OBW Patriot League Power Rankings v6

Don't look now but Army and Kyle Wilson are once again on the rise. Courtesy photo / Army Athletics
Don’t look now but Army and Kyle Wilson are once again on the rise. Courtesy photo / Army Athletics

We are now nearly halfway through the conference slate and how these teams will stack up in the Patriot League Tournament, and who will be cutting down championship game the nets and going dancing in March is as big a mystery as ever. The league lacks a truly dominant team – there are no Bucknells, Lehighs, or Holy Crosses of previous generations – but there is incredible parity, which means that every single night has made for incredibly entertaining basketball.

So here’s a look at how we see the teams stacking up right now in our latest OBW Patriot League Power Rankings. Don’t blink, our rankings will probably change on Wednesday.

1. Bucknell (11-10, 6-2 in PL)
Results: W 81-75 vs Army; W 75-61 at Loyola (MD); W 92-77 at Boston University.
This week: Wednesday vs Lehigh; Saturday vs Colgate
Don’t look now but Bucknell is picking up speed like a runaway freight train and has won four in a row. After struggling to survive a tough non-conference schedule, the young Bison seem to have found their footing and adjusted to their roles on the court. Oh, and, yeah, there’s that Chris Hass guy who has been absolutely lighting up from all over the floor. With home games against a suddenly resurgent Lehigh squad and a Colgate team that sits tied with them in the standings, if Bucknell can make it through this week unscathed they will be sitting squarely in the Patriot League driver’s seat.

2. Colgate (9-12, 6-2 in PL)

Results: W 65-53 at Navy; L 65-64 at Army; W 59-58 at Loyola (MD)
This week: Wednesday vs Lafayette; Saturday at Bucknell
Playing Navy and Army back-to-back on the road is about as hard a stretch as any Patriot League team can go through. Sure, there are better teams in the league year-in and year-out, but the service academies play so incredibly hard and so incredibly physical, it can be an experience akin to running back to back marathons, so the fact that the Raiders dropped the second game of that stretch isn’t a big cause for alarm. Damon Sherman-Newsome remains a dynamic scorer from the guard position, Austin Tillotson makes the offense go at the point, and several role players have been plugging the gaps.

3. Army (13-6, 4-4 in PL)
Results: L 81-75 vs Bucknell; W 65-64 vs Colgate; W 68-66 at American.
This Week: Thursday vs Boston University; Saturday vs Loyola (Md)
Don’t look now, but Army may be getting it’s second wind, knocking off Patriot League contenders Colgate and American by one and two points, respectively, in consecutive games. With teams selling out to stop star Kyle Wilson, Army has needed another reliable scorer and they appear to have gotten it in forward Tanner Plomb, who has scored 44 points in his last two games and 80 points in his last four games.

4. American (11-8, 4-4 in PL)
Results: W 62-59 vs Lehigh; W 78-76 at Lafayette; L 59-54 at Boston University; L 68-66 vs Army.
This week: Wednesday at Navy
The Eagles backcourt trio of seniors Jesse Reed, Pee Wee Gardner and John Schoof are leaving everything they have on the floor, ranking first, second, and third in the nation in minutes per game. That is astounding. And on most nights, that trio is good enough to carry the Eagles to a win. But to climb to the top of these rankings and become the Patriot League team to beat, American is going to need to at least get some consistency from the supporting cast, especially in the post.

5. Lehigh (7-8, 1-3 in PL)
Results: W 69-64 vs Holy Cross; W 61-47 vs Navy; W 75-71 at Lafayette
This Week: Wednesday at Bucknell, Saturday vs Boston University
How in the world did we get here? Just yesterday the Mountain Hawks looked like they were dead in the water, unable to generate any offense outside of 6’11” center Tim Kempton. Well, Lehigh seems to have finally found another scorer in sophomore guard Austin Price, who has taken advantage of Kempton’s double-teams by scoring 40 points over the last three games – all wins.

6. Boston University (8-11, 4-4 in PL)
Results: W 73-64 vs Navy; L 63-62 vs Lafayette
This Week: Wednesday at Colgate; Sunday at Loyola.
The Terriers have lost four of their last five, and yet, they haven’t looked THAT bad – and, perhaps equally important, it’s hard to say that anyone below them in these rankings has looked better. Junior shooting guard John Papale seems to finally be hitting his stride after spending much of the season adjusting to a completely new niche as a creator and facilitator on offense in addition to his traditional role as a long-range marksman, and sophomore wing Cedric Hankerson has turned into a legitimate star. If BU could get consistent play from role players like forwards Nate Dieudonne, Justin Alston and Eric Fanning, they’d be in very good shape.

7. Holy Cross (8-10, 3-5 in PL)
Results: L 69-64 at Lehigh; W 74-73 vs Lafayette; W 76-65 vs Navy.
This week: Thursday at Loyola (MD);
Rewind a few weeks, and Holy Cross was completely dead in the water. Rewind a few months, and the Crusaders looked like world beaters and the Patriot League team to beat. Now, the truth seems to fall somewhere in between the two extremes. The Crusaders do not score the ball efficiently, and their offense relies on creating turnovers with energy and pressure on defense, resulting in transition offense and, plain and simply, taking more shots than their opponents.

