones

C Nana Foulland, So.; (10.2/5.4/0.7/0.4/1.1)
F Zach Thomas, So.; (7.5/3.8/0.9/0.4/0.3)
G Chris Hass, Sr.; (16.0/3.3/1.1/0.5/0.3)
G Ryan Frazier, Sr.; (5.5/1.6/1.8/0.5/0.1)
G Stephen Brown, So.; (3.6/2.0/1.4/0.3/0.0)

Reserves: D.J. MacLeay, John Azzinaro, Ben Oberfeld, Dom Hoffman, Kimbal McKenzie, Nate Sestina, Nate Jones
Postseason Prediction: None
Bucknell has been one of the better mid-major programs since 2011 under Dave Paulsen, making two NCAA tournaments and winning 113 games. Paulsen has now gone to George Mason after a 7 year Bucknell career, and he hands over a very solid basketball team to his replacement, Nathan Davis. This will be Davis’s first season as a D1 coach (he is formerly a D3 coach), but the transition will be made easier by the plethora of talent and depth on the Bucknell roster.

The Bison are led by 6’5’’ senior guard Chris Hass. Hass was a 1st Team All-Conference member last season and was one of the best scorers in the Patriot; he shot a slash of .460/.385/.832 and owned a TO rate of 11.9, which is incredibly low considering he used 26.3% of Bucknell’s possessions. Hass will be a sure-fire first teamer again this season and could approach the 20 points per game mark in 2015-16.

Hass’s supporting cast is great for the Patriot League. Center Nana Foulland (6’9’’) is one of the better boarders and shot blockers in the league; he also finishes around the rim at a high rate, though, like a lot of big men, suffers from severe free-throw bricking syndrome. Guards Ryan Frazier (6’0’’), Stephen Brown (5’11’’), and John Azzarino (5’11’’) make up a formidable threesome in the backcourt. Frazier, a slasher/distributor, is a senior leader and a great clubhouse guy. Brown came on strong at the end of the year and is a good shooter and passer. Azzarino most likely comes off the bench behind the two aforementioned guards; he is the second best deep shooter on the roster (Hass) and should play the “instant offense” role off the pine.

The frontcourt, aside from Foulland, is made up of Zach Thomas, a sophomore starter specializing in D-boarding and shooting (think stretch-fourish), Dom Hoffman, a big 6’7’’ body specializing in being a brute (aptly named Dom), and Ben Oberfeld, a steady big with good finishing ability. Frosh Nate Sestina should also contribute this season in the frontcourt.

Besides Sestina, other freshmen of note include Kimbal McKenzie and Nate Jones. McKenzie will be one of the best freshmen in the Patriot this season and could even push for a starting spot as the year goes on; he can play both guard spots and is gifted at creating his own shot. Jones is a big wing with a lovely three-point stroke; he should be a scoring asset off the bench for the Bison.

Bucknell will be good this season – top 3 in the Patriot good. While Lehigh is the frontrunner, the Bison aren’t too far behind. With Hass and Foulland, Bucknell will be a tough team to knock off this year; an 18 to 20-win season is not outside their wheelhouse.

3. Army

Key Losses: None
Key Returners: Tanner Plomb, Kyle Wilson, Dylan Cox, Kevin Ferguson

Key Newcomers: Cayne Edwards, Jordan Fox, Adam Roe, John Emezie

C Kevin Ferguson, Sr.; (9.6/5.7/1.2/0.5/1.5)
F Tanner Plomb, Sr.; (15.8/5.6/1.3/0.8/0.4)
F Larry Toomey, Sr.; (5.0/4.2/1.3/0.7/0.3)
G/F Kyle Wilson, Sr.; (17.5/2.9/1.9/0.8/0.1)
G Dylan Cox, Sr.; (10.1/4.7/4.8/1.1/0.2)

Reserves: Maxwell Lenox, Kennedy Edwards, Luke Morrison, Jordan Fox, Cayne Edwards, Nathan Dodge, Adam Roe, John Emezie
Postseason Prediction: None
Army’s roster has 26 guys on it. I referenced how insane that is down below in the Navy section. I wrote Navy first not realizing that this is common among military schools. Everyone carry on.

