Reigning Patriot League MVP Tim Kempton (above) and the Mountain Hawks are the preseason favorites. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
CoBL Staff (@hooplove215)
(Ed. Note: This article is part of CoBL's 2015-16 College Season Preview, which will run from October 2-November 13, the first day of games. For the complete rundown, click here)
The word that defined the 2014-15 Patriot League season was “parity.”
Only three games separated third place Lehigh from ninth-place Loyola (Md.), and neither of the league’s top two teams--Bucknell and Colgate--made it to the league final, which saw Lafayette defeat American for the Leopards’ first title since 2000.
In what should be another close year from top to bottom, it’s very possible that none of the four programs above will win a regular-season or Patriot League tournament championship, with a number of other programs that have plenty of reasons to believe they’ll finish at the top.
Here’s our thoughts on how the 2015-16 Patriot League will sort out; to see how coaches within the league see it going, click here:
Preseason All-Patriot League First Team
Chris Hass (16.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg)--Sr., Bucknell
Tim Kempton (15.3 ppg, 8.7 rpg)--Jr., Lehigh
Nick Lindner (12.5 ppg, 5.2 apg)--Jr., Lafayette
Jesse Reed (14.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg)--Sr., American
Kyle Wilson (17.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg)--Sr., Army
1. Lehigh Mountain Hawks
Coach: Brett Reed, 9th season (145-105, .580)
Last Year: 16-14 (10-8 Patriot), lost in Patriot League quarterfinal (American, 68-62)
Key Departures: Corey Schaefer (4.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg), Miles Simelton (3.7 ppg, 1.3 apg)
Key Returnees: Tim Kempton (15.3 ppg, 8.7 rpg), Kahron Ross (10.4 ppg, 5.8 apg), Austin Price (11.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg)
Key Newcomers: Kyle Leufroy (Freshman), Matt Holba (Freshman), Caleb Sedore (Freshman)
Outlook: Perhaps the most talented starting five in the entire Patriot League belongs to Reed, led by the defending league Player of the Year (Kempton) and Rookie of the Year (Ross). Kempton is a 6-11 junior forward and Ross is a 5-11 sophomore point guard, and the two combine for one of the more difficult-to-guard pick-and-rolls in college basketball. Their position atop the league would be stronger if it weren’t for a season-ending injury to Brandon Alston, a 6-5 sophomore wing who averaged 4.9 ppg in a reserve role last year. His injury and Simelton’s transfer means Devon Carter, who averaged 4.3 minutes in 17 games last year, might have to jump right into a starting role.
2. Boston University Terriers
Coach: Joe Jones, 5th season (70-57, .551)
Last Year: 13-17 (9-9 Patriot), lost in Patriot League quarterfinals (Lafayette, 89-64)
Key Departures: N/A
Key Returnees: Cedric Hankerson (15.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg), Eric Fanning (12.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg), Nate Dieudonne (9.7 ppg, 7.4 rpg), John Papale (9.2 ppg, 3.4 apg)
Key Newcomers: Brandon Johnson (Freshman), Kyle Foreman (Freshman), Kamali Chambers (Freshman)
Outlook: Things were looking very good for the Terriers in this season, but there’s some uncertainty now after Hankerson tore his ACL in the spring. He’s expected back during the season, but it’ll be tough for him to be 100 percent so soon after the injury. That might mean an increased role for sophomore Cheddi Mosely, a Jersey native who averaged 8.6 ppg while hitting nearly 40 percent from 3-point range as a freshman. Even without Hankerson, BU is still one of the most athletic and more experienced teams in the Patriot League, and should be right in the mix for a title.
3. Bucknell Bison
Coach: Nathan Davis, 1st season (0-0, .---)
Last Year: 19-15 (13-5 Patriot), lost in Patriot League semifinals (Lafayette, 80-74), lost in NIT first round (Temple, 73-67)
Key Departures: J.C. Show (6.9 ppg, 1.6 rpg), Steven Kaspar (5.1 ppg, 3.6 apg)
Key Returnees: Chris Hass (16.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg), Nana Foulland (10.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg), Zach Thomas (7.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg)
Key Newcomers: Nate Sestina (Freshman), Nate Jones (Freshman), Kimbal Mackenzie (Freshman), Matt O’Reilly (Freshman)
Outlook: The biggest loss for Bucknell this offseason was in the coaching department, with Dave Paulsen leaving after a very successful seven-year run for the same gig at George Mason. Davis, a former Bucknell assistant (2003-08) had plenty of success of his own in six years at D-III Randolph-Macon (Va.), where he led the Yellow Jackets to the NCAA Tournament every single year. He’s got plenty to work with, starting with Hass, a 6-5 senior, plus some very impressive sophomores including the 6-9 Foulland and 6-6 Thomas, both of whom had better-than-expected freshman years. If all goes well, the Bison shouldn’t miss a beat from the prior regime.
