Michael Hurley is the RTC correspondent for the Patriot League and America East Conference.
Patriot League Tournament
In a league in which the first five teams finished within three games of each other any team could win three games in a row to secure the NCAA bid. Lehigh was the best team throughout the year with a 10-4 record. If they face Navy in the semis there could be problems posed after dropping both against the Midshipmen this year. American could also beat Navy and ride the hot hand of Vlad Moldoveanu as far as he will take them. Holy Cross has a lot of skill for a #7 seeded team, but who knows if Coach Kearny can get them to perform. Lafayette faded huge down the stretch, but started out 5-1 in conference. Any of the teams could end up hosting the Patriot League trophy at the end of the tournament, but I will go with Lehigh, the favorite, to win it. Tune in for the league championship on ESPN2 on March 12 at 4:45 pm.
First Round Matchups
#8 (14-14, 4-10) Army at #1 (19-10, 10-4) Lehigh – 03/03/10 Wednesday 7 pm. Lehigh should roll in this game against Army. Every victory Lehigh has had this year has been by double figures including both over Army. The matchup problem comes in the second round. If Navy manages to beat American, Lehigh will not be pleased. Navy beat Lehigh as many times this year as the rest of the league combined.
#7 (8-21, 5-9) Holy Cross at #2 (14-16, 9-5) Bucknell – 03/03/10 Wednesday 7 pm. If Holy Cross can put together some defense this game they stand a good chance. The Crusaders beat Bucknell once at home, but lost in mid-February on the road. It seems that the Crusaders just never bought into Kearny’s system, so it will be hard to start in the playoffs. Especially after dropping four of the last five in the regular season.
#6 (10-18, 6-8) Colgate at #3 (17-12, 8-6) Lafayette – 03/03/10 Wednesday 7 pm. The away team came away with a victory in each of the games this year between these two teams. Colgate’s win over Lafayette was only one of three home losses on the year for the Leopards. It was also only one of three home victories on the road for the Raiders. I can see Lafayette continuing their second half swoon and dropping this first rounder.
#5 (13-16, 7-7) Navy at #4 (10-19, 7-7) American – 03/03/10 Wednesday 7:30 pm. American came out on top of both matchups during the regular season including a 80-77 overtime victory at Navy during the last week in February. Moldoveanu hit the go ahead layup, but a huge game out of Stephen Lumpkins won the Eagles that game. Moldoveanu scored 37 points the first time the two teams met. Navy is only 3-10 on the road this year, so the home court advantage was huge for American. The Eagles come in having won three out of their last four while Navy has dropped three in a row. American, 8-0, has never lost in a first round matchup since joining the league in 2002. Expect the Eagles to continue to live on.