American Earns First-Place Pick in Patriot League Men's Basketball

Lehigh's C.J. McCollum

Oct. 29, 2010

Bethlehem, Pa. - If the preseason poll is any indication, the 2010-11 Patriot League men's basketball season promises to be a memorable one as five teams were separated by just 10 points at the top of the rankings by coaches and sports information directors when the poll was released Thursday at Patriot League Media Day at Green Pond Country Club.

American emerged from the group as the top choice in the poll, as the 2008 and 2009 champion Eagles garnered 79 points and also led the way with seven-first place votes. Bucknell followed with 76 points and three first-place votes to take second place. Lafayette, Holy Cross and Lehigh were closely bunched in the next three spots, with each team picking up a pair of first-place nods. Lafayette claimed third place with 73 points, followed by Holy Cross with 70 and the defending champion Mountain Hawks with 69. Navy, Colgate and Army filled out the rankings.

It was the closest gap between the top five in Patriot League history, and also the narrowest margin between No. 1 and No. 2 under the current poll format.

The Preseason Player of the Year selection offered little drama, as Lehigh's C.J. McCollum was the runaway winner after claiming the award after his outstanding season last year. McCollum also headlines the Preseason All-Patriot League Team, where the top six teams in the preseason poll all placed one player. McCollum was joined by Holy Cross senior forward Andrew Keister, Lafayette senior forward Jared Mintz, American senior forward Vlad Moldoveanu, Bucknell sophomore forward/center Mike Muscala and Navy junior guard/forward Jordan Sugars. Five of the six players were All-Patriot League selections in 2009-10.

American (11-20, 7-7 in 2009-10) is projected to have a bounce-back season with all five starters and 12 letterwinners returning. Moldoveanu comes off a First-Team All-Patriot League campaign where he averaged 18.1 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, while Stephen Lumpkins averaged 13.0 points and 8.5 rebounds to form an imposing front line duo. The Eagles also return senior Nick Hendra among a collection of guards, and should get an extra boost from SEC transfers Troy Brewer and Charles Hinkle.

Bucknell (14-17, 9-5) placed a record three players on the Patriot League All-Rookie Team, with Muscala also earning a Second-Team All-Patriot League honor after averaging 9.9 points and posting a League-high 65 blocks. The Bison return all five starters and nine of the top 10 scorers from last year's team, including leading scorer Darryl Shazier (10.1 ppg) who also placed third in the Patriot League in assists.

Lafayette (19-13, 8-6) brings back a strong nucleus after making the Patriot League title game last season. The Leopards will be led again by Mintz, who averaged team highs of 14.1 points and 5.7 rebounds per game and became the first player to lead the Patriot League in both field goal and free throw percentage. Juniors Ryan Willen (12.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg) and Jim Mower (13.8 ppg, 92 3-PT FG) also return to an offense that averaged 72.5 points per game last season.

Holy Cross (9-22, 5-9) looks to rebound behind first-year Head Coach Milan Brown. The Crusaders will have an opportunity with four starters and 11 letterwinners back, as Keister, senior Andrew Beinert and juniors R.J. Evans, Devin Brown and Mike Cavataio all placed in the top 20 in the Patriot League in scoring by averaging more than 10 points per game.

Lehigh (22-11, 10-4) loses key cogs Marquis Hall, Zahir Carrington and Dave Buchberger from last year's championship team, but McCollum is capable of carrying the load after averaging 19.1 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists in his Player of the Year campaign. Fellow sophomore Gabe Knutson also returns on the front line after averaging 9.5 points and 5.6 rebounds in his first season.

Navy (13-17, 7-7), Colgate (10-19, 6-8) and Army (14-15, 4-10) all finished far behind the top five in the preseason rankings, but have reason for optimism with talented players back in 2010-11. Sugars was fourth in the Patriot League with 15.8 points per game last year and third with 8.0 rebounds, and will once again have Patriot League assist leader O.J. Avworo dishing him the ball. Colgate welcomes back junior Mike Venezia from his season-ending injury early last year, and Yaw Gyawu headlines the frontcourt after placing fifth in the Patriot League with 14.3 points per game in 2009-10. Army was the top defensive team in the Patriot League last year, and Head Coach Zach Spiker will look for the same effort in his second season.

Patriot League teams begin the season on Nov. 8 when Navy plays at No. 25 Texas in the 2K Sports Classic. Patriot League play tips off on January 8, and will once again include regular-season games on CBS College Sports Network. The Patriot League Tournament begins with the quarterfinals on March 2 and semifinals on March 6, with one quarterfinal and both semifinals televised on CBS College Sports Network. The Patriot League Championship is set for March 11 at 4:45 p.m. on ESPN2. All Tournament games are played at the higher seed.

2010-11 Patriot League Preseason Poll Points

1. American (7 first-place votes) 79
2. Bucknell (3) 76
3. Lafayette (2) 73
4. Holy Cross (2) 70
5. Lehigh (2) 69
6. Navy 35
7. Colgate 31
8. Army 15

Patriot League Preseason Player of the Year: C.J. McCollum, Lehigh (So., G)

Patriot League Preseason All-League Team
Andrew Keister, Holy Cross (Sr., F)
CJ McCollum, Lehigh (So., G)
Jared Mintz, Lafayette (Sr., F)
Vlad Moldoveanu, American (Sr., F)
Mike Muscala, Bucknell (So., F/C)
Jordan Sugars, Navy (Jr., G)

Note: Six players due to tie in the voting.