The Patriot League season is nearly upon us and there seems to be a clear-cut top four that have emerged as the teams to beat in 2013-14. Bucknell, Boston University, Colgate and Lehigh were all at the top of our inaugural rankings last week and after just two of them actually played games, there was some shuffling of locations but all four maintained their prime real estate.
The member schools of the Patriot League will begin conference play this week, and the conference's outlook will become much, much clearer. Again, please see the sidebar for an explanation of how Rating Average is calculated. On to the rankings!
1. Colgate Red Raiders (6-4, Rating Average 2)
No games this week for the Red Raiders, who wrap up their non-conference schedule with Columbia tonight before kicking off their Patriot League schedule with two games against fellow top-four teams. We will know a lot more about Colgate by this time next week.
Last Week's Ranking: 2
Schedule: 12/30 vs. Columbia, 7:00 p.m.; 1/2 vs. Lehigh, 7:00 p.m.; 1/5 at Bucknell, 2:00 p.m.
2. Boston University Terriers (7-6, Rating Average 2.2)
The Terriers fell to St. Joseph's on Sunday despite another great game from Maurice Waston Jr. The sophomore point guard poured in 21 points with seven assists, but with just a five-point effort from D.J. Irving BU lacked the fire power to knock off its Atlantic 10 foe. The Terriers inaugural season in the Patriot League begins on Thursday with a Commonwealth matchup with Holy Cross.
Last Week's Ranking: 3
Schedule: 1/2 vs. Holy Cross, 7:00 p.m.; 1/5 at Lehigh, 7:00 p.m.
3. Lehigh Mountain Hawks (7-5, Rating Average 3.6)
After a week off, Lehigh returns to the court to face scrappy Bryant team that has made life difficult on a lot of teams this year. The Mountain Hawks will look to carry a six-game winning streak into conference play, but have to handle their business tonight.
Last Week's Ranking: 4
Schedule: 12/30 at Bryant, 7:00 p.m.; 1/2 at Colgate, 7:00 p.m.; 1/5 vs. BU, 7:00 p.m.
4. Bucknell Bison (5-6, Rating Average 3.6)
Losing to Fairfield does you no favors when you sit atop the power rankings. The Bison's 5-6 record doesn't reflect the talent level of a team that has played the conference's toughest non-conference schedule, has the third-highest RPI , and is the second-best team according to The Oracle (a.k.a. Ken Pomeroy). Bucknell's next on-court effort will be of the conference variety and it will attempt to regain its spot atop these rankings come next Monday.
Last Week's Ranking: 1
Schedule: 1/2 vs. American, 7:00 p.m.; 1/5 vs. Colgate, 2:00 p.m.
5. Holy Cross Crusaders (6-6, Rating Average 4.4)
Here is where things start to stagnate. The Crusaders closed their non-conference slate with a loss to Michigan sans Mitch McGary. Dave Dudzinkski was expected to have a big day with McGary out and while 17 points and eight rebounds against the reigning National Runners-up is nothing to cough at, it wasn't enough to keep it competitive. There have been flashes of this being a top-tier team in the Patriot League, but not enough to break through.
Last Week's Ranking: 5
Schedule: 1/2 at BU, 7:00 p.m.; 1/5 vs. American, 1:00 p.m.
6. Lafayette Leopards (4-7, Rating Average 6.8)
If you're a glutton for punishment, you probably took in more of Lafayette's game against Seton Hall than you should have and didn't feel too good about it. A 90-58 loss is a pretty good representation of just how poorly Lafayette played, but doesn't reflect the fact that the Leopards scored just 15 points in the first half. 15. Fifteen. XV. That's rough. Thankfully, Fran O'Hanlon's crew gets Army and Navy to open up its Patriot League slate.
Last Week's Ranking: 6
Schedule: 1/2 vs. Army, 7:00 p.m.; 1/5 at Navy, 2:00 p.m.
7. Loyola-Maryland Greyhounds (5-5, Rating Average 7)
The Rating Average machine hit the nail on the head! The Greyhounds had the week off, but will face Miami (FL) tonight to wrap up their non-conference schedule before easing into their conference slate with Navy and Army.
Last Week's Ranking: 7
Schedule: 12/30 at Miami (FL), 7:00 p.m.; 1/2 vs. Navy, 7:00 p.m.; 1/5 at Army, 2:00 p.m.
8. American Eagles (4-7, Rating Average 7.6)
The Eagles closed out their non-conference schedule with a solid 71-58 win over Maryland-Eastern Shore on Sunday, stopping a three-game skid in the process. An inconsistent team thus far, the Eagles will have to bring it early in their conference schedule as they won't face a team below them until the end of January.
Last Week's Ranking: 8
Schedule: 1/2 at Bucknell, 7:00 p.m.; 1/5 at Holy Cross, 1:00 p.m.
9. Navy Midshipmen (5-5, Rating Average 8.2)
If the Midshipmen are going to have any kind of impact on this year's Patriot League race, it will likely be as an upset team late in the conference season. Their 314 RPI is only slightly better than their final non-conference opponent, UMBC, and if they can't get a win tonight it won't bode well for them over the last two months of the year.
Last Week's Ranking: 9
Schedule: 12/30 at UMBC, 7:00 p.m.; 1/2 at Loyola, 7:00 p.m.; 1/5 vs. Lafayette, 2:00 p.m.
10. Army Black Knights (3-7, Rating Average 9.6)
Just about the only thing going for Army at this stage is that its schedule has been only slightly stronger than Navy's. The Black Knights haven't really been blown out yet this year, a testament to their competitiveness, but their wins have hardly moved the needle. They wrap up their slate with a non-D1 team before diving into games against Lafayette and Loyola.
Last Week's Ranking: 10
Schedule: 12/30 at Coast Guard, 1:00 p.m.; 1/2 at Lafayette, 7:00 p.m.; 1/5 vs. Loyola, 2:00 p.m.