Levinsky’s Patriot League Men’s Basketball Preseason Power Rankings

patriot-leagueBy: Greg Levinsky

We’re just a couple of short weeks away from the Patriot League 2018-19 basketball season. The Bucknell Bison look to win their third-straight conference title and trip to the NCAA Tournament, but there are many teams with the potential to stop them. Let’s take a look at each of the Patriot League’s 10 men’s basketball teams and rank them.

10. Loyola (Maryland) 

Andre Walker torched every team in the Patriot League multiple times in his career, and his graduation leaves a gaping hole for the Greyhounds. First-year head coach Tavaras Hardy inherits a team that went 9-22 last year and lost arguably its two best players in Walker (15.8 PPG) and Cam Gregory (10.6 PPG, 8.2 RPG). Junior guards Andrew Kostecka (11.0 PPG, All-Defensive Team) and Chuck Champion (11.5 PPG) along with sophomore Isaiah Hart (10.3 PPG) form a decent back court, but they will have trouble matching up with size. There is little depth after those three, too.

9. Navy 

With three of their top five scorers graduating including First-Team All-Patriot Leaguer Shawn Anderson, the Mids will rely heavily on the play of seniors Hasan Abdullah (9.9 PPG)  and George Kiernan (9.8 PPG). Abdullah, a 6-foot guard, is one of the better defenders in the conference and led the Patriot League with 2.2 steals per game. Kiernan, a 6-foot-7 forward, came off the bench in all but two of his 30 appearances last year. After Abdullah and Kiernan experience is an issue for Ed DeChellis’ squad, as no other returners played at least 20 minutes per game and will have to replace nearly all of their off-ball wing attack.

8. Lafayette 

After winning the Patriot League Rookie of the Year last season, sophomore Alex Petrie (15.9 PPG, All-PL 3rd Team) looks to build off a tremendous freshman season. The loss of 6-foot-8 stretch-forward Matt Klinewski (16.4 PPG, 5.9 RPG) is a major one, as Petrie will see additional focus from opposing defenses. Fellow sophomore Justin Jaworski (10.8 points per game) joins Petrie in the backcourt. With a team made up of nine underclassmen, it’s a development year for head coach Fran O’Hanlon.

7. Army 

No Cadets garnered post-season awards for their efforts last year, but they have a solid core returning for the 2018-19 campaign. Senior Jordan Fox (13.7 PPG) led the team in scoring a season ago, and junior Tommy Funk (10.8 PPG, 5.7 APG) is one of the league’s top playmaking guards. Six-foot-eight sophomore forward Alex King (9.3 PPG) proved a bench asset last year and will likely jump into a starting role this season. Junior Matt Wilson led the Black Knights in scoring during conference play at 12.2 points per game to round out a solid group of returners.

6. American

Junior Sa’eed Nelson returns as the league’s most dynamic guard. Although the Eagles struggled last year to a 6-24 mark, including an anemic 3-15 in conference play, Nelson’s 18.6 points per game returns as the league’s high. The Second-Team All-Patriot League Honoree should continue his growth with sophomore running mate Sam Iorio (14.9 PPG, 6.5 RPG). The duo could make up one of the best one-two punches in the Patriot League. Larry Motuzis (14.6 PPG) returns after a strong junior season, and the Eagles return all of their rotation players from last year. Junior Marc Gasperini should provide a boost down low. He missed his sophomore season due to injury, but will be healthy for this season. The burly 6-foot-10, 245 pounder averaged 11.7 points and 4.2 rebounds per game as a true freshman, and adds some needed muscle to an otherwise wing-heavy roster.

5. Holy Cross 

Of the few players with true NBA potential in the Patriot League, Crusaders senior forward Jehyve Floyd is undoubtedly one of them. The conference’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2017-18, the 6-foot-8 Floyd (12.2 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.2 BPG) doesn’t post gaudy numbers, but his impact on any given game is incalculable. A freakish athlete, Floyd shot nearly 66 percent from the field. Sophomore guards Austin Butler (9.8 PPG), Jacob Grandison (9.0 PPG) and Caleb Green (8.9 PPG) will create space for Floyd to work in the post. Senior guard Patrick Benzan notched a double-digit scoring outing in the Crusaders’ conference quarterfinal win over Navy and provides strong leadership for the young guard trio.

