Army West Point head coach Zach Spiker has been hired by Drexel, with the news being first reported by the Drexel Triangle (the school’s independent student newspaper). Spiker spent seven seasons at Army West Point, putting together an overall record of 102-112. The Black Knights won 19 games this season despite being hit hard by the injury bug early in Patriot League play.
Only two other coaches in the history of the program have managed to win at least 19 games in a season: Bob Knight and Mike Krzyzewski.
Spiker’s overall record isn’t overwhelming, but Army made strides during his time at the helm. In three of his final four seasons the Black Knights won at least 15 games, a mark the program reached just once since joining the Patriot League in 1990. And Spiker’s 16-15 campaign in 2012-13 was the program’s first above .500 since Les Wothke led the Black Knights to a 16-13 record in 1984-85.
After winning a total of 50 games in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons Drexel struggled under Flint, posting just one season above .500 in his final four seasons in charge. Drexel went 6-25 this season, which included a 3-15 mark in CAA play. Among the players Spiker and his staff will need to account for the loss of is guard Tavon Allen, who led the team in scoring at 13.1 points per game. Two of Drexel’s top four scorers were seniors, with forward Kazembe Abif being the other.
Beginning in October and running up through November 13th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2015-2016 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.
Today, we are previewing the Patriot League.
The Patriot League is a conference with many familiar faces in 2015-16, which should make for a competitive race, one that could involve a handful of teams.
Lehigh should be pegged as the preseason favorite. The Mountain Hawks bring back four starters, none bigger than Tim Kempton, the 6-foot-10 junior who took home Patriot League Player of the Year honors last season. Kempton is joined by Kahron Ross, a playmaking point guard who led the league in assists, and Austin Price, the team’s second leading scorer from a season ago. Justin Goldsborough adds some support on the frontline, but the Lehigh back court took a hit this fall with Brandon Alston tore his ACL.
After seven seasons and a pair of NCAA tournament appearances, Dave Paulsen left Bucknell for George Mason. Nathan Davis, a former Bucknell assistant, steps into a good situation with four starters back from a team that won the regular season title in 2014-15. Chris Hassis one of the more gifted scorers in the league and anchors the perimeter, which includes Ryan Frazier and Stephen Brown. Nana Foulland, a 6-foot-9 forward who started every game last season, could be in for a monster sophomore campaign.
Boston University and Army both have their entire starting fives back from a season ago. The Black Knights didn’t have the season in envisioned, but the duo of Kyle Wilson, who has led the league in scoring at 17.5 points per game, and forward Tanner Plomb, who scored in double figures in all but three league games, can skyrocket them up the Patriot League standings. The Terriers have two double-digit scorers of their own in Cedric Hankerson and Eric Fanning. BU’s supporting cast should be more comfortable in their roles this season. Hankerson, who is recovering from an ACL tear, could be back in December, Joe Jones told ESPN.
Jesse Reed will attempt to lead American to another Patriot League Tournament title game (winning in 2014, losing in 2015), but he’ll have to do so without Pee-Wee Gardner. The Eagles could benefit from transfers Paris Maragkos and Leon Tolksdorf. Lafayette, the reigning champion, will likely take a step back, but guards Nick Lindner and Bryce Scott could keep things interesting in league play.
Favorite: “I would say Lehigh. Anytime you bring back the player of the year, it’ll obviously give you an advantage. Having him (Tim Kempton) along with the rookie of the year, Kahron Ross, I think those two are one of the best tandems in the league.”
Sleeper: “Colgate. With some of the guys they had sitting out, I’d probably say them. They’re going to be so different compared to what they had last season. With so many new faces those guys will come in and provide meaningful stuff for them right away.”
Star to watch: “To me, it’ll be Kyle Wilson. In our league, he’s one of the most talented scorers. He can score in so many different ways.”
PRESEASON PATRIOT LEAGUE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Tim Kempton, Lehigh
The reigning Patriot League Player of the Year returns following a sophomore campaign averaging 15.3 points and a league-high 8.7 boards per game. Not many can handle the 6-foot-10 big man on the block. Adding to the mismatch, Kempton can also do damage with his mid-range game. Kempton and point guard Kahron Ross make for a lethal one-two punch in the Patriot League.
THE REST OF THE PRESEASON PATRIOT LEAGUE TEAM:
Chris Hass, Bucknell: Ten times Hass went for 20 or more. Six happened in league play. Two more happened in back-to-back games: 21 against Michigan and 32 vs. Villanova.
Nick Lindner, Lafayette: The Patriot League Tournament MVP averaged 12.5 points, 5.2 assists per game.
Jesse Reed, American: The Eagles may be relying on new pieces this season, but they will expect the same offensive production from Reed, who averaged double figures in each of the last two seasons. The 6-foot-5 guard was a marathon man for American in 2014-15, never coming off the floor in 16 games.
