Circle of March, Vol. II

Posted by rtmsf on March 4th, 2014

March Madness is officially under way. With the Patriot League’s opening round tipping off last night at campus sites in Baltimore, Maryland, and Hamilton, New York, eliminations have begun. The first two teams to survive and advance in the PL were Lafayette and Colgate, meaning that Navy and Loyola (MD) are the Circle of March’s first on-court casualties of the year. A handful of other schools that were not invited to the conference tournaments got their one-day in the CoM sun and were also removed. The entire group of 11 eliminated teams is listed below the Circle. We’re down to 330 active schools. Note: In order to respect the integrity of the regular season, we will not be removing teams until their schedules are finished regardless of their current status (i.e., six Ivy League teams cannot win the conference’s automatic bid).

Thanks also to everyone who played yesterday’s Circle of March crossword puzzle game. Many of you got at least 10 of the words, and a very few of you got the entire set of 15 (several found other words or just made some up). Here were the hidden words: court, rush, march, champion, upset, bubble, madness, cinderella, dunk, lucky shot, stars, final four, bracket, pool, swish. We’ll be contacting those who were among the winning group very soon. Thanks for playing!

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Teams Eliminated From National Title Contention (03.03.14)

  • NJIT
  • Northern Kentucky
  • Kennesaw State
  • LIU Brooklyn
  • Sacred Heart
  • Jacksonville State
  • Tennessee State
  • Austin Peay
  • Tennessee-Martin
  • Loyola (MD)
  • Navy
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Championship Previews: Patriot League Tournament

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 6th, 2013

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Mitch Goldich is the RTC correspondent for the Patriot League. Follow him on Twitter (@mitchgoldich) for live updates throughout the Patriot League Tournament.

Top Storylines

  • Bucknell Locks Up Home Court Advantage: The Bison made history this season, becoming the first Patriot League team ever to win three consecutive outright regular season titles. Their 12-2 conference record gives them the top seed in the tournament, ensuring that all of their games will be played in Sojka Pavilion. Their success in Sojka is one of the key reasons they’ve been so great over the last few years, and is a big reason they’ll be tough to take down in the tournament. The Bison went 11-1 on their home floor this season, including a 6-1 mark in conference play. The Bison are an astounding 75-15 all-time against Patriot League foes in Sojka, though that does include a loss to Lehigh in last year’s Patriot League Championship Game.
  • McCollum Unlikely To Return: The entire complexion of the Patriot League season changed on January 5, when Lehigh star CJ McCollum broke his foot in a nationally televised game against VCU. Lehigh’s preseason All-American became one of the breakout stars in college basketball when he scored 30 points in the Mountain Hawks’ upset over Duke in last year’s NCAA Tournament. He lived up to the hype surrounding his senior season, and led the nation in scoring (25.7 points per game) before the injury. The initial time frame had him out 8-to-10 weeks, which is anywhere from March 2-16. Head coach Brett Reed said on the Patriot League coaches’ conference call that McCollum continues to get healthier, but that he is preparing for the tournament with his squad that went 8-4 in league play without their star. Even if McCollum was healthy enough to take the court, there’s no way to know how many minutes he could log or how effective he’d be.
  • Leopards Running Hot: While Bucknell and Lehigh dominated the preseason and early-season headlines, it’s that other team in Pennsylvania playing the best ball in the conference right now. The Lafayette Leopards started the season 1-6 and 3-8. On December 14, I even had them dead last in my Patriot League Power Rankings. A close loss at Stanford left them 5-10 at the new year, but seemed to offer hope that the team had figured things out. Behind Tony Johnson’s stellar play at point guard, the Leopards won nine of their final 11 conference games, including an upset over Bucknell and a season sweep over the hated rival Lehigh. The Leopards enter the Patriot League Tournament on a five-game winning streak, and are a legitimate contender to win their first league championship since the 1999-2000 season.

Reader’s Take

 

Breaking Down the Tournament Field

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  1. Bucknell (25-5, 12-2) – Bucknell spent the non-conference portion of their season flirting with an automatic bid, but their run through league play was not dominant enough to keep them in that discussion. They have simply not looked as good since they nearly beat Missouri in January (more on that below), but they are still the favorite to win the tournament. In addition to Muscala, they have a strong cast with seniors Bryson Johnson and Joe Willman, also in the 1,000 point club. Johnson set the conference record for most three-pointers made in a career and Cameron Ayers joined him at better than 41 percent from beyond. Read the rest of this entry »
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CIO… the Patriot League

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 22nd, 2013

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Mitch Goldich is the RTC correspondent for the Patriot League. You can find more of his work online at The Huffington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchgoldich for more updates.

