On Wednesday morning, the somewhat surprising news broke that Loyola (MD) will be leaving the MAAC and becoming a member of the Patriot League in all sports beginning in 2013-2014.
Loyola will be the tenth member of the conference, as Boston U. will also be joining in 2013.
And while this is a move that will likely lead to the MAAC bringing in another team and shuffling conference alignment even more, the real question to ask here is: ‘What should we make of the Patriot League now?’
Here me out.
Bucknell is more or less the face of the conference. They’ve won four of the last seven regular season titles and been to three NCAA tournaments in that span. They have also won two games in the Big Dance, which came in 2005 and 2006 and included an upset of three-seed Kansas.
They aren’t the highest-profile team in the conference this season, however. Lehigh is, thanks to their all-american CJ McCollum and their upset of two-seed Duke in last year’s NCAA tournament. Profile doesn’t exactly equal talent level, however, as the Bison bring back their top four scorers from a season ago, including a former conference Player of the Year in big man Mike Muscala. As is, this season should be a banner year for the conference.
And while quite a bit of talent will be graduating once the season comes to a close, it’s easy to see both programs continuing to build on their successes in the future. They may be down in 2013-2014, but both BU and Loyola may end up peaking that season.
Jimmy Patsos has built the Greyhounds into an NCAA tournament team after taking over a program that was putrid when he got the job. He’s a DC guy and a former Maryland assistant, meaning that he’s got connections in one of the most fertile recruiting grounds in the country, recruiting to a local school. If he stays, that program will only continue to improve.
While Loyola is reminiscent of Lehigh, BU is more like Bucknell. They have some history and some tradition, winning league titles and making the NCAA tournament. They’ve produced some talented coaches — Rick Pitino, Mike Jarvis, Pat Chambers.
I’m not saying that the Patriot League will end up being on the same level as the Atlantic 10, or even the CAA. But I don’t think it’s crazy to say that this is a conference that could end up being a threat to send two teams to the tournament every two or three years.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.