Army returns basically everyone from last year’s squad, meaning this team is due for the biggest jump in the Patriot standings this season (the Knights finished in last place with a 6-12 record in 2014-15). All five starters return for the Knights, and all five are seniors – a rare and certainly valuable thing in college basketball. The top two scoring options and all-around best players are Kyle Wilson, a 6’4’’ wing, and Tanner Plomb, a 6’7’’ forward. Wilson poured in 17.5 points per contest last season, turning in a shooting slash of .429/.338/.786 – a bit of a volume scorer given his 32.8% shots taken statistic, but the key offensive Army player nonetheless. Plomb is perhaps the Knights’ most important player. Plomb is Army’s best rebounder, protects the rock, and shoots the ball at a high percentage (.453/.379/.815). Both Wilson and Plomb are poised for All-Conference seasons.

Point and center duties will be handled by Dylan Cox (6’4’’) and Kyle Ferguson (6’10’’), respectively. Cox is an excellent table setter, ranking 30th in the nation in assist rate as a junior in 2014-15; he also finishes well when he does shoot, connecting on 60.1% of his shot attempts inside the arc last season. Ferguson is a long center and is arguably the best shot blocker in the conference; he rebounds well on the offensive side of the ball and shot an absurd 64% last season from the field (yes lots of dunks). Look for both Ferguson and Cox to push for All-Conference bids as well this year.

The fifth starter is Larry Toomey, a 6’6’’ forward and St. Louis native. I guarded Toomey as a senior in high school (he was a freshman) in the District playoffs in 2008. I scored 4 points, pulled down 11 rebounds, and my team won the game by a comfortable margin. I went on to become an auditor and a wannabe College Basketball writer. Toomey went on to average 17 points per game as a senior in high school, grew to be 6’6’’, and earned a scholarship to Army, where he has been a starter for most his career. I won the battle that day in 2008, but Toomey – Toomey won the war.

Given the aforementioned ludicrous amount of guys Army has on their roster, I will just gloss over their reserves. Returning players who could make an impact this season include Maxwell Lenox, a 6’0’’ senior guard, Kennedy Edwards, a 6’6’’ junior forward, Luke Morrison, a 6’6’’ sophomore wing, and Nathan Dodge, a 6’2’’ sophomore guard. Keep an eye on Morrison and Edwards this season, I have this hunch they’re due for mini breakouts.

Among the herd of freshmen coming in, four stand out: Cayne Edwards (6’4’’ G), Jordan Fox (6’1’’ G), Adam Roe (6’5’’ F), and John Emezie (6’6’’ F). Really any of the four could play key roles for the Knights this year, but given the sheer depth of this team, there are significant barriers to entry to this rotation.

I am bullish as a bull on Army this season. This team was last place in the Patriot a season ago; they have the talent, size, experience, and depth to be a top three team this year. I fully expect these guys to compete for a Tourney bid in 2015-16.

4. Boston

Key Losses: None
Key Returners: Cedric Hankerson, Eric Fanning, Nathan Dieudonne

Key Newcomers: Kyle Foreman, Brandon Johnson

F Justin Alston, Sr.; (8.3/5.4/0.9/0.6/0.7)
F Nathan Dieudonne, Sr.; (9.7/7.4/1.6/0.7/0.4)
G Cedric Hankerson, Jr.; (15.9/4.5/2.6/1.8/0.1)
G Cheddi Mosely, So.; (8.6/1.5/1.0/0.8/0.1)
G John Papale, Sr.; (9.2/2.7/3.4/0.6/0.2)

Reserves: Eric Fanning, Eric Johnson, Nick Havener, Blaise Mbargorba, Will Goff, Cameron Curry, Kyle Foreman
Postseason Prediction: None
The Boston Terriers have perhaps the most appropriate nickname in all of college sports (also the co-leaguer American Eagles have a stake to that claim as well). I have nothing to add, just wanted to say that, it’s so appropriate!

