Checking in on… the Patriot League

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 18th, 2011

Kevin Doyle is the RTC correspondent for the Patriot League.

A Look Back

  • Big ups to PL hoopsters“The Last Amateurs” as John Feinstein would call them, led all NCAA Division-I conferences with four men’s basketball student-athletes on the Capital One Academic All-District Teams. Holy Cross senior Andrew Keister and Army senior Nathan Hedgecock were each selected in District 1, while Bucknell sophomore Mike Muscala and Lafayette junior Ryan Willen selected in District 2. The Patriot League may not always win on the hardwood, but their performance in the classroom is on par with anyone.
  • Dave Paulsen Gets #300—Not only was Bucknell’s 66-60 victory over second-place American a critical one for the Bison, as it gave them a greater cushion over the Eagles, but it was also big for Dave Paulsen on a personal level, as it was his 300th victory as a head coach. The breakdown of Paulsen’s wins come across all divisions: 50-28 at Division-III St. Lawrence, 42-39 at Division-II Le Moyne, 170-53 at Division-III Williams, and now 40-40 at Bucknell.
  • Struggles at the Academies—Both Army and Navy concluded the first half of league play feeling pretty good about themselves; Army blew out Bucknell, 90-70, and Navy won three straight games. None of this strong play has carried over as the teams went a combined 1-7 over the past two weeks.
  • Six Times for McCollum—For his play during the week of February 7, Lehigh’s sophomore guard C.J. McCollum was awarded Patriot League Player of the Week honors for the sixth time this season, a league record. The previous mark was set during the 2008-09 season by American’s do-it-all guard Garrison Carr, who was named the Player of the Week five times. It is scary to think McCollum is only a sophomore and will be gracing Stabler Arena with his talents for two more years.
  • A Two Team Race—Many astute Patriot League followers undoubtedly had an inkling that this was a two team race after the first week of conference play, and this notion was proven true following the games over the past two weeks. American left the door slightly open after losing to Navy, but the other six teams never capitalized on their setback. Although the #1 and #2 positions in the PL Tournament have nearly been solidified, we have seen throughout the year that anyone can beat anyone in this league. After all, Bucknell’s only league loss of the year came against last-place Army.
  • Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology—In his latest bracket, Joe Lunardi predicts Bucknell to be a 14 seed in the East Region playing Florida in the first round. The Bison will continue to be the recipient for the remainder of Lunardi’s brackets as he simply selects the team with the best league record to receive the automatic bid to the Dance. If Bucknell continues their strong play and runs through the remainder of their schedule without another setback, they have an outside chance at a 13-seed.
  • Mid-Major Top 25—Bucknell is becoming closer every week of cracking the Mid-Major top 25. For the week of February 14, the Bison earned 40 votes, which puts them three spots outside of the top 25. American was the only other Patriot League team that consistently received votes for the top 25, but in the latest poll they did not receive any.
  • Team of the Weeks (Feb. 3-Feb. 16): Bucknell—The Bison got back on track after falling at Army as they went a perfect 4-0 over the past two weeks to virtually lock up the number one seed heading into the PL Tournament. Over these four games, Bucknell has demonstrated they have all the important pieces a championship team needs: an intelligent point guard with good ball handling skills and savvy moves (Darryl Shazier), a lights-out shooter (Bryson Johnson), and a dominant big man (Mike Muscala). Not to mention, Bucknell is complemented with great senior leadership from Stephen Tyree.
  • Player of the Weeks (Feb. 3-Feb. 16): Bryson Johnson, Bucknell—It would be very easy to hand C.J. McCollum this award—he is a logical candidate virtually every week—but no player has meant more to his team lately than Bryson Johnson. In particular, his near flawless shooting from downtown has been a major part of Bucknell’s latest two victories. Hindered with an apparent injury to his shooting elbow, Johnson was seen flexing the elbow in the closing minutes of Bucknell’s game at Holy Cross while on the bench. With the game tied at 54, Dave Paulsen called Johnson’s number and the sharpshooter delivered by stroking an NBA three to propel his team to a big road victory. In his next game at Lafayette, Johnson coolly dropped in a career best 30 points in an overtime win. For the season, the sophomore has drilled 80 three-pointers (Seventh in the nation) and is shooting 48% from distance (Good for 20th in the country).
  • Freshman of the Weeks (Feb. 3-Feb. 16)J.J. Avila, Navy—It is becoming routine that Navy freshman J.J. Avila receives this award. Although he did not have one of his more dominating stretch of games—12.75 points and 4.75 rebounds—no other freshman in the league contributes the way Avila does for Navy. Against Lehigh, Avila played all but two minutes and poured in 22 points on 4-10 shooting from three.
  • Clip of the Week: In another nip-and-tuck affair between Holy Cross and Bucknell, the Bison came away victorious against for the second time this season against the Crusaders behind this big shot from sharpshooter Bryson Johnson with the score knotted at 54.

Quote of the Week

The even-keeled Dave Paulsen seemingly could care less about picking up the 300th victory of his career as he has his sights set on a greater goal: a Patriot League Championship. Paulsen had the following to say to William Bowman of The Daily Item:

The 300 wins? It’s great, but I am more excited that we have a two-game lead in the league.

Power Rankings (Last week’s ranking in parentheses)

1. Bucknell (1) (19-8, 10-1)

Previous Two Weeks: W Navy 75-49, W American 66-60, W Holy Cross 60-56, W Lafayette 74-69 (OT)

Next Two Weeks: 2/20 @ Colgate, 2/23 Lehigh, 2/26 Army

The Bison got back to their winning ways after what has proven to be a fluke loss to Army by winning four straight games. After a blowout victory against Navy, the next three wins hardly came easy for Bucknell as they had to fight in each game until the final minute to earn the victory. While the play on the offensive end has been steady for much of the year, Bucknell’s play on the defensive end has to encourage head coach Dave Paulsen. During the course of their four straight wins, the Bison have surrendered just 58.5 points a game. In the process, they have all but locked up the top seed heading into the conference tournament.

2. American (2) (18-8, 8-3)

Previous Two Weeks: W Lehigh 62-61, L Bucknell 66-60, W Colgate 69-60, W Army 65-59

Next Two Weeks: 2/20 Holy Cross, 2/23 Navy, 2/26 @ Lafayette

American was unable to avenge their early season loss to Bucknell as they fell to the Patriot League frontrunner in Lewisburg. Although the Eagles went a solid 3-1 over the past two weeks, their star forward Vlad Moldoveanu struggled averaging 12.5 points a night (seven lower than his season average). His shooting percentage was predictably low as well as he shot a meager 37% from the field. Fortunately, his running mate in the front court, Stephen Lumpkins, performed exceptionally well over the four game stretch as he averaged 15.5 points and 6.25 rebounds. There is little doubt though in any Eagles’ fan’s mind, if American is to win the Patriot League, Vlad Moldoveanu has to be on top of his game.

3. Lehigh (3) (14-12, 5-6)

Previous Two Weeks: L American 62-61, W Navy 87-72, W Army 78-64, L Colgate 94-90 (OT)

Next Two Weeks: 2/20 Lafayette, 2/23 @ Bucknell, 2/26 @ Holy Cross

Who would have thought that last year’s Patriot League champion would have been swept by the lowly Colgate Raiders this year? Well, that is exactly what happened in Lehigh’s last game as senior guard Mike Venezia had the best scoring outburst of his career in an overtime victory. The losses to American and Colgate were real heartbreakers for the Mountain Hawks as they lost by a combined five points. The league would certainly look quite different right now if Lehigh came out on top in both of these affairs. Lehigh continues to be paced by C.J. McCollum, who averaged 23.5 points and 10.5 boards during the four game stretch. After McCollum, however, there is not much else on a consistent basis.

4. Holy Cross (6) (6-19, 5-6)

Previous Two Weeks: L Lafayette 76-70, W Army 85-75, L Bucknell 60-56, W Navy 72-61

Next Two Weeks: 2/20 @ American, 2/23 @ Colgate, 2/26 Lehigh

The Two losses suffered by Holy Cross this past week came by an average of five points; that has pretty much been the story of the year. Now, brace yourself for the following statistic: the Crusaders are 0-10 in games decided by five points or less. Amazing. Whether one wants to blame it on the coaching, the players, a lack of execution, or what have you, this Holy Cross team has been marred by a string of bad luck. In fact, that is exactly what KenPom would call it. According to his website, Holy Cross is the unluckiest team in America. There is one aspect of Holy Cross’ game, however, that has nothing to do with luck and everything to do with mundane practice and focus: free throw shooting. When losing so many games by such a small margin, giving away points at the charity stripe will kill a team. The Crusaders are shooting 64% from the line this year (307th in the country), and in both of their losses in the past two weeks they were a combined 29-55 (53%). Even in the victory over Navy, they shot 16-29 from the stripe.

5. Lafayette (7) (10-16, 5-6)

Previous Two Weeks: W Holy Cross 76-70, W Colgate 80-65, L Navy 57-52, L Bucknell 74-69 (OT)

Next Two Weeks: 2/20 @ Lehigh, 2/23 Army, 2/26 American

The Leopards are one of three teams stuck in a logjam with Holy Cross and Lehigh as all three are vying for a top four seed and a home game in the first round of the PL Tournament. Fran O’Hanlon’s bunch began the second round of league games by posting two solid victories over Holy Cross and Colgate, but then had a disappointing setback to Navy and a gut-wrenching loss at home to Bucknell. They trailed the Bison by 11 points in the final five minutes, but scored the final 11 points in regulation to send the game into overtime where they could not close the deal. Lafayette travels to Lehigh in a pivotal game as the victor will have the inside track to finish in the upper half of the league.

