RTC Conference Primers: #24 – Patriot LeaguePosted by Brian Goodman on October 11th, 2011
Kevin Doyle is the RTC correspondent for the Patriot League and author of The Other 26, an RTC column which examines the teams from the 26 non-power conferences and their impact on the game at a national level. You can find him on Twitter @KLDoyle11.
Reader’s Take I
- From the Big Ten to the Patriot League—It is not all that often that Patriot League hoops is the epicenter of college basketball discussions, but this was the case in late May as Ed DeChellis departed as head coach of Penn State in favor of Navy. Yup, that Navy. The Midshipmen haven’t reached the Big Dance since 1998 and are only a small blip in the basketball world thanks to alumnus David Robinson, but DeChellis’ seemingly surprise move made Navy a household name for some of the summer months. Something tells me that playing in Hamilton, New York, on a Saturday afternoon will be a little different than, say, a rocking Kohl Center for DeChellis.
- Stability at Holy Cross—Although Milan Brown greatly struggled as the Crusaders head coach in his first season—HC finished with a subpar 8-21 mark—there is the reassurance of knowing the program will be in the same hands for consecutive years for the first time since the 2008-09 campaign. When watching the Crusaders compete in the non-conference portion of their schedule last year, Brown struggled to implement his man-to-man defensive philosophy to a team that was more accustomed to playing a zone. It is safe to assume that after a full year under Brown, Holy Cross will have a greater sense of identity on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor, something that was certainly lacking last season.
- A Movement to Youth at Colgate—I doubt that there is a readily accessible statistic out there for this sort of thing, but I would venture to guess that Matt Langel and his staff at Colgate are the youngest in the nation. Emmett Davis never found success while coaching the Raiders, but Langel and his crew of young assistants may be the perfect recipe for success that it will take to win at Colgate. A spark of energy seemed to be lacking under the previous regime, and having four coaches who are young and looking to prove themselves should be the catalyst that jumpstarts Colgate.
- O’Hanlon Coaching with Two Hands—The analogy commonly used for the job that Fran O’Hanlon did for several years at Lafayette was “coaching with one hand tied behind his back.” The Leopards were the last team in the Patriot League to institute scholarships back in 2006, and now O’Hanlon’s roster is comprised entirely of full-scholarship players. Often said to be the best in-game coach in the PL, O’Hanlon’s recruiting has not been up to par with his coaching abilities. Now that he is coaching with both hands, it is time for better results.
- Patriot League Inks Deal with CBS Sports Network—In past years, the Patriot League Championship was broadcast on ESPN2 in a late afternoon/early evening time slot of 4:45 PM—a perfect time to duck out of work early and catch some conference tournament action. For the foreseeable future, however, the championship will take place on Wednesday evening as the CBS Sports Network will carry the game. The Patriot League will have a total of 14 games aired on the network this season (see full list below).
Predicted Order of Finish
- Bucknell (11-3)
- Lehigh (9-5)
- Holy Cross (7-7)
- Colgate (7-7)
- American (6-8)
- Navy (6-8)
- Lafayette (6-8)
- Army (4-10)
All-Conference Team (statistics are from the 2010-11 season)
- G: Devin Brown (Holy Cross)—15.4 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 1.5 APG, 35.9% 3FG—When the offense began to stall and the shot clock was winding down, there was nobody better to bail out the Crusader offense. Brown’s seemingly limitless range and ability to beat his opponent off the dribble—he has an exceptional first step—made him their “go-to” guy. Expect to see more of the same this year as he will have the green light each trip down the floor.
- G: C.J. McCollum (Lehigh)—21.8 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 2.1 APG, 2.5 SPG—There is a reason Lehigh will have the most games aired on the CBS Sports Network compared to any other Patriot League team: C.J. McCollum. I can only imagine the smirk Dr. Brett Reed had on his face after the first few practices held two seasons ago when McCollum was a freshman; he no doubt knew he was lucky that McCollum slipped through the recruiting cracks, and happened to grow a few inches in the process (McCollum was just a shade over six feet coming out of high school). The guard from Ohio led all sophomores in scoring last season, and there is no reason to think that he will once again be the focal point—and face—of Lehigh basketball.
- G: Jordan Sugars (Navy)—16.2 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 33.5% 3FG—Hampered by an injury for part of last year, Sugars still managed to have a successful season for the Midshipmen. Just like he was for the past two seasons, Sugars will be looked upon as Navy’s primary scoring option, and if he is able to shoot the long ball like he did as a sophomore he has the ability to average 20 points a night. His accuracy from long rage dipped nearly ten percentage points—42.2% to 33.5%—from his sophomore to junior season, so keep an eye on whether he heats back up.
- F: Yaw Gyawu (Colgate)—12.6 PPG, 4.4 RPG—His statistics may not show it, but Gyawu is arguably the most important piece for Colgate’s success. A relentless and hounding defender and strong force in the paint, Gyawu is the motor that makes the Raiders go.
- F: Mike Muscala (Bucknell)—14.9 PPG, 7.4 RBG, 1.9 BPG—Not only does Muscala possess all of the physical tools that makes him the Patriot League’s best big man, but he also has a part of his game that can never be coached or taught: clutch under pressure. Against Richmond, he drilled a shot from the free throw line that was Laettner-esque, and in a rivalry game against Holy Cross, he hit a baseline jumper to seal the win—both shots came at or near the buzzer. It is scary to realize that Muscala—and McCollum for that matter—still have two years ahead of them.
Sixth Man—Troy Brewer (American)—11.6 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.0 3 PTPG—With Vlad Moldoveanu graduating and Stephen Lumpkins foregoing his senior season to pursue a career in baseball, much of the scoring responsibility will be bestowed upon Brewer. Brewer, who transferred from Georgia after his sophomore year, has a year under his belt of playing for Jeff Jones and will be ready to be the focal point of his offense.