Looking Back

  • Bucknell Wins Lehigh Rematch: The Bison and Mountain Hawks have spent the majority of this season tied atop the league standings, and they stayed that way when both teams lost last Saturday. While their losses may have hurt both teams’ overall resumes, they did nothing to diminish the importance of the game between two 8-2 opponents. The rematch was critically important to both teams, but more so to Bucknell because Lehigh had already won the first match-up in Lewisburg. Had Lehigh won, they would have had a one-game lead, plus the season sweep — essentially a two-game lead, with three to play. Lehigh’s uncharacteristically poor shooting was one of the night’s main storylines, as the Mountain Hawks went just 1-of-15 from three-point range and 6-of-15 from the free throw line. After Lehigh shot 10-of-18 from beyond the arc in their first meeting, the Bison wanted to contest those shots better and force Lehigh to come inside for better looks. Still, 1-of-15 is obviously a brutal night, and there is no excuse for a team previously shooting better than 75 percent from the line to go 6-of-15. Bucknell’s star Mike Muscala scored just 12 points, with his minutes limited due to first half foul trouble, but his nine rebounds and four blocks made a big impact during his 26 minutes on the floor. Bryson Johnson made three three-pointers and scored 19 points, and Cameron Ayers made a wild shot that put the game away after Lehigh had cut an 11-point deficit down to three points in the final minute. With a one-game cushion and a softer schedule, the Bison now look very likely to take the top seed and lock up home court advantage throughout the Patriot League Tournament.
  • Tony Does It Twice: Tony Johnson, who goes by the twitter handle @Tonytone_3, gave Patriot League fans two reasons to say his name this week. Lafayette’s dynamic point guard hit game winning shots in consecutive games. First he hit a bucket with 4.5 seconds left to put Lafayette ahead of Bucknell 63-62 on Saturday. Then on Wednesday, he hit a tie-breaking three-pointer with even less time remaining against Holy Cross. The Leopards started the season 5-10, and dropped to 8-12 after losing two of their first three Patriot League games. They have since reeled off six wins in eight games, including upsets of both Bucknell and Lehigh. Johnson’s play (12.2 points and 5.0 assists per game in league play) is a major reason the Leopards are legitimate contenders to win what was previously considered a two-team league.

    The Leopards Have Leaned On Tony Johnson To Keep Them In The Thick Of The Patriot League Race. (April Bartholomew/Morning Call)

    The Leopards Have Leaned On Tony Johnson To Keep Them In The Thick Of The Patriot League Race. (April Bartholomew/Morning Call)

  • The Patriot League’s Most Exciting Day: While arguably the most anticipated season in Patriot League history has offered compelling storylines, it took a little while for the games on the court to live up to the hype surrounding the league. With a few notable exceptions, the first half of league play saw relatively few second half lead changes, let alone games coming down to the final possession. Fortunately, with the Patriot League Tournament on the horizon, the games have gotten more exciting. Saturday, February 16 was easily the most fun day of the Patriot League season, with three games decided by a total of six points all playing out at once. Johnson’s last second shot lifted Lafayette past Bucknell. Lehigh came all the way back from 22 points down to Colgate, before the Raiders fended them off. And Army held off a last-second shot to grab a one-point win over Navy. Fans of the league can hold plenty of hope that when matchups are renewed for their third installment during the conference tournament, the games will only continue to get more exciting.

Power Rankings

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The Army-Navy Game, A Contest Between Brothers in Arms

Posted by CNguon on February 13th, 2013

Aaron Schuldiner (@shealiveson) is a freelance writer. He filed this report after taking in the first Army-Navy basketball game this year, a win for the Midshipmen on January 20. The two schools will play for the 91st time on the hardwood this Saturday in Annapolis.

