Bucknell represented the Patriot League in the NCAA Tournament last season after appearing in the NIT in each of the previous two years due to its conference tournament shortcomings. Now the question is, can anyone in the conference catch the Bison, who return most of their roster.
While Bucknell's Nana Foulland was the Patriot’s Player of the Year, the award could have gone to fellow starting forward Zach Thomas. The 6-foot-7 senior did it all, averaging a team-best 16 points per game as well as 6.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists. Foulland also was the conference's defensive player of the year and made 63 percent of his field-goals as he posted 15.9 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.1 blocks per game.
It helps to have a backcourt of Stephen Brown and Kimbrel Mackenzie chipping in more than 11 points per game apiece. The emergence of 6-foot-8 center Nate Sestina could be what pushes this team over the top. If he can play quality minutes in the post alongside Foulland, it would allow Thomas to play as more of a stretch three, which could give opponents nightmares.
Lehigh was Bucknell's toughest competition in the league last year, but the loss of Tim Kempton, who led the team in scoring and rebounding each of the past three years, makes this team's picture quite murky.
Kempton was such a standout that he was a starter for the Milwaukee Bucks’ NBA Summer League team and, quite frankly, there is nobody who can come even close to his low-post production. The departed 6-foot-9 center averaged 20.4 points and 10.4 rebounds. What it means is the Mountain Hawks will have to try to win with the backcourt duo of Kyle Leufroy and Kahron Ross.
Boston University had another solid season at 18-14. The Terriers have to replace their two double-digit scorers from a season ago in Eric Fanning and Justin Alston. This will cause guard Cedric Hankerson to have to lead the charge as a senior.
Despite some question marks on its roster, Boston should be Bucknell's toughest competitor for the league title.
Colgate, not to be confused with the toothpaste, had a decent end to last season, going 8-10 in Patriot League play, but was brushed away by many teams in their non-conference slate, leaving them with a horrendous 10-22 overall record. Will Rayman was the team's top dog as a scorer last year at 14.6 points per game and did so as a freshman, which means tons of upside for the Raiders.
The Loyola (Maryland) Greyhounds had their best record as a member of the Patriot League a year ago, posting a mark of 16-17. Like a number of other squads in the conference, Loyola did not light the world on fire offensively, averaging 65.9 points per game to rank 320th in D-I college basketball. But point guard Andre Walker will have another big year, after he posted 14.9 points and 3.9 assists per game.
The Patriot’s regular-season title has been won by Bucknell in six of the past seven seasons and there is no reason to bet against it becoming seven of eight. Foulland and Thomas are the two most dominant players in the conference, and the Bison have a shot to be next spring’s Cinderella story.
Greg Peterson’s Patriot League forecast:
4. Loyola (MD)
9. Holy Cross