8. Lafayette (10-5, 2-2 in PL)
Results: L 78-76 vs American; L 74-73 at Holy Cross; L 75-71 vs Lehigh
This Week: Wednesday at Colgate; Saturday at Navy
The Leopards have come up just short in three-straight close games, losing to a good American squad by two at home, a floundering Holy Cross squad by one on the road, and, toughest of all, bitter-rival Lehigh by four at home. The Leopards still boast arguably the Patriot League’s top offense, with inside, mid-range, and outside scoring options, but they are struggling mightily to come up with stops on defense.

9. Loyola-Maryland (7-12, 3-5 in PL)
Results: W 91-86 (OT) vs Boston University; L 75-61 vs Bucknell; L 59-58 at Colgate.
This Week: Thursday vs Holy Cross; Saturday at Army.
The Greyhounds are incredibly young and incredibly inexperienced, but they are growing and learning and have played Patriot League frontrunners (at least for now) Colgate very tough on the road, and also beat a very solid BU squad in overtime. They aren’t ready to compete right now, but they are looking closer and closer to returning to relevance in the very near future.

10. Navy (7-13, 3-5 in PL)
Results: L 65-53 vs Colgate; L 61-47 at Lehigh; L 76-65 at Holy Cross.
This week: Wednesday vs American; Saturday vs Lafayette.
Worth Smith returned from injury as a man possessed, and Navy was suddenly playing inspired basketball. Then Smith went down with yet another in a laundry list of injuries and the Midshipmen sputtered. Smith has once again returned to the court, could another Navy resurgence be far off?

OBW Patriot League Player of the Week
Tanner Plomb, Jr., F, Army

Plomb scored 44 points and ripped down 14 rebounds in a pair wins over Colgate and American to help get the Black Knights back on track.

OBW Patriot League Rookie of the Week
Brandon Alston, G, Lehigh

Alston scored 24 points and dished out eight assists in a pair of big wins for the Mountain Hawks.

OBW Patriot League Fab Five
Cedric Hankerson Soph., G, Boston University
Nick Lidner, Soph. G, Lafayette
Damon Sherman-Newsome, Sr., G, Colgate
Dan Trist, Sr., F, Lafayette
Kyle Wilson, G, Jr., Army

OBW Patriot League Frosh Five
Cam Gregory, F, Loyola
Matt Klinewski, F, Lafayette
Nana Foulland, C, Bucknell
Kahron Ross, G, Lehigh
J.C. Show, G, Bucknell

Kyle Wilson’s unorthodox route from the O.C. to the Army

NCAA BASKETBALL:  NOV 30 Army at Duke

Five years ago, if you had told Kyle Wilson that he’d be where he is now – a Division I basketball player, leading his conference and ranking 25th in the nation in scoring while enduring frigid winters along the Hudson River, AND a cadet at the United States Army academy, only a year away from being commissioned as a second lieutenant – he would have thought you were crazy.

“Or maybe that you’d been out in the sun for far too long or something,” says the 6-foot-4-inch Mission Viejo, California native.

Back then, Wilson was a high school junior and a SoCal kid through and through, living a laid-back “OC” lifestyle revolving around the sun and the surf.

“I didn’t even know where or what West Point was before they called me,” Wilson laughs about his interest in attending a service academy at the time. “I was an Orange County kid and that was my identity.”

Wilson came of age in Mission Viejo, an affluent, picturesque community that sits in the valley of the Saddleback Mountains in southern Orange County, living with his mother, Nicole Klevens.

“She was definitely always my biggest supporter and fan,” says Wilson, who even over the phone conveys a carefree vibe and laid-back mentality that seem at complete odds with the regimented, rigorous lifestyle of a future military officer.

From a young age, Wilson gravitated towards the sport of basketball, but he was a late bloomer with an “awkward game” who never quite “looked the part,” as Army head coach Zach Spiker says.

“I think Kyle was always hurt by the fact that coaches are looking for players who fit into a nice little package of ‘he’s a shooting guard, or a power forward, or he’s an athlete, he’s a rebounder,’ and Kyle was always unorthodox,” explains Spiker.

“When you see a guy who’s a superior athlete, who’s extremely quick, who’s really big and strong, you show that to your guys and they go ‘wow, he’s really good,’” echoes University of Maine head coach Bob Walsh, who had to game plan around Wilson earlier this year. “He’s really, really crafty, smart, really, really good and hard to guard because he does so many things well. But because he doesn’t have those physical attributes that jump out at you, a lot of people overlooked him.”

Wilson was a three-time letter winner at Trabuco Hills High School, captaining the team and averaging 17.4 points and 2.1 rebounds per game as a senior, but had no Division I scholarship offers heading into his senior year.

“I didn’t have any Division I offers at the time,” says Wilson. “I was looking at a couple of local Division III schools.”

Wilson_Kyle0286

Then his phone rang, and on the other end was Spiker.

“He definitely had a lot of energy and enthusiasm, but he was also completely no-nonsense,” says Wilson, adding with a laugh, “I would definitely say we had different personalities.”

Wilson was ecstatic to hear that a Division I school was interested in him, until he learned where, and what, West Point was, and the minimum five-year active duty commitment in the armed forces.

“I always wanted to play college basketball,” explains Wilson. “I never thought about West Point or the Army until they called me the summer going into my senior year, and then even after they called me I still didn’t really consider it.

“I definitely had hesitations about the commitment,” he says.

But Spiker was persistent.

“Relentless,” corrects Wilson, and with no other Division I offers materializing, the shooting guard agreed to take an official visit.