6. Colgate (8) (7-19, 4-7)

Previous Two Weeks: W Army 77-71, L Lafayette 80-65, L American 69-60, W Lehigh 94-90 (OT)

Next Two Weeks: 2/20 Bucknell, 2/23 Holy Cross, 2/26 @ Navy

The Raiders continue to impress me. Many thought, including me, that Colgate would struggle to win just a single league game as they earned just one win in the non-conference, and began PL play losing their first three games. Since then, they are 6-4 in their last 10 games and have demonstrated they will be a tough out for anyone in the PL Tournament. In their latest upset over Lehigh, senior guard Mike Venezia torched the Mountain Hawks for 27 points on 5-8 shooting from downtown. Venezia’s competitiveness and leadership qualities are unparalleled as he has battled back from an ailing knee injury that saw him miss nearly all of December and part of January to. Venezia certainly has not been doing it all by himself though, sophomore guard Mitch Rolls has been one of the best shooters in the Patriot League during this stretch and Yaw Gyawu—for his size—is an absolute beast under the glass.

7. Navy (5) (9-18, 4-7)

Previous Two Weeks: L Bucknell 75-49, L Lehigh 87-72, W Lafayette 57-52, L Holy Cross 72-61

Next Two Weeks: 2/19 Army, 2/23 @ American, 2/26 Colgate

Aside from a slim five point victory against Lafayette, the Midshipmen mightily struggled in their other three games losing by an average of 17.3 points. It looked as if Navy would be able to salvage the two week stretch of games against Holy Cross as they led 32-25 at halftime, but the Crusaders came out in the second half with something to prove and outscored Billy Lange’s team 47-29. It was the three-point shot that was the downfall for Navy as they shot a futile 24% from behind the arc in their three losses. Despite their poor play of late, Navy will have an opportunity to get back into the race for a top four seed in the PL Tournament as they host rival Army on February 19.

8. Army (4) (11-15, 3-8)

Previous Two Weeks: L Colgate 77-71, L Holy Cross 85-75, L Lehigh 78-64, L American 65-59

Next Two Weeks: 2/19 @ Navy, 2/23 @ Lafayette, 2/26 @ Bucknell

The Black Knights were not able to capitalize on their 20 point thrashing of Bucknell as they dropped four straight games. I suppose that the Patriot League Preseason Poll was accurate as Army was projected to finish last in the league, but I am sure that not many teams would feel comfortable being paired with Army in the first round of the league tournament. When shooting well, they are one of the most potent three-point shooting teams in the nation. A large reason for their struggles lately is the surprisingly weak play from Julian Simmons. The senior from Texas has been the backbone of the offense for much of the year, but in his last four games is averaging only six points a night and is a combined 4-25 from beyond the arc.

A Look Ahead

  • The magic number for Bucknell to garner the top seed in the Patriot League is now at one game. This means that either a Bucknell win or American loss would give the Bison the number one seed entering the league tournament and the regular season championship.
  • An interesting site that gives projections of where each team will finish in the regular season. If these predictions hold true, then Bucknell, American and Lehigh are almost destined to finish 1-2-3 in the conference.
  • In the previous edition of Checking in on the Patriot League two weeks ago, I took a closer look at whether Ryan Willen would reach 1,000 points this year or if he would have to wait until his senior season to reach the mark. After several subpar games, it looks like he will have to wait until early next season to reach 1,000, but Holy Cross junior guard Devin Brown may not. After a spectacular six game stretch where he averaged just over 23 points a game, Brown currently has 941 points for his career. Holy Cross has a minimum of four games left on their season, so he would have to average 14.75 points a game to reach 1,000—very doable with the way he has been scoring lately.

Critical Upcoming Games:

  • Navy vs. Army (Feb. 19)—Both teams are reeling, but Navy still has an outside chance of attaining a top four seed and a home game in the first round of the PL Tournament provided they get by rival Army.
  • Lehigh vs. Lafayette (Feb. 20)—In another big rivalry game amongst Patriot League teams, Lehigh hosts Lafayette with an opportunity to get back to the .500 mark in the league. The Mountain Hawks won by 17 points in the first meeting, but Lafayette has played much better since then.
  • Holy Cross vs. Lehigh (Feb. 26)—In the last game of the regular season for both teams, the Crusaders will look to avenge a tough overtime loss to Lehigh in the prior meeting. Moreover, this game may have serious implications for seeding in the PL Tournament.
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Checking in on… the Patriot League

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 4th, 2011

Kevin Doyle is the RTC correspondent for the Patriot League.

A Look Back

  • Bucknell’s Winning Streak Snapped—In easily the biggest surprise in the Patriot League over the past two weeks, Bucknell entered Christl Arena and had no answer for Army’s offensive attack. The Black Knights put together their best effort of the season in a 20-point dismantling of first-place Bucknell. Entering the game, the Bison had a nine game winning streak that was the fifth-longest in the nation.
  • Shazier, Johnson, and McCollum in the National Rankings—Speaking of Bucknell, two of their best offensive weapons rank high in statistical rankings. Darryl Shazier has a 3.5:1 assist to turnover ratio which is ninth best in the nation, and sharpshooter Bryson Johnson is connecting on 47% of his three point attempts which ranks him just inside of the top 50. What may be even more impressive than the preceding statistics, however, is Lehigh sophomore C.J. McCollum’s ability to score the basketball. McCollum is averaging 22.1 points a game which is the highest total for any sophomore in the country.
  • The Service Academies—Not a whole lot was expected from Army and Navy at the beginning of the season. In the preseason poll, Army was picked to finish eighth and Navy not that much better at sixth. Although each team is not taking the league by storm and entirely proving these prognostications wrong, they did knock off the league’s two top teams in easy fashion. Army defeated Bucknell 90-70 and Navy beat American 73-52. This just goes to show that no team in this league has so much more talent than another that they are immune from suffering bad losses. Impressive, to say the least.
  • Five-Way Tie for Third Place—After the first go-round to begin league play, there are five teams that have matching 3-4 records. Bucknell and American have separated themselves from the pack—although are clearly susceptible to losses on off nights—but Lehigh, Lafayette, Navy, Army, and Holy Cross are in a cluster directly behind them.
  • Yaw Gyawu Reaches 1,000—The junior forward from Colgate joined Jared Mintz as another Patriot Leaguer to net his 1,000th point this season. In the process, Gyawu also recorded his ninth straight double-double.
  • J.J. Avila One of Only Two—Through the completion of games on February 1, the Navy freshman is one of only two freshman in the nation to average at least ten points, five rebounds, and two assists with the other player being Langston Galloway from St. Joseph’s. For the season, Avila is averaging 11.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.0 assists.
  • Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology—Bucknell predictably fell in Joe Lunardi’’s latest bracket after their loss to Army. They moved from a 14-seed playing BYU to a 15-seed in the East Region taking on the University of Connecticut. Wonder who Dave Paulsen would rather prepare for: Jimmer Fredette or Kemba Walker?

Mid-Major Top 25—Bucknell is currently #33 in the College Insider Mid-Major Top 25 as they garnered 17 votes in the January 31 poll. The only other Patriot League team that can be found in the poll is American, who received just four votes. I still believe Bucknell is slightly underrated by the pollsters, but I suppose that their recent loss to Army justifies the Bison’s position.

Team of the Weeks (Jan. 20-Feb. 2): Navy: Ever since I began to give a “Team of the Weeks” back in the December 10 edition of Checking in on the Patriot League, Bucknell has been awarded the honor every time. Truth be told, they were far and away the best team over the course of those two weeks in every edition as they compiled an impressive record of 11-2 during this stretch. Although Bucknell went 2-1 over the past two weeks, the Navy Midshipmen were hands down the best team in the PL. Beginning 0-4, Navy was reeling, but a victory over rival Army jumpstarted them. They followed this win up with a shocking upset over American, and then made the trek up to Hamilton, NY where they defeated Colgate in double overtime. We shall see if their markedly improved play carries over to February 5, when they travel to Bucknell.

Player of the Weeks (Jan. 20-Feb. 2): C.J. McCollum, Lehigh: I am not sure what is more impressive, the point total McCollum amassed over three games or his rebounding average. The sophomore from Canton, Ohio led Lehigh to two critical victories that brought the Mountain Hawks back into the Patriot League race. He averaged 25.3 points in three games, but corralled 13 rebounds a game as well. Mind you, McCollum is not a center or forward—he would not even be considered to be a “big” player by many—but the 6’3 guard simply has a knack for finding the ball. Constantly around the rim drawing contact, McCollum has a propensity to get to the free throw line too. He was 28-29 from the stripe in the three games, and for the year roughly 30% of his points have come via free throws. The Patriot League has some supremely talented players in the league this season—Vlad Moldoveanu, Jordan Sugars, Julian Simmons, and Mike Muscala to name a few—but none of them compare to C.J. McCollum.

