By: Hannah Yoshinaga and Ethan Fuller
Featured image courtesy of Colgate Athletics.
With the non-conference portion of the season coming to a close, Patriot League teams are taking stock of how they’ve played so far and preparing for their first conference games on Thursday. There is a glut of teams at the top of the conference, although Colgate and Holy Cross certainly seem favored to make their first appearances in the Patriot League Championship game in several years. Lehigh and 2018-19 Patriot League Champion Bucknell also figure to factor into the playoff race.
In this preseason edition of the Patriot League Women’s Basketball Power Rankings, we’re taking a look at how each team played in their non-conference matchups and how they project to do in conference play.
WTBU’s Ethan Fuller and Hannah Yoshinaga evaluated the teams’ performances and contributed the following rankings.
Colgate University (8-3)
The Raiders have claimed the top spot in these rankings out of nowhere after being picked sixth in the Patriot League’s preseason poll. They started 2019-20 on a five-game winning streak, and while the team has come back to earth a bit, they still have demonstrated impressive consistency. Rachel Thompson appears ready to challenge Holy Cross’ Lauren Manis for conference Player of the Year. The Raiders’ senior is putting up nearly 16 points per game while grabbing 8.1 rebounds and swiping 3.2 steals. Her leadership can keep momentum up through PL play. — Ethan Fuller
This week: January 2 at American, January 5 vs. Army
Holy Cross (7-4)
Holy Cross has the best offense in the Patriot League and the competition isn’t close. The Crusaders live and die by their three-point shooting, which is the best in Division I basketball. Four players are shooting over 40 percent from deep while averaging at least 2.7 attempts per game. Their defense hasn’t been as stellar as their offense and they are allowing opponents to score 67.4 points per game. However, they still have the length and athleticism to put up a fight on defense, and they have the offensive firepower to outscore opponents anyways. — Hannah Yoshinaga
This week: January 2 at Loyola MD, January 4 at Navy
Bucknell University (7-4)
A spectacular start to Trevor Woodruff’s coaching tenure saw the Bison reach a five-game win streak before dropping their most recent matchup against Stony Brook. Bucknell is thriving in large part due to their scoring versatility. Led by steady senior Ellie Mack, four players are averaging double-digit points, and two of them — Mack and junior Tessa Brugler — have eclipsed 50 percent shooting. Bucknell faced a fairly easy schedule, but this veteran team knows how to win in the Patriot League — just look at last year’s performance. — Ethan Fuller
This week: January 2 at Army, January 5 vs. Lafayette
4. Lehigh University (8-3)
The Mountain Hawks have taken advantage of their relatively soft schedule to establish themselves on defense. They’ve allowed more than 60 points in only four games so far this season. Their best defensive work is on the perimeter, where opponents’ three-point shooting percentage is only 29 percent. Offense has been more of an issue for Lehigh. If they were as good at hitting threes as they are at guarding them, that might be a different story, but Lehigh is instead shooting a dismal 28.4 percent from beyond the arc. — Hannah Yoshinaga
This week: January 2 vs. Navy, January 5 at Loyola MD
5. Naval Academy (5-6)
Navy leads a neck-and-neck middle tier of the Patriot League. Despite losing their last three games, the Mids hold the fifth spot in these rankings thanks to an upset of Clemson and a dominating performance in their Navy Classic. Patriot League All-Rookie honoree Jennifer Coleman has continued her excellence as a sophomore, upping her three-point efficiency by nearly eight percentage points while leading the team in scoring. Navy has a hold on fifth place for now, but any of the next three teams could swipe it in a week.
This week: January 2 at Lehigh, January 4 vs. Holy Cross
6. Boston University (5-6)
What a journey it has been for the Terriers, who started out 3-1 before dropping five straight contests followed by two routs of Dartmouth and Northeastern. The inexperience on BU’s roster is evident, but four prominent freshmen have shown flashes throughout non-conference. The major development recently has been the lights-out shooting of point guard Katie Nelson. The junior has caught fire from deep in her last two games, making 13 of 19 triples, and scored a career-high 29 points in the Terriers’ last win. Her presence as a scorer along with her passing acumen opens up a lot of options for BU’s offense. — Ethan Fuller
This week: January 2 at Lafayette, January 5 vs. American
7. Lafayette College (4-6)
Lafayette overtakes American because Natalie Kucowski just keeps dominating. The junior most recently put up a ridiculous 20 points, 17 rebounds and four blocks in a loss to UMBC, and while her scoring has seen a slight downtick, Kucowski’s 47.8 percent clip from long range is a daunting addition to her game. But outside of the 6-3 forward, Lafayette is struggling. The Leopards have lost their last three and have not won in over a month. As a team they shoot just 31 percent from the floor and commit nearly 18 turnovers per game. Kucowski is keeping the Leopards afloat — for now. — Ethan Fuller
This week: January 2 vs. BU, January 5 at Bucknell
8. American University (4-6)
Inconsistency has been a theme for the Eagles, who haven’t been able to put up consistent performances on offense or defense all season. Their 28.7 percent three-point shooting has made it difficult for them to outscore opponents, although their interior scoring is much better. A large part of their offense and defense relies on junior guard Indeya Sanders, who is averaging eight points per game and has put up almost as many blocks by herself as some other Patriot League teams. The production is nice, but it could spell trouble for the Eagles, because they cannot depend on the rest of their roster week in and week out. — Hannah Yoshinaga
This week: January 2 vs. Colgate, January 5 at BU
9. Loyola University Maryland (3-8)
Loyola’s non-conference schedule was not kind to them. They had matchups against Notre Dame, Northwestern, and 12th-ranked Maryland, all of which were blowouts. The Greyhounds put up some solid performances in their other games, ending the semester with a decisive win over Monmouth on December 20. Most of their struggles have come on offense — especially from three — but they can steal the ball and guard the perimeter. Defense will be key for them moving forward because they’re averaging 18 turnovers per game. — Hannah Yoshinaga
This week: January 2 vs. Holy Cross, January 5 vs. Lehigh
10. Army West Point (4-7)
Army’s offense has underwhelmed and they’ve reached 70 points in only two games. They needed overtime to beat Fairleigh Dickinson and Liberty International, and their only other wins were against scuffling Air Force and Bryant squads. Army hasn’t shown up on the other end of the floor either. The Black Knights have given up fewer than 66 points only once all season and they have very little defensive presence inside the arc. — Hannah Yoshinaga
This week: January 2 vs. Bucknell, January 5 at Colgate