“They talked me into coming here for a recruiting visit and I ended up coming and I loved it, and from then on I knew this was where I wanted to go,” he says.

But Wilson still had to convince his mother and extended family and friends that West Point was the right place to go.

“She [my mom] definitely wasn’t thrilled about the thought of me serving in the Army, and maybe getting hurt or killed,” he says. “They realized they wanted me to go wherever makes me the happiest. It’s not like you’re just going to war. They realized all the great opportunities within the school and after.”

Before attending West Point, Wilson did a year at the U.S. Military Academy Prep School (USMAPS), as do most recruited Army athletes. His time at USMAPS served as a crash course in military life.

“I really had no idea what it was going to be like,” he says. “And so getting here and experiencing it was definitely a shock. But the regimented days makes it pretty easy, because you know exactly what you need to do at all times.”

From Day 1 of his first freshman practice, Wilson entrenched himself as a cornerstone of Army’s basketball team, starting 12 of 30 games as a freshman while leading all Patriot League rookies in scoring at 13 points per game. As a sophomore Wilson led the Patriot League in scoring at 18.4 points per game while shooting 44.3 percent from the field, 43.4 percent from behind the arc and 79.1 percent from the line.

“Who?” deadpans Spiker when asked about Wilson’s impact on the team. “Oh, yeah, that Wilson kid; he’s pretty decent,” he laughs, before getting serious. “Kyle has been a tremendous player. Obviously he fills up the score column, but he’s one of our best defenders, he’s incredibly tough, and he’s a big time team player.”

According to Walsh, the very reasons that made teams pass on Wilson – his lack of a “true” position, average athleticism, and an awkward game that sees him often banking in running floaters while shooting off of what most would consider the wrong foot – also makes him incredibly hard to scout and guard.

“He’s really hard to prepare for because he does not come across as a high-level, wow, what’s-he-doing-at-Army type kid until you watch him play a lot,” says Walsh.

“He’s so crafty and so smart and just above average at everything he does. Obviously he’s a great shooter, but you watch their USC game and he wasn’t shooting the ball well and he just made a commitment to getting in to the gaps and he hut a couple of off-balance runners and floaters and he got to the rim.”

The USC game, of course, was Wilson’s home coming earlier this year at Galen Center. Playing against a BCS program, with more than 120 friends and family in the seats, Wilson went off, scoring 30 points (one shy of the career high he set two games earlier at Delaware) while willing the Black Knights to an 85-77 overtime upset.

“That was a pretty great experience to get to play back home in front of my family and friends and everyone, and I played OK too which was good,” he says in a huge understatement.

For his own part, Wilson describes himself as “laid back” on the court, letting the game come to him and always trying to stay calm, cool and collected, no matter what. But he admits that the faith the Army coaching staff put in him to give him his only Division I offer, and the doubts the rest of college hoops had in his abilities, serves as a daily motivation.

“The fact the coaching staff here believed in me definitely gives me a lot of confidence,” he says, “and I definitely go out every night to try and prove every team that took a pass on me wrong.”

That motivation has been working, as Wilson was named one of 40 players placed on the Lou Henson award Mid-Season Watch List, for the award which recognizes the best “Mid-Major” player in the country.

Wilson’s goal for the season and his career is to lead Army to the first NCAA Tournament in program history. Wilson has the talent to play professional basketball somewhere after graduation – if not in the NBA than abroad – a lifelong dream of his, but due to the mandatory active duty commitment would make reaching that dream a long shot at best.

“It’s definitely something I would want to do if given the opportunity,” he says of playing professional ball. “Even with the commitment, there’s still opportunities to play within the Army. We’ve had guys who have graduated in previous years who play on the All-Army team. And then after my commitment is up, I’ll see if I have any options to play.”

But Wilson says he has no regrets about his decision to attend West Point. In fact, it’s quite the contrary.

“Attending here definitely took a strange series of events, and had I had other options I might not have ever wound up here,” he says, “but it was definitely the best decision of my life. I’m going to come away with a guaranteed job and a degree from one of the best colleges on the planet for free – it’s hard to argue with that.”

NCAA BASKETBALL:  NOV 30 Army at Duke

Photographs courtesy of Army Athletics.

A thrilling night of Patriot League men’s basketball

Wednesday was one thrilling, chilling, and heart-palpitating rollercoaster ride for Patriot League men’s basketball, with four of the conference’s five games decided by four-points or less, including a come-from-behind overtime victory for Army, a buzzer-beating game-winning 3-pointer for American, and an exhilarating last-second comeback for Bucknell.

Here’s a quick look at the night’s action.

American 62 Lehigh 59

The Patriot League is truly a league where on any given night, anybody can play with anybody else in the conference, as evidenced by a downtrodden Lehigh squad giving defending conference champion American everything it could handle on the Eagles home court.

Six-foot-eleven sophomore center Tim Kempton was a monster for the Mountain Hawks, scoring 24 points on 10-of-17 shooting, to go with 13 rebounds in 37 minutes of action, helping Lehigh claim a 37-24 advantage on the glass.

But it wasn’t enough.

American senior shooting guard Jesse Reed scored 27 points on 10-of-14 shooting, including 4-of-7 from behind the arc, setting the stage for senior point guard Pee Wee Gardner’s heroics. Gardner scored just eight points on 3-of-8 shooting, but his final three made all the difference. With the game tied at 59 following Kempton’s short jumper with nine seconds remaining, the diminutive playmaker calmly pushed the ball the length of the floor, snuck around a screen from forward Charlie Jones at the top of the key and buried an NBA-range 3-pointer with 0.8 seconds left.

