American sophomore Charlie Jones was wide open when he got the ball in the right corner in the first half last Tuesday night at Stony Brook, the Eagles’ final non-conference game before beginning defense of their Patriot League title on Wednesday at Bucknell. Of course, “open” can be surprisingly subjective in the college basketball world. And although Jones has started 10 of 12 games this season, made more than 50 percent of his field goal attempts, and didn’t appear to have any immediate impediment to a 15-footer, he faked and kicked the ball back out. After all, there were still 25 seconds left on the shot clock, and by the high standards Mike Brennan and American have set, Jones wasn’t nearly open enough.
Love it or hate it – and opponents usually fall into the latter category – slow and steady won the Patriot League race last season, with the coda coming in a 56-possession masterpiece, a 55-36 Patriot Tournament final win over Boston University in which American only attempted 34 field goals (but made 19). Making the title even more remarkable, American had been picked ninth in the preseason poll with a first-year leader who had no previous head coaching experience.
Even though Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year Tony Wroblicky graduated in May, American (7-5) is not going to fool the conference this season, picked by the league coaches to repeat the feat. With another year to implement his Princeton offense, Brennan has responded in kind by playing even slower. The Eagles are dead last (351st) nationally in adjusted tempo, more than a possession better (or worse?) than Wyoming at 350th. They opened the season with a plodding 40-37 near-upset of Temple, and their last two games — a win over Mount St. Mary’s and last week’s loss to Stony Brook — were two of the five slowest games in Division I this season.