The Terriers return everyone from a team that went 9-9 in the Patriot a season ago and promise to be a force in 2015-16 as they contend for the conference auto-bid. Boston is led by junior guard Cedric Hankerson, the team’s returning leading scorer (15.9 ppg) and a 2nd Team All-Patriot member a year ago. Hankerson is a stud, he’s a big guard at 6’5’’, defends the perimeter well, and shoots the ball at a passable rate (.395/.398/.673). He, like most of the Terriers, is a gunner from deep; Hankerson should average around 16-17 this year as a junior and push for a first team All-League spot.

Boston is deep and essentially has six starters, each of whom will earn significant minutes this season. Aside from Hankerson, the backcourt is made up of senior John Papale (6’3’’), Cheddi Mosely (6’3’’), and Eric Fanning (6’5’’). Papale is the team’s primary ball handler, plays the most minutes out of anyone on the team (93% last season, 9th nationally), and shot a slash of .475/.367/.714; he is essentially Boston’s “clubhouse” leader and will drive the team from the top of the offense. Mosely was Boston’s most accurate three-point shooter last season (41.1% on 129 attempts) as a freshman and all signs point to him blossoming into a more rounded player this year. Fanning was Boston’s second leading scorer last season at 12.4 per game while coming off the bench in nearly every contest. The guard is instant offense off the pine, and when he sees the floor, he is a guarantee to shoot the ball at a high frequency (used 30.1% of Boston’s possessions last year). Fanning owned the 7th highest free throw rate in the country last season and shot 170 free throws, making 75.9% of them – dude gets to the stripe.

The Boston frontcourt is manned by two seniors: Justin Alston (6’8’) and Nathan Dieudonne (6’7’’). Alston and Dieudonne are both strong rebounders, and Alston has rim protection ability. Both guys finish at a high rate around the basket and together make up one of the better frontcourts in the Patriot. This team should get boards.

As I stated earlier, Boston is a deep squad that can potentially play up to 12 guys this season in some kind of fashion. Important returning bench players include Eric Johnson (guard / injured last year/ will see time), Nick Havener (6’8’’ forward / started two games last year / potentially will get buried on the bench), Blaise Mbargorba (6’11’’ big man / a bit raw / does not block shots as well as he should), Will Goff (guard / good shooter), Cameron Curry (short 5’9’’ guard / might get buried with Havener).

The Terriers also have two freshman of note coming in this season. Kyle Foreman is a 6’1’’ guard who was ranked as the 6th best player in the state of Washington; I expect him to be used in some manner this year. Brandon Johnson is a strong and athletic 6’4’’ guard capable of scoring in bunches. Like Foreman, he should sniff the floor in some capacity.

I like Boston this season. As you’ll soon see, I like a lot of Patriot teams this season. The Terriers are an absolute contender in the League this year and should be one of the squads sitting atop the standings come season end.

5. Loyola (MD)

Key Losses: None
Key Returners: Andre Walker, Eric Laster, Tyler Hubbard

Key Newcomers: Nevell Provo, James Fives

F Cam Gregory, So.; (6.8/7.0/0.5/0.6/0.4)
F Franz Rassman, Sr.; (8.0/4.5/1.0/0.5/0.8)
G Eric Laster, Sr.; (10.9/3.8/1.6/0.7/0.5)
G Tyler Hubbard, Sr.; (10.8/1.9/0.8/0.6/0.0)
G Andre Walker, So.; (10.2/4.1/2.3/1.7/0.1)

Reserves: Nick Gorski, Jarred Jones, Chancellor Barnard
Postseason Prediction: None
Out of the 100+ teams I’ve previewed this off-season, I think there are about 100 or so ahead of Loyola (MD) on my “excitement list”; Loyola (MD) just doesn’t scream “groin grabbing fun” to use a Simpsons phrase. Nevertheless I will soldier through and give you all the skinny on the Greyhounds, who actually figure to be much improved from prior year.

