Conference Tournament Primer: Patriot LeaguePosted by Tommy Lemoine on March 3rd, 2014
It’s the start of Championship Fortnight, and what better way to get you through the next 14 days of games than to break down each of the Other 26’s conference tournaments as they get under way, that’s right, starting tonight.
Dates: March 3, 5, 8, 12
Site: Campus sites (higher-seeded team hosts)
What to expect: American started 10-0 in conference play before Boston University came on strong to win the league, yet neither team comes in as hot as Bucknell. The Bison — which pulled off NCAA Tournament upsets in 2005 and 2006 — have won six games in a row and are playing their best basketball of the year, especially on the defensive end. Beating the Terriers in their home gym will be a tall task, but if Dave Paulsen’s club can take down the top dogs once again, it might just hear its name called on Selection Sunday. This should be among the more wide open tournaments during Championship Week, with every team in the top half of the conference having lost at least once to a team in the bottom half. The unexpected should be the expected in the Patriot League.
Favorite: Boston University. The Terriers boast the highest KenPom ranking and will have home court throughout, making them the odds-on favorites in an otherwise uncertain league. Win or lose, it was a successful first year in the Patriot for BU, which won the conference by two games after coming over from the America East in the offseason.
Darkhorse: Colgate. If you’re in search of a really dark horse, look no further than the seventh-place Raiders. Matt Langel’s group has won three in a row, knocked off American earlier in the season and nearly took down BU in mid-February. It’s the third-best three-point shooting team in the nation at nearly 41 percent, so four straight nights of big-time offensive output is not out of the question. Again, anything seems possible in the coming week-plus.
Who wins: Bucknell. No Mike Muscala, no problem. Look for Paulsen’s club to stay hot, knock out BU on the road and roll in the championship game to capture its second straight trip to the Dance. It would be a fitting end to a parity-filled season in the Patriot.
Player to Watch: Maurice Watson Jr. – Boston University. This dude is lightning-quick and probably capable of crossing-up even the country’s very best defenders. He’s also a superb distributor: The point guard’s 47.6 assist rate ranks second in all of college hoops, and he’s racked up six or more dimes in 25 of 31 games this season. Keep an eye on the exciting sophomore.
Bubble Implications: None.