Patriot League champion Boston University set to defend title

The Boston University Terriers won in a photo finish with the coronavirus back in March.
The Terriers men’s basketball team was the last NCAA program to secure a conference championship when they upset top-seeded Colgate 64-61 in the Patriot League title game in Hamilton, N.Y., on the evening of March 11.
The No. 3 seed Terriers sliced the nets at Cotterell Court in celebration of their first conference championship since 2011. BU finished 21-13 overall and 12-6 in the conference.
On March 12 the NCAA canceled all remaining conference tournaments and the Big Dance. BU was one of 13 conference tournament champions and its matchup with Colgate was not the final game played in the season. But the Terriers were the last NCAA team in any sport to hoist a championship trophy before the lockdown.
“All of that coming to fruition under the wire was just amazing,” said point guard Javante McCoy. “Just having the opportunity to finish it out, that was a thing we took away and obviously we were disappointed not competing in the NCAA tournament.
“But just getting to finish our league tournament was a blessing with everything else that was going on.”
BU will begin the defense of its Patriot League crown on Monday at 2 p.m. against the Crusaders of Holy Cross at the Hart Center in Worcester. BU will host Holy Cross at Case Gym on Tuesday in a home-and-home.
The Terriers felt the love from the Patriot League preseason pollsters because they were picked No. 1 with 148 points, just ahead of regular-season champion Colgate (142), Loyola-Maryland (122) and Navy (114). BU has a chance to repeat as conference champions for the first time in program history.
“I know I sound like a coach, but honestly I haven’t given that any thought other than to talk to my guys that there are no awards given out this time of year,” said BU coach Joe Jones. “Everything has to be earned and that is just something for the fans to talk about.
“Obviously we have goals that we want to accomplish as a team and winning the regular-season championship and the tournament. But you can’t be caught up in that.”
The Max factor
Jones has three starters and an experienced big man returning from last year’s championship run. That is a fine nucleus to wage a title defense, but the Terriers lost their best player to graduation, 6-foot-8, 235-pound center Max Mahoney.
Mahoney led BU in scoring (15.5) and rebounds (8.3) per game with 18 blocked shots, 88 assists and 37 steals. Mahoney is the fourth player in BU history to score more than 1,500 points with more than 700 rebounds and was named a Patriot League first-team all-star. He capped an exceptional college career when he was named Patriot League Tournament MVP.
“He was one of the best people we’ve been around,” said Jones. “He was never one who cared about how many points he scored, he was just about all the right stuff.
“He was a hardworking kid and someone you could depend on to do the right things.”
The Whyte stuff
Jones will count on Patriot League second-team all-star Walter Whyte and McCoy to fill the leadership void.
Whyte, a 6-foot-6, 210-pound junior winger from New Haven, Conn., who started 34 games, is the top returning starter for points (13.0) and rebounds (7.4) per game with 18 blocks, 37 steals and 27 assists.
McCoy is a 6-foot-5, 180-pound senior from Milwaukee, Wisc., who has led BU in assists the past two seasons. McCoy averaged 12.2 points and 2.7 rebounds per game with 115 assists and 24 steals, and was named a Patriot League third-team all-star.
“I feel like Javonte and I are ready to take on the leadership role,” said Whyte. “We’ve been in the back seat for a while and now is the time for us to take the lead and show how to do things the right way and lead this team to another championship.”
Junior guard Jonas Harper was an all-league defensive team member who hit four treys in the title game. Harper started 33 games and averaged 7.2 points with 53 made 3-pointers.
Sukhmail Mathon, a 6-foot-10, 225-pound senior from Shavertown, Pa., will take Mahoney’s spot in the paint. Mathon played a career-high 28 minutes in the Patriot League title game.
The other players competing for meaningful minutes are all-rookie team guard Ethan Brittain-Watts, forward Fletcher Tynen and pivotman Jack Hemphill.
The Patriot Way
Playing a full slate of November basketball games was a luxury not afforded the Terriers. Coaches stock their November schedule with regional opponents followed by a tournament destination against a Power-5 team. The objective is to build team chemistry, pick a starting five and segue into conference play.
“I don’t think you can replace any of that,” said Jones. “We are just trying to get better each day and that’s been our approach but there are so many things that impact you and you have no control over.”
BU’s season will consist of 16 unbalanced league games with the conference broken up into three regional groupings. BU is paired with Holy Cross, Colgate and Army with the Terriers playing the Crusaders six times.
“With 16 games, every game is precious and every game matters so much,” said Whyte. “We usually have 30-plus games but with those 16 games, we can’t take anything for granted.
“We have to be ready to play every time we step on the court and give nothing less than 110% because there is no margin for error.”

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