Oct. 23, 2014
BETHLEHEM, Pa. - American won the 2014 Patriot League men's basketball title after being picked ninth in the preseason, but the Eagles will not be able to come out of nowhere again as they were picked first in the preseason poll announced at the sport's Media Day on Thursday at Arts Quest Center at SteelStacks.
The Eagles were the first-place selection of 13 voters and finished with 157 points, ahead of Army with five-first-place votes and 141 points. Holy Cross took third with two first-place votes and 127 points, and was followed in order by Lafayette (109), Bucknell (96), Boston University (82), Lehigh (74), Colgate (50), Loyola Maryland (36) and Navy (28).
Army junior guard/forward Kyle Wilson, the lone returning first-team All-Patriot League selection, was selected as the Patriot League Preseason Player of the Year. He was joined on the Preseason All-Patriot League Team by American senior guard Darius "Pee Wee" Gardner, Lafayette senior guard Seth Hinrichs, Lehigh sophomore forward/center Tim Kempton and Holy Cross senior forward Malcolm Miller.
American (20-13, 13-5 Patriot League in 2013-14) was the runner-up in the Patriot League regular season before an impressive effort to win the League Tournament, culminating in a 55-36 win at Boston University in the championship game. The Eagles bring back most of the group that led the program to its third Patriot League title, as Gardner (11.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 4.2 apg) and junior guard Jesse Reed (13.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.7 apg) were each second-team All-Patriot League picks last year while senior guard/forward John Schoof (11.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.1 apg) was on the third team. American has eight of its top nine scorers back, though the loss is a big one as first-team All-Patriot League selection Tony Wroblicky departs. The Eagles will also add transfers Kevin Panzer and Jonathan Davis to the rotation.
Army (15-16, 10-8 PL) sees its core group of players reach its junior season with Wilson leading the way. The Patriot League Preseason Player of the Year led the League with 18.4 points per game in earning first-team All-Patriot League status last year. The next three players on Army's scoring list last season are also entering their junior seasons, with Tanner Plomb (10.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg), Dylan Cox (9.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.8 apg) and Kevin Ferguson (9.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.5 bpg) all expected to play key roles again. Tanner Omlid (6.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.0 spg) and Larry Toomey (4.3 ppg, 3.6) also return to a team that brings back its top five scorers.
Holy Cross (20-14, 12-6 PL) placed third in the Patriot League last season and played in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, and looks to take the next step behind Miller. The senior forward is the team's top returning scorer after putting up 11.0 points per game last season along with 5.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists to earn third-team All-Patriot League honors. Anthony Thompson (9.4 ppg), Justin Burrell (8.9 ppg), Cullen Hamilton (8.2 ppg) and Eric Green (7.9 ppg) all return in the backcourt along with Malachi Alexander (6.3 ppg) at forward. While six players have experience, the Crusaders have to overcome a big loss with the graduation of first-team All-Patriot Leaguer Dave Dudzinski.
Lafayette (11-20, 6-12 PL) will look to improve behind a full year from Hinrichs, who missed 10 games last season yet still earned third-team All-Patriot League honors by averaging 16.4 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. He leads a veteran team that returns all 13 players who scored a point last season, with Dan Trist (12.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg), Bryce Scott (11.5 ppg, 2.0 apg), Joey Ptasinski (11.4 ppg) and Nick Lindner (10.8 ppg, 4.0 apg) all averaging in double figures.
Bucknell (16-14, 11-7 PL) loses three of its top four scorers from last season, including 2014 Patriot League Player of the Year Cameron Ayers. But there is plenty of reason for optimism in Lewisburg after the Bison won six straight games to finish the regular season last year and a host of returning players stepped up during the stretch. Chris Hass (11.1 ppg) is the team's top returning scorer and a third-team All-Patriot League pick last season, while Steven Kaspar (6.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 4.6 apg) is a versatile point guard and Dom Hoffman, Cory Starkey, John Azzinaro and Ryan Frazier are also experienced returnees.
Boston University (24-11, 15-3 PL) won the regular-season title in its first season in the Patriot League, but the Terriers have to replace All-Patriot League picks Maurice Watson Jr. and D.J. Irving as well as Dom Morris from the rotation in order to climb the standings again. That trio topped the scoring charts for the Terriers in 2013-14, leaving sharpshooter John Papale (9.3 ppg) as the top returning scorer. Cedric Hankerson (6.0 ppg) and Nathan Dieudonne (5.2 ppg) were also key contributors last season, while Eric Fanning and Blaise Mbargorba are ready to step in after sitting out last season as transfers.
Lehigh (14-18, 7-11 PL) brings back seven of its eight top scorers from 2013-14, though the loss is a big one as leading scorer and assist man Mackey McKnight departs after a second-team All-Patriot League season. Kempton mans the middle after averaging 13.0 points and 7.1 rebounds to earn the Patriot League Rookie of the Year award last season. Jesse Chuku (8.7 ppg), Austin Price (8.4 ppg) and Corey Schaefer (8.3 ppg) also return after playing key roles.
Colgate (13-18, 6-12 PL) is another team which loses its leading scorer as All-Patriot League pick Murphy Burnatowski departs, but the Raiders return the next six on the list. Austin Tillotson averaged 13.3 points and 4.4 assists in his first season in the lineup, while Ethan Jacobs (11.5 ppg) and Damon Sherman-Newsome (11.3 ppg) were double-digit scorers, Pat Moore (8.2 ppg) returns from injury and Luke Roh (6.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 3.2 apg) has multiple ways of filling up the stat sheet.
Loyola Maryland (11-19, 6-12 PL) was in the thick of the Patriot League race heading into the second half of the League schedule last season, but lost seven of its final nine games after Dylon Cormier and his 21.2 points per game was injured down the stretch. Cormier has since graduated, and there are no returnees who averaged double figures a year ago. That doesn't mean the cupboard is bare, as Jarred Jones (8.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg), Eric Laster (8.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg) and R.J. Williams (8.3 ppg, 4.0 apg, 2.2 spg) were all key players last season along with Tyler Hubbard (6.2 ppg) and Franz Rassman (5.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg).
Navy (9-21, 4-14 PL) has been very young in recent seasons, but now the Mids have senior leadership in Worth Smith (11.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and Brandon Venturini (11.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg). Just as important will be the return of Tilman Dunbar (11.9 ppg, 5.0 apg), who was the team's top scorer and one of the assist leaders in the Patriot League before missing the final 20 games a year ago. Zach Fong (6.7 ppg), Kendall Knorr (5.4 ppg) and Will Kelly (5.0 ppg) also return as Navy brings back its top six scorers.
The men's basketball season begins on Nov. 14, with the 18-game Patriot League schedules opening up for all teams on Dec. 31. The Patriot League Tournament will include all teams and be played entirely at home sites, and concludes with the championship on March 11 at 7:30 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.
For more information on the Patriot League and all 10 teams, read the 2014-15 Patriot League Men's Basketball Preview
2014-15 Patriot League Preseason Poll
1. American (13 first-place votes), 157 points
2. Army (5), 141
3. Holy Cross (2), 127
4. Lafayette, 109
5. Bucknell, 96
6. Boston University, 82
7. Lehigh, 74
8. Colgate, 50
9. Loyola Maryland, 36
10. Navy, 28
Patriot League Preseason Player of the Year
Army junior guard/forward Kyle Wilson
Patriot League Preseason All-League Team
American senior guard Darius "Pee Wee" Gardner
Lafayette senior guard Seth Hinrichs
Lehigh sophomore forward/center Tim Kempton
Holy Cross senior forward Malcolm Miller
Army junior guard/forward Kyle Wilson