Raiders Open Season With 7 p.m. Showdown at UConn

The Colgate men’s basketball team opens up its 2017-18 season Friday night when the Raiders travel to 2014 National Champion UConn for a 7 p.m. battle.

Colgate hits the hardwood for its 118th season of men’s basketball in 2017-18. The Raiders return a slew of experience as Colgate looks to reach new heights this season following a 10-22 (8-10 Patriot League) 2016-17 campaign. Colgate brings back 13 letter-winners and all five starters from last year’s campaign. The Raiders welcome back their top five scorers and will be adding a talented group of four freshmen to this year’s squad. Colgate is one of just five Division I men’s basketball teams that returns 90-plus percent of points (93.0%), rebounds (93.5%) and assists (90.1%) from a season ago.

“When the season ended last year, we knew we were going to return a lot, but I don’t think there was anyone in our program that felt good about the way last year finished,” said head coach Matt Langel, who enters his seventh season at the helm. “I think the group collectively was disappointed in the season as a whole, and so they’ve had a chip on their shoulder since then. As that has happened, you can see the improvement this team has made both individually and collectively.”

The Raiders will look to their five-member senior class of Sean O’Brien, Tom Rivard, Jordan Robertson, Jordan Swopshire and Dylan Whitbread to lead a squad of five juniors, two sophomores and four first-years.

“We’ve added in some talented young players who have come in and immediately challenged our returning group,” said Langel. “It makes for a good problem to have as a coach as everyone is pushing each other to be better everyday.”

Reigning Patriot League Rookie of the Year Will Rayman returns as the team’s leading scorer from last year’s campaign. Rayman set Colgate freshman single-game scoring (34 points) and freshman season three-point field goals made (65) records during his standout rookie campaign in which he averaged 14.6 points per game.  The New York City native led the team with 23 double-digit scoring games and seven 20-plus point performances and was named the 2016-17 Patriot League Rookie of the Year.

“Will is a phenomenal guy to coach because he wants to be coached,” said Langel. “He’s very humble and he allows for all of the coaches to help make him better. He loves the game and it’s hard for him to take a day off. He’s relentless in his pursuit of improvement, which is what allows him to achieve the success that he does.”

Rayman and O’Brien both hauled in College Sports Madness Preseason Third-Team All-Patriot League honors heading into the 2017-18 campaign. O’Brien averaged 12.5 points per game, including 13.2 points per Patriot League contest, both of which ranked second best on the team in 2016-17. He led the team in a number of statistical categories including three-pointers made (68), three-point field goal percentage (40.7), free throw percentage (89.6), assists (132), steals (34) and minutes played (1,159).

Junior Malcolm Regisford returns as the team’s leading rebounder after pulling down 7.3 boards per game a season ago and adding 7.9 points per contest. Swopshire tallied double-figure points a season ago, finishing his junior campaign with 10.3 points per contest, and returns as another key scoring threat. Rivard and junior Francisco Amiel combined to make 30 starts a season ago and are poised for strong campaigns in 2017-18.

The Raiders welcome four talented newcomers to this season’s squad that carry with them accomplished pedigrees and are sure to make an immediate impact. Jordan Burns, Jack Ferguson and David Maynard add strong depth to Colgate’s core of guards, while Hugh Baxter looks to push for time in the frontcourt.

Colgate’s 2017-18 schedule includes five contests against teams that are coming off national postseason tournament appearances. Colgate will host 14 games in the friendly confines of Cotterell Court, beginning with a Nov. 16 contest against Cornell. Colgate’s season opener at UConn marks the first of two teams the Raiders will face that have won a national championship in the last 15 years. The Raiders will also travel to Boston College (Nov. 22) and Syracuse (Dec. 9) in other big non-league showdowns against Power Five conference teams.  Patriot League play opens on Dec. 29 when the Raiders head to Holy Cross.

“I expect the Patriot League to be very, very competitive from top to bottom,” said Langel. “I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of separation within our conference and we’re looking forward to battling for the top spots this season.”

Tipoff of Friday’s season-opener at UConn is set for 7 p.m. from Storrs, Conn. The game will be broadcast regionally on SNY.

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