Freshman of the Weeks (Jan. 20-Feb. 2)J.J. Avila, Navy—It is becoming routine that J.J. Avila is named the freshman of the weeks. The numbers alone do not express how valuable Avila has been to Navy this year, especially during Patriot League play. In league action only, he is more than doubling the next best freshman’s point total—ironically, that is his teammate Isaiah Roberts—and is the top rebounder, shot blocker, and steals leader. During Navy’s three game win streak, Avila averaged 16.7 points, 5.3 boards, and 2.3 assists. For a big man, he is also impressive from downtown as he went 9-20 from three. The Patriot League, due to his efforts, named Avila their Rookie of the Week for the fifth straight time.

Clip of the Week: A fantastic compilation of the highlights of games through the conclusion of games on January 27. Also included in the highlights is some action of the Patriot League lady hoopsters.

Quote of the Week: Following their loss at Lehigh, Holy Cross head coach Milan Brown spoke with Hoop Time editor Chris Courogen:

“We’ll keep pushing. When we make those winning plays, you’ll know. I won’t be in here ready to break the table. I’ll be smiling.”

Good thing coach Brown, we don’t want any broken tables, either.

Power Rankings (Last week’s ranking in parentheses)

1. Bucknell (1) (15-8, 6-1)

Previous Two Weeks: W Colgate 76-49, W Lehigh 81-68, L Army 90-70

Next Two Weeks: 2/5 Navy, 2/9 American, 2/12 @ Holy Cross, 2/16 @ Lafayette

The Bison were poised to sprint through the first round of the Patriot League schedule with an unscathed 7-0 record. They blew out a weak Colgate team—although, it should be known the Raiders have been playing better—and then soundly defeated Lehigh. All that was in between them and their tenth win in a row was perennial basement dweller Army. Clearly, the Black Knights did not get the memo that they were supposed to roll over and allow Bucknell to coast to an easy road win. Instead, it was Army—losers of their last three prior to their date with the Bison—that made Bucknell look like the team that was picked to finish last in the league. It should be known that Darryl Shazier, the engine that makes the Bison run, was under the weather against Army and it showed as he had one of his worst performances of the year. Even with the loss, Bucknell’s exceptional play through the first half of league play cannot be discounted. Sophomore Mike Muscala is averaging an even 20 points and nearly nine rebounds, Shazier is hands down the top point guard in the lead, and Bryson Johnson and G.W. Boon are two of the top three point shooters. What Bucknell found out against Army is that they cannot be so shortsighted to think they will win games on talent alone—a good lesson to learn now, rather than in the conference tournament.

2. American (2) (15-7, 5-2)

Previous Two Weeks: W Holy Cross 60-57, L Navy 72-53, W Lafayette 73-60

Next Two Weeks: 2/6 @ Lehigh, 2/9 @ Bucknell, 2/12 Colgate, 2/16 @ Army

American picked up a crucial early conference road win against Holy Cross as the winner of that game moved into sole possession of second place behind Bucknell. Following the big win in Worcester, the Eagles suffered a major letdown against Navy losing by 19 points; further proof that on any given night any team can win or lose in this league. Although they did manage to go 2-1 over the past two weeks, American’s star player Vlad Moldoveanu struggled by his standards. He averaged a cool 15 points and six rebounds in the three games, and had a real tough time finding the basket as his shooting percentage was just 35.5%—nine percentage points below his season average. Moldoveanu will need to turn his play around in a hurry as the Eagles open their second round of games at Lehigh and Bucknell which is a very important stretch to say the least. Two wins here and American may have the inside track to the conference tournament’s top seed.

3. Lehigh (6) (12-10, 3-4)

Previous Two Weeks: W Lafayette 79-62, L Bucknell 81-68, W Holy Cross 79-75 (OT)

Next Two Weeks: 2/6 American, 2/9 @ Navy, 2/12 @ Army, 2/16 Colgate

The Mountain Hawks got off to a real rocky start with their low point coming in a loss in the final seconds at Colgate, but C.J. McCollum and Co. have begun to slowly right the ship. They began by traveling just miles away to their arch rival Lafayette and soundly defeated the Leopards behind 23 points and 14 rebounds from McCollum. A week later, they found themselves in a 12 point second half hole to Holy Cross, but climbed back into the game and eventually won it in overtime. McCollum came up big all day pouring in 29 points, but it was his teammates that made the integral plays down the stretch to propel Lehigh to the win. Michael Ojo hit two threes—one late in regulation and the other in overtime—Jordan Hamilton (not to be confused with Rick Barnes’ sophomore) provided a spark off the bench by scoring three points the conventional way to tie the game at 68 towards the end of regulation and then corralled a big offensive rebound and put back to seal the game in overtime, and Gabe Knutson had one of his biggest games scoring wise by flushing in 22 points. When it is more than simply C.J. McCollum playing well, Lehigh becomes a dangerous team.

4. Army (4) (11-11, 3-4)

Previous Two Weeks: L Navy 85-81, L Lafayette 83-60, W Bucknell 90-70

Next Two Weeks: 2/5 Colgate, 2/9 @ Holy Cross, 2/12 Lehigh, 2/16 American

From a pure wins and losses standpoint, it was not the most successful two weeks as Army went 1-2. In their latest game, however, the Black Knights had easily their best performance in maybe the past few years. Without having any knowledge of the performances of both teams to date, one would have thought Army was the 6-0 team and the class of the Patriot League. That is just how well the Black Knights played. Here are several statistics to back it up: the shot 53% from the field, 46% from three, 84% from the line, had nearly a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio, and scored 90 points; entering the game, Bucknell was giving up an average of 61.5 points in the PL. Jeremy Hence scored 23 points in the win and was one of five Black Knights to score in double figures. The victory over Bucknell is good and all for Army as it moved them into that logjam that is third place, but now they must capitalize on it.

5. Navy (8) (8-15, 3-4)

Previous Two Weeks: W Army 85-81, W American 72-53, W Colgate 81-78 (2OT)

Next Two Weeks: 2/5 @ Bucknell, 2/9 Lehigh, 2/12 Lafayette, 2/16 @ Holy Cross

As the old basketball adage goes: “When you live by the three, you die by the three,” and this saying has clearly held true for Navy. They got off to a disastrous 0-4 start, but since then have won their last three games. The difference? The three point shot, obviously. In PL play, Navy is hoisting up a ridiculous 25 threes a game, and making an average of nine a game for a very respectable 36%. Here is the kicker though, in losses they are shooting just under 25%, but in victories they are at 38%. This is a dangerous way to live, no doubt about it, but if Jordan Sugars and J.J. Avila continue to have hot hands, Navy will have the ability to win some more games.

6. Holy Cross (3) (4-17, 3-4)

Previous Two Weeks: L American 60-57, L Colgate 79-72, L Lehigh 79-75 (OT)

Next Two Weeks: 2/5 @ Lafayette, 2/9 Army, 2/12 Bucknell, 2/16 Navy

The feelings in Worcester were pretty good after beginning 3-1 in the league—well, as good as one can possibly feel with a 4-14 record—but they have taken a turn for the worse since then. The Crusaders allowed three very winnable games slip through their fingertips and are now 3-4 in the league as opposed to being within striking distance of first place Bucknell. After falling to American in a nip and tuck game that saw Stephen Lumpkins pour in 22 points as HC had little answer for him on the low blocks, the ‘Saders came out very flat against an inspired Colgate team. When looking back on their past two losses, the games against Colgate and Lehigh were polar opposites. They trailed Colgate at one point by 18 in the second half, but mounted a late comeback to get within four. Against Lehigh, they flew out of the gate taking a 16-8 early lead and had a 12 point lead midway through the second half, but eventually collapsed and allowed Lehigh to push the game to overtime where the Mountain Hawks would win by four. There is no quit in this Holy Cross team and unquestionably not a lack of energy and fervor that is exuded at the top with Milan Brown, but this has yet to translate into consistent wins.

7. Lafayette (5) (8-14, 3-4)

Previous Two Weeks: L Lehigh 79-62, W Army 83-60, L American 73-60

Next Two Weeks: 2/5 Holy Cross, 2/9 @ Colgate, 2/12 @ Navy, 2/16 Bucknell

After jumping out to a 2-1 start in the league, Lafayette has dropped three of four games and finds themselves in that pack of teams in third place. Jared Mintz continues to be the staple that holds everything together for Lafayette, as he is by far their most consistent scorer, but aside from Mintz the Leopards lack another go-to player. Jim Mower and Ryan Willen have the capabilities and mentalities of a scorer, but both have by and large underperformed in the PL. Mower was virtually invisible in two losses for Lafayette scoring just three points in each game, and Willen has scored in double figures just twice in PL action. When Mower and Willen are both playing well on the offensive end, Lafayette may find some success, but in their last three games the two have a combined average of 16 points a night. Far too low, and an integral reason why they are 1-2 during this stretch.

