Top returning scorer: C.J. McCollum
(Lehigh), 21.8 ppg
Top returning rebounder: C.J. McCollum (Lehigh), 7.8 rpg
2012 Tournament: Feb. 29, March 3, 7 -- Campus sites
The biggest offseason story in the Patriot League surprisingly revolved around Navy, a team that has finished above .500 in the conference just twice in the last decade.
The Midshipmen made waves in May when Penn State head coach Ed DeChellis left the Big Ten to take over at Navy. DeChellis was coming off of an NCAA tournament appearance with the Nittany Lions, yet will look to turn around the Naval Academy.
On the court, defending champion Bucknell remains the favorite despite losing all-Patriot point guard Darryl Shazier. The Bison went 19-1 to end the season en route to an NCAA tournament berth. Big man Mike Muscala won Player of the Year honors last year, while Bryson Johnson is a lights-out shooter. If Cameron Ayers can replace Shazier, expect Bucknell to return to the Big Dance.
Lehigh is clearly the Bisons’ toughest competition. Guard C.J. McCollum is the nation’s leading returning scorer and the Patriots’ top returning rebounder. Gabe Knutson bangs down low, but the Mountain Hawks will need to defend better in order to win the title.
Holy Cross is probably the league’s deepest team, especially with 2009 Rookie of the Year R.J. Evans returning from injury. Devin Brown averaged better than 20 points over his last 10 games a season ago, and could be poised for a monster season.
Lafayette has lost in the league title game two seasons in a row, and will look to take the next step this year. Tony Johnson is the top point guard in the league, and Jim Mower can score. The frontcourt will need to improve, though.