So Loyola actually should be pretty competitive in the Patriot this season. They return 7/8 of their top minutes earners from a season ago in addition to Jerred Jones, a solid player who lost most of his 2014-15 season to injury. The Greyhounds are led by a three-headed monster of a backcourt, Andre Walker (6’0’’), Tyler Hubbard (6’2’’), and Eric Laster (6’6’’), each of which averaged just over 10 points per game last year. Walker is a second-year point guard who comes off a stellar rookie campaign in which proved to not only be a great table-setter, but also a stout perimeter defender (he also rebounds remarkably well for a 6-footer). Loyola as a whole was a fairly decent defensive squad last season, unfortunately their offense sucked major ass; the maturation of Walker into a greater playmaker will go a long way to end that ass sucking. Tyler Hubbard is Loyola’s top three-point option (the Greyhounds don’t have too many three point options); he shot 37% from deep last season, offering the team little else besides kindly not giving the rock to the opposing unit. Eric Laster is Loyola’s best player and senior leader; he is purely a scorer from the wing position and is steady from both inside and beyond the arc.

Loyola’s frontcourt is led by sophomore Cam Gregory (6’8’’) and senior Franz Rassman (6’9’’). Gregory is one of the Patriot’s best rebounders and has a knack for getting to the line (where he unfortunately shoots only 59.3%). Rassman specializes in rim protection and offers the Greyhounds a little stretch-four option with his ability to shoot from 15-20 feet.

Three main backups will represent the reserve unit off the pine for the Greyhounds. Nick Gorski, a 6’9’’ junior forward, will provide depth in the frontcourt; in limited minutes last season, Gorski proved to be able to stand upright and rebound semi-effectively. Jerred Jones (mentioned earlier) is a 6’7’’redshirt junior. Jones played only two games last season due to injury, but had a productive 2013-14, where he was one of the team’s best rebounders and shot blockers. Jones could easily start in Rassman or Gregory’s stead, but regardless he should play a major role on the 2015-16 version of the Greyhounds. Chancellor Barnard, a 6’4’’ sophomore wing, is yet another strong rebounder. Barnard’s athleticism allows him to guard multiple positions.

Newcomers with opportunities to make an impact this season include 6’0’’ guard Nevell Provo and 6’6’’ guard James Fives (yes, great name). Provo and Fives may be forced into playing time with the lack of depth behind the three-headed monster.

Loyola (MD) is much improved from a year ago. This team is making me eat my hat and making me change my tune a bit about their excitement. The Greyhounds will be a tough team to beat in the suddenly competitive Patriot and should fight for a 5th - 6th place finish in the conference.

6. American

Key Losses: Pee Wee Gardner, John Schoof
Key Returners: Jesse Reed

Key Newcomers: Delante Jones, James Washington, Leon Tolksdorf, Lonnie Rivera, Paris Maragkos

F Marko Vasic, Sr.; (5.7/3.6/1.4/0.7/0.1)
F Jesse Reed, Sr.; (14.3/5.0/1.3/1.0/0.6)
G/F Charlie Jones, Jr.; (8.0/3.8/1.8/0.8/0.5)
G/F Delante Jones, Fr.;  
G James Washington, Fr.;

Reserves: Alex Paquin, Jalen Rhea, Gabe Brown, Andrija Matic, Leon Tolksdorf, Paris Maragkos
Postseason Prediction: None
American University played faster then only one team in 2014-15 (Denver), making low scoring affairs such as their first game against Temple, where the contest ended 40-37, a common sighting. The Eagles were also a sharp shooting squad, ranking 32nd in the country in effective field goal percentage. Despite the loss of two of their more prolific players, Pee Wee Gardner and John Schoof, American looks poised to improve on their 2014-15 6th place 8-10 conference finish.

American’s potential improvement this season centers on senior forward Jesse Reed. Reed, the Eagles’ leading scorer last season, was a 3rd Team All-Conference selection last season and turned in a shooting slash of .541/.357/.771. The 6’5’’ forward also played 94.7% of American’s minutes last season, the 5th highest mark in the country (teammate Gardner played the 4th highest); Reed figures to be the focal point of the Eagle offense this year.