Gardner’s heroics followed up another clutch performance Saturday when he scored five points in the final 13 seconds of regulation in an eventual double-overtime win at Colgate.

American moves to 3-2 in league play while Lehigh drops to 1-4.

Army 72 Holy Cross 70 (OT)
In a battle between two teams that began the season looking like league frontrunners only to fall hard and fast over the past month, Army got a much-needed win while Holy Cross suffered a heart-breaking – and possibly devastating – defeat.

Dylan Cox’ lay-up with two seconds left in overtime pushed Army past Holy Cross on the Crusaders’ home court in Worcester, Massachusetts. Junior forward Tanner Plomb scored a season-high 28 points, including 25 in regulation, and junior guard Kyle Wilson added 22.

“This was a great win for our program,” Cox said. “We definitely responded today, I thought our defense was great at times, we got the stops when we needed to and were able to come away with the win.”

Freshman forward Mitchell Hahn scored 18 points in 26 minutes off the bench, hitting 5-of-8 shots and 3-of-5 from long-range, and junior guard Cullen Hamilton scored 14 points off the bench. While the Crusaders’ bench played great, their starters struggled, with Malachi Alexander the only starter to crack double figures, scoring 10 points on 2-of-6 shooting. None of Holy Cross’ starting five shot even 40 percent from the floor.

“Obviously it’s a tough way for the game to end for us. I was proud of the way we fought and got back into the game and took the lead. I thought both teams were being very aggressive,“ said Holy Cross head coach Milan Brown. “This is the third game for us in league play for us where we just come up one or two plays short. We’ve got to find a way to make one or two more winning plays – that’s the only way that winning is going to happen.”

Army led by 13 points with 14:38 remaining in the second half, but Holy Cross came roaring back to force overtime. Army led by four with just 34 seconds left in overtime, but big baskets from Hahn and Hamilton tied the game at 70 with 7 seconds remaining, setting the stage for Cox’ heroics.

Cox took the inbounds and pushed the ball the length of the floor – 94 feet – hitting a running lay-up with two seconds left for the win.

Army moves to 2-3 in league play, snapping a two-game conference losing streak, while Holy Cross falls to 1-4.

Bucknell 65 Navy 63

The Bison bounced back from an overtime loss against Holy Cross with a dramatic win over a Navy squad that had emerged as one of the surprises of the early conference slate.

Sophomore guard John Azzinaro scored 19 points in just 22 minutes, including a pair of late 3-pointers, shooting a blistering 6-of-7 from the field and an unconscious 5-of-5 from behind the arc. The diminutive point guard drilled a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer from the right wing with 1:17 left to tie the game at 61, and drilled another 3-pointer from the right corner with a little over 11 seconds left to grab the lead for good.

Navy won the rebounding battle 31-30, outshot the Bison from the floor (44.9 percent to 41.2 percent) and beat Bucknell at the free throw line (17-of-21 to 14-of-19), while also leading on the scoreboard for most of the game. But the Bison simply never quit.

“Navy out-played us for about 36-and-a-half minutes, but to our guys’ credit we didn’t panic,”said Bucknell head coach Dave Paulsen. “Obviously Johnny carried us down the stretch. We made a change in the starting lineup tonight, and he handled it like a champ.”

Freshman forward Nana Foulland had 12 points, seven rebounds and four blocks, and senior guard Steve Kaspar added six assists off the bench for Bucknell. Navy was led by senior forward Worth Smith, who scored 14 points, and also got 12 points from center Edward Alade and 11 from guard Kendall Knorr.

Both teams now sit at 3-2 in league play.

Lafayette 69 Loyola (MD) 65
After Loyola gave them everything they could handle for the first 20 minutes of action, the Leopards made just enough plays in the second half to escape with a hard-fought win at home.

Lafayette senior Seth Hinrichs hit five 3-pointers en route to 22 points, while senior forward Dan Trist and senior guard Joey Ptasinski added 13 points apiece. Lafayette hung on despite being out-rebounded 37-31, beaten at the line (Loyola hit 14-of-17 free throws to the Leopards’ 10-of-15) and played virtually even from the floor and behind the arc.

“My teammates did a great job of finding me,” said Hinrichs.

“Getting into league, it’s just so much different, everybody is well-prepared for you,” said Lafayette head coach Fran O’Hanlon after the game.

Tyler Hubbard scored 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the floor, going 5-of-9 from downtown, freshman guard Andre Walker scored 17 off the bench, guard Eric Lester added 13, and freshman forward Cam Gregory ripped down 12 rebounds.

Colgate 62 Boston University 53
That one must have felt good for the Raiders, who snapped a 20-game losing streak against Boston University, while simultaneously grabbing sole possession of first place in league play.

Boston University came out of the gates like gangbusters, jumping all over the Raiders, 20-8, to open the game, but the Raiders responded, outplaying the Terriers from there on out.

Colgate senior shooting guard Damon Sherman-Newsome led all scorers with 19 points on 6-of-11 shooting, including 5-of-9 from downtown, while also pulling down seven rebounds. Guard Luke Roh added 13 points and forward Matt McMullen pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds to help the Raiders score a 33-28 advantage on the glass.

