The Patriot League always produces some tough teams to play, and they’re known for beating up on each other. With conference play just starting, there’s still plenty of time for that to happen.
As unpredictable as the PL has been at times, as evidenced by Army’s win over Navy in the playoffs last season, and Holy Cross making their run, there have still been some established nuances about the conference.
Such as, Loyola is the class of the league, and then Navy, then there is a big gap between those two and the third team.
That doesn’t seem so accurate anymore.
The Patriot League has found itself wrapped up in the madness that is the 2017 college lacrosse season, where nothing makes any sense. The Greyhounds found themselves blown out by Duke, a team the lacrosse pundits had hovering to stay ranked.
Loyola is still tied for the top of the PL thanks to a 2-0 conference record and wins over Lafayette and Holy Cross.
But ahead of the 3-3 Greyhounds is... Army?
The Black Knights were always a darkhorse of sorts, but the concern was if they had any secondary scoring behind Cole Johnson. At 5-1, and a 2-0 conference record, the Knights have established themselves as a threat in the PL.
Their only loss is to Rutgers, who is looking more and more like a top five team after their thrashing of Stony Brook. Conference wins over Lafayette and Lehigh matter, but it’s their big win over Syracuse that has put the Knights on the map.
Behind Johnson, Nate Jones and David Symmes have added an extra dimension of offense and AJ Barretto in net is saving more than 55% of shots he sees as a sophomore.
The thing about Army, however, is their schedule doesn’t get tough for a long time. Their next three games are against NJIT and two of the weaker conference teams in Holy Cross and Colgate. Their last five games, however, are brutal with Bucknell, Navy, BU, Loyola, and Notre Dame, which is when we should learn if Army is for real.
The biggest surprise of the season has been Boston University, which could be reworded as, the biggest surprise that isn’t totally a surprise. The Terriers had their flashes the past two seasons, with wins over Navy and Harvard last year, but haven’t been able to close out.
This season, however, the tough part of their schedule was early with four road games and then home contests against Air Force and Bryant. This has all been done without one of their top players, Sam Talkow, taking the field at any point all season. At 6-0 so far, BU has passed every test. They resume conference play Monday against Colgate before facing Harvard next week as their last non-conference test. They still need to face Loyola and Army, but the Terriers have surprisingly the fifth best scoring defense in the entire NCAA.
Can the Terriers win the PL? No one (probably) would have had BU and Army as the potential favorites to win the conference, but both still have a long way to go.
On paper, they’ve passed every test but it’s not going to get much easier.
If BU and Army’s success isn’t the surprise of the conference, the downfall of Navy most certainly is. The Mids had a ton of injuries going into the season and it only got worse when Jack Ray went down. At 2-5, Navy hasn’t responded well.
The only two wins are over Bucknell and Delaware, which are arguably quality wins, but losses to BU, Hopkins, Maryland, Penn, and, stunningly, Lafayette puts the Mids in a hole. The non-conference losses are one thing, all against pretty good squads in their own right, but 0-2 in the conference is going to be nearly impossible to rebound from if BU, Army, and Loyola keep winning.
Holy Cross has always played well in the conference despite bad seasons, hence making two PL tournaments in the past two seasons. Already 2-1 with wins over Lehigh and Bucknell, the Crusaders might need to win just one more to get back into the post season. Last season it took only three wins, and the conference seems weaker in general.
Lehigh was expected to make a leap this season but has already fallen to Holy Cross and Army, while defeating Colgate by a hefty margin of 11-5. Bucknell, one of everyone’s favorite darkhorse picks this season, is the next conundrum at 2-4 with four straight defeats, including Navy, Colgate, and Holy Cross.
There’s a lot of time left and conference play is really just beginning, but some of the traditional teams are falling behind. Loyola is still in good conference standings, but losses like the one to Duke creates a lot of questions about how they will do as it gets deeper into the season.
It’s early to give up on Navy, but it doesn’t look great for the Mids, especially with BU having the hard part of their schedule out of the way.
The Patriot League is always one of the more fascinating conferences, because unlike the Big Ten and the ACC, the schools don’t get as much publicity nationally but always compete until the end. This season, with there being less of a gap from one to six, but more possibility of the conference beating each other up, the PL bears keeping an eye on it.