8. Colgate (7) (5-17, 2-5)

Previous Two Weeks: L Bucknell 76-49, W Holy Cross 79-72, L Navy 81-78 (2OT) W Longwood 97-86

Next Two Weeks: 2/5 @ Army, 2/9 Lafayette, 2/12 @ American, 2/16 @ Lehigh

Colgate had a rare non-conference game at this stage of the season—a game that was not affiliated with the BracketBusters—and capped off their fourth game of the past two weeks with an offensive outburst as they defeated Longwood 97-86. In the grand scheme of things, this game had absolutely zero meaning, but what it may do is provide them with some much needed confidence heading into the second round of Patriot League games. It may be hard to believe, but Colgate has made serious strides lately and will no longer be a pushover like they were for the majority of the season. The Raiders have won four of their last six games, and during this stretch they have witnessed the breakout play of Sterling Melville. Prior to the Dartmouth win, the Plano, Texas native was averaging 3.7 points a game, but during this six game stretch he has been putting up nearly ten a night. Against Longwood, Mike Venezia scored a season-high 21 points; it is a great sign to see Venezia progressing from his knee injury. Venezia is a real fixture in the Colgate backcourt, and one of their best scorers when at full strength. Don’t get me wrong, Colgate will still struggle the rest of the way, but this is a squad that has been steadily improving and can surprise some teams—Lehigh and Holy Cross both saw this.

A Look Ahead

  • Ryan Willen to 1,000?—Lafayette junior forward Ryan Willen currently has 905 career points. Is it possible that Willen reaches 1,000 points this year, or will he have to wait until his senior season rolls around to reach the mark? The Leopards have, at minimum, eight games remaining in their season (seven regular season games, and one game guaranteed in the conference tournament). Assuming Lafayette plays just eight games, Willen would have to average roughly 12 points a game to reach 1,000. For the season, he is averaging 10.5 points, but in conference games he has gone cold averaging just seven.
  • Who Will Emerge From The Five?—As I previously mentioned, there are five teams who have identical 3-4 league records. In looking ahead to the second half of league play, which team will most likely emerge from the bunch and garner what will most likely be the three seed heading into the tournament? Currently, Navy is the hottest team and is senior laden, but it is hard to see the Midshipmen sustaining their impressive play of late for the balance of the regular season. Holy Cross has been reeling having lost their last three contests, but their great play to begin conference play is encouraging for the Crusader faithful. Army and Lafayette are both very streaky teams; some nights they look to be a top tier team. It is hard for me to pick against Lehigh and C.J. McCollum. Lehigh is one of the youngest and most inexperienced teams in the league, so if Dr. Brett Reed’s youngsters continue to mature they may be in good shape. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to have McCollum bail you out when necessary.
  • How Will Milan Brown Manage Andrew Keister?—A few years ago, former Holy Cross head coach Ralph Willard faced the predicament of how to handle the nagging injuries of two of his top players: Alex Vander Baan and Pat Doherty. Both were sidelined with injuries for part of the season, and Willard periodically rested Vander Baan and Doherty to keep them fresh for certain games. Fast forward to 2011, and Milan Brown faces a similar dilemma. His star forward Andrew Keister has a nagging Achilles, but has been valiantly battling through it. Will Brown limit Keister’s minutes until the conference tournament rolls around, or will he utilize him in a manner that gives HC the best opportunity to win each and every game? I would guess the latter.

Critical Upcoming Games:

  • Bucknell vs. Navy (Feb. 5)—Is Navy’s three game winning streak a sign of things to come, or will they fall back into the depths of the Patriot League after their date with Bucknell?
  • Lehigh vs. American (Feb. 6)—The Eagles won round one in D.C., but now Lehigh gets a shot at Vlad and others in Bethlehem.
  • Bucknell vs. American (Feb. 9)—A game of extreme importance for American if they have any desire of obtaining the number one seed in the tournament. It is hard to see them losing to Bucknell twice, but stilling being ranked one in the tournament.
  • Holy Cross vs. Bucknell (Feb. 12)—No matter what the records are of these two teams, the game is always an absolute dogfight that always seems to go down to the wire. Mike Muscala hit a baseline jumper with just over a second left to win the first game, but Holy Cross proved they could more than hang with the Bison in the loss.
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Checking in on… the Patriot League

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 8th, 2011

Kevin Doyle is the RTC correspondent for the Patriot League.

A Look Back

  • A Surge at the TopBucknell and American, with their play towards the end of the non-conference schedule, have set themselves apart from the Patriot League’s other six teams. Each team won all of their games over the past two weeks, and appears to be peaking heading into league play. While the Patriot League failed to knock off that one BCS team that was ripe for the picking, Bucknell defeated a Richmond team that is on par with many BCS-caliber squads. American is the only team in the league to have reached ten wins in the non-conference, and are winners of three straight games.
  • Top Four vs. Bottom Four—For the second straight week, and third time this year, I have chosen to illuminate the grave disparity between the upper echelon of the league with the lower. At the end of the non-conference the top four have a combined record of 35-25, while the bottom four are at a putrid 12-45. What is encouraging, however, is that all of the top four teams have better than a .500 record. Now, if only the bottom would carry their weight…
  • Colgate gets the first “W”—It took the Raiders a few games longer than Holy Cross to get that elusive first win, but they finally entered the win column with a 19 point victory over Longwood. Colgate may have to cherish this victory, as KenPom has them predicted to be favored in only one game the rest of the season. Funny enough, that game is against Longwood.
  • Looking at Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology—In his latest Bracketology, Lunardi predicts that American will garner a #14 seed and play against the undefeated San Diego State Aztecs in the first round. While it is hard to argue with him, I believe that Joe L. has simply inserted the Eagles into his bracket solely based on their overall record when compared to the rest of the PL. Their 10-5 record is better than anyone else’s, yet Bucknell’s body of work to date is more impressive. For starters, Bucknell has a better RPI (92 against 100) which is always a major determining factor when selecting the field. Their wins over Presbyterian and Richmond are both better than American’s best win over Florida Atlantic. American could very well win the league and attain the automatic bid, but right now Bucknell is a better selection.
  • No Representation—Still, there is no PL squad cracking the College Insider Mid-Major top 25 poll. In fact, only one team—American—received any votes. It will be hard as the season progresses for a team to sneak into the poll as there are no longer any opportunities to pick up any marquee wins. It certainly is possible, however, if American or Bucknell ran through the league without many losses for one to get into the poll.
  • Team of the Weeks (Dec. 23-Jan. 6): Bucknell: The Bison continue to impress, and appear to have only gotten stronger as the out of conference scheduled progressed. In thrilling fashion, Bucknell defeated Richmond in the closing seconds with a buzzer beater from sophomore Mike Muscala. Had Muscala not come through with his heroic shot, it would have been a devastating loss for Bucknell who led Richmond 60-55 with 1:34 remaining in regulation. The previous two wins came in less dramatic fashion over Loyola (MD) and Dartmouth, yet this was probably a good thing as head coach Dave Paulsen’s heart may not have been able to endure the Richmond finish following two barnburners.
  • Player of the Weeks (Dec. 23-Jan. 6)Vlad Moldoveanu, American: Vlad the Impaler—a nickname that Moldoveanu has been anointed with by—lived up to the name as he averaged 24 points, combined to go 17-18 from the charity stripe in three games, and led American to a perfect record over the past two weeks. Standing at 6’9, Moldoveanu poses countless matchup problems for opponents as he has the ability to lurk around the arc and hit a three-pointer (36-94).
  • Freshman of the Weeks (Dec. 23-Jan. 6)J.J. Avila, Navy: Navy has struggled recently having lost five of six games, but freshman J.J. Avila sure has not. The Midshipmen found a great one in Avila who has the size of a powerful forward in the Patriot League standing at 6’7 and weighing 228 pounds, but can step out and shoot a jumper as if he was a savvy shooting guard. Avila not only leads all freshman scorers averaging 10.2 points a game, but is the leading rebounder as well pulling down 4.9 a contest; he is on the fast track to garner the league’s Rookie of the Year award assuming his strong play continues. In Navy’s last three games, Avila averaged 17.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game.

Clip of the Week

By now, many of you have probably seen Bucknell doing their best to impersonate Christian Laettner and the Duke Blue Devils. While the Bison’s game at Richmond certainly did not carry the same amount of weight that Duke’s game in the NCAA Tournament against Kentucky did, it was equally impressive. With a mere 1.7 seconds remaining, Bucknell had time for just a catch-and-shoot. Inbounding the ball from under his own basket, Joe Willman launched a perfectly thrown pass that soared over the Robins Center’s floor into the readily waiting hands of Mike Muscala. Muscala, who led the Bison with 17 points, did the rest…

Quote of the Week

Following American’s ten-point victory over Brown, a confident Jeff Jones stated: “We need to learn some lessons real quick. We don’t have that edge yet. We have to find that edge…I’m not panicked. I want more because we have more to give.”

Power Rankings (Last update’s ranking and current record in parentheses)

1. Bucknell (1) (9-7)

Previous Two Weeks: W Loyola (MD) 70-59, W Dartmouth 74-57, W Richmond 62-61

Next Two Weeks: 1/8 @ Navy, 1/12 @ American, 1/16 vs. Holy Cross, 1/19 vs. Lafayette

Dave Paulsen’s Bison are peaking at just the right time. After wallowing out to a very sluggish 2-6 start to begin the year, Bucknell has run off seven of eight wins. Due to their strong play, they have become a top 100 RPI team (92) and assured themselves of heading into the Patriot League portion of their schedule with a winning record for the first time since 2005-06. Much of Bucknell’s success during their impressive run in the second half of the non-conference schedule can be attributed to their shooting from behind the arc. In their first eight games, they shot 37.8%—a very good percentage considering the national average is 34.1%—but during the streak they shot a ridiculous 46% from distance. Bryson Johnson has been the primary sharpshooter during the streak as he went 26 for 48 (54.2%). If the unconscious shooting continues, not many Patriot League foes can match up with Bucknell. That is a big if, however.