Colgate held Boston University to 37.3 percent from the floor and 27.8 percent from behind the arc, while shooting 47.8 percent and 39.1 percent, respectively.

The Terriers were led by Eric Fanning’s 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting in 22 minutes off the bench, while freshman point guard Cheddi Mosely added 13 points and forward Nate Dieudonne added 10. Boston University’s leading scorer, Cedric Hankerson, who began the night averaging nearly 20 points per game, was held to just three on 1-of-8 shooting.

OBW Patriot League Power Rankings v5

Damon Sherman Newsome and Colgate are atop the latest Patriot League Power Rankings.
Damon Sherman Newsome and Colgate are atop the latest Patriot League Power Rankings.

If nothing else, this is shaping up to be one entertaining, unpredictable, anyone-can-beat-anyone, anything-that-can-happen-will-happen season in the Patriot League, which seems devoid of a true favorite or “team to beat,” but stocked full of hungry, hard fighting squads. Two weeks ago, you’d be hard pressed to find a single solitary soul who would have told you that four games into conference play Boston University, Colgate and Navy would stand atop the standings with identical 3-1 conference records. You’d be equally hard pressed to find anyone brave enough to proclaim that the trio of non-conference favorites Lafayette, American and Army would stumble against the likes of Bucknell, Loyola, and Lehigh, respectively. And yet, here we are. So without further ado, here’s a look at the latest OBW Patriot League Power Rankings, all but guaranteed to be in a state of flux at this same time next week.

1. Colgate (6-11, 3-1 in PL)
Results: W 74-60 vs Holy Cross; L 71-69 (2OT) at American.
This week: Wednesday vs Boston University; Saturday at Navy.
Honestly, picking a “true” number one at this point is an exercise in futility with three 3-1 teams that all have shown strengths but also big weaknesses, and several seemingly more talented squads below them in the standings. With that said, the Raiders seem to “get” what they can and can’t do on the court, play within themselves, and have a very nice inside-outside game going with guard Damon Sherman-Newsome and center Ethan Jacobs. Guard Luke Roh and forward Matt McMullen –men without true positions – hit the glass hard and do all the little things, and point guard Austin Tillotson remains a dynamic game-changer.

2. Lafayette (10-5, 2-2 in PL)
Results: L 79-69 at Bucknell; W 63-62 at Boston University.
This Week: Wednesday vs Loyola; Saturday vs American
The Leopards have looked uninspiring in losses to Navy and at Bucknell, but in fairness, point guard Nick Linder – the player who truly makes the Leopards go – was out with a separated shoulder and then readjusting to being back on the court. With Dan Trist in the paint, Seth Hinrichs knocking down mid-range jumpers and Joey Ptasinski draining threes, with Linder creating havoc off the dribble, this remains the most dangerous offense in the league.

3. Boston University (7-8, 3-1 in PL)
Results: W 73-64 vs Navy; L 63-62 vs Lafayette
This Week: Wednesday at Colgate; Sunday at Loyola.
If not for a blown coverage on a back door play with 2.1 seconds left, the Terriers would be standing at 4-0 in the Patriot League and atop the OBW Power Rankings. But here we are. Sophomore wing Cedric Hankerson has come into his own as a true star, capable of scoring from everywhere on the floor while also helping to facilitate offense by shouldering a bit of the point guard duties. But Hankerson has been outstanding all year long. The true change for BU has been the emergence of Nate Dieudonne and Justin Alston around the rim and on the glass, along with inspired play of late from freshman point guard Cheddi Mosely, which has opened the floor for Hankerson and sharpshooter John Papale. Sophomore tranfer Eric Fanning remains a bit enigmatic, but he has given the Terriers a viable scoring option and slasher off the bench.

4. Navy (7-9, 3-1 in PL)
Results: L 70-64 vs Boston University; W 75-66 at Army.
This week: Wednesday vs BU; Saturday at Army.
What a story Navy is turning out to be. It’s probably cliché to use words and phrases like “perseverance,” “heart,” “effort,” “never give up,” with a service academy, but boy has Navy embodied them. The Midshipmen began the year decimated by injuries losing eight of their first 10 games against Division I foes, but Navy never stopped fighting, and with the return of star forward Worth Smith and several other key reserves, the Middies have won four of their last five, including a HUGE road win over archrival Army. Smith has quickly established himself as Navy’s best player, capable of willing his way to the rim and rebounds over far larger post players, while allowing guards Tilman Dunbar and Brandon Venturini to excel as role players.

5. American (9-7, 2-2 in PL)
Results: L 56-53 (OT) at Loyola; W 71-69 (2OT) vs Loyola.
This week: Wednesday vs Lehigh; Saturday at Lafayette
American can really, really defend, and their back court of wings Jesse Reed, John Schoof and Darius “Peewee” Gardner are as good – if not better than – any in the league. If the Eagles can get anything out of their front court, they are going to climb these rankings, because even now, getting almost nothing from the four and five spots, they can play with anyone in the league.

6. Bucknell (7-10, 2-2 in PL)
Results: L W 79-69 vs Lafayette; L 65-62 OT) at Holy Cross.
This week: Wednesday vs Navy; Saturday vs Army.
With double-digit wins over both American and Lafayette, we should probably have the Bison higher on these rankings – and ff they can survive the gauntlet of Navy and Army this week, they will definitely see their stock climb (at least in our eyes). I suppose right now it is simply a matter of still not quite believing in such a young squad that doesn’t “wow” you in any one particular area. On the flip side, the Bison also don’t seem to have any serious deficiencies. With junior guard Chris Hass emerging as the team’s go-to scorer, bruising freshman center Nana Foulland getting buckets, blocks and boards and freshman point guard J.C. Show also emerging as instant offense, this is a team that could still have a great deal of growth left in it this year, and a ceiling still a good ways higher than it’s ranking.