Junior Charlie Jones (6’4’’) and senior Marko Vasic (6’5’’) will play the Bishops to Reed’s Queen this season (or Rooks or Knights if you prefer – I made Reed the Queen because he does stuff, the King kind of just stands there). Like Reed, Jones rarely came out of the game last season (81.1% minutes played). Jones was primarily a slasher from the wing, turning in a solid free throw rate, but was also capable of tickling the twine from distance. Overall, Jones shot a slash of .561/.375/.774. Vasic plays a fair amount of “center” despite his 6’5’’ frame. The senior is American’s best rebounder, though that isn’t saying much given American was one of the worst rebounding teams in the country last season (perhaps partially due to their inferior size). Aside from rebounding, Vasic excels at finishing around the basket, a very nice skill indeed.

American has two returning guards, Jalen Rhea (6’2’’) and Alex Paquin (6’0’’), though neither factored much to the team’s success a year ago. With Gardner gone, their minutes will spike, but I expect Coach Brannan to look to two freshmen to fill the starting guard voids this season.

Freshmen Delante Jones (6’5’’) and James Washington (6’1’’) will each see the court plenty this season for American, regardless if they win the starting roles or not. Jones is a big, strong guard who can shoot and defend at a high level. Washington will get a lot of point guard run; he’s a dynamic guard who is quick off the bounce and adept at finding open teammates. In addition to these two “main” newcomers, transfers Leon Tolksdorf (UConn) and Paris Maragkos (GW) both figure to play important roles in the paper-thin American frontcourt despite their lack of impact with their previous teams (also maybe ironically, neither is American, they are German and Greek, respectively). Other possible impact frontcourt backups include Gabe Brown (7’0’’ So.) and Andrija Matic (6’10’’ Fr.).

I like American’s potential this season in the Patriot. Their size and rebounding will limit them from contending with the top dogs of the league, but look for the Eagles to make waves in the middle of the conference, giving more than a couple teams fits in 2015-16.

7. Lafayette

Key Losses: Dan Trist, Seth Hinrichs
Key Returners: Nick Lindner

Key Newcomers: Auston Evans, Tyler Barlow

F Matt Klinewski, So.; (3.1/1.8/0.2/0.2/0.4)
F Paulius Zalys, Fr.;
G Monty Boykins, Jr.; (4.7/1.5/0.8/0.3/0.1)
G Bryce Scott, Sr.; (8.3/3.3/2.4/1.0/0.0)
G Nick Lindner, So.; (12.5/2.1/5.2/0.6/0.1)

Reserves: Zach Rufer, Ben Freeland, Nathaniel Musters, Auston Evans, Tyler Barlow
Postseason Prediction: None
What a year for the Lafayette Leopards in 2014-15. After finishing 9-9 in the Patriot and earning the 4 seed in the conference tourney, Fran O’Hanlan’s boys knocked off Boston, Bucknell, and finally American to capture the Patriot league title and earned the rights to a 16th seed in the NCAA tournament where they were promptly smashed out of existence by the Nova Cats. It may surprise some to learn (it surprised me anyway) that the Leopards boasted the 41st most efficient offense in the land last season, shooting the 3rd best percentage in the nation from three, the 28th best from two, and the 8th best from the stripe. This season will be a different story as the Leopards lose their two leading scorers – falling back into the middle of the pack appears to be their destiny in 2015-16.

As stated above, Lafayette loses its best two scorers from a year ago with the graduations of Dan Trist (17.3 ppg) and Seth Hinrichs (13.1 ppg); they do however return one of the best point guards in the league in Nick Lindner. Lindner was a 3rd-Team All-Conference member last season and won the conference tourney MVP after he averaged 23.7 points per contest in the three-game stretch. Lindner is a pure point guard and an excellent shooter (.527/.397/.850); expect big things from him in his junior year as he takes the reins of the team from Trist and Heinrichs.

