The New Year is already over a week old, and conference play is in full swing all across the country. We’ve seen our fair share of great games so far in 2017, and the frequency will only increase as the season moves closer to the NCAA Tournament in mid-March.
One conference, in particular, that has provided some exciting basketball over the first two weeks of conference play is the Patriot League. On opening night, four of the five road teams scored victories to open things up, while plenty of the games have been single-digit margins of victory.
Team rosters are decorated with star players, and there’s a ton of talent on display each and every night. While the usual suspects are either at, or near, the top of the standings after four games, the conference seems as though it could go any which way. As of Sunday night, all ten teams in the conference have at least one win in Patriot League play.
Based on the fact that the conference race could go several different directions, we felt as though it was time to see how the teams stack up.
Below, you can find the inaugural edition of the College Court Report Patriot League Power Rankings, to be released each Monday from now to the end of the year.
1. Bucknell Bison (12-5, 4-0)
The Bison may be without their leading scorer from last season, in guard Chris Hass, but they are doing just fine in 2016-17.
Three players are averaging double-digits in points per contest this season, led by forwards Zach Thomas (16.0ppg, 6.0 rpg) and Nana Foulland (14.4 ppg, 8.3 rpg). Wins over the Vanderbilt Commodores and Fairfield Stags headlined an 8-5 non-conference slate, and they haven’t slowed down in Patriot League action.
A perfect 4-0 start in conference action has the Bison tied atop the Patriot League standings, and with their balance on both ends of the floor, they should stay near the top all season.
This Week: 1/11 v. Lehigh; 1/14 @ Colgate
2. Boston University Terriers (9-7, 4-0)
A healthy Cedric Hankerson has given the Terriers a big boost in 2016-17. The Miami, FL native only played 12 minutes a year ago, but has come back this season with a vengeance, and is making up for lost time.
Like the Bison, the Terriers have three players averaging double digit points per contest. Eric Fanning leads the way with an average of 12.8 points per game. In total, seven players are averaging at least 5.7 points per contest, which is a big reason for the Terriers’ 4-0 start in conference play.
They’ve already notched a win over the preseason favourite Lehigh Mountain Hawks, which will undoubtedly give them confidence moving forwards this year. If they can remain healthy throughout, there’s no reason why they can’t win the Patriot League crown.
This Week: 1/11 v. American
3. Lehigh Mountain Hawks (8-7, 2-2)
The preseason favourites in the Patriot League limped out of the gates to open the season, losing five of their first eight games. Close losses against the Xavier Musketeers and Yale Bulldogs, both of which came on the road, aren’t bad losses by any means.
Losing games to the likes of the Stony Brook Seawolves, who are without Jameel Warney, are a bit more puzzling.
In conference play, the Mountain Hawks haven’t looked like the team that many thought they’d be before the year started. Three of their four games have been decided by seven points or less, with the only exception being a 14-point loss to Boston. They’ve been in close games, and found a way to win two of the three, which is a confidence boost moving forwards.
Sunday saw Tim Kempton erupt for 36 points in a win over American, which is another good sign moving forwards for the Mountain Hawks. Despite their 2-2 record so far, Lehigh will be right in the thick of things come conference tournament time.
This Week: 1/11 @ Bucknell; 1/14 v. Holy Cross
4. Holy Cross Crusaders (8-9, 2-2)
Last season’s darlings of the Patriot League are back in the thick of things early on in 2017, as they are one of four teams sitting at 2-2 after the first two weeks of Patriot League action.
With the bulk of their stars back from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, including both Robert Champion and Malachi Alexander, the experience factor alone gives them a leg up on others in the conference. They won’t sneak up on anyone this season in the conference tournament, but the talent is there to make another run at a spot in the Big Dance.
This Week: 1/11 v. Lafayette; 1/14 @ Lehigh
5. Lafayette Leopards (6-9, 2-2)
On paper, the Leopards are one of the stronger teams in the Patriot League. Matt Klinewski is the only player in the Patriot League era to score 30 or more points on three occasions in the same season for Lafayette, which he accomplished on Sunday against Boston U.
Their 2-2 start in conference play has led to more questions than answers. Lafayette has the talent to be atop the conference standings, but losses to teams like Colgate shouldn’t happen. We still remain optimistic about their chances moving forwards, but one can never be too sure.
This Week: 1/11 @ Holy Cross; 1/14 v. Navy
6. Loyola (MD) Greyhounds (8-7, 2-2)
Losses in three of their first four games of the year seem to be very much in the past for the Greyhounds. Before Sunday’s loss to Army West Point, the Greyhounds had won four of their previous five outings, a stretch that included a single-point win over Lehigh.
Could the Greyhounds recreate the magic that Holy Cross had a year ago, where they finish in the lower half of the conference and make a run to the NCAA Tournament? While the Greyhounds would like a top-five finish, they can’t be counted out, regardless of where they finish.
This Week: 1/11 v. Navy
7. Army West Point Black Knights (7-9, 1-3)
The Black Knights are without their starting five from last season, and the effects are showing. They scored their first conference win of the season on Sunday, a 66-57 decision against Loyola (MD).
All three of their losses in conference play have been by single digits, leaving a ton of room for optimism
This Week: 1/11 v. Colgate; 114 @ American
8. American Univ. Eagles (4-11, 1-3)
The Eagles could very well be 4-0 in Patriot League play, and higher in the rankings as a result. However, three losses by six points or fewer have flipped the script, and made their record look worse than it appears.
American knows they can hang with the top teams in the conference, and could steal a win or two moving forwards.
This Week: 1/11 @ Boston U.; 1/14 v. Army West Point
9. Navy Midshipmen (6-10, 1-3)
Two days after committing 27 turnovers in a 71-53 loss to Boston U., Navy came out and knocked off Colgate on Sunday for their first win in conference action.
Shawn Anderson is a top-calibre player, but needs some help to get Navy into the top half of the standings.
This Week: 1/11 @ Loyola (MD); 1/14 @ Lafayette
10. Colgate Raiders (3-14, 1-3)
Colgate’s road win over Lafayette to open conference play seems like a distant memory, as the Raiders have lost three straight since, and 10 of their last 11 overall.
This Week: 1/11 @ Army West Point; 1/14 v. Bucknell
– T. Bennett