Welcome back to Patriot League Power Rankings, our sometimes consistent (and sometimes not) attempt at ranking the league throughout the conference season. Remember that our rankings are not based entirely on teams’ records nor on their efficiency rankings (see image below), although both play a role in our determinations. We also take into account things like schedule difficulty, road games played, margins, and of course what we actually see with our eyes.
As always, we welcome our feedback. Comment here or better yet, tweet at us @auhoopspodcast. And with that, here are our first rankings after three of 18 Patriot League games. As a final note, all numbers in charts are for PL games only unless otherwise indicated.
1. Lehigh (3-0, +10.9 EM)
Yes, Lehigh is the lone undefeated team in the league, but the Mountain Hawks have barely gotten here. They survived a scare from Lafayette, 86-83, and then last night gave up 59 first-half points to Holy Cross (!!), erased a double-digit deficit, and needed overtime and a school record-tying 10 3s from Lance Tejada to outlast the Crusaders, 99-94. While no one doubts this team’s offensive prowess, what still gives me pause — a LOT of pause — is the defense. Lehigh hasn’t held an opponent under 70 since Nov. 16. Opponents are shooting 46% from 3 against them, and Lehigh doesn’t turn anyone over (15.2% TO rate). The next test? At a desperate Colgate team Saturday.
2. American (2-1, +7.9 EM)
Why not? If not for blowing an eight-point lead late at Colgate, the Eagles and Sa’eed Nelson would be undefeated through a trio of games. Nobody in the league is more opportunistic on the defensive end than American, which is turning over opponents on 21.2% of possessions and has a steal rate of 11.4%. That all starts with Nelson, whose steal rate of 3.4% almost cracks the top 100 nationally and is third in the PL. Teammate Stacy Beckton is sixth at 3.0%. The days of American and its lack of transition points are relics of the past. Now, every American run includes at least one or two transition baskets. Winning is just easier that way. Now comes the tough part — road games vs. Bucknell and Lehigh. Steal either of those, and AU will be sitting pretty.
3. Army (2-1, +5.0 EM)
Army should be 3-0. The Black Knights led Bucknell by 26 points. In the second half. At home. That theft by the Bison still boggles the mind. But since then, Army has responded nicely with with a home win over Lafayette (yawn) but then a roadie over Boston (!!). Not only that, but Army’s next four are at Loyola then three at home vs. Colgate, Navy and Holy Cross. The Black Knights could be at the top of the standings in two weeks. Defense has been the big surprise so far for the Black Knights, who haven’t had a sub-100 PP100P team since 2010 under Zach Spiker. So far in league play, Army is second in defensive efficiency (98.4). There’s nothing sexy about Army’s defense, but it doesn’t give up ORBs (18.5%) and it doesn’t foul (14.9%). Both those numbers are super good and might regress a bit toward their non-conference means, but Army is a team to watch going forward.
4. Bucknell (2-1, -1.3 EM)
It was hard to imagine putting the Bison even this low, but let’s not forget (see above) that they should be 1-2. The Bison needed another comeback and senior contributions from Kimbal Mackenzie and Nate Sestina to get by Colgate in a barnburner Wednesday night, 84-81, the second of three PL contests in which Bucknell has surrendered at least 80 points. The Bison have a lot of work to do on that end, with a defensive efficiency of 106.4. Last year’s number was 90.5, for comparison’s sake. Perhaps most concerning is the interior, where Nana Foulland’s presence is sorely missed. PL opponents are rebounding 32% of their misses and shooting 54% on 2s vs. the Bison. Sestina is doing all he can with a 25% defensive rebounding rate, but the Bison aren’t getting much from their other bigs. Freshman Paul Newman has played a combined 22 minutes and grabbed six rebounds; Bruce Moore is Bucknell’s most athletic big, but didn’t snare a single defensive board vs. Colgate. As the Bison prepare for AU and Mark Gasperini followed by Holy Cross and Jehyve Floyd, bad rebounding will be exposed.
