2020-21 Patriot League Basketball Preview

LWOS continues its conference previews with the 2020-21 Patriot League Basketball Preview. Colgate captured their second-straight regular-season title last season. However, Boston University upset the Raiders in the conference tournament title game. As it turned out, Boston University would be the last team to clinch an automatic berth before the NCAA Tournament was cancelled due to COVID-19. The Terriers and Raiders are set to defend their respective titles in 2020-21. However, there are a few other teams that could surprise them.

2020-21 Patriot League Basketball Preview

10. Holy Cross Crusaders

Key Returners: Austin Butler, Matt Faw, Ryan Wade

Key Losses: Joe Pridgen, Drew Lowder, Connor Niego

Key Newcomers: Malcolm Townsell (JUCO), Randy Johnson, Michael Rabinovich

To put it bluntly, Holy Cross was one of the worst teams in the country last season. The Crusaders were especially bad on defense, finishing 350th in defensive rating. Now, they enter the new season without many of the key contributors from that three-win squad. The loss of Pridgen was the biggest, as he was the Patriot League’s Rookie of the Year in 2019-20. Holy Cross will have to rely on younger guys once again this season. The Crusaders seem firmly entrenched in last place.

9. Army Black Knights

Key Returners: Lonnie Grayson, Alex King, Josh Caldwell

Key Losses: Tommy Funk, Matt Wilson

Key Newcomers: None

Army is really going to miss the duo of Tommy Funk and Matt Wilson. Funk ended his career as the Patriot League’s greatest passer, while Wilson was an efficient shooter and rebounder inside. Their losses leave a lot on the shoulders of those who are left. Grayson and King appear to be the most likely candidates to step into those roles. However, Army essentially used a six-man rotation last season, meaning there is inexperience abound here. The Black Knights are having to start anew after being competitive in the last few seasons.

8. Lehigh Mountain Hawks

Key Returners: Jeameril Wilson, Nic Lynch, Marques Wilson

Key Losses: Jordan Cohen, James Karnik

Key Newcomers: None

Lehigh struggled last season after enjoying some success in years prior. A lot of that can be attributed to the youth on the roster. Most of those players are back, and the hope is that the experience from last year will lead to some marked improvement this season. The Mountain Hawks will be led by their frontcourt with Jeameril Wilson and Nic Lynch. This projection is most likely the floor for them, but Lehigh could push for a finish closer to the middle of the pack.

7. Navy Midshipmen

Key Returners: Cam Davis, John Carter Jr., Greg Summers

Key Losses: Evan Wieck

Key Newcomers: None

Navy was another young team in the league last season. The Midshipmen showed glimpses of what they were capable of, though Davis carried this team for the most part. He was a second-team honoree after averaging 16.3 points and 2.5 assists per game last season. The frontcourt had some time to develop behind Wieck, and will now get their opportunity to step up even more. Navy should take a step forward and be more competitive in 2020-21.

6. Bucknell Bison

Key Returners: John Meeks, Andrew Funk

Key Losses: Jimmy Sotos, Avi Toomer, Bruce Moore

Key Newcomers: None

Bucknell found itself in unfamiliar territory after being at the top of the league in the mid-2010s. Part of the success of the program has been having a dominant big man. Meeks has tried his best, finishing as a third-team performer last season. However, the Bison are still in a bit of transition with the younger players on the roster. Funk should develop some more and really take command of the backcourt. Bucknell has talent and is a prideful program that will fight in each game. This may be the last season they are projected outside the top half of the league for a while.

5. American Eagles

Key Returners: Jamir Harris, Stacy Beckton, Connor Nelson

Key Losses: Sa’eed Nelson, Mark Gasperini

Key Newcomers: Christian Lorng (JUCO), Colin Smalls

American was able to finish in second place last season behind the outstanding play of Nelson. He averaged 18.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 2.8 steals per game on his way to being named the league player of the year. The Eagles have to figure life out without him now. The backcourt has not been left bare with Harris and Beckton still around. Connor Nelson should be a starter this season after averaging 24.6 minutes off the bench last season. American has enough talent to hold onto a spot in the top half of the league.

