The 2012-2013 Patriot League season was highlighted by two of the top players to ever come out of the League with center Mike Muscala of Bucknell and shooting guard C.J. McCollum of Lehigh. McCollum, drafted 10th overall by the Atlanta Hawks, became the highest drafted player in the history of the Patriot League in June’s NBA Draft. McCollum and Muscala were the standouts from a solid all-around season in the Patriot League, but were not the only ones that made waves in the National spotlight.
1991 National Coach of the Year Randy Ayers’ son Cameron Ayers is a rising junior that looks to lead the Bucknell Bison who are the favorites to win the Patriot League this year. Bucknell has seen recent success making the NCAA tournament four times since 2005 including two first round upset wins. Head Coach since 2008, Dave Paulsen has led the Bison to the postseason each of the last three years including a second round loss to Butler last year. He looks to do the same with this years’ team returning four starters. Rising Senior Bryson Johnson emerged last year as one of the best shooters in the country hitting 40% from downtown. Bucknell is certainly the team to beat winning two of the last three Patriot League titles, but they will have their share of trouble now that the league has expanded to ten teams.
Lehigh and Lafayette headline the teams that will try to compete with the Bison as both return most of what they had last year. Both Lafayette and Lehigh finished 10-4 in conference play tying for second, but it is Lehigh who will be the second best team in the conference. Even while playing most of the season without their star C.J. McCollum who had his season cut short at the beginning of league play, Dr. Brett Reed was able to lead his team to a solid 21-10 season with a postseason berth to the CBI. Led by rising point guard Mackey McKnight, the Mountain Hawks of Lehigh are the best contenders for the Patriot League title returning four of their starters from last year. The Mountain Hawks will be tested early with games against Baylor, Pittsburgh and VCU non-conference, but look for them to be hovering around the bubble; whether they can steal the league title will remain to be seen.
In addition to Lehigh and Lafayette, Bucknell and the others will have to face the challenge of adding two new teams to the league with Boston University and Loyola (MD). Boston and Loyola (MD) both are coming off of solid seasons in which they made runs to the postseason and coincidentally played each other in the CIT.
Loyola (MD) has been extremely successful of late including back to back postseason berths starting with a 2012 loss in the NCAA tournament to Ohio State. The Greyhounds were able to accumulate 23 wins last year under long time coach Jimmy Patsos who left the program for Siena. New Head Coach G.G. Smith steps up from the rank of assistant, but rising Junior Dylon Cormier returns along with his 16.4 points per game. Cormier will be among the favorites to win Patriot League Player of the Year, but he will not be alone with incoming freshman Nick Gorski from Midlothian, VA. Gorski is a do-it-all swing man who comes in as the most highly touted freshman to any Patriot League team.
With the addition of Loyola (MD) and Boston University, the Patriot League should be able to expect five teams to make it into the postseason at some level including at least two, Bucknell and Lehigh, who should expect to be on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament. The Mountain Hawks and Bison will compete for the regular season title while Lafayette, Boston and Loyola (MD) round out the top five. Colgate, American and Navy will all be fighting to stay out of the cellar of a solid ten team league with first year coaches at each program. Army was much improved last year and should continue to trend upwards making them the best chance at a surprise in the conference.