By: Ben Brady
Come tournament time not many analysts pay attention to the Patriot League or give it much stock for a team to do anything. The biggest moment that gave the conference national spotlight was Lehigh upsetting second seeded Duke in 2012.
The Patriot League has some of the fiercest competition within their own division and who knows who will win the automatic berth into the madness after the chaos that ensued last year in the Patriot League Tournament.
Last year, Bucknell, Lehigh and Boston University were the favorites to win the Patriot League Tournament, so naturally Holy Cross improbably won the Patriot League tournament to make an automatic berth into the bracket, after going 12-17 overall and 5-13 in the conference. It didn’t matter as a double-OT win against number one seeded Bucknell, a walloping of four seeded Army and a close victory in the final game against two seeded Lehigh gave the Crusaders a spot in the tournament.
Even though they were most likely the weakest team on paper in the tournament overall, Holy Cross was able to make it out of the First Four, beating Southern University before getting destroyed by one-seeded Oregon in the second round.
Last year is over so here are some predictions for the 2016-17 season in the Patriot League:
It is pretty easy to say the best player in the Patriot League is Lehigh’s Tim Kempton Jr. He has won the award the last two years and was named to the 2017 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award watch list. Last season he had 13 double-doubles and averaged 17.7 points and 9.5 rebounds.
Freshman to Watch
Six-foot-five, Tyrone Cohen coming into Holy Cross will be the top freshman to watch. He is lanky but the lefty from New York could make an impact this season to a team that needs as much offensive help as it can get. Cohen can shoot it and is known for being able to finish in traffic. Look for him to make an immediate impact to this Crusaders squad.
Last year, Holy Cross was not even a dark horse to win the automatic bid to the tournament and this year they are a sleeper team to watch in the Patriot League. Winning the tournament last season and getting hot at the right time shows how this team started to figure it out at the most important part of the season.
People had written off the Crusaders after they went 0-9 on the road in the conference. Holy Cross’ biggest problem last year was their inaptitude on offense but they are bringing back four of their five leading scorers from last year’s squad. Seniors Robert Champion, Malachi Alexander, Anthony Thompson and sophomore Karl Charles will all be returning for the Crusaders.
With the best player in the conference it isn’t surprising that the champion will be Lehigh. They are bringing back their four leading scorers and the three-pronged attack from sophomore Kyle Leufroy, junior Kahron Ross and senior Austin Price will be great to have behind Kempton.
Even though Bucknell took the regular season title last year and in five of the last six years, they lost their leading scoring and leader to their team, Chris Hass. That is a big hurdle to overcome and it will be too much for the Bisons to overcome.
Another Team to Watch
Boston University will be behind Lehigh all season and their trio of guards: Eric Fanning, Cheddi and Kyle Foreman can compete with any guards in the league. Plus, getting back Cedric Henderson this season will be huge after tearing his ACL in April. Look for the Terriers to continue being one of the top teams in the conference.