4. Loyola Greyhounds

Key Returners: Santi Aldama, Cam Spencer, Isaiah Hart

Key Losses: Andrew Kostecka, KaVaughn Scott

Key Newcomers: None

Loyola may have been the youngest team in the league last season. Andrew Kostecka had to pick up the slack due to that, but the do-it-all guard has graduated. The youth movement was not all bad, though, as the Greyhounds had three all-freshman team selections. Aldama has the most playmaking potential. The native of Spain averaged 15.2 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks over just 10 games played last season. Loyola has set themselves up to make a few runs in the coming years, though a real shot at the Patriot League title seems more likely next season.

3. Lafayette Leopards

Key Returners: Justin Jaworski, E.J. Stephens, Tyrone Perry

Key Losses: Myles Cherry, Lukas Jarrett

Key Newcomers: None

Lafayette proved they were capable of hanging around the top dogs last season. The Leopards swept Colgate in the regular-season and earned a victory over Boston University as well. The biggest thing this team struggled with last season was consistency. The backcourt is the strength of this squad, led by Jaworski. He averaged 17.1 points, 2.8 assists, and one steal per game in2019-20, earning second-team honors. Lafayette should be able to use last season’s experience to gain a little more traction, and could potentially sneak into the league title race by season’s end.

2. Colgate Raiders

Key Returners: Jordan Burns, Nelly Cummings, Tucker Richardson

Key Losses: Rapolas Ivanauskas, Will Rayman

Key Newcomers: Oliver Lynch-Daniels (Houston Baptist)

Colgate has been the class of the league over the past two seasons. The Raiders pushed Tennessee as a 15-seed two years ago and were arguably even better last season before falling to Boston U. in the Patriot title game. The frontcourt takes some big losses with Ivanauskas and Rayman gone. That will be a thin area for Colgate this season. However, the depth and experience of the guards should make up for that. The Raiders will be right there at the end once again.

1. Boston University Terriers

Key Returners: Walter Whyte, Javante McCoy, Jonas Harper

Key Losses: Max Mahoney

Key Newcomers: None

Boston University arguably arrived slightly ahead of schedule by capturing the Patriot League Tournament title last season. Everybody from that team is back other than Mahoney. His loss will be felt, but Walter Whyte can step up to be the go-to guy in the paint. Javonte McCoy runs the offense in the backcourt, while Jonas Harper is the team’s top defender. The Terriers enter 2020-21 as the deepest team in the league and are the clear frontrunners for the title.

2020-21 Patriot League Basketball Preview Award Projections

Player of the Year: Jordan Burns, Colgate

Burns was arguably played at a player of the year award level last season. He averaged 15.8 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game last season. He also stood out on defense, averaging close to two steals per game. Burns is the catalyst for Colgate, and he is a big reason why this team can still fight for a title this season. He should finally earn this award.

Defensive Player of the Year: Stacy Beckton, American

Beckton was an all-defensive team member at the end of last season. He earned that placement after averaging 1.2 steals and one block per game in 2019-20. He was in the top ten in defensive rating in the league last season after leading the league in it in 2018-19. Beckton should continue to be a lethal defender while keeping American competitive this season.

Rookie of the Year: Colin Smalls, American

Colin Smalls should get plenty of opportunities as a freshman, as there is a very realistic chance he is a starter this season. Even if he is not, he should get a decent amount of minutes as he learns how to run the Eagles’ offense. Smalls was a member of a few prestigious all-team recognitions while playing high school basketball in the Washington D.C. metro area. He will get to continue to showcase his skills in his own backyard at American.

Coach of the Year: Joe Jones, Boston University

Jones had the Terriers dancing for the first time since he took over as the head coach in 2011-12. Unfortunately, they did not get to enjoy that for long, as the NCAA Tournament was cancelled less than 48 hours later. He has a team that may turn out to be even better than last season. Capturing a regular-season title is just the start for this year’s version of Boston U., and how that team does it should earn Jones this award.

All-Conference First-Team Projection: Jordan Burns (Colgate), Justin Jaworski (Lafayette), Cam Davis (Navy), Walter Whyte (Boston University), Santi Aldama (Loyola)

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