Kyle Wilson, Army: The 6-foot-4 senior led the league in scoring the past two seasons.
Despite losing both games to Colgate, Bucknell still managed to claim the Patriot League regular season title by one game over the Raiders. That should tell you how competitive this week’s tournament should be. Lehigh routed Bucknell one week ago and Lafayette, another contender, has notched wins over each of the top three teams in the league. Leading the list of dark horses were two of the preseason favorites, American and Holy Cross.
The Bison won the regular season title league for the fourth time in six years. Bucknell made noise early in the season, giving Villanova, now considered a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, a scare. But the Bison began league play 2-2 before rallying off win streaks of five and six games to win the Patriot League outright. It’s a young roster, but the Bison will hold home court and will have the guidance of Dave Paulsen, looking to take his third team to the NCAA tournament.
And if they lose?: Colgate
We’ve seen how important guard play is in March. The Raiders have a talented perimeter attack with senior scoring guard Damon Sherman-Newsome, Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year Luke Roh and junior Austin Tillotson. Colgate has also shown it can win on the road with victories at Lehigh, Lafayette and Bucknell.
Lehigh: The Mountain Hawks went 1-2 down the stretch, but that win was a 19-point win over league favorite Bucknell and those two losses — to fourth-place Lafayette and second-place Colgate — were by a total of eight points. A young roster got battle-tested in the last week of the season and they could use that, and the play of big man Tim Kempton, to make a run this March.
American: Let’s not count out the defending champion. The Eagles still have Jesse Reed and Pee Wee Gardner. They also defeated three of the top four teams at least once this season.
Player of the Year: Dan Trist, Lafayette
The senior forward was conference’s top scorer at 17.7 points per game while grabbing 6.7 boards a night, good for fourth in the Patriot League. He went for 20 or more in both games against first-place Bucknell, including 29 points and 11 boards in a 84-74 win on Feb. 4. He also had strong outings against Colgate and Lehigh, the other two teams ahead of the Leopards in the league standings.
Coach of the Year: Dave Paulsen, Bucknell
The Bison were slotted to finish in the middle of the pack in the Patriot League preseason poll. Paulen, in his seventh season at Bucknell, took a young roster — seven freshmen and sophomores compared to two seniors who see significant minutes — and led them to the top spot in the standings, the fourth time the Bison have won the regular season title during his tenure.
All-Patriot League Team:
Tim Kempton, Lehigh: The sophomore big man was the league’s top rebounder (8.6) while averaging 15.1 points per game. He recorded six of his 13 double-doubles during Patriot League play.
Damon Sherman-Newsome, Colgate: The 6-foot-5 senior guard led the Raiders to a second-place finish, pacing the team in scoring at 14.8 points per game.
Cedric Hankerson, Boston University: The Terriers experienced a lot of turnover from last year. Hankerson embraced a larger role, increasing his scoring average by nearly 10 full points at 15.9 points per game. He also averaged 4.6 boards and 2.6 assists per game.
Chris Hass, Bucknell: The junior scoring guard scored 15.4 points per game, fifth in the Patriot League.
Last season, the Patriot League had five teams recorded 10 or more conference wins. In the end it game down to a pair of 20-win teams in the Patriot League Tournament championship game, as preseason favorite, Boston University, hosted the league’s surprise team, American. The Eagles ended up punching their ticket to the school’s first NCAA tournament since 2009.
It was a great first season for American head coach Mike Brennan, taking a team picked ninth in the league’s preseason poll to the Big Dance, and for Year 2 he’ll have the bulk of his roster back, including Jesse Reed, Darius ‘Pee Wee’ Gardner and John Schoof. American’s only lost one key piece, but it is a huge loss as Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year Tony Wroblicky graduated. The Eagles will look to several newcomers to the program to help fill the void in the Eagles’ defense.
Holy Cross, like American, exceeded expectations, finishing third and earning a bid in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. The Crusaders also lose a top player in forward Dave Dudzinski, but the Crusaders do bring back seven players from last season’s rotation, including Malcolm Miller and Anthony Thompson. Lafayette has the tools to make a jump back up the conference standings with arguably the league’s top player in Seth Hinrichs, as well as Nick Lindner, a 2013-2014 All-Rookie team selection.
Bucknell won six of its final seven games last season, and while the Bison lose Patriot League Player of the Year Cameron Ayers, they do have Chris Hass, an all-league caliber player. The only loss Bucknell suffered in those final seven games was to Army, which finished fifth in the conference standings last season. Kyle Wilson and his league-leading 18.4 points per game is back for the Black Knights.