Upon the fields of friendly strife, are sown the seeds that, upon other fields, on other days, will bear the fruits of victory. –- Douglas MacArthur, USMA Class of 1903

It’s a brisk Sunday afternoon in West Point, NY, but it’s like a sauna inside Christl Arena. Despite it being a holiday weekend on campus, the building is packed shoulder-to-shoulder with more than 5,000 fans and spectators, most of whom are standing quietly in front of their seats. The Black Knights of Army are assembled near the foul line at the far end of the court, facing the corner of the stands where their band is delivering the alma mater of the United States Military Academy. It’s only been a few minutes since the final buzzer sounded, closing the book on a tough 59-50 loss to their rivals from Annapolis. Yet here the Black Knights stand, at attention, with the Midshipmen of Navy by their side, each honoring their Academy and their opponent. In a moment, the Army players in their home whites and the Midshipmen in Navy blue and gold will walk together to the opposite end of the floor, where the winning team’s band readies to play the alma mater of the Naval Academy. “If you win, they play your alma mater second,” says Brennan Wyatt, a junior guard at Navy and one of just three upperclassmen on the roster.  “So it’s always a better time if you hear your alma mater second, but … you have to show them respect like they show us respect, win or lose. I mean, it really does go back to respect, and how both teams, I feel, respect each other a lot as people, and as basketball players.”

A Game Between Mid-Majors With More Than Patriot League Standings on the Line (credit: A. Schuldiner)

A Game Between Mid-Majors With More Than Patriot League Standings on the Line (credit: A. Schuldiner)

If you look for it, you can see joy on the faces of the Midshipmen and disappointment on the faces of the Black Knights, but for these few moments, there are no overt displays of celebration or sorrow. Basketball emotions are on hold while the players from both academies pay respect to principles that are bigger than the events of the past few hours. It’s a unique scene, and one that can’t help but reaffirm your faith in sportsmanship. In a culture that’s often too preoccupied with the accomplishments of the individual to be bothered with the team concept, the Army-Navy basketball rivalry is a breath of fresh air. Among the cadets, the success of the team comes first. Where their futures will take them, it has to.

The stakes are high and the rivalry is fierce, but showboating and trash talk are noticeably absent. You won’t see a player disrespect his opponent for the sake of self-promotion in an Army-Navy game. “We’re both Academy schools and we hold ourselves higher,” says Ella Ellis, a senior forward for Army and the ninth-leading scorer in program history.  “There definitely won’t be any taunting in that game. It’s definitely a rivalry, but we also have to remember that after this is said and done, we’ll be brothers in arms.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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CIO… the Patriot League

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 8th, 2013

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Mitch Goldich is the RTC correspondent for the Patriot League. You can find more of his work online at The Huffington Post.  Follow him on Twitter at @mitchgoldich for more updates.

Looking Back

  • Lafayette Separates From The Pack: For much of the season, it’s been Lehigh and Bucknell trading places at the top of the Patriot League power rankings, with nobody else staking a firm claim to the third spot. Two weeks ago I put Lafayette in the three-hole, in what was easily the most difficult call to make. The Leopards immediately justified that ranking with a blowout win at Lehigh the following day. Lafayette thoroughly dominated Lehigh, winning 78-57 in Bethlehem. Lafayette is 4-3 at the midpoint of league play, with a very favorable schedule for the second half. Each of the Leopards’ four toughest opponents (Bucknell, Lehigh, Army and American) will travel to Easton, where they have reeled off eight straight wins. Fran O’Hanlon’s squad seems poised to grab the third seed in the Patriot League Tournament, and has the best chance to take down Bucknell or Lehigh once they get there.
Lehigh Has Held Steady Without C.J. McCollum Thanks To White-Hot Perimeter Shooting.

Lehigh Has Held Steady Without C.J. McCollum Thanks To White-Hot Perimeter Shooting.

  • Bucknell Survives American: Bucknell and American collided last week in one of the most exciting games of the Patriot League season. American trailed by one point at halftime, and then started to pull away in the second half. Daniel Munoz hit a three-pointer with 2:16 left to stretch the lead to 55-48. The Bison came back and scored eight straight points to finish the game up 56-55. Mike Muscala grabbed an offensive rebound and scored on a put back with 21 seconds left to get the Bison within a point. Then, he did the same exact thing on the final possession of the game, scoring on another put back layup with 0.8 seconds left to end the game. The Bison were presumed the conference favorite after a strong run through the non-conference season, even before Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum went down with a broken foot. But Bucknell lost their home game against Lehigh on January 23, and then looked shaky on the road in D.C. It’s hard to know what exactly to make of this game. It could be a good sign that they were able to escape and pull out a close win, or it could be a bad sign that the team isn’t playing as well as they were early in the season. Still, the Bison have reached the midway point of the league season with a 6-1 record, tied with Lehigh atop the standings.
  • Muscala, McCollum Named Senior CLASS Award Finalists: Muscala and McCollum have grown accustomed to seeing their names next to each other as they’ve rewritten chunks of the Patriot League record book throughout their intertwining careers.  They’ve put themselves in elite company once again, as the Patriot League produced two of the ten finalists for one of college basketball’s most prestigious awards, the Senior CLASS Award. The award recognizes Division I seniors with notable achievements in four areas—community, classroom, character and competition. A committee of media members selected the finalists from a list of 30 candidates that also included Lehigh’s Gabe Knutson. It’s hard to speculate how much McCollum’s time lost to injury may affect voters, but it’s a testament to his body of work that he was still selected as a finalist. Both men are strong students and high-character leaders, as well as two of the most talented players the league has ever seen. The award recipient will be selected by combining votes from fans, media members and head coaches, with the winner revealed at the Final Four.  Fans of either player can vote here.