4. Army Black Knights
Coach: Zach Spiker, 7th season (83-98, .459)
Last Year: 15-15 (6-12 Patriot), lost in Patriot League first round (Navy, 56-52)
Key Departures: Tanner Omlid (6.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg)
Key Returnees: Kyle Wilson (17.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg), Tanner Plomb (15.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg), Dylan Cox (10.1 ppg, 4.8 apg), Kevin Ferguson (9.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg)
Key Newcomers: TBD
Outlook: The majority of the 22 (not a typo) players who appeared in a game for the Black Knights last year have returned, including a top four listed above that led the team in every major category; the only departure of any significance from the rotation was Omlid, a junior guard who missed most of last season with a knee injury and transferred to a school closer to his Oregon roots. Aside from that, this is largely the same team that went 10-8 in league play two years ago. With a class of 10 freshmen joining a roster that was already 17-deep, including a seven-man senior class that will form the bulk of playing time, it’s unclear if any of them will get a chance to make any significant contributions.
5. Loyola Greyhounds
Coach: G.G. Smith, 3rd season (22-38, .367)
Last Year: 11-19 (7-11 Patriot), lost in Patriot League first round (Holy Cross, 62-45)
Key Departures: Denzil Brito (5.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg)
Key Returnees: Eric Laster (10.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg), Tyler Hubbard (10.8 ppg, 1.9 rpg), Andre Walker (10.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg)
Key Newcomers: James Fives (Freshman), Nevell Provo (Freshman)
Outlook: Experience wins in this league, and with eight of their top nine back it would make sense that the Greyhounds will take a step forward in their third year in the league. While seniors Laster, Hubbard and Franz Rassman (8.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg) all return as starters, the team’s success might hinge on the development of Walker. The 6-0 guard from New York shot just 32 percent overall last year and had an assist-to-turnover ratio below one; if he can develop into a much more efficient guard this year, the Greyhounds could really make some noise. Cam Gregory, a 6-8 sophomore, averaged 6.8 ppg and 7.0 rpg in 25 minutes as a freshman.
Nick Lindner (above) is one of two returning starters from last year's Patriot League champions. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
6. Lafayette Leopards
Coach: Fran O’Hanlon, 21st season (288-309, .482)
Last Year: 20-13 (9-9 Patriot), won Patriot League title (American, 65-63), lost in NCAA Tournament Round of 64 (Villanova, 93-52)
Key Departures: Seth Hinrichs (13.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg), Dan Trist (17.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg), Joey Ptasinski (9.4 ppg, 2.7 rpg)
Key Returnees: Nick Lindner (12.5 ppg, 5.2 apg), Bryce Scott (8.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg), Zach Rufer (3.1 ppg, 1.8 rpg)
Key Newcomers: Auston Evans (Freshman), Tyler Barlow (Freshman), Paulius Zalys (Freshman)
Outlook: After taking home the Patriot League crown in March, Lafayette has their work cut out for them if they intend to have any shot at going back-to-back, having received the 6th rank in the league’s preseason poll. Losing three seniors, including one 2014-15 all-conference first team selection in Dan Trist and a 1500-point scorer in Hinrichs, definitely hurt the Leopards, but the return of Nick Lindner, who played a huge role in Lafayette’s thrilling Patriot League championship victory, is definitely cause for excitement in Easton. Lindner, a 5-11 junior from Germantown Academy and the PL tournament MVP, will have the team on his back this season.
