RTC Summer Updates: Patriot LeaguePosted by Brian Goodman on August 18th, 2011
With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our Patriot League correspondent, Kevin Doyle.
- Colgate Cleans House —After posting just three winning seasons in his 12 seasons as the head man for the Raiders, Emmett Davis and his staff were released of their duties following the 2010-11 campaign. Davis never reached the postseason while at Colgate and his most successful season came in 2007-08, when he led the Raiders to the conference tournament final against American. As Davis moves on to an assistant job with the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, Matt Langel will make the journey to Hamilton to lead Colgate. A 2000 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, this will be Langel’s first job as a head coach, following a stint as one of Fran Dunphy’s lead assistants at Temple. By the looks of it, the Colgate coaching staff may very well be the youngest in the country as Langel—at just 33 years of age—is the oldest of the four coaches.
- Two Top 100 Players—It is not all too often that the Patriot League can say they boast two of the better players in the country, but our friends over at Basketball Prospectus seem to think that Bucknell’s Mike Muscala and Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum are among the nation’s best. Muscala checked in at #82, while McCollum is #56.
- C.J. McCollum Does Lehigh Proud—To continue the praise for McCollum, the rising junior from Canton, Ohio, was awarded the opportunity to try out for Team USA, currently competing in the World University Games in China. At only 19 years of age, McCollum was the youngest player to audition for the team. Although he was not fortunate enough to earn a spot on the roster, he did earn some nice praise from the coaching staff.
- Billy Lange Departs for Villanova, Ed DeChellis In at Navy—In one of the most intriguing moves of the summer, former Penn State head coach Ed DeChellis elected to leave the Nittany Lions in favor of Navy. That is right, Navy. On the surface, this was a real shocker. How could a Patriot League bottom-dweller steal a head coach from a Big Ten squad coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance? It is purely speculation, but DeChellis ostensibly felt that his job at Penn State was not secure and that he would be joining the line of unemployment in the near future. Even with the NCAA appearance last season and winning the NIT in 2009, DeChellis compiled a less-than-stellar Big Ten record of 41-95 during his eight-year tenure. With graduation claiming the bulk of Penn State’s talent, next year looks awfully ominous for the Nittany Lions. In recent years, multiple reports have surfaced questioning Penn State’s level of commitment to its college basketball team, so perhaps all DeChellis was looking for was adequate support behind him.
- Patriot, ESPN Part Ways For CBS—The Patriot League and ESPN elected not to renew the WWL’s coverage of the conference’s championship game, with the league agreeing to a deal instead with the CBS Sports Network. Multiple Patriot League sports will be carried by the network. From a basketball outlook, CBS will carry a total of 12 regular season and conference tournament games . In past years, ESPN2 has traditionally televised the Patriot League Championship on Friday evening, but it appears that the championship will now be moved to another date and time with the partnership with the CBS Sports Network.
- Pat Flannery Enters Bucknell Hall of Fame—Former Bucknell basketball standout in the late 1970s and one of the most successful head coaches in the history of Bison basketball, Pat Flannery was recently inducted into the Bucknell Athletics Hall of Fame. A 1980 graduate, Flannery captained the Bison in the 1979-80 season and went on to coach his alma mater for 14 years compiling an overall record of 329-221. He is most remembered for leading Bucknell to one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history, when the 14–seed Bison knocked off the Kansas Jayhawks in the 2005 Tournament.
- Stephen Lumpkins Forgoes Senior Season—No, Lumpkins is not passing on his senior season at American in favor of the NBA, but rather Major League Baseball. Standing 6’8″ and possessing a cannon for a left arm, Lumpkins was a very appealing prospect for major league clubs. The Kansas City Royals scooped up Lumpkins in the 13th round. It was viewed as something of a risk by some scouts, as the California native has not played organized baseball in two years—American does not even have a baseball program—but his potential and athleticism are two of Lumpkins biggest upsides that make him an intriguing prospect on the diamond.
Projected Starting Five: PG Cameron Ayers, G Bryson Johnson, F Bryan Cohen, F Joe Willman, C Mike Muscala
It took two subpar years for Bucknell basketball to find success under the tutelage of Dave Paulsen, but the Bison appear to have turned the corner and are back atop the Patriot League where they once were with former coach Pat Flannery. Bucknell returns virtually all of the pieces that captured the Patriot League crown and earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament last year. Reigning Player of the Year Mike Muscala returns for his junior season, sharpshooter Bryson Johnson—one of the best spot-up shooters in the country—will roam beyond the arc, and the serviceable Joe Willman complements Muscala nicely on the inside. The lone question mark is who will replace Daryl Shazier at the point guard position. As good as Muscala was for Bucknell last year, Shazier was the most valuable part of that team—as Shazier went, so did Bucknell. Cameron Ayers is the leading candidate to take over for Shazier, and if he is able to fill the void at point guard Bucknell is poised to win their second straight league title.