Power Rankings

  1. Bucknell (19-4, 6-1) – Despite the shaky game against American, Bucknell’s 3-0 record since the last Check-In allows it to wrestle the top spot back from Lehigh. Muscala continues to run away with the Patriot League Player of the Year Award, leading the conference with 19.0 points, 11.5 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game. He has officially graduated from that conversation and entered discussions around national awards and NBA draft stock. While Muscala deserves his share of attention, he has received help. Bryson Johnson made six three-pointers against Navy on Saturday, giving him an even 300 for his career. He is now just two shy of tying the league record set by American’s Garrison Carr from 2005-2009. Bucknell’s success can also be attributed largely to their defense, and they lead the conference in points allowed (58.4 per game) and opponents’ field goal percentage (37.4). Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East Realignment: Conference Looks to Add 12th Team and Sign a TV Contract

Posted by mlemaire on January 28th, 2013

Is everyone still interested in Big East realignment? Good, because believe it or not, everybody’s favorite conference to leave is in the headlines again as it looks to add a 12th team to the roster, keep their name despite significant re-branding efforts, and negotiate the all-important TV package with multiple networks.

Commissioner Mike Aresco dished on a number of topics following a breakfast at a chamber of commerce, and he believes that conference realignment may soon be coming to an end, which is a relief to everyone who enjoys college basketball but doesn’t enjoy watching school administrators work the back channels to wrangle more money for their programs. When Navy joins the Big East in 2015, that will give the league just 11 teams, so adding a 12th team makes plenty of sense if they can actually find a suitable program. Boise State and San Diego State have both backed out on the conference to return to the Mountain West, and it is possible that the Big East will have to compete with the Catholic Seven – which should be gone after next season assuming they work out a favorable deal – if they are looking to add some of the better programs from the Atlantic 10.

Mike Aresco

Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco has his hands full with never-ending realignment manuevering. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

Aresco says that he intends to keep the Big East name and stressed the importance of the conference “remaining geographically cohesive,” which is kind of hilarious because he followed that by saying the conference would not expand past Texas. Not sure exactly what Aresco’s definition of cohesive it is, but from our end, there is nothing cohesive about having Connecticut travel to play Houston or Southern Methodist University, but then again, we aren’t conference presidents, so what do we know?

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CIO…the Patriot League

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 11th, 2013

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Mitch Goldich is the RTC correspondent for the Patriot League. You can find more of his work online at The Huffington Post.  Follow him on Twitter at @mitchgoldich for more updates.

Looking Back

  • Lehigh Loses McCollum: Lehigh’s Pre-Season All-America guard, CJ McCollum, suffered a broken fifth metatarsal in his foot during Saturday’s nationally televised game at VCU. More than 30 NBA scouts came to watch him in person, but he went down midway through the first half.  This injury is a real shame, not just for Lehigh but for the whole league. The Patriot League has received unprecedented levels of press so far this season because of McCollum and the anticipated exciting battle between Lehigh and Bucknell for the league title. Now, much of the buzz may dissipate before conference play even starts. McCollum has already undergone surgery, and early diagnoses had him out 8-10 weeks. The Patriot League Tournament falls right in that stretch, so it’s unknown if he’ll make it back out on the court again this season. Even if he does rush back, it may take him longer to return to 100 percent. The Patriot League’s all-time scoring leader will now fall short of Daren Queenan’s school record, which was set before Lehigh joined the conference. While he is fiercely dedicated to his team’s success this year, nobody would expect him to do anything foolish with his body while he still projects to be a first round pick in next summer’s NBA Draft.
Being Without Its Top Star For Several Weeks Doesn't Sit Well With Lehigh Fans. (Joe Mahoney/AP)

Eight-to-Ten Weeks Without C.J. McCollum Doesn’t Sit Well With Lehigh Fans. (Joe Mahoney/AP)