7. American Eagles
Coach: Mike Brennan, 3rd season (37-29, .561)
Last Year: 17-16 (8-10 Patriot), lost in Patriot League championship (Lafayette, 65-63)
Key Departures: Darius Gardner (10.5 ppg, 3.9 apg), John Schoof (12.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg)
Key Returnees: Jesse Reed (14.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg), Charlie Jones (8.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg)
Key Newcomers: Leon Tolksdorf (Transfer)
Outlook: America’s appeared in the last two Patriot League title games, an impressive feat for Brennan’s first two years as a Division I head coach. He’s going to have to work some magic to make it three, considering the graduation of Gardner, a dynamic 5-9 point guard, plus the team’s second-leading scorer in Schoof. It’s easy to prove that Gardner had a direct effect on American’s win total over the last few years: after all, he hit three game-winning shots alone this past season, all during January. This is a team that only went 8-10 in Patriot League play last year, and now they have big pieces to replace, so they’ll have to prove they belong in the upper half.
8. Holy Cross Crusaders
Coach: Bill Carmody, 1st season (0-0, .---)
Last Year: 14-16 (8-10 Patriot League), lost in Patriot League quarterfinal (Bucknell, 90-83 OT)
Key Departures: Malcolm Miller (14.5 ppg, 4.9 rpg), Justin Burrell (9.7 ppg, 4.1 apg), Mitchell Hahn (4.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg),
Key Returnees: Malachi Alexander (8.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg), Eric Green (6.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg), Anthony Thompson (5.9 ppg, 2.0 apg)
Key Newcomers: Karl Charles (Freshman), Jehyve Floyd (Freshman), Matt Zignorski (Freshman)
Outlook: After taking a step back from a 20-win season in 2013-14, Crusaders head coach Milan Brown was relieved of his duties five years into his tenure. The new boss is Carmody, who was last in charge of Northwestern from 2000-13, where he led the Wildcats to 20-win seasons in 2009-10 and 2010-11 but couldn’t quite get them into their first-ever NCAA Tournament. His Princeton-style offense will be a big adjustment for the Crusaders from Brown’s uptempo style, and with quite a few pieces to replace as well this might be the biggest question mark in the whole league. It’s a talented freshman class though, led by a trio of New Jersey natives listed above; Charles, a 6-5 wing from Rutgers Prep, could be the best of the bunch.
9. Colgate Raiders
Coach: Matt Langel, 5th season (48-78, .381)
Last Year: 16-17 (12-6 Patriot), lost in Patriot League semifinals (American, 73-62)
Key Departures: Damon Sherman-Newsome (14.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg), Ethan Jacobs (12.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg), Luke Roh (9.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg)
Key Returnees: Austin Tillotson (10.7 ppg, 4.1 apg)
Key Newcomers: David Krmpotich (Freshman), Dana Batt (Freshman), Jordan Swopshire (Transfer), Tom Rivard (Transfer)
Outlook: It’s certainly shaping up to be a retooling year for Langel and the Raiders, who lost four out of five starters and a few others from last year’s team, the most successful in Colgate’s 24 years in the Patriot League. The only starter left is Tillotson, a senior point guard who’s going to have to play close to every minute to help out a team with six freshmen and four sophomores on the roster. After him, the next leading returner is another senior, reserve guard Alex Ramon, who’s likely going to start after averaging 2.7 ppg as a junior in his first year of significant contribution. Krmpotich, a 6-7 La Salle HS grad, had a strong showing in the team’s trip to Spain in August.
10. Navy Midshipmen
Coach: Ed Dechellis, 5th season (33-89, .270)
Last Year: 13-19 (8-10 Patriot), lost in Patriot League quarterfinals (Colgate, 72-62)
Key Departures: Worth Smith (14.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg), Brandon Venturini (12.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg)
Key Returnees: Tilman Dunbar (9.1 ppg, 3.3 apg), Will Kelly (6.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg), Edward Alade (5.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg)
Key Newcomers: N/A
Outlook: The Midshipmen graduated their leading two scorers last year in Smith and Venturini, meaning their returning experience exists at point guard (Dunbar) and at center, with both Alade and Kelly standing at 6-9. Similar to Army, Navy has 10 freshmen on its roster, including Valley Forge Military Academy’s Aaron Still-Lock and Trinity’s Dom Antonelli. Shawn Anderson, a 6-4 sophomore from New Castle (Pa.), averaged 4.3 ppg in 16.1 mpg last year, and along with junior guard Zach Fong (4.7 ppg) should take a big step up in production. By no means is this group far behind those ranked above it, and could easily finish in the 5-7 range.