7. Army (10-5, 1-3 in PL)
Results: L 71-60 vs Lehigh; L 75-66 vs Navy.
This Week: Wednesday at Holy Cross; Saturday at Bucknell.
Wow. A few weeks ago when I spoke with Army head coach Zach Spiker, he opened the interview by saying “A proud peacock today, a feather duster tomorrow.” Right now those words are proving prophetic in the worst possible way. Spiker has continued to tell his players that they can not be satisfied or they would get tripped up, so the Black Knights’ free fall certainly isn’t due to coaching oversight or resting on their laurels. Army simply hasn’t been the same since star guard Kyle Wilson went down on Dec. 21 after taking a shot to the head against Maine. Wilson has returned to the court, and is back to his scoring ways, but the Black Knights just look… different, completely unable to get out and pressure the ball on defense and turn it into transition offense. This team might finally be feeling the loss of do-everything sophomore forward Tanner Omlid, arguably it’s best defender and most selfless player, lost for the season due to a leg injury.

8. Loyola-Maryland (6-9, 2-2 in PL)
Results: W 56-53 (OT) vs American; W 65-60 at Lehigh
This Week: Wednesday at Lafayette; Sunday vs Boston University.
After a really rough opening two months, the Greyhounds have strung together a pair of wins, including an overtime thriller against American, and looked very sharp in doing it. Tyler Hubbard continues to put up points from behind the arc, and 6’6” wing Eric Laster has proved to be a great back court compliment, but the Greyhounds biggest impact has been coming from junior Jarred Jones and freshman Cam Gregory who are combining for nearly 15 rebounds per game.

9. Holy Cross (6-8, 1-3 in PL)
Results: L 74-60 at Colgate; W 65-62 (OT) vs Bucknell.
This week: Wednesday vs Army; Saturday at Lehigh.
The Crusaders finally ended their five-game losing streak with an overtime win at home against Bucknell, but it’s going to take a lot more if they are going to follow through on the preseason hype and early season expectations of competing for a league title. Head coach Milan Brown has shuffled the starting lineup, moving wing Eric Green, arguably the league’s top defender, and finesse-four Taylor Abt to the bench for 6’11” center Matt Husek and forward Malachi Alexander. That move allows forward Malcolm Miller to move from the middle of the paint to the wing, and use his length and athleticism to create mismatches, while also alleviating a bit of the Crusaders massive deficiency on the glass. Will it pay off long term? Stay tuned.

10. Lehigh (7-8, 1-3 in PL)
Results: W 71-60 at Army; L 65-60 at Loyola.
This Week: Wednesday at American; Saturday vs Holy Cross.
Six-foot-eleven center Tim Kempton is an absolute beast on the low blocks, and freshman point guard Kharon Ross does a great job of feeding him the ball. Unfortunately, the Mountain Hawks have yet to find any sort of offense that does not revolve around doing anything other than that. With defenses focusing on stopping Kempton at all costs, Lehigh has struggled mightily.

OBW Patriot League Player of the Week
Dan Trist, Sr., F, Lafayette

Trist scored 44 points and pulled down 16 rebounds while shooting 64.5 percent from the floor as Lafayette split a pair of games over the week, including a 24-point 11-rebound double-double in a big, last-second win at Boston University.

OBW Patriot League Rookie of the Week
Kharon Ross, G, Lehigh

Ross registered 24 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists , while shooting an even 50 percent from the floor (9-of-18)in two games, including 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting in a win at Army.

OBW Patriot League Fab Five
Cedric Hankerson Soph., G, Boston University
Nick Lidner, Soph. G, Lafayette
Damon Sherman-Newsome, Sr., G, Colgate
Dan Trist, Sr., F, Lafayette
Kyle Wilson, G, Jr., Army

OBW Patriot League Frosh Five
Cam Gregory, F, Loyola
Matt Klinewski, F, Lafayette
Nana Foulland, C, Bucknell
Kahron Ross, G, Lehigh
J.C. Show, G, Bucknell

OBW Patriot League Power Rankings v4

Welcome back Worth Smith indeed.
Welcome back Worth Smith indeed.

The final buzzer sounded on opening night of Patriot League play a few hours before the New Year’s Eve ball dropped, and we were all left stumbling around trying to pick up the pieces of what we had previously thought about the league’s hierarchy. Out of the five games played between the PL’s 10 teams, the argument could be made that the underdog, on paper, in each of the five grudge matches came out on top.

Boston University snapped out of its seemingly season-long funk to knock off a Holy Cross team that was supposed to be competing for a title; defending conference champion American was beaten soundly by a Bucknell squad still finding its way; Colgate went on the road to knock off a Lehigh squad that was looking like it could be a contender; a Navy team that looked dead in the water (no pun intended) just weeks earlier annihilated Loyola; and in the heavyweight headliner of the night, Lafayette went in to Army’s house and stomped the Black Knights.

So now what are we supposed to do with our previous perceptions and predictions? Crumple them up and throw them away.

