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Patriot League preseason power rankings: It’s Bucknell, then everyone else

Can anyone challenge the Bison for the title?

NCAA Basketball: Bucknell at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriot League is no stranger to upsets in the NCAA Tournament. In 2005, Bucknell toppled Final Four contender and 3 seed Kansas. One year later, the Bison defeated 8 seed Arkansas and finished the year ranked 25th in the Coaches Poll. Fast forward to 2012 when Lehigh, led by CJ McCollum, defeated Bucknell in possibly the most exciting game in Patriot League history to capture the championship. The Mountain Hawks then one-upped Bucknell by defeating 2 seed Duke. This time, Bucknell should return to the top and be ready to scare people come March.

The biggest opposition to the Bison last year was Lehigh, but it loses double-double machine Tim Kempton (20.4 ppg and 10.4 rpg) and guard Austin Price (13.3 ppg). Expect only a few teams in the Patriot League to compete with Bucknell and have a chance at possibly stopping the defending champions and winners of six of the last seven regular season titles.

Preseason Power Rankings:

1. Bucknell Bison

The Bison return nearly every player in their rotation except for John Azzinaro and D.J MacLeay who averaged only 8.1 and 8.7 mpg respectively. Bucknell features a well-rounded offense led by league Player of the Year favorite Nana Foulland (15 PPG, 7.8 RPG, and 2.1 BPG) and tournament MVP Zach Thomas (15.9 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 3.4 APG). Nathan Davis’s crew looks poised to build off of last year after losing to West Virginia in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Note: Bucknell could have four 1,000 point scorers in their starting lineup late this season.

2. Lehigh Mountain Hawks

Teams 2 through 5 in the rankings are very interchangeable. This Mountain Hawk team has some big shoes to fill after losing two-time Player of the Year forward, Tim Kempton. Kempton, who is playing overseas, averaged 20 PPG and 10 RPG his senior year. Pat Andree and Kyle Leufroy look to build off of great seasons last year. Look for contributions from guard Kahron Ross, as well as forwards Jack Lieb (injured last season), and Caleb Sedore who missed the last two seasons with ACL injuries.

3. Boston University Terriers

BU loses some serious height in Eric Fanning, Justin Alston, Dylan Haines, and Blaise Mbargorba. Fanning and Alston will leave big holes in the Terrier offense as both averaged over 10 PPG last season. They have three incoming freshman including Walter Whyte. Whyte received plenty of offers from some good mid-major programs. A key player for the Terriers will be Cedric Hankerson. He missed the 2015-2016 season due to injury and didn’t produce well in 2016-2017. Also look for Kyle Foreman to increase his scoring and his assists.

4. Navy Midshipmen

A team that plays by committee will likely do so this year as well. Last year the Midshipman had 11 players that averaged more than 7.9 minutes per game. They are led by Shawn Anderson, who averaged 12.2 PPG, but have others that will be called upon to contribute. If Navy wants to improve and have a shot at a league title, they will need to shoot higher than their 30% clip from three last season.

5. Colgate Raiders

We talk about how experienced Bucknell is, but believe it or not it’s Colgate that returns the most minutes, 93% of last season’s minutes to be exact. The only problem with that is it only produced a 8-10 league record last season. Colgate has some guys that can shoot the three including Jordan Swopshire, Sean O’Brian, and Will Rayman. If they can put some defensive pieces together, they can be a force to reckon with and would give the Bison and the rest of the league fits.

6. Loyola (Md.) Greyhounds

The Greyhounds look to improve off a disappointing 2016-2017 season. After only losing one player who logged big minutes last season - Jarrod Jones - look for this team to possibly move up this list at some point in the future. The key for Loyola will be the play of Andre Walker and Cam Gregory. Both can be prolific scorers in this league and can eat on the glass.

7. Army-West Point Black Knights

Army, like Navy, is another team that plays by committee. After losing only three players from a year ago, this team is left to decide who get minutes since they have six sophomores, nine juniors and two seniors. Led by Jordan Fox, Matthew Wilson, and Thomas Funk, all of which nearly averaged double figures last season. The Black Knights will need to shoot the ball well to compete this year.

8. Lafayette Leopards

Lafayette is a very experienced team who looks to improve from a dismal 5-13 record in the league. Look for players like Kyle Stout and Eric Stafford to fill the shoes of Nick Lindner at the point guard position. With potential All-Patriot League forward Matt Klinewski leading this offense, Leopard fans should get excited as the next two years should show a lot of growth from this team.

9. Holy Cross Crusaders

It was mentioned earlier that Colgate returns 93% of their minutes, and Holy Cross is at the other end of that spectrum. The Crusaders return just under 41% of their minutes. Losing three players that averaged over 30 MPG last season will be tough for Coach Bill Carmody. One reason the Crusaders will struggle this year is lack of height. They will only have four players on their roster at 6-8 or taller. If the Crusaders can rebound and get solid play from Karl Charles, they could be a tough out in conference play.

10. American Eagles

What is there to say about American? They lost seven, yes, players to either graduation or transfers out of the program. The only bright spot for the Eagles will be incoming freshman Sam Iorio. Being a wonderful finisher around the rim and a having a soft shooting touch, expect Iorio to make a name for himself by the end of the year.