  • Bucknell Keeps Building a Resume: The Bison came heartbreakingly close to beating Missouri in their most difficult non-conference game of the season, dropping a 66-64 contest in Columbia. Still, Bucknell is establishing itself as one of the top mid-major teams in the country. The Bison are ranked fourth in the latest College Insider Mid-Major Top 25. They come in at #36 at kenpom.com and #38 in the RPI. Bucknell has escaped the non-conference portion of its season with a league record 13 wins, and it’s now safe to say that an at-large bid is officially in play. McCollum’s injury makes them the favorite to win the Patriot League Tournament, whether he returns for the tournament or not, but a strong regular season and a tournament upset could land Bucknell in the Big Dance anyway.
  • Wrapping Up the Non-Conference Season: The performance of the league slipped a bit over the last two weeks, dropping the conference’s cumulative record to 62-62 with just one non-conference game remaining (Colgate plays the New Jersey Institute of Technology in February). Some of those wins came against competition below the Division I level, but the eight schools have combined to go 56-41 against D-I teams outside of the six power conferences. The teams are an impressive 48-29 against the A-10, America East, CAA, Ivy, MAAC, NEC and MEAC. Those marks are good enough to hold steady at #16 out of 33 in the conference ratings on Ken Pomeroy’s website. Last year the Patriot League finished at #22.

Power Rankings

  1. Bucknell (13-3) – Seemingly every other game, Mike Muscala puts forth an effort described as his best game of the season.  If he hadn’t had his coming out party yet, it was definitely against Missouri last Saturday.  Muscala put up 25 points and 14 rebounds against a nationally ranked team loaded with talent.  The Bison led at halftime and outrebounded the Tigers, but fell just short.  Muscala stepped on the base line with 4.1 seconds left in a one-point game, with Bucknell in position to take the lead.  Though Muscala currently leads ESPN.com’s Player Efficiency Ratings, this is not a one-man team.  Cameron Ayers, son of former Ohio State and NBA coach Randy Ayers, has scored in double figures in six straight games and Bryson Johnson is shooting 43 percent from beyond the arc. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East M5: 01.07.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on January 7th, 2013

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  1. So that whole thing about the ‘Catholic Seven‘ breaking away from the Big East?  That’s looking like an even better decision than we initially thought. According to ESPN.com‘s Darren Rovell, the seven schools have an offer from FOX, which is looking to launch its own sports channel next summer, for 12 years and $500 million. According to the report, the schools would look to bring in three to five additional members who would receive lesser shares, and the seven schools would each make around $5 million per year. In the current Big East, non-football members now make between $2-$3 million per season. These schools may not have powerful football programs, but Georgetown, St. John’s, Villanova, and the others still hold some weight in the basketball world, as FOX’s reported offer shows.
  2. Meanwhile, Big East commissioner Mike Aresco is having a rough go of things. In a Hartford Courant article, he compares the last six weeks to “drinking from a flood”.  That time period includes the departures of Louisville and Rutgers, the news that Boise State would remain in the Mountain West, and the announcement that the ‘Catholic Seven’ would breaking away from the Big East. Unfortunately for Aresco, it is really less of a flood and more of a drought in terms of viable programs remaining in his conference. San Diego State, which was planning to join as a football-only member, may now turn its back on the conference with Boise gone, and there seems to be real questions as to whether Navy ever ends up joining for football either. To wrap this all up, there does not seem to be many other qualified programs in the east, and schools like Cincinnati, UConn, and USF will jump ship as soon as another viable conference comes calling.
  3. CBS Sports‘ basketball guru Gary Parrish recently penned his mid-season review for the Big East, and everything seemed to line up until his pick for ‘freshman of the year favorite’. Parrish chose Pitt’s Steven Adams as his selection, a players who is having a decent year, and he mentions Villanova’s Ryan Arcidiacono as another candidate, but as Pitt blog Cardiac Hill notes, by far the best choice for this award is St. John’s forward Jakarr Sampson. Sampson is averaging 13.9 points and seven rebounds per game to Adams’ 7.3/6.2 numbers, and has definitely been the conference’s most impressive rookie so far.
  4. Speaking of the Johnnies, they got what may end up being a signature win against Cincinnati on Saturday. Sampson had a solid night, scoring 16 points and grabbing eight boards, but in crunch time Steve Lavin gave the ball to D’Angelo Harrison. Harrison was having an off night for the Red Storm, but came through in the clutch regardless, scoring the final five points in a 53-52 win over the Bearcats. Harrison was benched by Lavin earlier this season when he wasn’t living up to his potential as a team leader and role model… and it certainly seems like his disciplinary tactics are now paying off.
  5. Brandon Triche has always been somewhat of an enigma to Syracuse fans.  He is a four-year starter, and his statistical lines read like those of a consistently good-but-not-great player. However, many people, including Jim Boeheim, envisioned more from Triche, and it seems like the senior guard may be breaking out at the right time for the Orange. In the first two Big East games of the season, Triche has scored a total of 45 points on 16-of-24 shooting, and has taken some of the play-making pressure off of point guard Michael Carter-Williams. Syracuse does not have great depth at guard, especially when freshman Trevor Cooney struggles to score, so Triche’s ability to provide consistent scoring and spell MCW by running the point has proven to be invaluable this season.
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CIO… the Patriot League