Joining Lindner in the backcourt will be some combination of senior Bryce Scott (6’2’’), junior Monty Boykins (6’5’’) and senior Zach Rufer (6’2’’) – expect Scott and Boykins to start most nights with Rufer taking the 6th man role. Scott is a pure shooter who is lights out shooter from deep (39.8% on 123 attempts); he’s basically your prototypical 2-guard. Boykins, at 6’5’’ can guard most wings in the league; he too is a great shooter (42.4% from 3 on 59 attempts) but has a little bit more ability off the bounce than Scott. Rufer is another prototypical 2-guard in the mold of Scott; he shot 46.5% from three last season on 43 attempts.

Inside will feature 6’8’’ sophomore Matt Klinewski and some other guy, who I believe will likely be freshman Paulius Zalys. Klinewski had an okay freshman season; he is most valuable on the offensive glass and as a shot deflector on D. Zalys is from Lithuania, where he enjoyed success on the country’s U16 and U18 teams. He has good size and appears far more competent than the other lugs in Lafayette’s frontcourt reserve. Those lugsinclude Nathaniel Musters (6’10’’) and Ben Freeland (6’10’’), who are both very tall men in their own right , they just aren’t the most skilled of basketball players.

Two freshmen I like to an impact this season for Leopards are 6’6’’ guard Auston Evans and 6’8’’ forward Tyler Barlow. Evans is a skinny, athletic wing and Barlow is a skinny, athletic forward – put some pounds on these fellas and let ‘em work.

Lafayette probably won’t get to enjoy returning to the NCAA tournament in 2015-16. Expect a middle of the league finish from the Leopards this year with Nick Lindner earning All-League accolades.

8. Holy Cross

Key Losses: Malcolm Miller, Justin Burrell
Key Returners: Malachi Alexander, Cullen Hamilton

Key Newcomers: Karl Charles, Pat Benzan, Marcellis Perkins, Jehyve Floyd

C Matt Husek, Jr.; (3.0/1.1/0.1/0.4/0.7)
F Malachi Alexander, Jr.; (8.4/5.0/1.0/0.8/0.5)

G/F Eric Green, Sr.; (6.5/3.2/0.9/1.4/0.6)
G Cullen Hamilton, Sr.; (6.6/2.4/0.9/0.5/0.0)

G Anthony Thompson, Jr.; (5.9/2.2/2.0/1.3/0.0)

Reserves: Robert Champion, Karl Charles, Pat Benzan, Marcellis Perkins, Jehyve Floyd, Isaiah Baker
Postseason Prediction: None
Holy Cross enjoyed a nice 10-year run under Coach Ralph Willard from 1999 – 2009 in which the program won over 25 games three times and made four NCAA Tournaments (including 2002 where they gave Kansas quite a scare as a 16 seed). Since Willard jumped ship to Louisville to assist Rick Pitino, the Holy Cross basketball team experienced five unfortunate years under Milan Brown, who was fired this past season and quickly scooped up by College of Charleston. This season, the Crusaders welcome former Northwestern headman Bill Carmody, who comes by way of Fairfield, where he was an assistant coach. Carmody inherits a less-than-stellar basketball team, but his Big Ten experience may be an asset in the paltry-in-comparison Patriot.

The Crusaders lose their two best players from prior year to graduation in Malcolm Miller and Justin Burrell. Not only were the pair the team’s leading scorers, they were two of the team’s best defenders on the perimeter, and Burrell was one of the best assist-men in the nation. Despite the departures, Holy Cross returns an experienced core that could potentially make waves in the middle of the league. The team leaders will be Malachi Alexander, a 6’7’’ junior forward, Eric Green, a 6’4’’ senior wing, and Cullen Hamilton, a 6’2’’ senior guard. Alexander is a good rebounder from the 4-spot and is a versatile offensive player, capable of stepping out past the three-point line. Green is the team’s best defender; he turned in a 3.8% Stl Rate (57th nationally) and 3.2% Blk rate (416th) in 2014-15. Green does not shoot from outside about 15-18 feet, and isn’t terribly accurate from within that range. Hamilton is a savvy ball handler and steady offensive guard; he could be due for a big leap in production this campaign.