Projected Starting Five: PG Mackey McKnight, G C.J. McCollum, F Jordan Hamilton, F Gabe Knutson, F Holden Greiner
Here is a scary thought for the rest of the Patriot League: C.J. McCollum is only halfway through his college career, and his best years are yet to come. Brett Reed struck gold with McCollum—you think a Big East or Atlantic 10 team would have any qualms having him come off their bench?—and Lehigh basketball has reaped the benefits. Being one of the ultimate team games that basketball is, McCollum cannot do it all by himself, although he may come close. The supporting cast for McCollum should be improved this year as Mackey McKnight has a full season of college ball under his belt and Gabe Knutson is developing into one of the league’s best big men. With all that being said, maybe the best thing that the Mountain Hawks have going for them as they prepare for the 2011-12 campaign is they very bitter and sour taste that was left in their collective mouths following a loss to Bucknell in the Patriot League semifinals. In a very controversial no-call in the game’s final seconds, C.J. McCollum appeared to have been fouled by Bucknell’s Mike Muscala, but the official swallowed the whistle and that was all she wrote. You be the judge of the play (apologies for the poor video quality) Foul or no foul? You can bet what transpired at the end of this game is a great motivating tool for the coaching staff and team during the offseason.
3. Holy Cross
Projected Starting Five: PG Justin Burrell, G Devin Brown, F R.J. Evans, F Mike Cavataio, C Phil Beans
One thing is absolutely certain heading into the season: Holy Cross will have a stable and steady coaching staff. Three years ago, Ralph Willard and Co. had their last season on “The Hill” that concluded a successful run that saw four NCAA Tournament bids and an NIT victory over Notre Dame. Two years ago, Sean Kearney took over the program after Willard abruptly left to assist a longtime friend at Louisville—we all know who this man is. The Kearney experiment failed miserably, and Milan Brown was brought on with the hope of bringing back the days of winning under Willard. (Just as an aside, Devin Brown has had five different coaches in five years. How many players out there can say that?) There was not a whole lot of winning last season, but year number two may bring different results. R.J. Evans—the 2007-08 Patriot League Rookie of the Year—is back and healthy after missing much of last season with a foot injury, and incoming freshman Justin Burrell should provide some much needed stability and help at the point guard position. Add one of the most dominant scorers in the league with Devin Brown and do-it-all player Mike Cavataio, and Holy Cross certainly does not have a dearth of talent. If there is not marked progress made based upon last year’s disappointing 8-21 season—one of the worst in program history—you can rest assured the rumblings in ‘Sader Nation will continue to grow.
Projected Starting Five: PG Mitch Rolls, G Mike Venezia, F Sterling Melville, F Yaw Gyawu, C Nick Pascale
Emmett Davis left the program, but not much else did for the Raiders. Aside from losing the services of guard Joe Hoban, Colgate returns nearly the rest of their squad that saw drastic improvement in the second half of the season as they finished 6-8 after getting out to a cringing 1-15 start. The big news of the offseason up in New York was obviously the departure of Davis and hiring of Matt Langel. There is little doubt in the minds of keen Patriot League followers that Colgate is not one of the most difficult places to win in the league, but the entire country as well. Tucked away in the quaint town of Hamilton, one is more likely to stumble upon a farm instead of a basketball court, but the fervent Langel and his youthful staff are probably the best group to attack the challenge. While it is a complete unknown how well these four coaches will actually instruct the Raiders on the floor—they are not too much older than the team—they presumably have the energy to make a noticeable impact. In a word, energy is something that their former coach seemed to seriously lack. As for the actual team, Langel will feature a senior laden starting five led by the leadership of guard Mike Venezia and the relentless Yaw Gyawu. With big man Nick Pascale maturing into one of the best centers in the league and rising sophomore Pat Moore seeing increased minutes and playing time, it is clear that this is not the same Colgate club that the opposition can sleep on. Now, it is just a matter of Langel and his crew finding the recipe for success that eluded Emmett Davis for so many years.
