Breaking Down the Returning Possession Minutes of the Patriot League

After perusing several publications and blogs for their Patriot League 2013-14 prognostications, one thing is evident. The field may be as wide open as it has ever been. If we had to organize the field into tiers, it would probably go something like this:

The Favorite
Boston University

The Contenders With Question Marks
Lafayette, Army, Bucknell, Lehigh

The Middle Tier
Loyola (MD), Holy Cross, Colgate

Rebuilding Mode
Navy, American

Helping us make sense of the parity madness is Returning Possession Minutes, or RPMs for short. This statistic (a player’s percentage of minutes played multiplied by the number of possessions he used up) is quite simple, yet it’s a solid indicator in predicting which teams have the continuity necessary to thrive this upcoming season.

Let’s begin by ranking the teams by RPMs:

  1. Boston University, 96.0%
  2. Navy, 92.0%
  3. Lafayette, 69.1%
  4. Colgate, 67.0%
  5. Holy Cross, 65.1%
  6. Army, 64.0%
  7. Lehigh, 55.5%
  8. Loyola (MD), 45.0%
  9. American, 41.9%
  10. Bucknell, 41.7%

With 96.0% of their RPMs coming back for Joe Jones’ third season, it’s no wonder Boston University is considered to be the strong favorite, despite their newcomer status. A majority of those RPMs are of the highest quality, as in they’re tied up in 2013 All-America East selections D.J. Irving, Maurice Waston and Dom Morris. Even if there’s a slight adjustment to a new league, the Terriers should overcome those challenges as a team rife with talented playmakers, both young and experienced. You’re likely reaching if you don’t consider them the favorite.

Navy also returns a lion-share of their production, although most of that was inefficient offensively (0.82 points per possession in conference play). Only guards Kevin Alter and Kendall Knorr had an offensive rating above 100.0 and that was based on limited minutes. This team will continue to make strides, however, especially if Worth Smith and Knorr can bounce back from offseason shoulder surgeries and Tilman Dunbar improves the way you’d expect a sophomore point guard to progress. That’s a fair amount of ifs, but I’m bullish on the Mids exceeding their low preseason expectations. A fifth or sixth place finish isn’t crazy.

After Boston University and Navy, the RPMs drop off considerably, but in the third spot is another team who’s a top three projection: Lafayette. Tony Johnson and his superb 118.7 offensive rating will be missed, but plenty of talent comes back for Fran O’Hanlon. Dan Trist (15.3% RPMs), Seth Hinrichs (17.9% RPMs), Joey Ptasinski (12.2% RPMs), and Bryce Scott (10.1% RPMs) all are very good building blocks, but was their production greatly influenced by Johnson’s wonderful senior season?

Bucknell, Lehigh, and Loyola (MD) are all in similar positions – they lost three senior leaders, return one all-conference first team type of talent in Cameron Ayers, Mackey McKnight, and Dylon Cormier, respectively, and have plenty of uncertainty and inexperience elsewhere. Bucknell and Lehigh are likely better positioned to succeed post Muscala and McCollum, since their freshmen classes may very well contribute in year one. Still, players who averaged less than 10 minutes per game last year, like Dom Hoffman (3.2% RPMs), Brian Fitzpatrick (3.4% RPMs), and Chris Hass, need to make significant strides on both sides of the ball if Bucknell wants to be a contender.

I’m also not particularly optimistic about Loyola, due to their perceived depth, or more appropriately the lack thereof. GG Smith unfortunately had to hastily assemble a rookie class since the majority of Greyhound commitments decided to follow Jimmy Patsos north to Siena. Cormier is a wonderful player and R.J. Williams has potential, but who else will make up rotation spots three through eight?

Despite finishing 11-21 and losing three of their seven most productive players, Colgate has found support among the blog community. Perhaps they believe in seniors Murphy Burnatowski and Pat Moore, and are intrigued by 6’11” transfer Ethan Jacobs, even though he hardly saw any court time in his first two seasons at Ohio. Burnatowski possesses Player of the Year type of talent, but he’ll likely need to improve his respectable 50.1% effective field goal percentage by settling for fewer perimeter jumpers and attacking the rim.

After eight productive seasons at American, Jeff Jones left for greener (as in money) pastures at Old Dominion. Given the dearth of talent that graduated in Stephen Lumpkins, Daniel Munoz, and Blake Jolivette, it may have been the perfect time for Jones to leave DC. Enter former Princeton and Georgetown assistant Mike Brennan, who must endure a difficult rebuild in his inaugural season. With long-range bomber John Schoof (50.7% 3PT%, led Patriot League) and rebounding specialist Troy Wroblicky as the most productive returnees, Brennan will likely struggle to keep the Eagles competitive out of the gate.

Here’s a quick look at the top individual RPMs across the Patriot League:

  1. Murphy Burnatowski, 22.8%
  2. Dylon Cormier, 22.0%
  3. D.J. Irving, 21.7%
  4. Tilman Dunbar, 20.7%
  5. Justin Burrell, 20.3%
  6. Dave Dudzinski, 20.0%
  7. Mackey McKnight, 19.4%
  8. Maurice Watson, 19.2%

I’d expect those top three seniors to remain there at the end of this season, in fact it’s a safe bet you’ll see an uptick in their RPMs. If you need a sleeper for the 2013-14 All-Patriot League conference team, you should look no further than Dunbar and Holy Cross guard Justin Burrell. Dunbar’s efficiency should improve with a better outside shot, and Burrell’s playmaking ability could warrant a jump into the top 10 players discussion at year’s end. Of course, his consistency must improve (he had 12 games last season with an efficiency rating under 5), which means he’ll need a reason to trust his teammates more. I’m looking at you, Malcolm Miller and Cullen Hamilton. As Milan Brown pointedly stated, “Justin needs to learn how to run the show, not be the show.”

Finally, missing from the top eight individuals is an Army Black Knight. Without the exceptional play of Ella Ellis (118.7 offensive rating, sixth nationally for players who had a 28% possession rate or greater) to fall back on, a lot will lay on the shoulders of sophomores Kyle Wilson (16.4% RPMs), Larry Toomey (9.6% RPMs), and Dylon Cox (10.1% RPMs) to lead a more balanced attack. The loss of Kyle Toth won’t hurt as much as you think, especially if Josh Herbeck can stay healthy for his senior season.

Ryan Peters covers the Patriot League for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride