2019-2020 Patriot League preview: Can Bucknell hold onto the top spot?

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 16: Head coach Sue Troyan of the Lehigh Mountain Hawks looks on during a women's college basketball game against the American University Eagles at Bender Arena on February 16, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 16: Head coach Sue Troyan of the Lehigh Mountain Hawks looks on during a women's college basketball game against the American University Eagles at Bender Arena on February 16, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /
4 of 11
Bucknell’s Ellie Mack. (photo courtesy of Bucknell Athletics)
Bucknell’s Ellie Mack. (photo courtesy of Bucknell Athletics) /

Bucknell Bison
Last season: 28-6 (16-2, 1st)
Predicted finish this season: 3rd

Key returners (last season’s stats)
F- Ellie Mack, 6’3, SR: 12.8 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 38.7% 3PT, 27.7 MPG, 32 starts
G- Abby Kapp, 6’0, JR: 9.3PPG, 3.1 RPG, 43.3% 3PT, 74-171 from 3PT, 10th ranked 3PT shooting percentage in the nation, 23.5 MPG, 33 starts

F-Autumn Ceppi, 6’1, JR: 14.6 MPG, played in 33 of 34 games

Biggest losses (last season’s stats)
F- Kaitlyn Slagus, 6’2: 13.0 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 57.9% FG, 27.4 MPG, 34 starts, First Team All-Patriot League, Patriot League Tournament MVP (graduated)
F- Megan Walker, 6’0: 11.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.9 APG, 27.9 MPG, 34 starts, Second Team All-Patriot League, Patriot League All-Tournament Team (graduated)
G- Kyi English, 5’5: 7.8 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 3.1 APG, 25.6 MPG, 34 starts, 1,058 career points (graduated)

G- Tai Johnson, 5’8, (Mars, PA), FR: Johnson was a First Team All-State selection in Pennsylvania for Mars High School as a junior and senior. The speedy point guard led Mars to a Class 5A state title as a junior. Averaged 20.3 PPG as a senior.
F- Carly Krsul, 6’1, (Plymouth, MN), FR: Krsul was Class 4A All-State Honorable Mention as a senior and a four-time All-Conference selection. Scored 1,463 points and set the career blocks record at Robbinsdale Armstrong High School in Minnesota with 295. Has an inside-out game and is also expected to be a versatile defensive presence.
F- Emma Shaffer, 6’2, (Loveland, OH), FR: Physical post-presence and tough rebounder. A 1,000-point scorer and First Team All-Conference player for Ursuline Academy in Ohio.

Head Coach: Trevor Woodruff, 1st season

Record at Bucknell: 0-0

Career NCAA record: 272-145 (159-135 at D3 Misericordia Men’s Basketball, 113-10 at D3 University of Scranton Women’s Basketball)

Woodruff takes over for Aaron Roussell who departed for the top spot at Richmond. He’ll take over a program at Bucknell that’s coming off its most successful stretch in team history. Last year, the program secured the conference’s first 12-seed in the NCAA tournament and set a program record for wins in a season.

Expectations are high in Lewisburg. This would appear daunting for a new coach but not for Woodruff—he’s been down this road before and travelled it well.  He comes to the Bison from D3 University of Scranton where he recently completed his fourth season at the helm and guided the program to a Final Four appearance.

Woodruff inherits a scenario similar to his landing at Scranton: taking over a program with a conference championship history and the expectation to stay at the top. The culture and talent are in place. Woodruff has played this hand already and walked away with all the chips. If Bucknell defends its championship this season, on-lookers shouldn’t be surprised.

Key non-conference games
Nov. 5- at Virginia
Nov. 16- at Quinnipiac
Nov. 28- v. Cincinnati (holiday tournament in Puerto Rico)
Dec.8- v. Drexel

Outlook: It was an unforgettable season in Lewisburg in 2018-2019. They cruised through the regular season to finish tied atop the standings with American and then dominated the conference playoffs en route to their second crown in three seasons. Tagged as a 12th-seed for the NCAA tournament, they nearly pulled a first-round upset over Florida State. The Bison are athletic and talented.  And now they have a new coach in Trevor Woodruff.

Woodruff steps into a championship culture with winning expectations—and that’s just what he left behind at D3 University of Scranton. But there will be holes to fill with the losses of seniors Slagus, Walker, and English. Fortunately for Bison fans, they return star-power in junior Abby Kapp and senior Ellie Mack—both of whom have big game experience and have delivered success.

No doubt they’ll continue to be one of the best-shooting teams in the league. They led the conference in scoring and three-point shooting with a 39.1 FG%. But the point-guard spot is a question mark with the graduation of Kyi English who had 110 starts over her four-year career. Will sophomore Marly Walls step into the role or will Woodruff give freshman Tai Johnson a long look? The Bison remain one of the most athletic teams in the league but the freshmen must contribute if Bucknell is to keep the depth advantage it’s enjoyed the last few seasons.

Look for a star season from Mack whose role as a scorer should increase this season; newsflash: she’s really good. New Xs and Os should reveal a pack-line defensive philosophy and more traditional post attacks from Woodruff’s playbook. They’re a top contender and too good to fall far out of the title picture. The unknown is how the culture changes and what that means for this year’s championship prospects.

Best Case Scenario: The team makes a seamless transition to a new coaching staff and the returners and substitutes show just how deep this team was a year ago. The freshmen class gets its chance to contribute and steps up to serve notice to the conference that Bucknell will remain on top. The crown returns to Lewisburg and the culture of success rolls on for both Woodruff and the Bison.

Worst Case Scenario: The pieces to the puzzle don’t fall into place right away and the new-look Bison struggle to find success in their non-conference match-ups.  The team rights itself for conference play but struggles to break from the pack and faces a third or fourth-place finish. Kapp and Mack have incredible seasons but new faces in new roles reveal some weaknesses they cannot overcome.