Now two games into the conference slate – the “real season” so to speak – here is our best guesstimate of how the team’s stack up in the latest edition of the OBW Patriot League Power Rankings.

1. Lafayette (9-4, 1-1 in PL)
Results: L 96-69 at #10 Kansas; W 76-71 vs NJIT; W 92-78 at Army (PL); L 69-65 vs Navy (PL).
This Week: Wednesday at Bucknell; Saturday at BU.
So, yeah, we’re not totally comfortable with Lafayette atop our Patriot League Power Rankings, mainly because of the loss on their home court to Navy, but we’d be even less comfortable with any other team from the PL at the top. The loss to Navy certainly wasn’t good, but the Midshipmen are playing absolutely inspired ball right now and chances are, everyone in the PL is going to lose at least one game they should win… wait, check that, every team in the PL HAS lost at least one game they should have won with the exception of BU and Navy.

As for the Leopards, they are really scoring the ball from everyone on the court, with Aussie banger Dan Trist scoring in the post at a tremendous clip, Trist’s frontcourt mate Seth Hinrichs owning the mid-range game, and shooting guard Joey Ptasinski playing the role of the sniper from Saving Private Ryan from behind the arc. And it all starts with point guard Nick Lindner creating havoc off the dribble before zipping a perfect pass to the open man.

Right now, this team is as complete a squad as it gets in the Patriot League.

2. Army (10-3, 1-1 in PL)
Results: W 72-69 (OT) vs Maine; W 93-48 vs Coast Guard (Div. III); L 92-78 vs Lafayette (PL); W 77-53 vs Loyola.
This Week: Wednesday vs Lehigh; Saturday vs Navy.
The Black Knights engine, for the most part, is made up of many interchangeable parts that are all constantly revving in overdrive, withg head coach Zach Spiker subbing in a new wave of players every whistle to play a breakneck fast-break game on offense, and apply pressure on defense. Army is selfless, relentless, incredibly hard working, gets after it on the glass and shares the ball tremendously. However, for all their depth, it has become glaringly apparent that there is one part of the team’s sleek sports car that simply can not be replaced: Junior shooting guard Kyle Wilson. Wilson went down early against Maine with what was feared to be a concussion and didn’t return, and the Black Knights nearly flew off the racetrack. Wilson, an awkward looking but completely unguardable scorer as a 6’5” 2-guard, returned against Lafayette, but was clearly not himself. He looked much more comfortable against Loyola, going off for his usual, effortless 20-plus, but it is apparent just how important he is to the Black Knights: With him, they could win it all. Without him, Army is a scrappy squad that will fight with everything it has, but will struggle to finish in the top half of the league. Right now, they’ve got Wilson and that is a problem for the rest of the league.

With that said, anything less than a 2-0 week from Army this week and the Black Knights are definitely going to drop in our next rankings.

3. American (8-6, 1-1 in PL)
Results: W 46-45 vs Mount Saint Mary’s; L 59-47 at Stony Brook; L 57-47 at Bucknell; W 53-49 vs Holy Cross.
This week: Wednesday at Loyola; Saturday vs Colgate.
According to Kenpom, we should have American second, slightly above Army. We think of Kenpom as a bible of sorts when it comes to the game of basketball, but we also just can’t shake what we’ve seen from the Eagles, who rank fourth in the entire country in points allowed per game (52.9) and fourth from last in the nation in points scored (52.4). Simply put: despite having two wings in John Schoof and Jesse Reed who can score with the best of them, and a straw-that-stirrs-the-drink point guard in Darius Gardner, the Eagles play super, super slow. When they are going good, they are deliberate, get stops, work the clock and score at the other end. When they are not, their paper-thin front court gets dominated. We think their Kenpom rankings are slightly inflated by their style of play that is going to keep them close in just about any game against anyone, but think their frontcourt woes could hurt them against some of the Patriot League’s bigmen. We’ll see how we feel next week.

4. Boston University (6-7, 2-0 in PL)
Results: L 78-62 at Dayton; W 69-46 vs Wentworth (Div. III); W 75-72 (OT) at Holy Cross (PL); W 75-56 vs Lehigh (PL).
This Week: Wednesday at Navy; Saturday vs Lafayette.
Say what? The Terriers spent all of the non-conference slate towards the bottom of these rankings. Last week the Terriers were struggling to put away a Division III team at home, two games later their fourth in a very competitive Patriot League after. Serious? Yeah, seriously. That’s what happens when you open up league play going 2-0 and also begin to develop a true offense with low post options, slashes to the hoop, and the ability to open up and then knock down shots from the perimeter. The emergence of Eric Fanning as a scorer off the bench, and flashes from fellow first year transfer Blaise Mbargorba in the post give the Terriers two completely new dimensions. If both can keep raising their respective games, BU is going to be good.

5. Navy (6-8, 2-0 in PL)
Results: W 61-56 vs Towson; W 70-47 vs Loyola (PL); W 69-65 vs Lafayette (PL).
This week: Wednesday vs BU; Saturday at Army.
Say double what?!?! What-what?!?! Navy fifth in the league? Navy that opened the season losing four in a row and went 1-7 in its first eight games against Division I opponents? Yeah, Navy, right here, fifth. With Wednesday’s battle of undefeateds against BU, and Saturday’s showdown with archrival Army, a good week will send the Midshipmen’s stock soaring. No team was hit harder by the injury bug – more like the injury bout of the Black Plague – than Navy. The return of Worth Smith, along with several other key reserves, has completely changed the Midshipmen’s game, with Smith playing like an absolute manimal in the post, scoring at will and ripping down boards. Smith’s return has allowed his fellow senior Brandon Venturini to move into the role of Robin to Smith’s Batman, and the strong, tough-as-nails guard has provided scoring, playmaking, selfless leadership, and a sheer will to win. This could be a great story in the making.

