Preseason polls rank Bison basketball teams at the top

Elise Covert, Sports Co-Editor

Last winter brought two Patriot League championship games and two championship wins to the Sojka Pavilion for the Bison basketball program. For this coming winter, a contingent of Patriot League coaches and officials have selected both the men’s and women’s basketball teams as preseason favorites for the 2017-2018 season.

The Bison men’s team was unanimously voted number one to repeat a league championship, as they bring back all five starters from last year’s championship game. Boston University was voted runner-up.

The Orange and Blue also placed two players on the five-man Preseason All-Patriot League Team. Center Nana Foulland ’18, reigning Patriot League regular season MVP, was chosen as Preseason Player of the Year, and Zach Thomas ’18 joined him on the all-league roster. Loyola, Lehigh, and Navy each placed one player on the team, as well.

“[The poll] doesn’t affect our team at all. We have our own expectations and we hold ourselves to that every day,” Foulland said.

The Orange and Blue have won six out of the seven last regular season titles and last year’s Patriot League Tournament Championship. They advanced to the NCAA March Madness tournament before losing a hard-fought battle to West Virginia in the first round, 80-86.

“We are motivated as a team and individuals to become the best players and team that we can be. We work hard everyday and do not pay attention to media or outside distractions. We simply want to focus on the things that we can control,” Thomas said.

On the women’s side, the Bison were tied with Army West Point for most likely to secure the championship this season, with seven first-place votes each. The race for the title is expected to be a tight one, with American and Navy finishing close behind the top two. The Orange and Blue beat Navy in overtime last season to win the Patriot League Tournament Championship.

“It’s a great talking point for our fans, but quite frankly a lot of that poll is based off what teams and programs have done in the past. However, I can safely say that at this point there is no way that we are the best team in the league — now, two months down the road, I’d like to think we’d have just as good of a chance as anyone else at that title,” head coach Aaron Roussell said.

Despite losing Claire DeBoer ’17, 2017 Patriot League Player of the Year, the Bison bring back a strong set of returners to their roster. Kaitlyn Slagus ’19 was selected to the five-man Preseason All-League Team for the women. Slagus played in all 33 games for the Bison last season, tallying 12 double-doubles and averaging 8.8 rebounds per game. It was the fourth consecutive season that the Orange and Blue have had a player selected to the preseason all-league roster.

“As a team I think we were surprised that we were chosen where we were, knowing what we lost last year to graduation and looking at how young we are this year,” Slagus said. “Right now, looking at the standings, I think the majority of us are using it as an extra source of motivation for wanting to relive what we did last March. But, I also think there is definitely some added pressure that came along with being predicted at the top as well.”

The women’s team will host their home opener against Akron on Nov. 12, while the men have their first game at Sojka against Siena on Nov. 20.

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