VMI has officially announced the filling of its head coaching vacancy. Sunday afternoon the school announced that Dan Earl, who spent the last three seasons at Navy as associate head coach under Ed DeChellis, will take over for the departed Duggar Baucom. Earl was also a member of DeChellis’ coaching staff at Penn State, which is where Early played his college basketball.
“We started this process committed to several things,” VMI athletic director Dr. David Diles said in the release. “First, to identify a Head Coach that would represent VMI with dignity and understand, and embrace, the unique mission of the Institute. Second, to find someone with high intelligence, and previous experiences that have served as the appropriate foundation for assuming this leadership opportunity.
“And finally, to determine who best developed and communicated a plan for advancing VMI basketball. Coach Earl quickly emerged as our top candidate.”
Given the time Earl spent at Navy, that should help with the adjustment process at another school that incorporates military life into its daily operations. VMI lost four seniors from last year’s team, which finished with a record of 11-19, led by senior guard Brian Brown (10.9 ppg). However guards Tim Marshall (11.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg) and Julian Eleby (11.1, 4.5, 2.8 apg), the team’s top two scorers in 2014-15, have eligibility remaining with Marshall due to be a senior next season and Eleby a junior.
Patriot League Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards
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.