Impact Newcomer –Justin Burrell (Holy Cross)—Burrell is small in stature, but is the Crusaders’ biggest recruit in the 2011 class. He is essentially Milan Brown’s “guy” as Burrell originally committed to play for Brown at Mount St. Mary’s, but decided to do a prep year when Brown left The Mount to coach at Holy Cross. With Andrew Beinert graduating, there is a void that needs to be filled at the point guard position, and Burrell will see minutes early in his career running the show.
Bucknell (NCAA seed: #14)—The Bison return virtually everyone from a team that dominated Patriot League competition and cruised to the NCAA Tournament. Head coach Dave Paulsen has compiled a solid group of players that perform exceptionally well within his free-flowing offensive system that is predicated on strong shooting and heady point guard play. All of the pieces are back, minus one crucial player: Darryl Shazier. Shazier manned the point guard position for his entire career and did so quite well. If Bucknell can find a capable replacement for him—all fingers are pointing to Cameron Ayers—Bucknell will certainly be the league favorite.
- Lehigh—The Mountain Hawks were a bad call—make that an atrocious call—away from knocking Bucknell out of the Patriot League tournament as Mike Muscala bumped C.J. McCollum to the ground in the game’s waning moments. The zebras swallowed the whistle and that was all she wrote. The bitter taste from this season-ending game is undoubtedly still there, and Lehigh returns many of the pieces from last year’s squad.
- Holy Cross—R.J. Evans, the 2008-09 Patriot League Rookie of the Year, is back and healthy after missing most of last season with an injury, Devin Brown and Mike Cavataio will make for a strong nucleus, and Milan Brown is in year number two as head coach. The talent is certainly there for the Crusaders—it always has been, which is evident by where Patriot League coaches have predicted them to finish in the last two seasons— now it is just a matter of executing. Some of the Crusader faithful have questioned Brown’s in-game coaching and lack of a substantial game plan as the root of the struggles last year: a 1-7 record in games decided by just a possession would seem to support this claim.
- Colgate—There are many unknowns in Hamilton entering the season with an entirely new coaching staff, but assuming Matt Langel and his crew connect with the team and see results sooner than expected, don’t be surprised if Colgate is a contender. This is a senior-laden team with Yaw Gyawu, Mike Venezia, Sterling Melville, and Nick Pascal leading the way. As many Patriot League teams will find out early on in the conference schedule, this is not the same ‘Gate team that has little talent. With that being said, there are simply too many unknowns and the Bison still are the more talented and proven team when matched up with Colgate.
Reader’s Take II
Patriot League Television Schedule (CBS Sports Network)
- Jan. 14 – Army at Navy, 2:30 PM
- Jan. 19 – Lafayette at Holy Cross, 7 PM
- Jan. 22 – Lehigh at Lafayette, 2 PM
- Jan. 26 – Navy at Lehigh, 7 PM
- Jan. 28 – Colgate at Holy Cross, 5 PM
- Feb. 9 – Lehigh at American, 7 PM
- Feb. 11 – Navy at Army, 2:30 PM
- Feb. 16 – Lehigh at Bucknell, 7 PM
- Feb. 18 – Flex Game, 4 PM
- Feb. 23 – Bucknell at American, 7 PM
- Feb. 25 – Flex Game, 4 PM
- March 3 – Patriot League Semifinal #1, 2 PM
- March 3 – Patriot League Semifinal #2, 4:30 PM
- March 7 – Patriot League Championship, 7 PM
Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
It is quite rare for the Patriot League to produce NBA players—the League or “L” as the kids are calling it these days is probably the hardest sport to go professional in—but you can bet that NBA scouts will keep their eyes on C.J. McCollum and Mike Muscala. Both entering their junior season, there is still ample time for them to continue their development and “wow” the pro eyes. Astute Patriot League followers will recall that even some of the best players in recent memory—Charles Lee, Chris McNaughton, Keith Simmons and Torey Thomas just to name a few—received just token looks from the NBA, but are prospering overseas. If McCollum and Muscala are not able to latch onto a team in the States, there are plenty of teams in Europe who would make room on their rosters for them. Perhaps more importantly for Patriot League followers, it’s their last chance to see the two leave a mark on the league.
Spotlight on…the Service Academies
Conference realignment dominated college basketball and football discussions throughout the summer months. There were murmurings that the Big East was on the verge of imploding (and the conference remains unstable), that Texas A&M would be seeking a new conference, that TCU joined the Big East and then decided to retract its decision and join the Big 12 instead…the list goes on. Before you know it, we’ll see UNLV and San Diego State making plans to join the ACC (sarcasm here, if you didn’t pick up on it). Many of the discussions and speculation were probably nothing more than message board fodder, but it is all interesting to think about. Conference realignment talk is often reserved for the big boys in college football, so that excludes much of the Patriot League, but what about Army and Navy? They are both ostensibly content competing in the league, but they are also going to do what is in the best interest of their football programs. Army and Navy are both currently playing FBS football as independents, but would joining a BCS conference bolster their programs? What conference is feasible for them to join? Would they jump at the opportunity? All questions to ponder…
The ACC and Big Ten does it, and the Big East and SEC are beginning to do it, so why can’t the Patriot League and Ivy League do it? The “it” I am referring to are conference challenges. It is almost too natural for the Patriot League and Ivy League to engage in such a challenge with one another. When the Patriot League was formed, it was essentially modeled after the Ivy League—a group of schools who value academics and learning more than wins and losses on the playing field. Wouldn’t it be great then to have “the brains” go head-to-head with each other? Each league has eight teams, and there would not be excessive travel as no team falls outside of the New England or Mid-Atlantic states. Who can I call to make this happen?