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) /
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BOSTON UNIVERSITY. Player is NIA IRVING. Photo credit: Kevin Murray
BOSTON UNIVERSITY. Player is NIA IRVING. Photo credit: Kevin Murray /

Boston University Terriers
Last season: 15-14 (11-7, 4th)
Predicted finish this season: 4th

Key returners (last season’s stats)
G- Katie Nelson, 5’8, JR: 10.3 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 3.7 APG, 51 made 3PT FGs, 37.8 MPG, 29 starts, Third Team All-Patriot League
F- Nia Irving, 6’1, SR: 11.8 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 44.5% FG, 31.4 MPG, 26 starts, Second Team All-Patriot League

F-Riley Childs, 6’0, SO: 7.4 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 25.4 MPG, 10 starts, All-Patriot League Rookie Team

Biggest losses (last season’s stats)
G- Payton Hauck, 5’9: 12.3 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 46.7% FG, 34.6 MPG, 28 starts, Second Team All-Patriot League (graduated)
G- Lauren Spearman, 5’7: 9.4 PPG, team-high 67 made 3PT FGs, 37.7 MPG, 29 starts (graduated)
F- Naiyah Thompson, 5’11: 6.7 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 3.1 APG, 25.5 MPG, 20 starts (graduated)

G- Annabelle Larnard, 6’0, (Scituate, MA), FR: Two-time team captain and four-year letter winner at Fontbonne Academy in Massachusetts. Led Fontbonne to two sectional finals and finished her high school career with over 1,000 points. Did a post-grad year at Northfield Mount Hermon. Excellent ball-handler with ability to score anywhere on the floor. Wendy’s High School Heisman State Finalist.

F- Maren Durant, 6’3, (Winchester, MA), FR: Impact defensive player, strong communicator on the floor and runs the court well. Inside scorer. Four-year letter winner and team captain as a senior at The Rivers School. Three-time All-Independent School League, two-time NEPSAC Class A All-Star. Boston Herald 2017 New England Prep/Private All-Star as a sophomore.

G-Maggie Pina, 5’7 (West Chester, PA), FR: Two-time All-Catholic League, All-Delaware County and All-Mainline. Two-time All-State. All-Southeastern and All-InterAc as a junior. League leader in scoring with 17.7 a game as a senior. Played for Academy of Notre Dame de Namur.

G-Liz Shean, 5’8 (Arlington, VA) FR: Two-time first team all-conference and Yorktown High School Offensive Player of the Year. A point guard, Shean finished her career with 992 points. Named second-team all-region as a junior and received all-region honorable mention as a sophomore.

G-Sydney Johnson, 5’9 (Powder Springs, GA) FR: Quick point guard with ability to score. Excels in an up-tempo style and has effective midrange jumper. Named the Region AAA North GACA Player of the Year, Class AAA First Team All-State, and was a McDonalds All-American nominee last year. Capped her career at The Lovett School as the program’s all-time leading scorer.

G- Emily Esposito, 5’9, (Gorham, ME), RS/SO: Transfer from Villanova. Played in all 32 games as a redshirt freshman during the 2018-19 season. Averaged 18.1 minutes, 5.0 points, and 2.1 rebounds per game. In high school, a four-year letter winner and All-State honoree for Gorham. Earned 2017 Maine Gatorade Player of the Year, Miss Maine Basketball and Portland Press Player of the Year. Named a four-time Portland Press Herald All-Star and Bangor Daily News All-Star. Finished at Gorham’s all-time leading scorer with 1,446 points and led school to two state titles.  Awaiting NCAA appeal for eligibility for 2019-2020 season

Head Coach: Marisa Moseley, 2nd season

Record at Boston University: 15-14

Career NCAA record: 15-14

There’s a renewed energy on Commonwealth Avenue and it’s due to the arrival of their new coach. As a player, she helped BU to its only NCAA tournament appearance and now seeks to return as a coach. Is Moseley ready to lead the Terriers to a title push?

She surprised the league last season.  In her debut as a head coach, Moseley led BU to a fourth-place finish after being picked ninth in the league pre-season poll. She was awarded Patriot League Coach of the Year honors for her efforts.

Moseley has championship pedigree as both a player and a coach. She brings a track record of success with assistant coaching stops at the University of Denver and Minnesota before landing at UConn for a nine-year stint.  She claimed 5 national championships and nine Final Fours while at UConn. As a player, she helped BU win the America East championship in 2003.

And now Moseley has led the Terriers to their first winning season in five years and their best regular-season finish since joining the league. She got the league’s attention after guiding BU to an upset win in January over eventual champion Bucknell, 70-62, on the road. If past is prologue for this coach, fans of the program should have their scissors ready—those nets won’t cut themselves.

Key non-conference games:
Nov. 8- v. Marist
Dec. 7- at California
Dec. 15- v. Boston College
Dec.29- v. Northeastern

Outlook: BU made an impressive run to a fourth-place finish last season in Coach Moseley’s first year as head coach. They were picked ninth in the pre-season coaches’ poll a year ago and surprised the league. Can they keep it going?

Moseley kept a short six-player rotation last season as three of the top four players in the league for minutes-played-per-game suited up for the Terriers. They graduated Payton Hauck and Lauren Spearman—both starters who logged heavy minutes a year ago. Hauck was a second-team All-Patriot league selection and Spearman was the squad’s best three-point shooter. Their production will be missed and not easily replaced.

Fortunately for BU fans they have junior Katie Nelson running the floor for them. Nelson logged a league-high 39 minutes a game last season and will be counted on again to anchor the line-up. The third-team All-Patriot selection is a player to watch this year.

In the frontcourt, BU can look forward to the continued emergence of sophomore Riley Childs. Childs worked her way into the starting line-up and finished the season playing her best basketball. She earned a spot on the All-Patriot League rookie team and finished the year averaging 7.3 points a game along with 7.2 rebounds.  She’s an emerging post-player this season for the Terriers—and they’ll need her to play big.

Joining Childs up front will be senior Nia Irving, a double-double threat and second team All-Patriot league selection.  Childs and Irving form one of the better forward combinations in the league.

Just as they did a year ago, BU will put an emphasis on its rebounding efforts to keep them competitive and in a position to win. They led the league in rebounding margin with a +4.5 rate. The team will play quicker this year but fans looking for this team to rely on an up-tempo style may have to wait another year.

There are six new faces for the Terriers and how well Moseley can integrate them and find steady contributions will tell the story this season. BU may not be able to improve upon last year’s fourth-place finish, but they are a program on the rise. [Note: at press time, it does not appear that Villanova transfer Emily Esposito will be granted a waiver from the NCAA to play this season.  She would be a game-changer for them.]

Best Case Scenario: Moseley’s first recruiting class makes a splashy debut and allows her to stretch her rotation to seven or eight, with those fresh legs fueling an effective transition attack. Nelson continues to grow her game and becomes BU’s most consistent deep-ball threat.  The team continues to shoot well (they were third in the league in overall FG% a year ago at 41.0%). Irving and Childs benefit from the floor-spacing good shooting can bring and consistently post double-doubles. Moseley builds on her league experience last year and pushes this young group to an upper-tier finish and a strong playoff run, upsetting a league-leader in the process.

Worst Case Scenario: They take a step or two back from their finish a year ago. Hauck and Spearman’s experience isn’t easily replaced and there are a few growing pains for a squad that got younger.  BU slips to sixth-place and losses in the playoff quarterfinal for the second year in a row.