Patriot League power rankings (2.3.2019)

Welcome back to our somewhat consistent attempt to rank the 10 teams in the Patriot League. This edition comes as all teams are 10 games through Patriot League play, with eight remaining. Per usual, please note that our rankings are not based on teams’ records but on a combination of factors — schedule strength, advanced stats, and of course the eye test. Statistics unless otherwise noted are Patriot-league only. Per usual, feedback is welcomed. For our last power rankings, click here.

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1. Bucknell (8-2, +7.0 efficiency margin)
This Bison team is drastically different from the non-conference one. Some interesting stats — the Bison are not shooting well from 3 during league play (31.5%), which has brought down their overall percentage to 34.4%. Additionally, remember all that stuff about the Bison lacking interior defense? Well, Bucknell opponents are shooting a league-worst 49.7% on twos and Bucknell’s 10.4% block rate is third best in the conference. Also, Bucknell has veered away from life on the edge — for now — with a week that featured relatively smooth-sailing double-digit wins over Navy and Lafayette.

2. Lehigh (8-2, +7.6 efficiency margin)
The Mountain Hawks are still the best 3-point shooting team in the country (45.2%) and haven’t leveled off at all in league play (45.6%). This ability makes comebacks like yesterday’s at Army possible, when an 18-point deficit against the league’s second-best defense didn’t surprise at all (let’s not forget, too, that Bucknell came back from 26 down at Army, so this is a thing). The fellas on the Three Man Weave podcast said this week that Lehigh’s the kind of team that could be a 15 seed and next thing you know, they’re up 10 on a 2 seed in the second half of a tournament game. I couldn’t agree more. Next Monday’s game at Bucknell awaits after two home contests this week, including tonight vs. Colgate.

3. American (6-4, +5.5 efficiency margin)
The Eagles are the hottest team in the league despite dealing with injuries, and it all starts with defense. American is now statistically the best team in the league on that end and the only one allowing less than a point per possession (0.99). Just as important, American is only improving at turning defense into offense and that starts with Sa’eed Nelson and Stacy Beckton Jr. Nelson is 15th nationally averaging 2.45 steals per game, and American’s steal rate of 12.8% in league play is second only to Loyola. That combined with turning over opponents on 19.4% of possessions (third-best in the PL) creates enough easy baskets for the Eagles to overcome occasional half-court offensive droughts.

American’s transition e-FG% of 63.5% is 18th nationally (Lehigh is fourth at 65.8%) and the Eagles are attempting 19.8% of their field goals in transition, the best of any Mike Brennan American team.

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4. Army (6-4, +4.3 efficiency margin)
If only games were 30 or 35 minutes, Army would be golden. But the Black Knights couldn’t hold home leads vs. Bucknell and Lehigh, and road games vs. those two plus two games left with American make up half of the Black Knights’ remaining schedule.

5. Colgate (5-5, +5.0 efficiency margin)
The Raiders have now been without their point guard and leader Jordan Burns for four games, and it’s showing. Colgate is 2-2 sans Burns, including a brutal home loss to Boson Saturday during which it turned the ball over 16 times. In an overtime loss to Loyola last week, Colgate coughed up the ball 20 times. There are very few players in the league as important to their team’s success as Burns, and until he returns, Colgate will be a meddling middle-of-the-pack team just fighting for a home game in the Patriot League tournament. Things do not get easier with a game at Lehigh tonight.

6. Boston (4-6, -4.4 efficiency margin)
The Terriers take the cake for the most unpredictable team in a league full of them. With wins over Bucknell and at Colgate, they’ve shown flashes of capability. With six losses, they’ve shown they’re not very good consistently. The difference during BU’s two-game winning streak has been Tyler Scanlon. Early in Patriot League play, Max Mahoney wasn’t getting much help — but Scanlon has recently performed like the best player on the Terriers.

Tyler Scanlon last two games:
— vs. Holy Cross: 39 min, 17 pts (7-11 FGs), 10 reb, 6 ast, 3 stls
— at Colgate: 36 min, 20 pts (6-14 FGs), 9 reb

7. Loyola (4-6, -4.5 efficiency margin)
This is shaping up to be a typically bad-shooting Greyhounds team. Loyola is now 10th in 3-point shooting in league play (29.8%) and is compounding offensive issues by turning the ball over on 21.8% of possessions. The Greyhounds are staying in games because of Andrew Kostecka, who just continues to do it all for them. Through 10 league games, Kostecka is:

1st in scoring (21.1ppg)
9th in FG% (50.7%)
6th in FT% (84.7%, 50-59)
1st in steals per game (3.1)
4th in blocked shots per game (1.1)

8. Navy (4-6, -4.9 efficiency margin)
The Midshipmen snapped a four-game losing streak with a win over Loyola this weekend, but it wasn’t pretty. Nothing is with this team, which is easily the worst offensive operation in the league — scoring just 0.97 points per possession. The only thing the Mids do well offensively is rebound the ball, but who is scoring? Navy has just two players (Cam Davis and Josiah Strong, who doesn’t shoot a lot) hitting on better than 32% from 3. The biggest bright spot offensively is Evan Wieck , who rebounds 16.5% of Navy’s misses in league play (the best in the league) and also is shooting a league-best 73% on twos. Now if only Navy could get him the ball more — he’s attempted 10 shots just once.

9. Lafayette (2-8, -7.9 efficiency margin)
Since winning at American two weeks ago, Lafayette has found a way to lose four straight in all styles. The Leopards lost a death march to Colgate, 57-47, a slog to Army, 69-63, and then a couple offensive shootouts first to Lehigh in overtime and then by blowout to Bucknell. This team isn’t as bad as its record indicates — and both Lehigh losses could’ve easily swung the other way — but a porous defense that also fouls more frequently than any other team in the league makes finishing games tough.

10. Holy Cross (3-7, -8.4 efficiency margin)
It was hard to watch the Crusaders on Saturday at Bender Arena. Cleary, they missed their coach, Bill Carmody, who is missing select road games to be with his wife who has cancer. Their offense was out of sorts — Holy Cross is 10-39 from 3 the last two games — and American picked apart the 1-3-1 zone with ease. Holy Cross was one of the most promising teams in non-conference play and could still get it together, but for now things look grim.