Patriot League basketball preseason rankings: 2015-16 preview

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The Patriot League is always a meat grinder, and this year isn't going to be any different. Lehigh is the best of the bunch on paper, and center Tim Kempton is the kind of talent who will give opponents headaches.

That said, Bucknell and Boston are going to give Lehigh everything it can handle, and Bucknell, in particular, is hungry after gaining some important experience last year. Keep an eye on army, a team with experience and one of the most electric scorers in the league in Kyle Wilson. This league is top heavy, but the middle of the pack has the talent to pull off some upsets.

Patriot League Basketball Preseason Rankings
1. Lehigh Mountain Hawks

Size definitely matters in the Patriot League, and that's why Lehigh will have an advantage in the paint vs. just about every team it plays. Tim Kempton, a 6-10, 225-pound center, is more than most Patriot League foes can handle, and he does a great job of scoring in the post and controlling the glass. He is one of four returning starters for the Mountain Hawks, who hope to take a step forward this season. They finished third in the league last year, and with guards Austin Price and Kahron Ross helping to balance the floor, Lehigh will be a tough team this season.

[MORE: Preseason AP No. 1 Basketball Teams To Win Championship]
2. Bucknell Bison

The Bison took home the regular-season title last year, and they return all five starters from last year's squad. Things will be a bit different, however, as coach Dave Paulsen bolted for George Mason during the offseason, but Nathan Davis' transition has been smooth. He'll look to Chris Hass, the second-leading returning scorer in the Patriot League, to be the catalyst on offense, and Hass can score inside and out. Sophomore Nana Foulland enjoyed an intriguing freshman campaign, and his quickness and length could make him a difference-maker for the Bison this year. This is one of the favorites to win a league title.

3. Army Black Knights
With five senior starters back, this could be a big year for the Black nights. Swingman Kyle Wilson is the best of the bunch after averaging 17.5 points a game last season, but he needs to improve from the perimeter to add an extra dimension to his game. Forward Tanner Plomb will help take pressure off Wilson, and 6-10 center Kevin Ferguson has the size and defensive prowess to change the game in the paint. Army doesn't have many weaknesses, and there will be few excuses for the Black Knights.

4. Boston Terriers
Boston won just 13 games last season, but nine of those wins came in Patriot League play, and all five starters return from last year. Junior Cedric Hankerson averaged 15.9 points a night and shot nearly 40 percent from 3-point range, giving the Terriers a catalyst, and he's a strong defender. Look for reserve Eric Fanning to keep up the pressure on the offensive end after showing good consistency during league play last year. Forward Nathan Dieudonne will hit the glass hard, and Boston will be a challenger this season.

5. Lafayette Leopards
The Leopards made a stunning run to the NCAA Tournament a year ago, but they lose three starters from that club and have to find some size inside. That won't be easy to do at this point, but head coach Fran O'Hanlon is counting on guards Nick Linder and Bryce Scott to at least lead the attack from the perimeter. Linder was impressive in the Patriot League Tournament last season, and he needs to continue to progress. The same goes for Scott, who will have to be far more aggressive with the ball this year. The good news is the offense starts at the perimeter anyway, and Linder and Scott play with a lot of confidence.

6. Loyola (Md.) Greyhounds
Experience and balance will be calling cards for the Greyhounds this season. Four starters return, including a trio of seniors, and that group includes plenty of size and athleticism. The return of forward Jarred Jones from the injury that cost him most of last season will give the roster a boost as well. The Greyhounds, however, have to turn up their defense, they need to find some consistency from possession to possession, and figuring out how to win on the road is going to be critical. There are some tools here, but getting everyone on the same page will be a challenge.

7. American Eagles
Three starters are missing from last year's 17-win squad, but the Eagles still have plenty of talent and could take a step forward. Leading scorer Jesse Reed is back, and forward Charlie Jones has experience and will be key on the glass. The X-factors are transfers Paris Maragkos and Leon Tolksdorf, and freshman Delante Jones. That trio will help balance the floor, and Maragkos' size will help give American a bit of an edge in the paint.

8. Holy Cross Crusaders
New head coach Bill Carmody bring his Princeton-style offense to Holy Cross, and he could find a lot of success in his first year. Three starters return, including 6-7 forward Malachi Alexander, and five players started at last 14 games a season ago. In other words, there is talent for Carmody to work with. That said, outside shooting will still be a problem, and senior guard Cullen Hamilton will have to take on a much bigger role while taking care of the ball to give the Crusaders a chance to win.

9. Colgate Raiders
Colgate finished second in the Patriot League last year, but the Raiders will be hard-pressed to return to those heights this season. Head coach Matt Langel lost five of his top six scorers from a season ago, and only guard Austin Tillotson is back. Tillotson averaged 10.7 points and 4.1 assists last year, and he hopes to get on the same page quickly with transfers Tom Rivard and Jordan Swopshire, who will bring athleticism to the floor.

10. Navy Midshipmen
Three starters are back for the Midshipmen, but they lost more than 26 points a game with the departures of Worth Smith and Brandon Venturini. Senior Tilman Dunbar is just 5-10, but his quickness sets him apart, and he should take on a bigger role this season. Navy head coach Ed DeChellis can turn to a pair of 6-9 centers in Edward Alade and Will Kelly inside, which will give his team an edge vs. the smaller clubs in the league, but a lack of scoring and athleticism will hinder this ballclub.

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