Monday, October 9, 2006

Patriot League Preview


The Patriot League was one of three conferences that featured an undefeated team at the top of the standings. Bucknell ran the table in conference play, going 14-0, finishing three games ahead of both Holy Cross and Lehigh. The Bison only had four conference games where their margin of victory was less than 10 points and no one came within five points of them. Lehigh lost their final two games and Holy Cross won their last four games to forge a tie for second. The conference tournament was very similar to the regular season, as the Bison won their three games by an average of almost 14 points to run away with the automatic bid. After a second-round appearance two seasons ago, though, they could not repeat an NCAA Tournament win. This season, Bucknell looks like the favorite again, but the gap certainly has closed.

Favorite: As has been the case for the past couple of seasons, Bucknell will come into the season as the main candidate to win the automatic bid for the Patriot. However, with the loss of two starters--including conference Player of the Year Charles Lee--the Bison need some of the role players from last year to step up. The one definite they have is preseason Player of the Year Chris McNaughton. The 6-11 center is a very difficult match-up on the offensive end and should improve his prodction now that he is the go-to-guy. Donald Brown and Darren Mastropaolo also return in the frontcourt. Brown was a key player off the bench and could have a big year this season, while Mastropaolo is a decent all-around player. The backcourt features Abe Badmus, one of the conference's top point guards. He is an excellent passer and defender who needs to develop more as a scorer. John Griffin was a solid performer last year, while All-Rookie selection Jason Vegotsky is an outstanding long-range shooter.

Contenders: Holy Cross, as they have the past few years, will be the main threat to Bucknell heading into the season. The Crusaders are led by the top backcourt in the conference in Keith Simmons and Torey Thomas, two likely all-conference choices. Simmons is an excellent shooter who is one of the top scorers in the Patriot, while Thomas is arguably the best passer and defender in the conference. He is also a solid scorer and a very good rebounder. Up front, Alex Vander Baan returns as a starter. The All-Rookie selection is a decent scorer and rebounder. Tim Clifford is poised for a breakout season. He is the best shot-blocker in the league and really developed over the course of the season. Colin Cunnigham and freshman Andrew Keister will see plenty of minutes in the frontcourt. Lehigh, who tied for second last season with Holy Cross, also has a solid chance to compete for the league title. Jose Olivero, an all-conference guard, leads the way. He is an excellent all-around player who can shoot ball from long-range and fill it up in a hurry. He and all-conference candidate Kyle Neptune form a very good backcourt. Neptune is a good scorer. Freshman Marquis Hall could step into the starting lineup immediately on the perimeter. Bryan White anchors the frontcourt. He contributes as both a scorer and rebounder. Jason Mgebroff will need to increase his production if he wants to start this year. American, although they only went 12-17 last season, could be a darkhorse in the title race. They return all five starters and every key contributor from a year ago. Leading the way is all-conference wing Andre Ingram. He has led the Eagles in scoring each of his first three seasons with the team. Also in the backcourt is Rookie of the Year Derrick Mercer, an explosive point guard who is a very good passer and defender. Linas Lekavicius and Arvydas Eitutavicius man the two-guard spot. Lekavicius is a good all-around player, while Eitutavicius is a big-time scorer off the bench. Garrison Carr is another solid player on the perimeter. Big men Brayden Billbe and Paulius Joneliunas return as a two-headed low post tandem. Both are tall space-eaters who are very good at clearing the glass and getting garbage points down low. Jordan Nichols provides depth.

Sleepers: Colgate returns four starters and could have a huge turnaround from last season's 10-19 season, which ended with a sixth place finish in the Patriot. Kyle Roemer is an all-conference performer who could have an even bigger year this season as he will have the majority of the offense on his back. Joining him on the wing will be guards Daniel Waddy, a transfer from St. Mary's, and returning starter Jon Simon. Simon is a good scorer, while Waddy is expected to make an impact. Up front, twins Kyle and Kendall Chones lead the way. Both are solid forwards who can score and rebound well. Marc Daniels returns as the starter down low. Alex Woodhouse returns from a redshirt season and could see plenty of minutes in the frontcourt. Lafayette will welcome their first scholarship recruiting class, and could make some noise within the league. They have a nice quintet of guards to anchor the perimeter. Bilal Abdullah is the team's leading returning scorer and will up his numbers this season. Marcus Harley is a decent point guard who will likely step into the starting lineup. Jamaal Hilliard and Matt Betley are solid wings who can fill it up and rebound well for their position. Paul Cummins is a very good outside shooter who will see plenty of minutes off the bench this season. Up front, forward Ted Detmer and center Everest Schmidt return as starters. Both aren't dominant scorers or rebounders, but they are solid contributors in both areas.

Rounding Out the Pack: Navy is coming off of a disappointing season, finishing seventh in the conference. They will likely finish in the lower half of the conference again this season, but they won't be a pushover every game. Greg Sprink is one of the more underrated players in the Patriot, as he led the Midshipmen in scoring and rebounding, while also demonstrating he is a capable long-range shooter. Kaleo Kina and Corey Johnson combine with Sprink to comprise a very good perimeter trio. Kina needs to cut down on his turnovers, but he is a productive scorer and a good three-point shooter, while Johnson is a very good all-around player. He will start for his third straight season. Adam Teague and Ben Biles will have to anchor the frontcourt as there are not many capable big men on the roster. Army has won six league games in the past four years and hasn't had a winning season in more than two decades. Don't expect that streak to end this season. However, the Black Knights have one of the better guard combos in the conference in Matt Bell and Jarell Brown. Both are very good outside shooters who are both capable of scoring twenty points on a given night. Marshall Jackson returns as a starter, but Cory Sinning will see minutes on the wing. Corban Bates and Colin Harris will likely start in the frontcourt. They are an undersized forward tandem, but they can both score and rebound at a solid level.

Prediction: Unlike last season, when Bucknell was the clear-cut favorite and head-and-shoulders above every team in the conference, the gap has closed at the top. However, the Bison still look like the team to beat, and should win the automatic bid for the Patriot League. McNaughton is the toughest match-up in the conference, and Pat Flannery is the best coach in the league. Holy Cross will give the a run with their duo of Keith Simmons and Torey Thomas, but the winning tradition at Bucknell will continue this season. Don't expect a #9 seed in the NCAA Tournament, though.

Player of the Year: Chris McNaughton, C, Bucknell

All-Conference Team:
G- Andre Ingram, American
G- Keith Simmons, Holy Cross
G- Torey Thomas, Holy Cross
G- Jose Olivero, Lehigh
C- Chris McNaughton, Bucknell

Second Team:
G- Derrick Mercer, American
G- Kyle Neptune, Lehigh
G- Jarell Brown, Army
G- Greg Sprink, Navy
G- Kyle Roemer, Colgate


  1. Two corrections:

    1. The statement that Bucknell couldn't repeat it's NCAA win is incorrect. They beat Arkansas in the first round of the tournament before losing to #1 seed Memphis in Round 2.

    2. Bucknell's Abe Badmus is clearly better than at least three of the picks for second team All-PL. Some coaches think he is in the top five in the league.

  2. Kyle Roemer an all-leaguer??? LOL!

    He might not even start for Colgate, a second tier team.