4. Colgate 

Reigning Patriot League Head Coach of the Year Matt Lengel gets his leading scorer back in junior forward Will Raymond (14.6 PPG, 6.7 RPG) and top guard in sophomore Jordan Burns (11.9 PPG, All-Rookie Team). The Raiders went 19-14 overall with a 12-6 record in conference play and ultimately found themselves within one game of the NCAA Tournament. Multi-year starters Sean O’Brien (10.7 PPG, 3.6 APG ) and Jordan Swopshire (12.0 PPG) are gone, but Raymond and Burns are on an upward trajectory. Dana Batt, a 6-foot-9 senior center, also returns after starting in all of Colgate’s 33 games last year. Senior forward Malcolm Regisford (4.9 PPG, 4.2 RPG in just is 14.7 MPG) was a spark off the bench that may start.

3. Boston University 

BU’s Walter Whyte gets ready for his second season with the Terriers.

BU returns four starters including All-Rookie Teamer, sophomore Walter Whyte (9.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG), and Second-Team All-Patriot League selection, junior Max Mahoney (12.9 PPG, 60.1 FG%). Junior Tyler Scanlon elevated his game in conference play last year, amassing averages of 12.5 points, and team-leading 6.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. Redshirt freshman and Texas Tech transfer Alex Vilarino should slot into an important point guard role and share duties with sophomore Javante McCoy (8.9 PPG) . Eighth-year head coach Joe Jones has a young team, but one with ample experience. There is just one senior on the roster, but Jones has put together a team with many players to battle for playing time. Mahoney is evolving into one of the league’s best bigs, and should be helped by the arrival of 6-foot-9 freshman Jack Hemphill and 6-foot-8 freshman Jordan Guest.

2. Bucknell

Yes, they lost their top three players. Yes, two of those players were conference players of the year and the third was the best point guard in the league. Doesn’t matter. Head coach Nathan Davis has a team ready for a deep run in the Patriot League once again. Senior guard Kimbal MacKenzie (8.3 PPG) is a seasoned veteran. Senior Nate Sestina (6.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG) is a player poised for a breakout season. Playing behind Zach Thomas (20.5 PPG) and Nana Foulland (15.2 PPG) who dominated the ball on nearly every offensive possession, Sestina waited in the wings and should blossom this year. He scored 16 points in the Patriot League Title Game last year. Juniors Bruce Moore (5.6 PPG) and Avi Toomer (4.7 PPG) along with sophomore Jimmy Sotos (4.8 PPG) showed flashes when given opportunity. Incoming recruits Walter Ellis and Andrew Funk, Army’s Tommy Funk’s younger brother, should contribute right away.

1. Lehigh 

Dr. Brett Reed’s team returns studs at each position. Senior Lance Tejada (14.7 PPG) earned Second-Team All-Patriot League honors in his first season in the league after transferring from East Carolina. Point guard Kahron Ross was a big loss, but Tejada and classmate Kyle Leufroy (10 PPG, 4.9 RPG) make up a top-flight guard combo. Junior Pat Andree (12.6 PPG, 5.8 RPG) shot 42.9 percent from 3-point range last year and is an inside-out threat with his 6-foot-8 frame. Sophomore James Karnik (7.1 PPG, 6.5 RPG) started at center as a true freshman, and he’ll be backed up by 6-foot-10, 255 pound freshman Nic Lynch, a three-star recruit. They could start a lineup with three players taller than 6-foot-8 and still have 3-point shooting with Andree, Leufroy and Tejada. Andree and Tejada both performed better in conference play, and the Mountain Hawks appear to be built with the size and experience to navigate towards an NCAA Tournament bid.

The Bucknell Bison lost a lot, but are certainly reloaded. However, they are more vulnerable than in the past three seasons. There is great parity in the Patriot League this year, and the unpredictability will be rather enjoyable.

Greg Levinsky can be reached at glevinsk@bu.edu. Follow him on Twitter @GregLevinsky

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