Last season’s preseason favorite,BU, graduated D.J. Irving and Dom Morris while losing Mo Watson to transfer. The Terriers do have John Papale and adds transfers Blaise Mbargorba (SMU) and Eric Fanning (Wagner).
PRESEASON PATRIOT LEAGUE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Seth Hinrichs, Lafayette
The 6-foot-8 forward was averaging 20.2 points and 5.7 boards through the first nine games of the 2013-2014 season before a knee injury sidelined him for the next 10. Upon his return he recorded a pair of double-doubles en route to 16.3 points and 6.1 boards per game, earning third team all-Patriot League honors. The versatile forward is one of three returning starters for a conference contender.
THE REST OF THE PRESEASON PATRIOT LEAGUE TEAM:
Jesse Reed, American: The leading scorer and top returning rebounder for the reigning Patriot League champion.
Kyle Wilson, Army: The 6-foot-4 junior guard was a unanimous all-Patriot League first team selection last season, averaging a conference-leading 18.4 points per game.
Darius ‘Pee Wee Gardner, American: The 5-foot-9 floor general averaged 11.3 points and 4.2 assists per game for the Eagles; earned second-team all-league honors.
John Papale, Boston University: With the departure of Watson, Irving and Morris, the 6-foot-3 junior guard will be asked to carry a heavier load for the Terriers.
All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.
To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To see the rest of the Conference Previews we’ve published, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.
Bucknell and Lehigh have owned the Patriot League for the past four seasons each claiming the league crown twice, but that figures to change as both graduated several impact players — specifically Bucknell’s Mike Muscala and Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum. Boston University, who was ineligible to win the league championship in their final season as a member of the America East last year, is the prohibitive favorite to win the Patriot League. Joe Jones’ squad returns four players who earned America East honors from a season ago — D.J. Irving (First Team), Dom Morris (Third Team), Maurice Watson (Third Team and All-Rookie Team), and John Papale (All-Rookie Team).
Irving and Watson make for the league’s top backcourt, and Morris is an immovable, yet skilled body in the middle. In a league that does not feature a bevy of proven forwards of the 6-foot-9 and taller variety, especially with graduation claiming Muscala, Stephen Lumpkins, and Gabe Knutson, Boston University will be able to mask their dearth of big bodies in the frontcourt.
Speaking of guard play, Lafayette graduated the always steady Tony Johnson, but returns their top scorer from a year ago in Seth Hinrichs, along with versatile big man Dan Trist. While much easier said than done, if Fran O’Hanlon is able to find a suitable replacement for Johnson — most likely either sophomore Bryce Scott or freshman Nick Lindner — the Leopards have the offensive firepower to challenge Boston University.
One of the best stories of last season was Army posting a 16-15 record and 8-6 mark in league play — the above .500 record in league play was the first time in the 20+ year history of the league that the Black Knights finished above this mark. With Kyle Wilson, last year’s Rookie of the Year, returning along with Dylan Cox, Army figures to be in the mix in the upper half of the league again.
Both Bucknell and Lehigh figure to regress after graduating two of the best senior classes ever to come through the Patriot League. Don’t be surprised if Navy, a team that has a combined record of 2-28 in the league over the last two seasons, makes a big jump forward in year three of the Ed DeChellis era. Tilman Dunbar and Worth Smith make for a very nice inside — outside combo. Loyola (Maryland) saw Jimmy Patsos take some highly touted incoming recruits with him to Siena, first year coach G.G. Smith will be in minor rebuilding mode, but has Dylon Cormier back to run the point.
In: Boston University, Loyola (Maryland) Out: None
PRESEASON AMERICA EAST PLAYER OF THE YEAR: D.J. Irving, Boston University
Irving (14.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.6 apg, 1.4 spg) has been a fixture in the Terriers’ starting lineup starting all but five games in his career. As a freshman, Irving went to the NCAA Tournament with current Penn State coach Pat Chambers coaching Boston University; he will look to lead the Terriers back there in this Joe Jones’ third season.
FOUR MORE NAMES TO KNOW
Dave Dudzinski, Holy Cross: One of the league’s best inside players, Dudzinski runs the floor like a small forward but finishes well among the trees.
Cameron Ayers, Bucknell: For Bucknell to have success, Ayers will have to develop a scoring mentality, something he hasn’t had to do in his first three years.
Murphy Burnatowski, Colgate: Perhaps the league’s top scorer, the transfer from Maine, now in his second season with Colgate, can score anywhere in the halfcourt.
Dylon Cormier, Loyola (Maryland): An All-MAAC First Teamer last season, Cormier will be a force in the Patriot League for his lone season.
Of course, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski began his career both as a player and coach at West Point, so one can bet the longtime coach was overcome with several nostalgic moments when walking around the picturesque campus. Below are a few photos courtesy of @BlueDevil_NTWRK