6. Colgate (5-10, 2-0 in PL)
Results: L 78-43 at Syracuse; L 69-64 at Columbia; W 68-61 at Lehigh; W 68-62 vs Bucknell.
This week: Wednesday vs Holy Cross; Saturday at American.
It’s pretty crazy to think that two games into league play Colgate joins BU and Navy as the league’s only remaining undefeated teams. Point guard Austin Tillotson makes the Raiders go as both a dynamic playmaker (4.9 assists per game, 2.4:1 assist-to-turnover ratio) while also serving as a dynamic scorer. Tillotson’s partner in backcourt crime is senior Damon Sherman-Newsome, a 6’5” strong guard who scores from all over. Both Tillotson and Sherman-Newsome are shooting nearly 48 percent from the floor from the guard positions, and the Raiders big men are rebounding the ball and clogging the lane, a very good combination.

7. Bucknell (6-9, 1-1 in PL)
Results: W 88-65 vs Case Western Reserve (Div. III); L 60-53 at Wake Forest; L 73-71 vs Siena; W 57-47 vs American (PL); L 68-62 at Colgate (PL).
This Week: Wednesday vs Lafayette; Saturday at Holy Cross.
The Bison have found their go-to scorer and star in junior wing Chris Haas, who can score from all over the floor and isn’t afraid to take the big shot. They’ve also finally found a second option in bruising freshman big man Nana Foulland, who is finishing with ferocious authority around the rim. Questions still remain about point guard play and ability to consistently defend, but if a few more young players continue to mature, Bucknell could make a move towards the top of the league this year.

8. Lehigh (6-7, 0-2 in PL)
Results: L 80-65 at Quinnipiac; W 84-81 (3OT) at Arizona State; W 58-55 at UMBC; L 68-61 vs Colgate; L 75-56 at Boston University.
This Week: Wednesday at Army; Saturday vs Loyola.
Six-foot-10-inch sophomore center Tim Kempton remains a serious problem for opponents on the blocks, and an almost automatic double-double as long as he stays out of foul trouble. The problem is that teams are now selling out to stop Kempton – doubling and tripling him whenever he touches the ball – and thus far Lehigh hasn’t found a way to make them consistently pay for it. Freshman point guard Kahron Ross has been fantastic, averaging 5.5 assists and a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. But a huge percentage of Ross’ assists come on feeds to Kempton, and Lehigh needs some other reliable scorers.

9. Holy Cross (5-7)
Results: This week: L 67-48 at Canisius; L 58-39 at Pitt; L 75-72 (OT) vs Boston University (PL); L 53-49 at American (PL).
This week: Wednesday at Colgate; Saturday at Bucknell.
This season is quickly running off the rails and turning in to a total train wreck in Worcester. The good news is that it’s still early in the Patriot League slate and the better news is that the Crusader’s talent and athleticism are really, really good. The bad news is that they have now lost four in a row and six of their last seven games and are playing at a very underwhelming energy level – energy being a key component for a team that doesn’t have a true low-post option and needs to win by pushing the ball on offense and pressuring it in the back court on D. This is a HUGE week for Holy Cross, one which could very well determine how the rest of their season will go.

10. Loyola-Maryland (4-9, 0-2 in PL)
Results: L 74-65 vs Mount Saint Mary’s; L 68-42 vs Saint Joseph’s; L 67-52 vs Stony Brook; W 61-59 vs Fairfield (OT); L 70-47 at Navy (PL); L 77-53 vs Army.
This Week: Wednesday vs American; Saturday at Lehigh.
The Greyhounds are young and rebuilding, and these growing pains are to be expected. The good news is that they haven’t quit on the season and are still playing hard. The better news is that they have some very talented young players and a great leader in redshirt junior Tyler Hubbard. Who has blossomed into a legitimate scoring threat every night. The bad news is that right now, they are just being outclassed by the rest of the league.

OBW Patriot League Player of the Week
Worth Smith, Sr., F, Navy

It’s been quite the comeback for Smith, who returned to action after missing all but the first half of the season opener. Smith averaged 19 points and 8.5 rebounds and was THE big reason that Navy took the Patriot League by storm, racing out to a 2-0 start to the conference slate.

OBW Patriot League Rookie of the Week
Nana Foulland, C, Bucknell.

Foulland averaged 13.0 points and 5.0 rebounds in Bucknell’s first two Patriot League contests. Foulland scored nine points on 4-of-9 shooting to go with five rebounds in a big 57-47 win over American, and followed it up with a career-high 17 points hitting 7-of-11 shots in a loss at Colgate.

Fab Five
Cedric Hankerson Soph., G, Boston University
Seth Hinrichs, Sr., F, Lafayette
Nick Lidner, Soph. G, Lafayette
Dan Trist, Sr., F, Lafayette
Kyle Wilson, G, Jr., Army

Frosh Five
Cam Gregory, F, Loyola
Matt Klinewski, F, Lafayette
Nana Foulland, C, Bucknell
Kahron Ross, G, Lehigh
J.C. Show, G, Bucknell