Well, we are officially at the midway point of the Patriot League season with each team having played nine games. What do we know? That Bucknell is still the best team, but vulnerable (Sunday's game in Boston is HUGE). That Colgate truly is one of the league's best. That Lafayette is more competitive than we predicted. And above all else, that anything can happen on any given night in this league. Here are our midway power rankings:
1. Bucknell (8-1, +18.1 AdjEM)
The Bison haven't lost since Jan. 2 and are perfect with their full complement of weapons healthy (Kimbal Mackenzie and Avi Toomer returned in mid-January) and games haven't been very competitive either, with the average margin at 13.7. This is bad news for the rest of the league. The Bison have no real weaknesses other than not being great with turnover margins. Throw in having the best player in the league (Zach Thomas, 18.9ppg, 10.4rpg in league), and the Bison are moving toward being the team we thought they'd be.
Zach Thomas FT rate (by year)
2018: 73.0 (21st in the nation) — shooting 76% on FTs
2. Boston (7-2, 7.6 AdjEM)
The one full game that I watched the Terriers they weren't impressive, losing at home to American. Other than that, they've been good if not great. While I'm still a little untrusting of this team or ready to call them the second-best team in the league (prime example — I wouldn't be surprised if Bucknell beat them by 20+ at home Sunday), a couple numbers point to the Terriers staying where they are: 1) They don't rely on the 3, with just 31% of their league points coming from behind the arc, and 2) Balance:
BU scoring (in conference):
3. Army (5-4, 5.7 AdjEM)
The Black Knights are very close to being 7-2, with a four-point road loss to Holy Cross and last night's three-point defeat to Colgate. Army plays at by far the fastest pace in the conference, with an average possession of 15.1 seconds, and it hasn't affected the Black Knights' offensive efficiency (55 E-fg%). What also lets Army play at a pace a full possession faster than the second-quickest team, Lehigh, is minutes balance:
Tommy Funk, 30.9mpg
Jordan Fox, 30.4mpg
Matt Wilson, 25.4mpg
Alex King, 21.2mpg
4. Colgate (6-3, 0.8 AdjEM)
While a loss at home to Lafayette remains baffling, the losses to Boston and Bucknell highlight the problem Colgate has when it struggles — no one in the league relies more on the 3. The Red Raiders will ride and die by the perimeter shot, with a 44.1 3PA/FGA.
Threes in losses:
— Lafayette, 8-24
— Boston, 6-34
— Bucknell, 7-26
5. Loyola (4-5, -3.3 AdjEM)
Andre Walker will be missed in Baltimore's suburbs after this season. The point guard has had a sterling career on mostly mediocre teams, and his crowing moment may have been scoring 43 points — one off the school record — in a win over Lafayette. Walker had one of the best, most balanced 43-point affairs you'll see:
10-14 on 2s
6-12 on 3s
5-7 on FTs
(2 assists, 4 steals)
Walker is leading the Patriot League in conference play with 23.3ppg (more than four more than second-leading Thomas) although he's never been the most efficient offensive player, and should be marked down to hit a game-winner the second half of the conference season. From a Loyola perspective, it's a shame he's never been surrounded by enough talent to build a championship team.
6. Navy (4-5, -3.3 AdjEM)
The Midshipmen rebound well, and don't do a whole lot else well — at least on a consistent basis. That's a good reason why Navy has been good enough to take care of the bottom feeders, but has no wins over the league's top four (Bucknell, Boston, Colgate and Army). Maybe most alarming is how much Navy has regressed on defense, allowing a league-worst 56.6 E-fg% and 38% shooting on 3s. Rebounding can only make up for so much. This feels like an upperclassmen-laden team that hit its ceiling early in the season.
7. Lehigh (4-5, -5.1 AdjEM)
It's temping to label the Mountain Hawks a perimeter team considering they almost shoot it as well from deep (42.9%) as they do from two (44.8%), but they're actually more impressive inside, especially rebounding, than I would have surmised a month ago. Lehigh places three in the top 10 of defensive rebounding in the league:
Kyle Leufroy, 4th, 21.3%
James Karnik, 6th, 19.5%
Pat Andree, 7th, 19.1%
8. Lafayette (3-6, 3-1.3 AdjEM)
It's also temping to put Lafayette a spot or two higher, considering how close the Leopards are to being a win or two better — every Patriot League loss has been by 10 points or less, including two by three points and an overtime loss to Bucknell. For the Leopards, such an improvement starts at the defensive end where they're fourth-best in the league.
This from a team that was dead-last defensively the last four seasons.
9. Holy Cross (3-6, -8.6 AdjEM)
Two words: Jehyve Floyd. He has the best hair in the Patriot League and he's maybe the most exciting player, too. Floyd had career highs with 22 points and more impressively, SIX blocks at American Monday night. He's the lone spark on an otherwise lacking roster. Floyd's 7.3% block percentage is 91st nationally.
10. American (2-7, -8.0 AdjEM)
Reason for optimism: American has been in every Patriot League game in which it's had Sa'eed Nelson, with all six losses by 10 or fewer points.
Reason for pessimism: American has three of the top four league players in minutes per game and lacks a good big man, assuming Mark Gasperini is done for the year.