By: Greg Levinsky
BOSTON — Despite the losses of stars Eric Fanning and Justin Alston to graduation, the Boston University Men’s Basketball team returns a deep and talented team poised for a long Patriot League run. With a mix of newcomers and younger players developing, Patriot League coaches honored Head Coach Joe Jones and his team by selecting them as the second seed in the 2017-2018 Patriot League Men’s Basketball Preseason Poll.
“I don’t get crazy about the rankings,” Jones said. “Right now we have to worry about us trying to get better everyday.”
Here is a look at this year’s poll with last season’s regular-season finish in parenthesis:
- Bucknell (1)
- Boston University (2)
- Navy (4)
- Lehigh (3)
- Colgate (6)
- Loyola (7)
- Army (8)
- Holy Cross (5)
- American (9)
- Lafayette (10)
No team made a leap larger than two spots from last season’s finish. Navy, Colgate, Loyola and Army all moved up a spot due to Holy Cross shifting to eighth. Lehigh dropped back one spot as the top two teams, Boston University and Bucknell, stood their ground. The bottom two teams, American and Lafayette, were also selected to finish in the same order as a season ago. Bucknell received 18 first-place votes; BU picked up the remaining two.
The Biston won last season’s conference championship and return all five of their starters. Needless to say, the Bison are again the team to beat in the Patriot League.
Bucknell’s Nana Foulland earned the Patriot League Preseason Player of the Year after being selected as last season’s Postseason Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year.
Classmate and fellow Bison, forward Zach Thomas joins Foulland on Patriot League Preseason All-League Team along with senior guards Kahron Ross (Lehigh), Andre Walker (Loyola Maryland) and Shawn Anderson (Navy).
The Terriers have the potential to outlast Bucknell, but a lack of size may hurt their chances. Jones and company have undeniable depth at the wing positions, but, with the loss of junior starting point guard Kyle Foreman, may struggle in the early going. Read predictions for the team here.
Navy returns four of its starters, including second-team All-League senior guard Shawn Anderson (12.2 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 3.2 APG) and senior forward Tom Lacey (7.6 PPG, 7.8 RPG). The Midshipmen, led by decorated coach Ed DeChellis, surrendered the second-fewest points per game last season, and will continue to be a defense-first squad.
“They beat us the second time here in our own gym last year,” Jones said of the Mids. “They play really hard and they have good depth.”
Following the graduation of two-time Patriot League Player of the Year Tim Kempton, the Lehigh Mountain Hawks took a subtle step back, yet return senior guard Kahron Ross, who led the team in assists a season ago. Junior guard Kyle Leufroy (11.4 PPG) returns as the team’s leading scorer for a Mountain Hawks squad that added Lance Tejada, a transfer from East Carolina.
Will Rayman, last year’s Patriot League Rookie of the Year (14.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG) leads a Colgate Red Raiders team that returns all five of its starters. Another year of development under Matt Langel will help them to take the next step.
The pick-and-roll due of Andre Walker (14.9 PPG, 3.9 APG) and Cam Gregory (9.9 PPG, 7.6 RPG) return for a Loyola Maryland squad that retains most of its talent from 2016-2017. The Greyhounds will struggle to replace the production of the now-graduated Jared Jones (14.7 PPG, 6.5 RPG), who contributed over one block and steal per game.
Last year, Army West Point had a new starting lineup. This year, they’ll again be a young team. Junior Jordan Fox (12.8 PPG) will continue to see an increased role, as now four of five starters return for the Black Knights.
Holy Cross dropped the most of any Patriot League team due to the graduation of leading scorers Robert Champion (13.5 PPG) and Malachi Alexander (13.3 PPG). Six-foot-six junior forward Karl Charles (9.4 PPG) returns as the top threat for Holy Cross after scoring in double figures 15 times last season.
Down the coast, sophomore guard Sa’eed Nelson looks to build off a spectacular rookie season for the American Eagles (14.9 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 2.4 SPG). Classmate and forward Mark Gasperini also will be counted on (11.7 PPG, 4.2 RPG).
Lafayette maintains a young roster with eight of its 13 players either freshmen or sophomores. Senior forward Matt Klinewski (16.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG) paces the Leopards as the only returning player to start more than 20 games last season.
“The better teams in the league always have upperclassmen,” Jones said of a senior-laden talent pool in the conference. “Older guys tend to be ready to play.”
In 2017-2018, the Terriers will look to their five seniors to help lead them to their first Patriot League Regular Season Title in four seasons. BU will kick off conference play on December 29 when they play host to Army West Point at Case Gym.