2. American (2) (10-5)

Previous Two Weeks: W Fordham 73-57, W Delaware 83-71, W Brown 77-67

Next Two Weeks: 1/8 vs. Lehigh, 1/12 vs. Bucknell, 1/15 @ Colgate, 1/19 vs. Army

Traveling out to the West Coast may have been just what American needed to get back to their winning ways. After beginning the year with a perfect 5-0 record, the Eagles went 2-5 in their next seven games against tough competition. While at the Cable Car Classic—a quaint four team tournament hosted by Santa Clara University—American won the tournament with relative ease as they defeated Fordham by 16 in the semifinals, and Delaware by 12 in the finals. Vlad Moldoveanu was named the Tournament MVP as he averaged 24 points. Stephen Lumpkins, one of the PL’s premiere forwards, enjoyed success at the Classic as well as he averaged 16.5 points and 10 rebounds. American will attempt to bring their success back to the District of Columbia as they entertain Lehigh in a key conference game that begins league play for both squads.

3. Lehigh (3) (9-6)

Previous Two Weeks: L USC 76-49, W St. Peter’s 77-64, W Yale 62-57, W NJIT 92-83

Next Two Weeks: 1/8 @ American, 1/12 vs. Navy, 1/15 vs. Army, 1/19 @ Colgate

Unlike American, playing out in the warm weather of California did not treat Lehigh well as the Mountain Hawks were trounced at the hands of USC losing by 27 points. C.J. McCollum—Lehigh’s stud shooting guard who had been playing well since the loss—was held to just seven points on two of eight shooting. It is very clear, as McCollum goes, so does Lehigh. The Mountain Hawks got back on track following their return to the East Coast by winning three straight games. It was not all McCollum, however, carrying the load in these games. Michael Ojo had a career day as he exploded for 33 points against NJIT, and Gabe Knutson continues his workman-like play as he averaged 12.7 points and six rebounds over the three games. When McCollum has a supporting cast that is consistently producing, Lehigh without question becomes a title contender.

4. Army (4) (8-7)

Previous Two Weeks: W Texas-Pan American 66-58, L Fairfield 68-61, W Dartmouth 67-47

Next Two Weeks: 1/8 @ Colgate, 1/12 vs. Holy Cross, 1/15 @ Lehigh, 1/19 @ American

Army has found a pipeline of talent from Texas that has carried them to many of their eight victories this year. In a homecoming for much of the team—seven players hail from Texas—Julian Simmons (Katy, TX) led the Black Knights to a victory over Texas Pan American by pouring in 21 points, while Mitch McDonald (Houston, TX), dished out a team high seven assists. Many of the prognosticators picked Army to finish last in the Patriot League, and while they have easily played the weakest non-conference schedule, their 8-7 record entering league play is impressive nonetheless. Army, like Bucknell, is an exceptional three-point shooting team. They are so good, in fact, that they are one of only three teams to average ten three-pointers or more per game. Army hit 11.3 shots from distance in their three games to give them a 2-1 record over the past two weeks. If the deadly shooting from three continues, Army will find themselves with opportunities to upset the upper tier teams in the Patriot League.

5. Lafayette (6) (5-10)

Previous Two Weeks: L Gonzaga 83-55, W Fairleigh Dickinson 98-92 (2 OT), L Columbia 76-73

Next Two Weeks: 1/8 @ Holy Cross, 1/12 vs. Colgate, 1/15 vs. Navy, 1/19 @ Bucknell

The Leopards predictably struggled and were overmatched against Gonzaga as they traveled out to Spokane in late December. If Lafayette had caught Gonzaga during their struggles earlier in the year, they may have been able to give them a better game, but it was not to be for LC. A bright spot in the blowout loss to the ‘Zags, however, was the play of junior shooting guard Jim Mower. Mower connected on six threes, and then followed up his performance against Gonzaga by pouring in 28 points in a victory over Fairleigh Dickinson. Under the tutelage of Fran O’Hanlon, Lafayette’s offense has revolved around the three point shot in the last few years, but lately that has been virtually their entire offense. In their last three games, they hoisted an average of 27.7 shots from downtown per game.

6. Navy (5) (5-11)

Previous Two Weeks: L Long Island 96-86, L Presbyterian 60-58, W Longwood 87-70

Next Two Weeks: 1/8 vs. Bucknell, 1/12 @ Lehigh, 1/15 @ Lafayette, 1/19 vs. Holy Cross

After losing five straight games to drop from a respectable 4-6 mark to 4-11, Navy welcomed just the right team into Alumni Hall: the Longwood Lancers. While entering the game with a 5-12 record does not appear to be all that bad, Longwood was fresh off a loss to previously winless Colgate, and two of their wins on the year are two sub-Division 1 opponents. The result? A 17 point victory for the Midshipmen. Jordan Sugars led Navy with 20 points, while freshman J.J. Avila continued his exceptional play by contributing 19 points. Over the course of the last three games, Avila is averaging 17.7 points, while Sugars averaged an even better 19.7. As a team, Navy averaged 77 points, but only managed to win one of the games. The offense is clearly there, but a major flaw for Navy has been on the defensive end as they give up on average 74.9 points, which is simply way too much to overcome.

7. Holy Cross (7) (1-13)

Previous Two Weeks: L St. Joseph’s 65-54, L George Washington 58-57, L Sacred Heart 77-75, L Yale 77-76

Next Two Weeks: 1/8 vs. Lafayette, 1/12 @ Army, 1/16 @ Bucknell, 1/19 @ Navy

The Crusaders suffered three gut-wrenching losses in consecutive order where they had opportunities to either tie or win the game in their last possession but failed to do so. Marred by injuries to three of their top players—R.J. Evans, Andrew Keister, and Phil Beans—Holy Cross has been battling hard, but Milan Brown’s squad has been unable to close out games. By pure numbers alone, Milan Brown has struggled in games decided by a single possession. In his last three years at Mount Saint Mary’s, he was 3-12 in such games, and at Holy Cross this year he is 0-5. On the bright side for the Cross has been the emergence of freshman forward Dave Dudzinski who averaged 8.5 points and 3.75 rebounds for the past two weeks. Against Sacred Heart, Dudzinski broke out for 15 points on 6-6 shooting. He appears to be the star of the freshman class—a class that shrunk from three players to two following the mid-season transfer of Steve Carver—and will continue to see extended playing time with Keister hindered with an Achilles injury. There is a great deal of disappointment and frustration within the program right now, and there is only one way to remedy these emotions: Wins.

8. Colgate (8) (1-12)

Previous Two Weeks: L Stony Brook 63-54, W Longwood 80-61, L Maryland 95-40

Next Two Weeks: 1/8 vs. Army, 1/12 @ Lafayette, 1/15 vs. American, 1/17 vs. Dartmouth, 1/19 vs. Lehigh

The good news for Colgate is that they erased the goose egg from the win column by defeating Longwood. The bad news is that they are still 1-12 and coming off of a 55 point drubbing to Maryland heading into league play. Starting point guard Mike Venezia is still sidelined with a knee injury that has bothered him for much of his career, and John Brandenburg—a transfer from Virginia—has been, for all intents and purposes, a bust averaging just 3.8 points and 2.8 rebounds. There is one bright spot for Emmett Davis’ squad however, as the play of freshman Pat Moore has progressed nicely. In the past three games, Moore averaged a cute 11 points. Unless the Raiders can miraculously string some wins together in the Patriot League, Davis will finish with single-digit wins for the first time as Colgate’s head coach.

A Look Ahead

  • With the conclusion of Holy Cross’ and Lafayette’s final non-conference games, the Patriot League has concluded the out-of-conference schedule (Colgate, however, has a peculiar schedule and plays Longwood at home on February 2). Currently, the overall record of the league is 48-71, and KenPom has the league rated as the 25 conference.
  • The non-conference play for each team in the Patriot League was relatively indicative of where each should finish in the league. Don’t be surprised, however, if Lafayette makes a push in league plays and climbs up the standings. Although their OOC record is not all that impressive, this is a veteran bunch with All-PL performer in Jared Mintz leading the way up front. Never count out a Fran O’Hanlon-coached team either, as he may very well be the PL’s best coach.
  • Much of the Purple faithful thought that ridding themselves of Sean Kearney, who led Holy Cross to a dismal 9-22 record last year, would improve the state of the program. Although we are just halfway through the season, the Milan Brown experiment at Holy Cross has not been a successful one. There is still ample time for the ‘Saders to turn the season around as they have yet to play a Patriot League game yet, but their non-conference performance is certainly of concern. Do greener pastures lie ahead for Holy Cross? Were the struggles during the non-conference an anomaly? These answers will be revealed during league play.
  • American and Lehigh both jump right into the heart of Patriot League during a showdown this weekend in our nation’s capital. Two of the league’s best—C.J. McCollum and Vlad Moldoveanu—will go head-to-head in what could be an early preview of the Patriot League championship. Although the preceding two players will likely dominate the storyline for the game, pay attention to the power forwards for each team: Stephen Lumpkins for AU and Gabe Knutson for LU. The winner of the matchup between these two could very well decide the outcome of the game.
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Checking in on… the Patriot League

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 10th, 2010

Kevin Doyle is the RTC correspondent for the Patriot League.