5. Colgate (1-2, -2.4 EM)
I’m thinking positive thoughts about Colgate, even though I kind of think the Crusaders should be 0-3. They stole that AU game at the end. Still, when you have a top-three point guard in the league, Jordan Burns, you can’t be discounted. There’s also the tough schedule,. Playing at Navy and Bucknell isn’t easy. Now comes Lehigh. Ooof. But let’s not forget about Rapolas Ivanauskas, either. The big man bounced back in a big way last night, scoring 20 points on 7-for-12 shooting before fouling out in 29 minutes. If Colgate can get production out of just two of its big three (Will Rayman has unexpectedly struggled in PL play (8.3 ppg, 2-9 on 3s), the Cruasders will win a lot of games.
6. Holy Cross (1-2, 0.0 EM)
What to make of a team that in its last two games managed 48 points in a two-point loss to Navy, put up 59 in a half vs. Lehigh, and then lost a double-digit home lead and fell in overtime to the Mountain Hawks. I’d just say, that’s Holy Cross, always the PL’s most unpredictable. What I’m confident in saying is that this is Bill Carmody’s best offensive team. If you look at all games, Holy Cross is scoring 101.9 points per 100 possessions, which isn’t great but marks the first +100 number in four seasons under Carmody. A big reason? 3s! The Crusaders are shooting 37% from deep, a number they haven’t hit since 2010 (they’re 42% in PL games). It all starts with 6-foot-6 sophomore Jacob Grandison, who uses 23.5% of HC’s possessions, makes 40% of his 3s, and 46% of his 2s. Grandison is averaging two 3s a game in PL play and also created for others — in short, he’s the playmaker who can shoot that Holy Cross has been missing. He’s the reason the Crusaders can still contend in the league.
7. Navy (2-1, 0.0 EM)
Navy is Navy. The Midshipmen grind you, they out-ugly you, and they find ways to win. They almost did it to American Wednesday night. Say what you want, but it is a recipe that works for a very deep team and one that could keep the Midshipmen lingering in the top half of the standings well into February. Navy might lack a shot-blocker, but it has no real weaknesses on the defensive end and team rebounds as well as anyone (74.5 DRB %). In conference games, the Mids are rebounding an absurd 38.9% of their own misses. Navy has 42 offensive boards through three games and a +8.7 rebounding margin (tops in the league). Combine that with some timely play-making and is anyone surprised Navy’s 2-1?
8. Boston (1-2, -4.1 EM)
Oh, Boston! The Terriers went from taking down Bucknell on the wide shoulders of Max Mahoney (26 points, 7 rebounds) to faltering at home against Army in a game in which Mahoney took just five shots and fouled out; Tyler Scanlon took just seven shots; Jevante McCoy was pulled from the game early in the second half and never returned; and two walk-ons led the Terriers in scoring. I don’t know what to take from such a result. Yes, BU is deep, but yes, BU is also very young. Yes, BU can have outings like the Bucknell win, but then come right back and lose to anyone at home. This reeks of a mediocre, up-and-down team that will be searching for quite a while to find the right pieces to place around its stars — not to mention keeping those guys on the floor. The news this week that Walter Whyte, expected to be a main piece as a sophomore, is out for the season with an ankle injury does as much damage as anything to BU’s hopes to contend.
9. Lafayette (1-2, +1.8)
Playing Loyola at home can really help your efficiency margin. The Leopards thumped the Greyhounds 85-70 Wednesday after losses at Lehigh and Army to start the league slate. I said it at the beginning of the season and I stand by it — Lafayette will go as Alex Petrie goes. The sophomore showed late last year his creativity and offensive weapons, and he can help this team win games it has no business being in. He had a bit of a quiet non-conference and produced a dud in that Army loss (1-9 FGs, 3 points) but rebounded with 19 points including 3-for-7 from 3 vs. Loyola. Can he get his percentages up, though?
Alex Petrie 2017-18: 46% on 2s, 41% on 3s
Alex Petrie 2018-19: 37% on 2s, 34% on 3s
10. Loyola (0-3, -17.9 EM)
The numbers are not pretty for the lone winless team in conference play. Opponents have an e-FG percentage of 61.8% (the national average is 50.6%), a FTA/FGA rate of 35.5%, and are rebounding 28% of their (rare) misses. On the other end, the Greyhounds are turning it over on nearly 21% of their possessions and shooting 27% on 3s. This could change — i.e., Loyola is an OK 34% from 3 overall on the season — but it’s hard to imagine a lot of wins for a team that’s also relying so heavily on Andrew Kostecka, who uses 29.2% of their possessions.