2008-09 Team Capsules
Despite their relative lack of size, the Eagles were a surprisingly competent defensive rebounding club last season. They also showed it wasn't just because they played in a smaller league when they pounded Tennessee on the boards (37-25) in their NCAA first-round matchup. Given all of the returning talent, they should have another strong campaign. AU shoots the 3 (40.8 percent last season) and free throws (73.9 percent) well and also is excellent defending inside the arc. At the very slow pace they play, though, the Eagles should have lower turnover numbers. Right now, those mistakes are hurting their overall efficiency. With his talent, lead guard Derrick Mercer
should do better than the 4.0-2.9 assist-to-turnover ratio he had last season.
The Black Knights took the Academy's "an Army of one" slogan a bit too far last season when Jarell Brown
was the only consistently offensive-minded cadet. Despite his exploits, the Knights had the worst offensive production in the Patriot League at 59.0 points per game. That will need to change if Army wants to continue its upward trend. What the Black Knights don't want to change is their defense; they finished second in the league in scoring defense (62.1 points per game) and second in steals (8.63).
It will be interesting to see how new coach Dave Paulsen changes things in Lewisburg. What won't change, according to the former Williams head man, is the intensity and effort Bison fans came to expect from Pat Flannery's squads. What needs to change is the Bison's rampant turnover issues from a season ago. Bucknell coughed it up almost once every four possessions last season while playing a very slow tempo, which is a recipe for offensive disaster. Despite losing gritty guard John Griffin
and forward Darren Mastropaolo
to graduation and promising center Todd O'Brien
to Saint Joseph's via transfer, there is some solid talent returning, including guard Stephen Tyree
(the league's defensive player of the year) and shooting guard Justin Castleberry
> (10.9 ppg). If freshman Enoch Andoh
lives up to billing, he'll be a nice added piece.
The Raiders return a lot of the core that almost took out American for the league tournament crown. They have a nice inside-outside tandem in Kyle Roemer
(16.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg) and Alex Woodhouse
(6.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 2.1 bpg), and Mike Venezia
(7.1 ppg) can pitch in from the perimeter, as well. Losing Kendall Chones
(12.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg) to graduation hurts, as Colgate is another Patriot team that can struggle on offense. As with Bucknell, turnovers were a huge problem last season. The Raiders also need to do a better job on their defensive glass.
The Crusaders, already trying to overcome the loss of their starting backcourt from the season before, spent much of last season hampered by injuries and ended up relying very heavily on Tim Clifford
inside. Now his 18 points per game are gone, so where is the offense going to come from this season? That's the big question for head coach Ralph Willard. After Clifford, four of the next five leading scorers last season shot less than 40 percent from the field. Assuming they're healthy, returnees Alex Vander Baan
and Pat Doherty
are solid pieces. Doherty & Co. will have to protect the ball better, though. Holy Cross played at one of the nation's slowest tempos and still had the worst turnover margin in the league. Without a proven lead scorer, the Crusaders can't waste so many possessions this season.
The Leopards might be in for a tough season, as the league is pretty balanced and talented around them and they need to overcome the losses of Bilal Abudullah
(15.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and Matt Betley
(11.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg) to graduation and returning guard Deirunas Visockas
to injury. Shooting guard Andrew Brown
(15.9 ppg, 40.1 percent 3s) should have ample opportunity to look for his shot, as the next highest returning scorer (Mike Gruner
) averaged 7.5 ppg last season. The Leopards were fifth in the nation in 3-point shots attempted last season.
The optimist would look at the way the Mountain Hawks defended inside the arc last season (43.6 percent shooting allowed) and believe their defense can be a cornerstone. The pessimist would point out that opposing teams didn't necessarily need to trek inside the arc since they shot a searing 40.0 percent from it last season. Will the extra foot on this year's 3 help the Hawks out? They don't need help offensively with Marquis Hall
(14.1 ppg, 4.4 apg) feeding Rob Keefer
, a 43.5 percent 3-point shooter, and Zahir Carrington
(12.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg). The loss of Bryan White
(10.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg), though, leaves a glaring hole on the glass.
When Navy lost forward Trey Stanton to a transfer before last season, it left the Midshipmen with almost no size on the roster. That helps explain why Navy routinely was punished on its defensive glass and why it put teams on the free-throw line at an alarming rate. Head coach Billy Lange is bringing more size into the fold, but Navy will still need to rebound en masse this season to keep teams from second-chance points. If the Midshipmen can board better, their defense, which forces a ton of turnovers (24.7 percent; 15th best in Division I) and holds teams to reasonable shooting percentages, will be solid. It will be interesting to see how Navy rebounds from the disappointment of its final two games from last season. A loss at Colgate cost the Midshipmen a share of the regular-season crown, and Bucknell's half-court shot at the triple-OT buzzer sunk them in the Patriot quarterfinals.