The bookends of the Holy Cross starting group (bookends = fun way to say center and point guard) are Matt Husek (6’11’’ Jr.) and Anthony Thompson (5’10’’ Jr.). Somehow Husek managed to start 16 games last season (played 22) while averaging only 8.9 minutes per contest. He’s 6’11’’ and he can block shots, so he’s worth something to Carmody and Co. Thompson has the chops to take over the starting point guard role; he’s quick, can defend, and despite evidence to the contrary (aka his 3P%) – he can actually shoot the ball.

Holy Cross brings in a couple strong freshmen, led by 6’6’’ Karl Charles. I think Charles could be one of the best froshies in the Patriot, he’s versatile, strong, and can score in a variety of ways. Other freshmen of note include 5’11’’ guard Pat Benzan (true point / defender), 6’4’’ wing Marcellis Perkins (athletic / lengthy), and 6’7’’ Jehyve Floyd (athletic / defender).

Off the bench we will also see returners 6’6’’ Robert Champion, who is perhaps the Crusaders’ best three-point shooter, and 6’8’’ Isaiah Baker, who barely at all in 2014-15 but may see some court time this season with the lack of depth HC has in the paint.

Holy Cross could end up being a middle-tier Patriot team this season (and I actually believe they will eventually get there), for pre-season sake, we’ll slot them somewhere in the 6 to 8 range.

9. Navy

Key Losses: Worth Smith, Brandon Venturini
Key Returners: Tilman Dunbar

Key Newcomers: Hasan Abdullah, Ryan Pearson, Mitchell Baldwin, Aaron Briggs


C Will Kelly, Sr.; (6.1/4.2/0.8/0.2/1.8)
F James Hemphill, Jr.; (2.3/1.9/0.3/0.3/0.0)
G Shawn Anderson, So.; (4.3/3.2/1.1/0.4/0.1)
G Kendall Knorr, Sr.; (4.2/3.1/1.6/0.5/0.0)
G Tilman Dunbar, Sr.; (9.1/2.0/3.3/1.1/0.0)

Reserves: Edward Alade, Zach Fong, Bryce Dulin, Michael Brown, Hasan Abdullah, Aaron Briggs
Postseason Prediction: None
The Navy Midshipmen have not experienced a winning season since 2009. Optimism must have been high in 2012 when Coach Ed DeChellis took the reigns of the program coming off a 2010-2011 season in which he led the oft-inept Penn State Nittany Lions to a 10-seed in the Dance. Alas, DeChellis’s 4-year stint at Navy has been one of mostly downs and few ups. He has however improved the team’s record in each of his four seasons, winning 3 games in 2012, and then 8, 9, and 13 in the three subsequent seasons. This year figures to be another challenging one for DeChellis and the Mids as most coaches and analysts believe they are worst team in the Patriot. Let’s dive in.

First of all – Navy has 25 guys listed on their active roster, so let’s cut me a little slack here if I fail to gloss over a significant cog (think the important stuff will be touched though). The Mids overachieved a bit last year, winning 8 games in the Patriot after being picked to finish dead last pre-season (hey just like this year!). Gone are Navy’s two leading scorers, Worth Smith and Brandon Venturini, leaving point guard Tilman Dunbar as the Mids’ primary playmaker on offense. Dunbar was Navy’s third-leading scorer last season at just over 9 points per contest and fits the true point guard mold – passing and penetration are his fortes.

Four returners in particular will be important lifelines for Dunbar and the Mids. Centers Will Kelly (6’9’’) and Edward Alade (6’9’’) will hold down the middle, and likely take turns starting at the five spot. Kelly is the superior rebounder and rim protector, and overtook the starting spot at the end of 2014-15 from Alade, hence why he earns my starting spot at center. Both big men are good finishers underneath the tin, but both suck ass from the free throw line (mid-50s). Guards Shawn Anderson (6’4’’) and Kendall Knorr (6’3’’) should round out the starting backcourt for Navy. Anderson is a bit of a brick shooting the ball, but he rebounds well from the wing spot and word is he’s taken big steps this offseason. Knorr is a good shooter and should be given plenty more minutes without Smith and Venturini in his way.