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 28th, 2012

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Mitch Goldich is the RTC correspondent for the Patriot League. You can find more of his work online at The Huffington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchgoldich for more updates.

Looking Back

  • Bucknell’s At-Large Hopes Take a Hit: Bucknell and Lehigh both entered the season with a chance to earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament with an at-large bid. To do so, each needed to be nearly flawless against the weaker foes in the non-conference schedule, and pick up a couple signature wins along the way. Lehigh’s chances looked bleak after early losses to Baylor and Pitt, but Bucknell kept its hopes alive with an 11-1 start. Saturday’s loss to Princeton, however, was a major step back. The Bison may need to win on January 5 at #7 Missouri to have any chance of an at-large bid, or else they’ll have to win the Patriot League Tournament to make the Big Dance. Lehigh would almost surely need to beat VCU on that same date to get back in the conversation. That game represents Lehigh’s last chance to get a true signature win before the games against Bucknell.
  • Scouts Show, McCollum Sits: One of the most anticipated match-ups of the season was over before it started. More than 50 NBA scouts, including several general managers, traveled to Denton, Texas, to see two potential lottery picks in Lehigh’s CJ McCollum and North Texas’ Tony Mitchell. Just minutes before game time, Lehigh announced that McCollum would not dress due to a sprained ankle. To add insult to injury, Mitchell was held out of the starting lineup because of a violation of team rules. He still posted 22 points and nine rebounds in 31 minutes off the bench. Scouts who wanted to see McCollum instead learned that Lehigh’s well-rounded attack is more than a one-man show. Gabe Knutson hit four threes en route to 28 points, and Mackey McKnight added 25 more. Lehigh cruised to a 19-point halftime lead on its way to a 90-75 win. Coach Brett Reed described McCollum’s injury as “mild” which seemed like damage control, not wanting to incite a panic that his preseason All-American would be out very long. McCollum, though, tweeted at The Allentown Morning Call’s Tom Housenick after the game that he’s never missed a game because of a mild injury. It was a lighthearted exchange, and all signs point to McCollum being at full-strength for the January 5 showdown against VCU.
Lehigh's offense gets a ton of well-deserved attention, but don't overlook their defense. (AP Photo)

Lehigh’s offense gets a ton of well-deserved attention, but don’t overlook their defense. (AP)

  • Historic Starts for Bucknell and Lehigh: The Patriot League’s two premier teams have lived up to lofty preseason expectations, and find themselves ranked in a slew of mid-major rankings and polls. Before they battle each other for the league championship, both teams are already battling some of the best squads in their programs’ histories. Bucknell’s 11-1 start was its best since the 1907-08 season. Even with the loss to Princeton, Bucknell’s 11-2 mark is still second-best in school history through 13 games. Lehigh is 9-2 for the first time since the 1925-26 campaign. Its current eight-game winning streak is also longest since that season. Both teams still have a chance to reach 12 non-conference wins in the regular season, a feat achieved by only two teams in Patriot League history: Fordham in 1990-91 and Lehigh last season.

Reader’s Take 

 

Power Rankings

  1. Lehigh (9-2) – If my power rankings were designed to answer the question of who has the stronger resume, I’d have to give Bucknell the top spot. But if I’m determining who is playing better basketball right now, I’ll give Lehigh the edge. The Mountain Hawks’ aforementioned win over North Texas was their sixth straight by double digits. Lehigh now leads the nation in three-point shooting (44.4 percent) and is making 8.7 threes per game. While the Mountain Hawks get a lot of credit for their offense, they also have a very pesky defense. McCollum, McKnight and Holden Greiner are all among the top five in the Patriot League in steals per game. Read the rest of this entry »
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CIO… the Patriot League

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 14th, 2012

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Mitch Goldich is the RTC correspondent for the Patriot League. You can find more of his work online at The Huffington Post.  Follow him on Twitter at @mitchgoldich for more updates.

