Oct. 18, 2007
Baltimore, Md. - Defending Patriot League men's basketball champion Holy Cross has been selected to repeat in 2008 in a poll of the League's coaches and sports information directors, it was announced Thursday at Patriot League Men's Basketball media day.
Holy Cross topped the poll with 91 points and 10 first-place votes. Bucknell garnered 85 points and five first-place votes. Colgate (62 points) edged Lehigh (56) for third place. American came in fifth place with 49 points, followed by Army, Navy and Lafayette.
Holy Cross senior center Tim Clifford was named Patriot League Preseason Player of the Year. He was joined on the Preseason All-League Team by Army senior guard Jarell Brown, Navy senior guard Greg Sprink, Lehigh sophomore guard Marquis Hall, and Bucknell senior guard John Griffin.
The Crusaders compiled a 25-9 overall record and 13-1 regular-season mark in Patriot League play a year ago, and won all three of their tournament games at the Hart Center. They defeated Lafayette, 83-53, in the quarterfinals, got by American, 55-53, in the semifinals, and knocked off Bucknell, 74-66, in the Patriot League Championship game. Holy Cross went on to the NCAA Tournament, where it received a No. 13 seed and fell to No. 4 Southern Illinois, 61-51, in the first round.
Holy Cross brings back 12 of 14 letterwinners for Head Coach Ralph Willard, including Clifford. The 6'11, 265-pound center earned Second-Team All-Patriot League honors in 2007 when he finished in the top 10 in scoring (12.7 ppg) and rebounding (5.1 rpg) in League contests. Clifford blocked 64 shots for the season, including six in the Crusaders' Patriot League Championship triumph over Bucknell. His 143 career blocks rank ninth in Patriot League annals.
Bucknell (22-9, 13-1), which shared the 2007 Patriot League regular-season crown with Holy Cross by posting a 13-1 record, garnered five first-place votes and 85 points to earn the No. 2 position in the preseason poll. Head Coach Pat Flannery led the Bison to the Patriot League Championship game a year ago after winning the title and capturing a first-round victory in the NCAA Tournament in the previous two seasons. The Bison lose three starters, but do have 10 letterwinners returning including Griffin (10.5 ppg).
Colgate edged out Lehigh for the third position. Led by Head Coach Emmett Davis, the Raiders (10-19, 5-9) finished 5-9 in Patriot League contests a year ago, but suffered five losses by five points or less or in overtime. The Raiders have 11 letterwinners returning, including three starters. Lehigh (12-19, 7-7) is under the direction of first-year Head Coach Brett Reed. The Mountain Hawks finished 7-7 in League play a year ago, and have reigning Patriot League Rookie of the Year Hall back in the fold. Hall averaged 10.9 ppg and 4.3 apg in his freshman campaign.
American (16-14, 7-7) comes in fifth place in the preseason poll. While the Eagles lose four starters, they are coming off of a 7-7 Patriot League season where they came within two points of Holy Cross in the Patriot League semifinals. Head Coach Jeff Jones has a 52-32 League record in six seasons, and has never finished below .500 in those campaigns.
Army, Navy and Lafayette round out the preseason poll. The Black Knights (15-16, 4-10) made it to the Patriot League semifinals last season for Head Coach Jim Crews, and their 4-10 record was the best for the program since finishing 6-8 in 2002. Brown is back after sharing for the League scoring title with 16.9 ppg and leading all players with 87 three-point field goals. Sprink also tied for first in the Patriot League with 16.9 ppg, and stepped it up to average 17.9 ppg in League play. Sprink returns to lead a Midshipmen (14-16, 4-10) team that finished 4-10 in the Patriot League last year. Lafayette (9-21, 3-11) has nine letterwinners returning for Head Coach Fran O'Hanlon, who is entering his 13th season in Easton.
Patriot League teams hit the floor on November 9, with Colgate, Lafayette and Navy all opening with non-League action. The first League contest takes place on January 11, when Navy visits Bucknell in a nationally televised game on ESPNU. The rest of the League tips off the next day, with Holy Cross at Lafayette, Army at Colgate and American at Lehigh. The Patriot League Tournament will open up at home sites on March 5. The semifinals are on March 9, with the Championship game set for March 14 at 4:30 p.m. on ESPN2 at the site of the highest remaining seed.
Patriot League Men's Basketball Preseason Poll
1. Holy Cross (10 first-place votes) 91 points
2. Bucknell (5) 85
3. Colgate (1) 62
4. Lehigh 56
5. American 49
6. Army 42
7. Navy 34
8. Lafayette 29
Patriot League Men's Basketball Preseason Awards
Player of the Year: Tim Clifford, Holy Cross
All-League Team: Jarell Brown, Army (Sr., G);
Tim Clifford, Holy Cross (Sr., C);
John Griffin, Bucknell (Sr., G);
Marquis Hall, Lehigh (So., G);
Greg Sprink, Navy (Sr., F).