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October 7, 2010

League preview: Patriot League

We continue with our league breakdowns for the upcoming season; we'll work backward from league No. 32 to our top-ranked league.

The breakdowns will become more in-depth as the leagues get bigger.

26. Patriot

By Joe Rexrode

Just ask Kansas about Lehigh G C.J. McCollum. After shredding foes in the Patriot League and winning player of the year honors as the top freshman scorer in the nation (19.1 ppg), McCollum scored 26 on the Jayhawks in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

It wasn't enough against the No. 1 overall seed (maybe the Mountain Hawks softened up the Jayhawks for Northern Iowa?) in a 90-74 loss, but it showed what the Patriot League has to deal with for the next three seasons.

The silky McCollum is this league's best player, but his team will have to repeat without key departed seniors Zahir Carrington and Marquis Hall.

It should be a fierce battle at the top this season, with Bucknell -- NCAA winners in 2005 over Kansas and 2006 over Arkansas -- making a serious bid to return to prominence. The Bison return nine of their top 10 scorers, including rugged big man Mike Muscala and senior G Darryl Shazier.

Lafayette has reason for optimism as well, thanks to the forward combo of Jared Mintz and Ryan Willen. The Leopards were last season's surprise team, getting all the way to the league tourney title game before falling to their bitter rivals.

The best collection of talent, though, may belong to American coach Jeff Jones. It's up to him to put it all together. Jones welcomes a pair of SEC transfers in Gs Troy Brewer (Georgia) and Charles Hinkle (Vanderbilt), and some extra offensive juice in the backcourt is exactly what's needed to aid talented big men Vlad Moldoveanu and Stephen Lumpkins.

The most interesting team this season may be Holy Cross, which underachieved in 2009-10 and fired coach Sean Kearney. Successor Milan Brown inherits some quality players, including C Andrew Keister and Gs R.J. Evans and Devin Brown.

Colgate, led by versatile F Yaw Gyawu, also has the makings of a potential surprise team.

C Mike Muscala, Bucknell (6-10/223, Soph.)
F Yaw Gyawu, Colgate (6-5/219, Jr.)
F Vlad Moldoveanu, American (6-9/215, Sr.)
G C.J. McCollum, Lehigh (6-3/190, Soph.)
G Jordan Sugars, Navy (6-4/216, Jr.)
C Andrew Keister, Holy Cross (6-9/235, Sr.)
F Stephen Lumpkins, American (6-8/225, Jr.)
F Jared Mintz, Lafayette (6-9/243, Sr.)
G R.J. Evans, Holy Cross (6-3/200, Jr.)
G Darryl Shazier, Bucknell (6-0/178, Sr.)

PLAYER OF YEAR: G C.J. McCollum, Lehigh
NEWCOMER OF YEAR: G Troy Brewer, American (6-5/175, Jr./transfer from Georgia)

1. Bucknell
2. American
3. Lehigh
4. Lafayette
5. Holy Cross
6. Colgate
7. Navy
8. Army

New coaches: Milan Brown at Holy Cross
(had been coach at Mount St. Mary's)
Regular-season winner last season: Lehigh
Tourney winner last season: Lehigh
League RPI rank in each of past 3 years: 28th in 2009-10, 23rd in 2008-09, 16th in 2007-08
Last NCAA tourney win by a league team: 2006, Bucknell as a No. 9 seed in the first round
2011 conference tournament: March 2, 6, 11, campus sites

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