Looking Back

  • Lights-Out Lehigh: CJ McCollum continues to lead the nation in scoring, now with 24.9 points per game, but he is hardly doing it by himself. Gabe Knutson is scoring over 16 points per game, and Mackey McKnight and Holden Greiner are both averaging double figures. The Mountain Hawks are second in the country in both free throw percentage (80.5 percent) and three point shooting (44 percent).  Those efficient numbers have helped boost Lehigh to 16th in the country at 80.8 points per game.
  • Muscala Racks Up Career Numbers:Bucknell’s Mike Muscala is having an excellent senior season, and is staking his claim as one of the most dominant big men in the history of the conference. Adonal Foyle is still the only player the Patriot League has ever sent to the NBA, and Muscala recently joined him as the second player in conference history with 1,500 career points and 800 career rebounds. Foyle even tweeted that he was happy to have company in the club. Muscala is sixth in the nation with 11.4 rebounds per game. He and Duke’s Mason Plumlee are the only players averaging at least 18 points and 11 rebounds.
  • Conference Ranking Is Improving: According to Ken Pomeroy’s indispensable site kenpom.com, the Patriot League finished last season rated 22nd toughest out of the 33 D-I conferences.  This year, the Patriot League is up to 16th, leapfrogging the CAA, Ivy, Sun Belt, Big West, Atlantic Sun and Summit leagues.  While Bucknell and Lehigh are certainly responsible for a large part of that jump, the conference is definitely stronger top to bottom as well. The eight schools have a cumulative record of 43-39, despite several mismatches against teams from the power conferences. The Bison and Mountain Hawks have also received attention from several individual polls. ESPN.com’s most recent Mid-Major Report listed Bucknell sixth and Lehigh eighth.  CBS Sports’ Mid-Major Power Pyramid had Bucknell ninth and Lehigh 12th.
Mike Muscala and the Bison escaped Columbia.

Mike Muscala and the Bison escaped Columbia.

Power Rankings

1. Bucknell (8-1) – The Bison survived a scare from Columbia in one of the most exciting games any Patriot League team has played this season.  The opponents shot out to a 25-8 lead after the opening tip and maintained a double-digit lead with under 15 minutes to go in the game.  Muscala would not let Bucknell lose and submitted a dominant 29 points and 19 rebounds in the win. Read the rest of this entry »

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Checking In On… the Patriot League

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 30th, 2012

Mitch Goldich is the RTC correspondent for the Patriot League. You can find more of his work online at The Huffington Post.  Follow him on Twitter at @mitchgoldich for more updates.

Looking Back

  • The Hunt for an Automatic Bid: One of the most intriguing storylines at the outset of the season was whether an improved Patriot League could send two teams to the Big Dance in March. With both Lehigh and Bucknell receiving attention in various national mid-major rankings, it was possible that one or both could play itself into the at-large bid conversation. Lehigh squandered two of its best chances to impress the selection committee, dropping games at Baylor and Pitt. The Pitt loss was particularly damning because a win would have generated more chances against quality competition in the NIT Season Tip-Off semifinals and/or finals. The Mountain Hawks will have to win the Patriot League Tournament to get another shot to play with the big boys this March.  Bucknell, on the other hand, had a more difficult non-conference schedule to begin with and has held up its end of the bargain with wins over Purdue, George Mason and New Mexico State.  The Bison would likely need to win at Missouri on January 5 and submit a dominant conference season, but the door is still open. If the Bison win the Patriot League tournament, the point will be moot, but if they suffer an upset, the league could have two in the Field of 68.
  • Wins From Top to Bottom: While Lehigh and Bucknell captured the preseason headlines, it bears repeating that six other Patriot League teams entered the season with high aspirations of their own. The Patriot League is an improved conference this year, with teams from top to bottom earning non-conference wins. Through Wednesday, the league had a cumulative record of 29-26. Many of those losses came in mismatches against schools from the power conferences, as was to be expected.  But the league has been far from a doormat. The eight Patriot League schools have mopped up some of the other conferences on the East Coast, going a combined 23-5 against teams from the America East, CAA, Ivy League, MAAC, MEAC, and NEC.  So while Bucknell’s wins against the Big Ten and WAC help elevate the standing of the whole conference, other schools are doing their part as well.

