Throughout the conference season, we'll provide our Patriot League power rankings tracking all the teams in the league. We'll use statistical analysis, the eye test, and more to evaluate where the 10 teams stand from week to week. The efficiency margin tool does not determine our rankings but rather helps guide us in our analysis. For example, do we believe American is the second-to-worst team in the league? No. KenPom's model isn't favorable to the Eagles. See below for our rankings, and of course feedback is welcomed.
1. Bucknell (9-1): The Bison are clearly the class of the league right now, and they're not just winning — they're torching teams. Bucknell's margins of victory since losing to Lehigh: 14, 13, 11, 23, 21. The Bison — winners of five of the last six regular-season Patriot League titles — have had some impressive offenses over the years, but none better than this one that's scoring 108.2 points per 100 possessions.
2. Navy (7-3): Raise your hand if you had the Midshipmen in this position before the season, a month into the season, or even two weeks ago. This team is the second-hottest in the league, and it starts with defense and rebounding. If you haven't watched Tom Lacey yet, turn on a Navy game and keep your eyes on him — he tracks rebounds on both ends like Dennis Rodman. Lacey's ORB% of 13.6 (see chart above) is 51st nationally and against American he had 10 offensive boards and 15 total.
3. Lehigh (6-3): A seven-point squeaker over Lafayette and a 14-point win at Colgate doesn't exactly convince me that the Mountain Hawks are ready to be the overwhelming league favorite that we tabbed them heading into the season. The team's commitment to defense still has to be questioned, especially when you consider that conference opponents have a 43.6 3PA/FGA% (i.e., open 3s) and are 39.4% from deep — best against any league team. This doesn't make sense when you consider Lehigh's quickness on the perimeter and Tim Kempton as at least an average interior defender.
Lehigh losses — 3pt defense
4. Boston (6-3): Eric Fanning is quickly becoming the most polarizing player in the league. Take Wednesday's 90-89 overtime home win over Army (a game BU never should have let get to that point). Fanning was terrific all night, finishing with 32 points and eight rebounds. But then on Army's final possession with the clock winding down, he inexplicably fouled the Black Knights on a 50-foot heave and was only bailed out by two missed foul shots.
Also of concern: BU's leading scorer has disappeared against top teams. He had five points without a field goal in a loss to Bucknell and just three points and four turnovers in a win over Navy. Fanning is a metaphor for his own team, which has lost three of four and has joined Lehigh in the "Very Talented but Wildly Unpredictable" group.
5. Loyola (5-5): Picking 5-7 in these rankings is near impossible, but I'll give the nod to the Greyhounds because of their wins over Lehigh and Boston. As Jarred Jones goes, so goes Loyola. The senior has attempted nearly twice as many 2-point field goals (224) as any other teammate and has a FTRate of 46.2%. In Patriot League play Jones is shooting above 50% on 2s and has a FTRate of 50.9%. Throw in 'Dre Walker and his 3-point shooting, and it's no wonder Loyola can beat the best teams (but also lose to Lafayette on an off night for their two-headed monster).
6. Holy Cross (5-5): The Crusaders just finished off a brutal three-games-in-six-days week, losing at Navy Saturday night. The result wasn't surprising considering Holy Cross hosted American Monday (win), went to Loyola Wednesday (loss), and then after returning to Worcester Thursday, flew back down to Maryland Friday night to prepare for the league's most physical team. Bill Carmody wasn't too pleased, telling The Telegram, Worcester's local paper, "It's ridiculous. It's a joke. I hope they (the Patriot League) are making a lot of money. It's absurd."
He's referencing the Monday games, which were added a few years ago as CBS Sports Network games. On the one hand, it's nice that the league gets more TV time. On the other hand, A) Most TV subscribers don't have the channel (you've got to get a top-tier cable package for it); B) You can't stream games on the channel, which is incredibly annoying; and C) Like Carmody said, it creates a huge disadvantage for teams that have to play the usual Wednesday game on a day's rest (including travel) and three games in six days.
Here's a look at how teams that've played on Monday have fared Wednesday:
Boston (Jan. 16): Lost at home to Colgate
Loyola (Jan. 16): Lost at Bucknell
American (Jan. 23): Lost to Navy
Holy Cross (Jan. 23): Lost at Loyola
0-4. Brutal. But is it at least even? Do all the teams have equal games on Mondays? Let's crunch the numbers from the top of the standings down (note: Sunday games like American-Colgate today are not ideal, either, but two days of rest is much, much easier to deal with and prepare for than the one):
Holy Cross: 2
So not entirely fair. Boston gets a bit of a break this week by playing Monday and Thursday, but the Terriers are playing Lehigh and a Navy team that will have had two extra days to prepare for them (ouch!). And expect Carmody to pop a blood vessel or two when Holy Cross plays Monday, Feb. 6 at Bucknell, Wednesday, Feb. 8 at Lafayette and then Sunday, Feb. 12 vs. Lehigh. Cruel.
7. Colgate (5-5): Malcolm Regisford knows how to score down low. While freshman Will Rayman was the talk of the team a month ago, the Red Raiders are now going through the big man in the post early and often. Regisford is still just 31st in the league on the season in 2-pt FG%, but recent games — and seeing him vs. American — tell us he's very much trending upward.
Malcolm Regisford 2-point field goals (last 6 games): 30-46
8. Army (2-8): The Black Nights get the nod here over American solely because they're much more entertaining losers. Their 15.5-second average possession is easily fastest in the Patriot League and they're in the top 30 nationally (15.5 for the season). There's no doubt — Army is the most enjoyable 2-8 team in the league.
9. American (2-8): The Eagles just can't finish games. With the exception of getting blown out by Navy two days after playing at Holy Cross — brutal — the Eagles haven't lost a league game by more than 10 points. Shooting a league-worst 63.3% from the free-throw line hasn't helped, and neither has the continuing foul problems of big man Mark Gasperini. Losing Leon Tolksdorf, a reliable senior, for the season (ACL), and senior Jalen Rhea being hobbled by a foot that's basically planted him on the bench haven't helped, either.
10. Lafayette (2-8): The Leopards, on the other hand, have taken some serious lumps. The losers of seven in a row have dropped five of them by double digits, including 37- and 23-point defeats, and they trailed Loyola 37-9 in the first half Saturday before rallying all the way back within one and losing by eight. Fun fact: Matt Klinewski taking 35.4% of Lafayette's shots ranks ninth nationally. The Leopards rely on the big man — heavily.