Key returning supporting players include Zach Fong, a 5’11’’ guard and Navy’s best three-point threat; James Hemphill, a rising junior forward who could get the starting nod at the 4 slot; Bryce Dulin, a 6’4’’ guard with “3 and D” potential; and Michael Brown, a thick wing defender.

Navy has 10 freshmen listed on their roster. At least half of these guys will end up on their JV team, so let’s not waste time on all of them. Four key freshmen with PT potential are guards Ryan Pearson (6’2’’), Hasan Abdullah (6’0’’), Mitchell Baldwin (6’3’’), and Aaron Briggs (6’0’’). Briggs and Abdullah are two guys in particular to watch out for; both guards could start a few games, especially with how DeChellis likes to switch up starting rotations.

Navy figures to finish in the basement of the Patriot this season; anywhere in the bottom three is likely. Unless of course the NCAA changes the rules on how many guys a team can have on the floor at one time (or they play in water or something).

10. Colgate

Key Losses: Damon Sherman-Newsome, Ethan Jacobs, Luke Roh, Matt McMullen
Key Returners: Austin Tillotson

Key Newcomers: Sam Lindgren, Malcolm Regisford, Tom Rivard, Jordan Swopshire

C Malcolm Regisford, Fr.;
F Tom Rivard, So.; (w/ JMU 13-14) (0.7/1.3/0.1/0.2/0.2)
F Jordan Swopshire, So.; (w/ Bradley 13-14) (1.3/0.5/0.1/0.1/0.0)  
G Alex Ramon, Sr.; (2.7/1.4/0.8/0.6/0.0)
G Austin Tillotson, Sr.; (10.7/2.0/4.1/1.2/0.0)

Reserves: Nathan Harries, Sean O’Brien, Sam Lindgren
Postseason Prediction: None
Colgate had one of their best seasons on years in 2014-15, winning 12 games in the Patriot, though only 16 overall. They boasted the 78th most efficient offense and held the 8th highest effective FG% in the country. Last season will prove to be a flash in the pan as the Raiders are due for a major step back with the loss of almost all of their production from a season ago.

Colgate has one constant from last year’s team – senior point guard and leader Austin Tillotson. Tillotson was Colgate’s third leading scorer last season at just over 10 per contest; he had an excellent assist rate last season and posted scorching percentages from downtown (41.7%) and inside the arc (50%) – though he only shot 68.6% from the line (weird right?!). Tillotson will be the backbone for the Raiders this season; the rest of the team is kind of a crap shoot.

I’m fairly confident the Raiders start senior Alex Ramon (6’1’’) alongside Tillotson this season; in addition, expect Jordan Swopshire, a transfer from Bradley and STL native, to get a crack at the starting five as well. Ramon is a promising shooter; he shot 63.2% from three (12/19) in limited time last season. Swopshire didn’t get too much time at Bradley two years ago, but he’s long and athletic and a former high school standout; a move to a mid-major school could do him some good. Sean O’Brien, a sophomore guard, will back up Ramon and may snag some starts here and there.

I’ll be honest – I have no idea what’s going to happen with Colgate’s frontcourt this season. The Raiders’ options are thin to say the least. Freshman Malcolm Regisford (6’8’’) is big and imposing on defense and James Madison transfer Tom Rivard at least has some D1 experience. Both guys are kind of unknowns, but Colgate needs to put five guys on the floor to legally play, so…

Other players of note include freshman Sam Lindgren, a 6’6’’ forward with the potential earn PT, and Nathan Harries, a 6’2’’ junior who’s 2014-15 season was cut short due to injury; he played 15 games as a freshman in 2013-14.

This Colgate preview is short for many reasons. 1. They aren’t going to be very good, 2. They are chalk full of unknowns, 3. Did someone really just read this Colgate preview? The Raiders finish near the bottom of the league this season or my name isn’t Ky.