Loyola (Maryland) Greyhounds

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Lehigh forward Tim Kempton, AP Photo

Patriot League Preview: Can anyone catch Lehigh?

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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 Hass is 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.

MORE: 2015-16 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

COACH’S TAKE

  • 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.

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @PL_MBB

PREDICTED FINISH

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

Patriot League Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

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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.

READ MORE: NBC Sports’ latest Bracketology | The updated top 25

The Bracket

source:

When: March 3, 5, 8, 11

Where: Campus sites (higher seed)

Final: March 11, 7:30 p.m. (CBSSN)

READ MORE: NBCSports.com’s 2015 Conference Tournament Previews

Favorite: Bucknell

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.

Sleepers:

  • 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:

  • Trist
  • 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.

CBT PREDICTION: Bucknell over Lehigh

Loyola (MD) gets a buzzer-beating win over Columbia after first shot is blocked (VIDEO)

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Loyola (MD) junior guard Eric Laster was 0-for-6 from the field when a loose ball off of a blocked shot found its way into his hands in a tie game with Columbia with only moments remaining. But the 6-foot-6 Laster calmly buried the game-winning jumper at the buzzer to lift the Greyhounds to a 64-62 win.

The bucket was Laster’s first points of the game and it helped Loyola to a 3-4 record on the season. The Greyhounds won despite Laster, the team’s leading scorer, struggling to find his shot on Tuesday night.

(H/T: Loyola (MD) athletics)

2014-2015 Season Preview: American is the favorite in a competitive Patriot League

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Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

MORE: 2014-2015 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

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.

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @KLDoyle11

PREDICTED FINISH

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

Purdue beats Siena, but Jimmy Patsos has Saints ahead of schedule

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Today against Purdue, Siena earned another moral victory — if there is such a thing. Purdue doesn’t figure to challenge in the Big Ten, but the Boilermakers are now off to a 5-0 start and looking like a potential NCAA Tournament team if they are able to earn some good victories in the Big Ten. For Siena to head to Mackey Arena and go toe-to-toe with the Boilermakers despite losing 81-73, that’s encouraging.

One of the biggest winners of the offseason coaching carousel was Siena. The Saints struggled for the past three seasons following Fran McCaffery’s departure to Iowa with Mitch Buonaguro at the helm compiling a record of 35-59. After a string of success that saw Siena reach three consecutive NCAA Tournaments where they earned two victories, Siena fans began to grow restless that Buonaguro was unable to sustain the momentum McCaffery had built.

Buonaguro was ousted, and Jimmy Patsos hired.

Patsos came to Siena from Loyola (MD) where he built that program up from next to nothing into one of the top teams in the MAAC — he is no stranger to turning a program around.

Given Siena’s success in recent years and support given to the program by the school, alumni, and fans in the greater Albany area, the job of building Siena back up into a MAAC power won’t be as challenging as it was at Loyola. Not much is expected of Siena in Patsos’ first season. Their top player from a season ago, O.D. Anosike, has graduated and Rakeem Brookins is no longer on the roster due to off-the-court issues.

Despite inheriting a roster that is surely not as talented as Patsos would hope, he has them competing and performing well. Siena began the season 0-3, but their 78-74 loss to La Salle in their third game was certainly encouraging, especially since they led the Explorers for much of the game. While they were unable to close out La Salle, they followed up that loss with a good win at home against St. Bonaventure.

Freshman point guard Marquis Wright is the player who Patsos will build a team around, and Wright acquitted himself well against Purdue scoring ten points and dishing out five assists. Evan Hymes came off of the bench to score a game-high 18 points — his decision not to transfer has given Patsos a real scoring threat off the bench.

Siena was picked to finish tenth in the MAAC with only Monmouth selected to finish below them, but the way the Saints have been playing in the early going, they certainly don’t look like one of the worst teams in the conference.

Patsos made his trademark at Loyola as a tremendous recruiter. Once he has a couple of recruiting classes in at Siena, expect the Saints to rise back to the top of the MAAC.

2013-2014 MAAC Preview: Manhattan, Canisius, Iona at the top

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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 hereTo see the rest of the Conference Previews we’ve published, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Last season was supposed to be the year that Manhattan, in Steve Masiello’s second year at the helm, made their move in the MAAC. They were coming off a 21-13 record in Masiello’s first year, and George Beamon, the leading scorer in the league in 2011-12, was returning for his senior season. An ankle injury to Beamon derailed Manhattan as they got out to a 6-15 start, yet they rebounded by making it to the MAAC championship nearly beating Iona. With a healthy Beamon back for a fifth year, Ashton Pankey, a Maryland transfer who sat out last season, now eligible, and two time defensive player of the year Rhamel Brown returning in the frontcourt, the Jaspers are the favorite to win the MAAC and return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004.

Many point to Iona, Manhattan’s bitter rival, as the primary challenger. Understandably so as the Gaels have been to the NCAA Tournament the past two seasons and return two of the league’s top players in Sean Armand and David Laury. While they will no doubt challenge, Canisius is poised to have a big year with Billy Baron returning for his senior season. Factor in guard Chris Perez, who is using his final year of eligibility after graduating from Stetson this past May where he earned All-Atlantic Sun Second Team, and Canisius has the top backcourt in the league.

Two programs that may be on the uptick are Rider and Marist. The Broncs surprised everyone last year finishing second in the league, and return two of the top players in Anthony Myles and Daniel Stewart. Marist, meanwhile, struggled for much of last season finishing with a 10-21 record, which proved to be the demise of Chuck Martin. In comes Jeff Bower, an assistant at Marist from 1986-1995 and former general manager of the New Orleans Hornets, to try and right the ship. He steps into a program that returns Adam Kemp and Chavaughn Lewis who both earned Third Team All-MAAC honors last season.

In their first season in the MAAC, Quinnipiac will be instantly competitive as they return Ike Azotam and Ousamane Drame in the frontcourt.

While they don’t figure to contend right away, Siena, under first year coach Jimmy Patsos, will be a story to watch all season. Patsos successfully transformed Loyola (Maryland), formerly of the MAAC, into one of the league’s top programs.

REALIGNMENT MOVES

In: Monmouth and Quinnipiac
Out: Loyola (Maryland)

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Sean Armand (Getty Images)

PRESEASON MAAC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Billy Baron, Canisius

Baron (17.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 5.0 apg) has the ability to fill it up like a shooting guard, go off the dribble like a two-guard, and has the handle of a point guard. As Canisius’ starting point guard for the second season, Baron will look to lead Canisius to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1996.

FOUR MORE NAMES TO KNOW

  • Antoine Mason, Niagara: Losing Juan’ya Green and Ameen Tanksley to Hofstra makes Mason, a First Team All-MAAC player from last season, the focal point for first year coach Chris Casey.
  • Sean Armand, Iona: One of the best shooters in the country at any level, Armand was one of just ten players to drill 100 or more three-pointers last season.
  • George Beamon, Manhattan: Arguably the top player in the MAAC, the Jaspers will go as far as Beamon takes them, and that may be to the NCAA Tournament.
  • Chavaughn Lewis, Marist: After averaging just a shade over 8 ppg midway through the non-conference schedule, Lewis ripped up the MAAC averaging nearly 20 ppg in league games.

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @nybuckets

PREDICTED FINISH

1) Manhattan
2) Canisius
3) Iona
4) Rider
5) Marist
6) Quinnipiac
7) Fairfield
8) Siena
9) St. Peter’s
10) Niagara
11) Monmouth