Kevin Doyle is the RTC correspondent for the Patriot League. The PL is among the first of this season’s conference tournaments to tip, with action set to start tonight.
If Holy Cross somehow wins the Patriot League Tournament and advances on to the NCAA Tournament, they would have the worst winning percentage ever of a team in the field. Their 11-20 record would give them a winning percentage of .355. Currently, the team with the lowest percentage that competed in the NCAA Tournament was George Washington who entered the 1961 Tournament with a 9-16 record (.360). It really is not all too farfetched that the Crusaders win the Patriot League Championship. Five of their seven league losses came by four points or less, and both of their games with Bucknell went into the final minute. Speaking of the Crusaders, junior guard Devin Brown has been one of the best scorers in the league as of late, and is just two points away from reaching the 1,000 mark for his career. In his last nine games, Brown is averaging 23.2 points a game.
In my “Other 26” column, I remarked that Army is the only team in the country who is in last place in their league to have defeated the team in first place. By virtue of this occurrence, every team in the league—even those in the bottom half—should feel like they have a chance at attaining the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Best chance for an upset in the first round: Colgate over American. I am really going out on a limb with this one, but Colgate is a team that is surging—their record would not indicate it—as they have been taking the better teams in the league to the brink. Aside from a disastrous 20-point loss to Navy, the Raiders lost to Holy Cross by two and Bucknell by eight; they had an opportunity to win both games in the final minute. May they catch American looking ahead to a semifinal date with Holy Cross or Lafayette?
Predicted Champion: Bucknell. How can the Bison not be the clear favorite heading into the tournament? Aside from a hiccup at Christl Arena, Bucknell has been the most consistent team in the league and has some impressive non-conference wins to boot. Assuming Bucknell does in fact win the Patriot League, they are most likely looking at a 14-seed in the NCAA Tournament. Many things would have to fall in Bucknell’s direction and other teams would have to lose in order for them to receive a 13-seed.
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 MikeMuscala 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 StephenTyree.
Player of the Weeks (Feb. 3-Feb. 16): BrysonJohnson, 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 MitchRolls has been one of the best shooters in the Patriot League during this stretch and YawGyawu—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 JulianSimmons. 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 DevinBrown 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.
Kevin Doyle is the RTC correspondent for the Patriot League.
A Look Back
1,000 Point Club—Jared Mintz becomes the first active Patriot League player to score 1,000 points in Lafayette’s win against Colgate. The senior from Canada has progressed leaps and bounds since his freshman year where he averaged just two points a game. Now, he is one of the league’s best big men.
Back-to-Back—The United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) named Vlad Moldoveanu their National Player of the Week for the Week of January 9, and the following week honored Bucknell sophomore Mike Muscala. The USBWA has named just seven athletes from all across Division-I basketball—beginning on the week of December 5—as their Player of the Week. Sure is pretty impressive that two PL players were recipients of the award.
Leaders of the Pack—Speaking of Mike Muscala, his Bucknell Bison have clearly distinguished themselves from the rest of the Patriot League. While their game against Holy Cross was much closer than they would have hoped, the Bison are now 4-0 in the PL and are a morphing into an explosive and dynamic offense with Muscala on the inside and their strong three-point shooting on the outside (40.8%).
Second Best—Nope, it is not Lehigh or American that may be the second best team in the league. Although their record would certainly not indicate it, Holy Cross may be the second best team in the Patriot League. After squeaking by Lafayette, the ‘Saders thrashed Army and Navy and played Bucknell to a two-point game before losing in the final seconds. I will certainly be eating my words, however, if American comes into the Hart Center and defeats Holy Cross on Saturday (1/22).
An Important Piece is Back—Mike Venezia won’t lead the Colgate Raiders to a Patriot League Championship, and he may not even lead them to more than just a few wins in the league, but he is now back in the starting rotation for Emmett Davis after missing eight games with a knee injury and has the ‘Gate playing much better. Since his return to the court against Lafayette to open league play, Colgate competed well with Lafayette and American. Against Lehigh, he gave Colgate 28 strong minutes as they upset the Mountain Hawks in dramatic fashion. Venezia is a capable point guard that the Raiders sorely missed.
Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology—In his latest bracketology, Joe Lunardi over on ESPN.com projects Bucknell to be the #14 seed in the Southwest Region, playing Kentucky in the first round. The Bison are surely kicking themselves as bad losses to St. Francis (PA) and Wagner may be the difference between a 13 seed and 14 seed.
Mid-Major Top 25—I usually do not like to overtly depict my opinions, but I believe that Bucknell is grossly underrepresented in the College Insider’s Mid-Major Top 25. In the January 17 poll, Bucknell received only four votes, while fellow Patriot League team American received two. There is a distinct possibility that when voting, the coaches simply look at Bucknell’s 12-7 record—their record when the poll was released—and observe what on the surface appears to be a mediocre mark.
Team of the Weeks (Jan. 6-Jan. 19): Bucknell:Bucknell has now won 11 of 12 games with their lone loss coming against Boston College by four points, and they are a perfect 4-0 in the Patriot League. The Bison disposed of the American Eagles, who appeared to be their primary challenger heading into conference play, but struggled with Holy Cross who entered the game with a 3-13 record. As the old sports adage goes though: “Throw the records out the window in a rivalry game,” and that was exactly the case when Holy Cross visited Lewisburg. Bucknell led for virtually the entire game, but HC tied things up with 28 seconds remaining. Mike Muscala drilled a baseline jumper with 1.4 seconds remaining to seal the win for the Bison. Muscala is not unfamiliar with late game heroics as just weeks prior he connected on a buzzer beater to defeat Richmond.