Projected Starting Five: PG Daniel Munoz, G Simon McCormack, G Troy Brewer, F Charles Hinkle, C Tony Wroblicky
Since his first season at American back in 2001, head coach Jeff Jones has never finished in the bottom half of the Patriot League—the Eagles always seem to be a contender. From the looks of it, however, the upcoming season will be the most trying for Jones. Graduation has claimed Vlad Moldoveanu, Stephen Luptak, and Nick Hendra, while Stephen Lumpkins has elected to focus on his baseball career rather than coming back for his senior basketball season. Much of the burden from replacing those four starters will fall on the shoulders of senior guard Troy Brewer, who will need to take on the scoring responsibility that Moldoveanu aptly claimed last season. With quite possibly the thinnest front line in the Patriot League in terms of sheer size and ability, American will find out in the early going just how much they miss Moldoveanu’s and Lumpkins’ services up front. Growing pains occur virtually every year for college basketball teams, American just happens to have more pains than most.
Projected Starting Five: PG Isaiah Roberts, G Jordan Sugars, F J.J. Avila, F James Loupos, C Jared Smoot
Easily the most significant storyline of the summer when compared to the rest of the conference, Navy made a splash in hoops news with the hiring of former Penn State head coach Ed DeChellis. Although the talent level will be a great disparity for DeChellis—his Nittany Lions earned a 10-seed in last year’s Dance—he will be welcomed by Patriot League Rookie of the Year J.J. Avila, as well as All-Patriot Leaguer Jordan Sugars. Although the Midshipmen graduated several seniors who greatly contributed last season, many of the Navy faithful believed the 2011 class underachieved to a degree. Conversely, there is some promise in last year’s freshman class that should carry over to DeChellis’ first year at the helm.
Projected Starting Five: PG Tony Johnson, G Jim Mower, G Rob Delaney, F Nick Petkovich, F Ryan Willen
The Leopards advanced to the Patriot League final the last two seasons, but without Jared Mintz roaming the middle of the floor, returning back to the championship game may be a feat that even the stellar Fran O’Hanlon cannot attain. Traditionally, Lafayette is one of the weaker teams in the frontcourt as they lack the size that other squads in the Patriot League possess; the loss of Mintz will only pose greater challenges in the frontcourt. As such, O’Hanlon effectively utilizes a mixture of zone on defense and an offensive scheme that takes advantage of the Leopards’ shooting ability to overcome this weakness. Junior point guard Tony Johnson will without question be the most important piece of O’Hanlon’s complex puzzle. With Bucknell’s Darryl Shazier graduating, Johnson may be the best point guard the league has to offer this season—he is an active defender, posted a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio last season, and has a knack for finding the basketball (Lafayette’s second leading rebounder last year behind Mintz). Although Lafayette appears relatively weak on paper, (it seems like this is the case every year )it would behoove one to ever look past the coaching and game managing ability of Fran O’Hanlon.
Projected Starting Five: PG Jason Pancoe, G Julian Simmons, F Chris Welker, F Ella Ellis, F Jordan Springer
Zach Spiker had a modicum of success last season in his first year as Army’s head coach, albeit compiling wins against some of the nation’s weaker teams, but reaching the double-digit win mark is not all too bad, considering the team he inherited. Although Julian Simmons and Ella Ellis are two of the more dependable scorers in the league, there is not a whole lot else up there on the beautiful banks of the Hudson River. Like Lafayette, Army is greatly undersized when stacked up against the bigger teams. And, like the Leopards once again, one the shots are falling they can hang around with teams of superior size and talent. Case in point, I bet you cannot tell me what team Army defeated for their final win last season (drum roll…the Bucknell Bison). The Black Knights rolled up 90 points on Bucknell and shot better than 50% from the field in that convincing victory. Spiker will need Simmons and Ellis to handle the bulk of the scoring once again, but will need contributions from others in order for Army to remain competitive against better Patriot League foes.
Bucknell is the clear-cut favorite to repeat as Patriot League champions, simply considering the talent retained when compared to the rest of the conference. They have arguably the league’s most dominant player in Mike Muscala and a coach who has figured out the correct formula to win against Patriot League competition (whether this strictly man-to-man defensive system and up-tempo offensive system will find success against teams from BCS conferences is for another article). When analyzing the league from strictly a national perspective, C.J. McCollum will be the reason the PL receives national notoriety, and deservedly so. The junior already made headlines throughout the summer months and is poised to be the face of the conference for the next two years. Although the two play different positions, watching McCollum and Muscala butt heads with one another will be something to watch during league play.
Dare I say that the Colgate Raiders will finish above .500 under first-year head coach Matt Langel? While it’s a bit of a bold statement, considering the track record of mediocrity at Colgate, I believe Langel will find some success in his first year. I have always been a huge fan of Yaw Gyawu, who possesses one of the biggest motors in the Patriot League. Mike Venezia will have something to prove in his final year after being plagued for injuries for part of his career. It was plainly obvious that Colgate made strides in the second go-round of league games last season, and if these improvements carry over into this season with a fresh coaching staff something tells me the ‘Gate will be far from the pushover that many are accustomed to.