There may be no hotter player in the country right now than C.J. McCollum, who has connected on 21 of his 38 three-point attempts this season.

  • McCollum Sets Career Mark, Leads Nation in Scoring:  Move over, Rob Feaster.  Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum broke Feaster’s mark of 2,224 career points, which had stood since he graduated from Holy Cross in 1995. The Preseason AP All-American broke the mark during a 26-point effort against Sacred Heart on Sunday. McCollum has more than 20 games to pad his record. After he poured in 25 in the second half at Quinnipiac on Wednesday night, McCollum’s 26.3 points per game lead the nation. Eighteen NBA scouts showed up for Lehigh’s opening game against Baylor.  And in case you think all 18 were there just to get a first look at Isaiah Austin, 20 more showed up for Lehigh’s second game against Robert Morris. Most preseason projections had McCollum as a first round pick in this summer’s draft, and his play so far has only helped his stock. Most notably, McCollum has improved his three-point shooting.  He has hit 21-of-38 shots from beyond the arc, good for 55.3 percent.

Reader’s Take

 

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ACC M5: 11.28.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on November 28th, 2012

  1. ACC Sports: Expansion is upon us. A 7:00 AM conference call between all of the ACC presidents will determine which, if any, of the other potential schools under consideration will be invited to join the Atlantic Coast Conference. The smart thinking on this is that Lousiville has the inside track on joining the conference and the possibility of adding more than one school is very slim. This has got to be disappointing news for Connecticut, which has lobbied hard for inclusion in the ACC, and to a lesser extent Cincinnati, Navy, and South Florida, all of which have also made bids to join the league. It looks like football success may be the deciding factor, though both Connecticut and Cincinnati are pressing hard on the issue of academics where those schools have an advantage over Louisville.
  2. ESPN: Maryland‘s exit from the ACC doesn’t seem like it’s going to be a clean break after all. The noise that Maryland president Wallace Loh has been making about not intending to pay the full $50 million exit fee has roused the collective ire of the conference that Maryland has scorned. The ACC has filed a lawsuit against Maryland seeking full payment of the agreed-upon exit fee. The suit is supported by all member schools (outside of Maryland) as well as the three incoming schools (Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Notre Dame). In terms of a conference seeking full and complete restitution from a departing member, this is a big time move, at least on paper.
  3. Wisconsin State Journal: The Bennetts loom large in Wisconsin basketball lore and the match-up between Tony Bennett‘s Virginia Cavaliers and his former mentor, Bo Ryan’s Wisconsin Badgers, is about as storied a coaching storyline as you can get in terms of Wisconsin basketball intrigue. Now, obviously the market for “Wisconsin basketball intrigue” is about as niche a topic of interest as possible, but for those who are interested, this is a big one. Tony Bennett was a basketball hero at Wisconsin-Green Bay and an assistant coach at Wisconsin under Bo Ryan, who succeeded Bennett’s own father, Dick Bennett, who coached Wisconsin from 1996-2000. The point is that for Virginia’s coach, tonight’s match-up against the Badgers is rather important.
  4. Miami Sun-Sentinel: Miami sports fans don’t exactly have the best reputation for supporting their team and sadly that reputation extends to the students at the University of Miami whose attendance at basketball games can be described as spotty at best. Despite fielding a successful team for the past several years, Miami continues to trail the vast majority of the conference in average and annual attendance figures. With the ranked Michigan State Spartans coming to town as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge tonight, head coach Jim Larranaga is optimistic that the students and fans will show up for what could potentially be a pivotal turning point in Miami’s basketball history. Miami is good enough to give the Spartans a competitive game, and if they can do so in front of a raucous home crowd, the game could turn into a watershed moment for the Larranaga era in Coral Gables.
  5. Blogger So Dear: Would someone please check on Bart Johnson? After Wake Forest took a tough loss to Nebraska, things aren’t looking great in Winston-Salem again these days and Demon Deacon fans are despondent. Faith in head coach Jeff Bzdelik has plummeted below already dangerously low levels and our favorite Wake Forest bloggers seem prepared to make a deep run through the entire The Cure discography. It’s pretty bleak.

BONUS: Maryland stomped Northwestern in last night’s game in Evanston, but the story was a little different when the two teams last faced off… in 1958. The Northwestern archives and the Washington Post are happy to point us to the footage of this long-ago meeting. It’s honestly pretty rad.

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