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Know Thy Mid-Major: Colgate Raiders

Colgate leads the Patriot League a bit more than halfway through the slate. Let’s check in on a 2019 NCAA Tournament team with the most famous mascot of all the mid-majors.

Members of the Colgate Raiders celebrate together at the bench after defeating the Cincinnati Bearcats at Fifth Third Arena. Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Colgate Raiders are atop the Patriot League, and looking to head back to the NCAA Tournament for the second year as the automatic qualifier from their one-bid league. Entering last year as a #15 seed, a 77-70 loss to #2 Tennessee kept them from extending the run further. But they are the favorite from the Patriot to return in 2020.

There are a lot of reasons to root for a team come March. Maybe you have a relative that attended that school. Perhaps there’s a player or coach you really like. Or it could be a style of play that motivates you.

Well friends, we’ll get you onsides with America’s second-most academically rigorous conference immediately. Meet the Colgate Raider:

All that energy and emotion, with only the rare current student-athlete saying “honestly, the Raider makes me feel uncomfortable because it looks sort of creepy.”

How can you not root for this in March! Let’s go Colgate!

Oh by the way, they can really play basketball too...

Why Colgate

16-6, 7-2 Patriot League
NET: 122 RPI: 85
Best wins: @ Cincinnati (NET #52)
Bad losses: @ Niagra (#284)
Jerry Palm Projection: #14 seed

The Players

The Raiders only go seven-or-eight-deep, with the same starting lineup in 21 of 22 games played this season. Four of those five starters, Jordan Burns, Rapolas Ivanauskas, Will Rayman, and Tucker Richardson, also started basically every game last season as well. Bowling Green transfer Nelly Cummings has added to their mix, but they have a level of experience and consistency you just don’t see in college basketball anymore.

Where this consistency helps is in their defensive efficiency, with them being at or near the top of every category in the PL. But what they’re known for is the three-ball, and lots and lots of it.

The 226 made 3’s through 22 games this season is good for 3rd in NCAA Division I. A whopping 636 of their 1337 field goal attempts are from downtown, and both Cummings and Richardson shoot better than 40% from three-point range. Despite the frequency, the Raiders remain efficient: they are 2nd in the Patriot League at 37.3% from distance.

The Coach

Former Penn Quaker grad and player Matt Langel took over an 8-22 team his first season, and now has them on the verge of back-to-back dance cards. It’s an efficient style based on the limited talent available to an academically more challenging school and conference, but ask the Volunteers last year, who eeked their way to the second round past them.

Where To From Here

While it’s great for networking amongst the elite of the northeast and for your future career away from basketball, the problem with being in the Patriot League is that your opportunities to improve on your schedule are limited after the calendar hits January. It’s an 18-game round robin, and there’s built-in byes for winning. But you do get to host as the #1 seed, and that’s what the Raiders will aim for the rest of the season, though they did defeat Bucknell on the road to qualify last year.

This is a team that will want to avoid a dominant post player with their matchup, and play someone that might slack off a bit around the arc. Because if they shoot like they’re capable, there’s no one they’d face on an opening weekend they can’t defeat.