A Look Back

  • No Marquee Win—The Patriot League has yet to win that one game that causes the rest of the Mid-Major world to turn their collective heads in. In years past, the league has beaten the likes of Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Boston College, and Maryland, but right now, the two best wins for the league are against Boston University (Bucknell) and George Washington (Navy)—hardly a blip on the radar. There are still several opportunities to pick up a win against a Big Six conference team, though.
  • Little Separation—No team has truly separated themselves from the rest of the pack. American looked strong in their first five games—albeit against marginal competition—but has since then lost three straight. Lehigh and Bucknell have both had their moments, but neither have strung together more than two straight wins so far. The remainder of the league’s non-conference schedule should be more telling of how the teams will fare in league play.
  • No Representation—In past years, there has seemingly always been a Patriot League team in the Mid-Major top 25. This year, however, that is not the case. Bucknell and Holy Cross used to be staples in the poll as they dominated the league for a three year stretch, and in recent years, American and Lehigh have cracked it. The absence of a Patriot League squad in the top 25 is a telltale sign of regression at the top of the league.
  • Team of the Weeks (Nov. 25-Dec. 8): Bucknell: Over the course of the last two weeks, the Patriot League went a combined 9-21. When saying that Bucknell was the team of the weeks, one must take that with a grain of salt. The Bison did manage to go 2-1, and their win against Boston University is actually a pretty decent win as the Terriers will vie for the America East title this year. Their loss to Wagner, however, was the lone blemish on what would otherwise have been a perfect two weeks. After a three game home stand, Bucknell now goes on the road for seven of their next eight games. With the stark competition the Bison will face—La Salle, Boston College, Richmond, and American—battling through this stretch with a 4-4 mark would be a success. Anything above .500 would be gravy.
  • Player of the Weeks (Nov. 25-Dec. 8)C.J. McCollum, Lehigh: There is not another team in the Patriot League that depends on one of their players as much as Lehigh depends on C.J. McCollum. One needs to look no further than how many shots McCollum hoists a game for the Mountain Hawks (roughly 40% of Lehigh’s total shots) to understand how often the offense runs through him. McCollum is converting on his opportunities too. In Lehigh’s last five games, he is averaging 25.4 points per contest. What may be an even more remarkable statistic than his shot and point totals, however, are his rebounding abilities. Standing at just 6’3 and spending the majority of the time around the perimeter, McCollum is corralling an average of 7.6 rebounds a game. He simply has a knack for finding the ball and putting it in the hole—the mentality of any pure scorer.
  • Freshman of the Weeks (Nov. 25-Dec. 8)J.J. Avila, Navy: Avila was averaging just 5.3 points through the first six games, but is averaging 14 over the last five. Through those first games, Navy was 1-5, but since Avila began to heat up they are 3-2. Correlation? I think so. Since Avila had his coming out party against Towson where he poured in 31 points, he is 11-24 from distance. Before this outbreak, he was 3-22. When his shot is falling, he complements the offensive prowess of Jordan Sugars very nicely.

Power Rankings (Last week’s ranking in parentheses)

1. American (1) (5-3)

Previous Two Weeks: L Columbia 64-62, L @ West Virginia 71-50, L Florida 67-48

Next Two Weeks: 12/14 @ UMBC, 12/16 @ Northwestern, 12/20 @ Mount St. Mary’s, 12/22 @ Pittsburgh

The Eagles dropped three straight since our last Check-in, but losses to West Virginia and Florida were predictable. Dropping a game to a middle-of-the-road Ivy League team in Columbia was certainly a setback, though. The Eagles struggled against a very athletic West Virginia team and a ticked off Florida team—the Gators were upset by Central Florida just days before they played AU—but they still have the best record in the Patriot League, and three of the league’s best players in Vlad Moldoveanu, Stephen Lumpkins, and Troy Brewer. More help is on the way for AU too as Vanderbilt transfer Charles Hinkle becomes eligible to play next week. Jeff Jones appears to be high on Hinkle, but even with the addition of him, things do not get much easier for the Eagles following the WVU and FU games as they have the daunting task of playing at an underrated Northwestern team and then perennial power Pittsburgh.

2Bucknell (3) (4-6)

Previous Two Weeks: L Wagner 77-73, W Columbia 73-68, W Boston University 52-49

Next Two Weeks: 12/17 @ La Salle, 12/20 @ Cornell, 12/22 @ Boston College

After dropping three straight games, the Bison bounced back with two wins against Columbia and Boston University to enter a 13 day layoff with a 4-6 record. Sophomore big man Mike Muscala has probably been the Bison’s best player this year, and has improved on his freshman campaign where he averaged ten points and five rebounds per game. When Muscala is on his game and senior point guard Darryl Shazier—the league’s best PG who nearly has a 4:1 assist to turnover ratio—is running the offense well, Bucknell becomes a tough team to beat.

3. Lehigh (2) (4-5)

Previous Two Weeks: L @ Kent State 80-75, W Bryant 88-68, W @ Stony Brook 79-76, L Fordham 74-67, L @ Quinnipiac 84-78

Next Two Weeks: 12/10 @ Marist, 12/13 vs. St. Francis (PA), 12/23 @ USC

As C.J. McCollum goes, so does Lehigh. In the Mountain Hawks’ latest loss to Quinnipiac, McCollum shot 5-18 from the field and scored just 15 points—seven below his season average. The result? A six-point loss to Quinnipiac. In Lehigh’s loss to Fordham, the game before Quinnipiac, McCollum was limited to 12 points on 5-16 shooting. Lehigh lost 74-67 to the Rams. Even though he has struggled to find the hole in the past two games, C.J. McCollum is still the Patriot League’s best player and has the ability to carry Lehigh to some wins by himself. Only a sophomore, McCollum will easily eclipse the 1,000 point scoring mark this year barring any injuries.

4. Navy (7) (4-7)

Previous Two Weeks: L Maryland-Eastern Shore 89-81, W @ Mount St. Mary’s 81-68, W @ George Washington 64-57, L @ Coppin State 65-64

Next Two Weeks: 12/10 @ Mercer, 12/22 vs. Elon

After garnering one of the best wins of the year for the Patriot League by defeating George Washington 64-57, Navy could not capitalize on their good play of late by dropping a game to Coppin State. Things do seem to be looking better in Annapolis though due to the return of Jordan Sugars and the emergence of freshman J.J. Avila. Sugars, a preseason All-League selection, was sidelined for the Towson, Maryland-Eastern Shore, and Mount St. Mary games with an injury to his non-shooting hand, but is now healthy again. As for Avila, he has come on very strong in the past two weeks and may find himself a full-time role in the starting lineup if his impressive play continues. His 31 points against Towson led the Midshipmen to victory without Sugars. When clicking on offense, Navy will surprise some teams in the Patriot League this year.

5. Holy Cross (6) (0-7)

Previous Two Weeks: L @ Massachusetts 83-76, L @ Wake Forest 75-64, L Stony Brook 54-53

Next Two Weeks: 12/12 vs. Fairfield, 12/19 @ Marist, 12/22 @ Hofstra

The Crusaders came oh so close to notching their first win of the season, as well as the first win for first-year coach Milan Brown, but fell in the closing seconds to a determined Stony Brook bunch. After being up 28-20 at the intermission, it looked as if Holy Cross would erase the goose egg from their win column, but it was not meant to be on a frigid night in Worcester. Bill Parcells once said: “You are what your record says you are,” but I would beg to differ with Parcells’ famous sentiment when watching this Crusader team play. Sure, they are winless, but they have played the toughest schedule in the Patriot League to date, and have narrow losses to several quality teams (Charleston, Massachusetts, and Wake Forest). The wins will come…eventually.

6. Lafayette (5) (4-6)

Previous Two Weeks: L Delaware 67-64, L Princeton 82-64, W Susquehanna 95-73, W Sacred Heart 76-71, W NJIT 72-56

Next Two Weeks: 12/11 @ Long Island, 12/22 @ Rhode Island

As much as I want to place Lafayette ahead of Holy Cross in this week’s power rankings, I simply cannot bring myself to do so. When looking at their body of work—strength of schedule, losses, wins, and competitiveness—it is overall very weak. I understand that the Crusaders are winless, but their close losses to quality opponents are worth more in my book than the Leopards’ wins. Their four wins have come against NEC bottom feeders Saint Francis (PA) and Sacred Heart, a perpetually bad NJIT squad, and Division-III Susquehanna. With that being said, Fran O’Hanlon is one of the league’s best head coaches and is certainly capable of turning the Leopards into an upper tier team by the beginning of conference play.

7. Army (4) (4-4)

Previous Two Weeks: L @ Yale 87-79, L Buffalo 56-54, L Pennsylvania 68-52

Next Two Weeks: 12/9 @ New Hampshire, 12/11 @ Dartmouth, 12/19 @ Long Island, 12/21 @ Brown

Don’t let those early wins against futile competition fool you about Army. After beginning 4-1 against some of the weakest teams in the nation—the average ranking of CCSU, NJIT, Binghamton, and Bryant, according to KenPom was 311 (Vassar, a D-III school Army defeated is not ranked by KenPom)—the Black Knights’ record has come back down to earth after dropping three straight games. Army’s ability to shoot the three ball, however, will keep them in some games and maybe even steal a game on occasion. On the young season, Army is connecting on 45% of their shots from distance.

8Colgate (8) (0-7)

Previous Two Weeks: L @ Dartmouth 80-63, L New Hampshire 65-60, L @ St. Francis (NY) 68-57

Next Two Weeks: 12/11 @ Syracuse, 12/19 @ Maine, 12/22 vs. Albany

Like Holy Cross, Colgate is winless on the season. The only difference being that the Raiders have been losing to competition that is very weak, while the Crusaders are not. To date, Colgate’s strength of schedule according to KenPom is 285, while Holy Cross’ is 79. Furthermore, Colgate is losing by an average of 16 points a game. Colgate had high hopes that Virginia transfer John Brandenburg would become one of the league’s premier big men, but that has yet to come to fruition, as he is averaging just 4.4 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. As if matters for Colgate were not already bad enough, their steady guard, Mike Venezia, is reportedly hurt and may miss a few games. Oh, and now the Raiders have the pleasure of traveling to the Carrier Dome to take on one of the nation’s best in Syracuse.

Quote of the Week

Following their 67-48 loss at the hands of the Florida Gators, American head coach Jeff Jones reacted to his team’s performance: “For us to have any chance, we have to be [darn] near perfect against a team like Florida. We leave this game frustrated … because we can be better. We should, in my opinion, be better.”

Coach Jeff Jones speaks on behalf of the entire league when stating that his team needed to be perfect against Florida. When a Patriot League team squares up against an ostensibly more talented team from a Big Six conference, a near flawless game needs to be played.

A Look Ahead

A Time for Rest and Study—Usually around this time of the year, schools do their best to carve out some time in their schedule so the student-athletes are better suited to prepare for final exams. This is the reason that there is extended time off for all teams in the Patriot League. Here are how many days each school has off in between games:

  • American: 9
  • Army: 8
  • Bucknell: 13
  • Colgate: 8
  • Holy Cross: 7
  • Lafayette: 11
  • Lehigh: 10
  • Navy: 12

The first stretch of the season has now passed as teams are about halfway through the non-conference portion of their schedule; the examination period offers a nice time for rest and recuperation.

  • Road Warriors—Patriot League teams will need to be tough on the road over the course of these next two weeks, as they will not be playing many games within the friendly confines of their own gyms. Of the 24 games that will be played, 20 will be played on the road.
  • Deceitful Eagles?—Just how good are the American Eagles? Right now, AU owns the best record in the league as they are 5-3, but they have been reeling lately. The Eagles have lost three straight games, and two of their next four games are against a solid Northwestern squad and a scary good Pittsburgh Panthers team. In games where AU can prove they are the class of the league against big time opponents, they have failed to do so.
  • CupcakesArmy’s favorite food thus far has been cupcakes. The Black Knights’ schedule ranks 345 out of 345 Division 1 teams. While having a .500 record at this point in the non-conference schedule is nice, it is hard to gauge how good Army is as they have played the weakest of competition. The steady dose of cupcakes for Army continues throughout the rest of the non-conference schedule.
  • Wins on the Horizon—The Crusaders have played the most challenging non-conference schedule to date—College of Charleston, Harvard, New Hampshire, Boston College, Massachusetts, Wake Forest, and Stony Brook—of any Patriot League team, and their 0-7 record is reflective of that. However, it looks as if victories could be on the horizon for Holy Cross. For the remainder of the non-conference schedule, the highest rated opponent HC will face is Fairfield (141).
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Checking in on… the Patriot League

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 27th, 2010

Kevin Doyle is the RTC correspondent for the Patriot League.

A Look Back

  • Top 4 vs. Bottom 4: In the Patriot League, it is always hard to gauge how strong a team is relative to the rest of the league after just a few games. Reason being, there is a great disparity in the quality of out of conference opponents for the league’s eight members. With that being said, the top four teams (American, Army, Lehigh, and Bucknell) in the league have combined to go 13-8, while the bottom four (Holy Cross, Colgate, Lafayette, and Navy) have feebly compiled a 3-17 record. I expect these two records to slowly become more even with each other as we move throughout the rest of non-conference play.
  • Undefeated Eagles: American has started their young season with a 5-0 record, albeit against some weak opponents as the average rank of their opponents is 280 according to Needless to say, the Eagles’ top two transfers have found their niche in Washington DC and the defensive effort has been top notch thus far. Vlad Moldoveanu, a second-year transfer from George Mason, is AU’s best player, averaging 21.4 points and 6.2 rebounds, while first-year Georgia transfer Troy Brewer is averaging 13 points and 5.8 rebounds. On the defensive end, American is relinquishing just 56 points a contest. This number will most likely change when the Eagles go up against the meat of the non-conference slate (West Virginia, Florida, Northwestern, and Pittsburgh).
  • Struggles in Worcester: Holy Cross, playing under their third coach in as many years, has predictably struggled early on in the season. Learning an entirely new offensive and defensive scheme that contrasts previous year’s philosophies is no easy task; add that to having played the most difficult out of schedule thus far and you have a recipe for early season struggles. There is a strong nucleus of players at Holy Cross; it all boils down to how fast new head coach Milan Brown and the team can mesh.
  • Player of the Weeks (Nov. 8-24): Vlad Moldoveanu, American: Moldoveanu has scored in double figures in each of the Eagle’s first five games. The 6’9 forward has the body of a big man that would bang bodies in the paint, but he has the shooting touch of a shooting guard. Thus far, he is drilling 2.4 three pointers a game and is shooting 77% from the charity stripe.
  • Freshman of the Weeks (Nov. 8-24): Anthony D’Orazio, Lehigh: How is this for D’Orazio’s first half of his first collegiate basketball game: Connecting on three shots from behind the arc, scoring 14 points (more than half of Lehigh’s points in the first half), and leading his Mountain Hawks to a six point lead at the intermission? Pretty good, huh? Since this very half, D’Orazio has quieted down, but he is still averaging nearly eight points and shooting 46% from three point land.

Power Rankings

1. American (5-0)

Next Week: 11/28 vs. Columbia, 12/1 @ West Virginia

American has soundly beaten all five of their opponents by an average of 10+ points a game. Everyone knew coming into the season that first team All-Patriot League forward Vlad Moldoveanu would be the staple of the Eagles’ of the offense, but junior Stephen Lumpkins continued his stellar play from last season, and transfer Troy Brewer has been a catalyst for the offense. Guard Nick Hendra has provided steady play running the offense as he boasts better than 2:1 assist to turnover ratio. If American sustain its impressive play as they enter into the more challenging part of their out of conference schedule they will be a true force during Patriot League play.

2Lehigh (2-2)

Next Week: 11/26 @ Kent State, 11/28 vs. Bryant, 12/1 @ Stony Brook

Last year it was C.J. McCollum followed by Zahir Carrington and Marquis Hall. This year, thus far it appears to be McCollum, of course, followed by the surprising Michael Ojo, and then everybody else. The entire league knew that McCollum would be the focal point of the Mountain Hawks—there was a reason he was selected as the Patriot League Preseason Player of the Year—but Ojo has been a pleasant surprise. After averaging a shade over four points for his career, and less than a three pointer made a game, Ojo is scoring 17 points per game and connecting on 3.5 threes a contest. Although they sit at just .500, Lehigh could easily be 4-0 on the young season after losing to Monmouth by a point and Penn State by a handful (they led Penn State 27-21 at the half).

3Bucknell (2-5)

Next Week: 11/29 vs. Wagner, 12/1 vs. Columbia

Much was to be expected of the Bison this year, and their performance after their two opening games suggested Bucknell will be a contender. Their gritty performance against Villanova in the season opener—a night where they shot a paltry 34% from the field, but managed to remain competitive—and then just two nights later they gave Marquette all they could handle, demonstrated how this is a deep and mentally tough team. Bucknell was thrown into the proverbial fire from the get go as they faced two of the better teams in the Big East, but held their own in each. After playing six of their first seven games on the road, their next three will be within the friendly confines of Sojka Pavilion.

4. Army (4-1)

Next Week: 11/27 @ Yale, 12/1 vs. Buffalo

It is nice to see the Black Knights get off to such a nice 4-1 start; although, I am not sure how much one should read into just solely the record. Granted, one of these wins came against Division 3 Vassar College, and the other three wins were against perennial basement dwellers (Bryant, NJIT, and Binghamton), but for a team that was picked to finish last in the league in the preseason, winning these games at least helps with the psyche of the team. Army will be able to steal some more games with their impressive three-point shooting as they are 36th in the nation hitting 41% of their attempts.

5. Lafayette (1-4)

Next Week: 11/27 vs. Delaware, 11/30 vs. Princeton, 12/1 vs. Susquehanna

The Leopards have had their only win—St. Francis (PA)—sandwiched between two losses on both ends giving them their 1-4 record. Their loss at the hands of Villanova was no surprise, but Fran O’Hanlon seems to have one of his better squads in recent years and should have stolen a game or two from Wagner, Rider, or Pennsylvania. It seems to be a three-man show for Lafayette with Jared Mintz (preseason All-League selection), Ryan Willen, and Jim Mower—the three are averaging more than two-thirds of the team’s points.

6. Holy Cross (0-4)

Next Week: 11/27 @ Massachusetts

After the Crusaders’ season-opening loss to the College of Charleston 93-84, many in Worcester were feeling pretty good about themselves and the team this year under the guidance of first-year coach Milan Brown (formerly the head man at Mount St. Mary’s). Charleston was coming off a one point loss to Maryland, and had the Southern Conference’s preseason Player of the Year Andrew Goudelock on their side; putting up 84 points on such a talented squad was encouraging. The debacle at Harvard, however, erased many of these encouraging emotions. Losing 72-49 against the Crimson, followed by two more losses to New Hampshire and Boston College, will pose challenges to Holy Cross from a confidence and team morale standpoint. It is up to Andrew Keister, a preseason All-League selection, and senior point guard Andrew Beinert to rally the troops.

7. Navy (2-5)

Next Week: 11/27 vs. MD Eastern Shore, 11/29 @ Mount St. Mary’s

Of Navy’s first 10 games, eight of them are on the road; couple that with their top play Jordan Sugars’ shooting woes and the Midshipmen have gotten off to a rough start. Sugars, who averaged nearly 16 points and hit on better than 40% of his three point attempts last year, is now connecting on less than a quarter of his attempts and has seen his points per game dip by three points since last season. Although Sugars has struggled, life for Navy has just become more difficult after he suffered a freak injury in practice to his non-shooting hand. What is also discouraging is the margin of defeat for Navy (21.6); it will take a little more than just Sugars, once he is healthy again, to jumpstart the Midshipmen. Ironically, Navy was able to get past Towson without Sugars in the lineup behind a career high 31 points from freshman J.J. Avila.

8Colgate (0-4)

Next Week: 11/27 @ Dartmouth

Colgate is just a few possessions here and there from being 2-2, instead of 0-4. It was a foregone conclusion that they would get walloped by the consensus number one ranked team in the nation in Duke, but their games against Binghamton and St. Francis (PA) were both decided on the final possession. The Raiders have been heavily relying on their stud junior forward Yaw Gyawu, who is their only player to average in double figures.

Caught on Film

With just over 10 minutes remaining in regulation, the Bucknell Bison led Marquette 57-45 and seemed poised to defeat a Big East juggernaut. After playing such solid defensive basketball, and methodically on the offensive end, Bucknell relinquished 24 straight points to the Golden Eagles. The following clip highlights the Marquette run:

A Look Ahead

  • The road does not get any easier for Holy Cross, who travels to Massachusetts and Wake Forest in their next two games. Although, considering Wake has lost to Stetson, Virginia Commonwealth, and Winthrop, maybe the Crusaders can steal a game from the Demon Deacons.
  • American has a 5-0 record, but has largely been untested thus far. They will have a chance to show if they are indeed the class of the league against West Virginia on December 1.
  • Bucknell finally concluded their play in the CBE Classic after their loss against James Madison. They now have three home dates—all very winnable games—against Wagner, Columbia, and Boston University.
  • Lafayette has a much needed home stand. After four of their first five games were away from Easton, the Leopards’ next five will be in the Kirby Sports Center.
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Checking in on… the Patriot League

Posted by jstevrtc on December 26th, 2009

Michael Hurley is the RTC correspondent for the Patriot League and America East Conference.

Current Standings (overall record):

  1. Army  9-2
  2. Lafayette  7-5
  3. Lehigh  5-6
  4. Bucknell  4-8
  5. Navy  4-8
  6. Holy Cross  2-9
  7. American  2-10
  8. Colgate  1-9

Hottest Team: 

Army (3-0) — W 59-46 at Dartmouth, W 62-56 vs. Mount St. Vincent, W 54-46 vs. New Hampshire

The Black Knights continued their hot streak and are in the midst of their second four-game winning streak of the season.  They finished the road trip with a record of 2-1 winning the final game at Dartmouth before handling Mount Saint Vincent and New Hampshire at West Point.  This is the first season since 1978-79 that Army has put together two four-game winning streaks.

Stud Player:

Vlad Moldoveanu  Jr., American — 19 PPG and 4.7 RPG in 26.7 MPG

Moldoveanu has shined in his first three games since transferring over from George Mason.  He scored 26 points in the upset victory over Depaul, the conference’s biggest win to date.  Moldoveanu is shooting great from all over the floor: 45% from the field, 43.5% from downtown, and 84.6% from the charity stripe.  It is going to be great to watch this 6’9 shooter during the conference schedule.

Thoughts on the Patriot League:

The Patriot League has gotten some national recognition over the past two weeks.  The hottest team in the league received a vote in the Associated Press Top 25 for the second consecutive week and, for the second straight season, Marquis Hall was nominated for the Bob Cousy Award, an award given to the top collegiate male point guard across all divisions.  Finally, an upset by a league doormat over a Big East team brings some legitimacy to the league.

Army already has their second four-game winning streak of the season going.  In the streak the defense is giving up an average of only 47 PPG.  A big reason for that is their ability to force turnovers.  Seniors Cleveland Richard, Josh Miller, and Marcus Nelson are ranked 1-2-3 in the Patriot League in steals this year.  Richard leads the way with 2.2 per game. They also are 2-4-5 on Army’s all-time list at 128, 124, and 122, respectively.  The all-time record at Army is 143 steals held by George Tatum.  The Black Knights have some consistent scorers, too.  Richard has broken double figures in every game throughout the stretch.  Sophomore guard Julian Simmons and backcourt mate Miller also have each reached double figures in two games during the streak.

The hottest team that does not reside in West Point is the Lafayette Leopards.  They went 2-0 in the last two weeks before exams.  Lafayette is riding a three-game winning streak into the holiday break.  The next game is not until the 29th at Delaware.  The last two wins came against two New York teams.  First they beat Long Island at home by fourteen, followed by a five-point victory at St. Francis.  In Brooklyn the Leopards shot 70% in the second half, but St. Francis managed to hang with them throughout the game.  A seventeen-point lead turned into a four-point game with under two minutes to play.  Sophomore guard Jim Mower led the way with 16 points off of 4-7 shooting from three-point range.  Three other Leopards scored in double figures.  Mower is shooting over fifty percent from downtown this season, good enough to lead the Patriot league.

Lehigh went 2-1 over the past two weeks.  In the 66-55 win over Marist, Lehigh led by as many as 21 points in the second half.  Marist made a run to pull themselves within seven with under nine minutes to go.  Lehigh was then able to buckle down and stretch it back to 11, which ended up being the final difference.  Seniors Zahir Carrington and Marquis Hall each scored in double digits with 12 and 16 points, respectively.  Carrington also finished with 13 rebounds for the Mountain Hawks.  Lehigh hit fewer field goals and threes than Marist, but got to the line 21 more times.  That ended up being the difference in the game.  In the loss to St Joseph’s the two seniors couldn’t have played any worse.  Hall finished with only one basket and Carrington had ten turnovers.  The Mountain Hawks as a team committed ten turnovers. Even with their early 10-0 lead, the turnovers were too hard to overcome.

Bucknell is in the midst of a five-game winning streak.  The most recent loss was a 32-point thrashing by Notre Dame in South Bend.  Bryson Johnson had 17 point and Stephen Tyree had his best game this year with 15 points and six rebounds.  They had no answer for Notre Dame’s star Luke Harangody, with 20 points and 11 rebounds, or the Irish’s hot outside shooting.  Notre Dame went 9-15 in three-pointers in the first half.  Ben Hansbrough scored 14 points in the first half.

Navy is also suddenly on a serious slide losing the last four games in a row.  The Midshipmen played Seton Hall close in the first half before getting blown out 66-34 in the second half in Newark.  Senior guard Chris Harris was the only Navy player to finish in double figures with 12 points, but it took him 17 shots to reach that total.  In the two most recent losses he has shot an abysmal 6-31 from the field.

Holy Cross lost their only game of the most recent session, an 82-79 setback to Sacred Heart.  Sophomore guard R.J Evans led the way with 20 points and five rebounds.  Holy Cross had a five-point lead at half and was up by as many as 11 points in the second half, but could not put Sacred Heart away. Sacred Heart regained the lead with under five minutes to play and never relinquished it the rest of the way.  The Crusaders shot well from the field, 50% from three-point range.  Holy Cross also out rebounded the Pioneers 47-34, but turned the ball over 23 times.

American picked up their second win of the year over Depaul.  The win was huge for the Patriot League over the legendary Big East conference.  Vlad Moldoveanu led the way with 26 points and eight rebounds in the 62-57 victory.  Stephen Lumpkins added pulled down a career-high 14 rebounds inside and Nick Hendra scored a career-high 17 points. American led at half 32-24 and was able to hold on in the second stanza.  The Eagles were down 57-56 with three minutes to play but scored the final six points of the game for the victory.

In the last version of Checking In on the Patriot League the key upcoming matchup was Colgate’s game against Dartmouth.  It wasconsidered Colgate’s best chance at getting a win before the conference schedule started up.  The prophecy turned out correct.  Colgate was victorious against Dartmouth to break their nine-game losing streak, 63-44.  It was a five-point game with five minutes to play, but Colgate allowed only one basket the rest of the way.  It was the least amount of points they had held an opponent to since the 2008 Patriot League semifinals.  Sophomore forward Yaw Gyawu led the way with 14 points.

Key Upcoming Matchup:

01.06.10 – Holy Cross at NC State – 7 pm.

With American’s recent victory over Depaul the Patriot League can start envisioning some more upsets over teams from the bigger conferences. American has Florida on December 28th, but the above game might be a better chance for the league.  Sean Kearney is still trying to put together the parts to get this team playing how they should be.  Will they have it together by the matchup in Raleigh?

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