Player of the Weeks (Jan. 6-Jan. 19): Mike Muscala, Bucknell: From strictly a numbers perspective, Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum (26/8/2), American’s Vlad Moldoveanu (24/9/2), and Bucknell’s Mike Muscala (25/9/1) have all had very similar performances over the past four games. Even with such balance, there was a clear selection for player of the weeks: Mike Muscala. Playing against American in a 75-60 win, Muscala completely outclassed Moldoveanu as Muscala went off for 33 points and 10 rebounds, while the native of Romania had a paltry seven points. And, while C.J. McCollum certainly had worthy statistics as well, Lehigh went just 1-3 in their first four PL games. Muscala got it done both on the stat sheet and record book. The sophomore from Minnesota is developing into the Patriot League’s best forward.
Freshman of the Weeks (Jan. 6-Jan. 19): J.J. Avila, Navy: For the third time this year and the second straight week, J.J. Avila is the freshman of the weeks. Avila, due to an abundance of playing time for Billy Lange, more than doubled any other freshman’s performance in the point and rebounding departments over the course of the first four games in Patriot League action. Navy has greatly struggled as they are 0-4 and the only winless team in the PL, but Avila has found a nice niche for the Midshipmen as he is averaging 13.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, an even 2 assists, and an impressive 2.3 steals per game.
Clip of the Week
Muscala is becoming Mr. Clutch, as he hit his second game-winning shot of the season in the final seconds. His first one coming against Richmond was a replica of Christian Laettner’s classic shot for Duke 19 years ago, and the most recent one against Holy Cross dashed the Crusaders’ comeback hopes. The Bison squandered a 14-point second half lead, but Muscala’s heroics saved the day for Bucknell. (Note: scroll to 4:53 of the video clip to see Muscala’s shot)
Quote of the Week
Taken from Holy Cross head coach’s Milan Brown’s website, Brown exudes confidence and excitement that the Patriot League portion of their schedule is a new season. Although cliché, his sentiments are absolutely true and Holy Cross appears to have taken it to heart:
“The PL is the start of our 2nd season. I told our guys that all 8 teams start 0-0. I want them to be excited and positive about the opportunity we still have as a team. The past is just that, the past.”
Power Rankings (Last week’s ranking in parentheses)
1. Bucknell (1) (13-7, 4-0)
Previous Two Weeks: W Navy 71-64, W American 75-60, W Holy Cross 74-72, W Lafayette 75-56
Next Two Weeks: 1/22 vs. Colgate, 1/26 @ Lehigh, 1/29 @ Army
The time appears to have finally come for Dave Paulsen and the Bucknell Bison. In his inaugural season, Paulsen led the Bison to a very disappointing 7-23 mark, but in year number three he has developed Bucknell into the class of the Patriot League due to some fabulous recruiting classes, and great senior leadership from their starting point guard Darryl Shazier and forward Stephen Tyree. Averaging the most minutes played in the PL with 33 per game, Shazier is one of the best floor leader’s in the nation as his assist to turnover ratio is a remarkable 4:1. As for Tyree, if you are looking for an impressive statistic to attribute to him, well, you won’t find one. In fact, he has played in just two games all season. By all accounts, however, Tyree is the emotional leader for the Bison. Tearing his ACL during the preseason, the senior from Texas is essentially playing on one leg, but managed to give Bucknell five valuable minutes against Holy Cross. Through four PL games, Bucknell’s margin of victory is a shade over 10 points and they are the clear favorite in the early going to garner the coveted automatic-bid to the NCAA Tournament.
2. American (2) (13-6, 3-1)
Previous Two Weeks: W Lehigh 82-75, L Bucknell 75-60, W Colgate 66-57, W Army 65-62
Next Two Weeks: 1/22 @ Holy Cross, 1/26 @ Navy, 1/29 Lafayette
American would have, no doubt, liked to have hold serve on their home floor against Bucknell, but it was not to be as they lost to the Bison by 15 points in a game that was never really that close. Bucknell took a commanding 21-8 lead with 8:50 remaining in the first half, and American would never get within single digits the rest of the way. In doing so, the Bison held AU’s top player, Vlad Moldoveanu, to his worst showing of the season as he scored just seven points on 2-9 shooting. Aside from this setback, American took care of business in their other three games by winning them all. By virtue of their non-conference performance, AU is the #2 team in this week’s power rankings, but Holy Cross is nipping at their heels.
3. Holy Cross (7) (4-14, 3-1)
Previous Two Weeks: W Lafayette 70-65, W Army 68-54, L Bucknell 74-72, W Navy 71-50
Next Two Weeks: 1/22 vs. American, 1/27 vs. Colgate, 1/29 @ Lehigh
Who’d have thunk it? After going 1-13 during non-conference play, Holy Cross is 3-1 in the Patriot League, a shot away from defeating Bucknell and being 4-0, and have become legitimate contenders to win the Patriot League Championship. The Crusaders received a real boost when senior captain and All-Patriot League forward Andrew Keister returned to the floor after missing three games with an ailing Achilles. Keister returned for the beginning of Patriot League action, and is averaging 13.5 points and 6.75 rebounds during this span. What may be an even bigger lift for Holy Cross is the stocked cupboard full of talented sophomores Ralph Willard recruited that are finally starting to blossom into significant contributors. Specifically, the play of Jordan Stevens and Eric Obeysekere has wowed the Crusader faithful. Stevens is averaging ten points and shooting 42% from three and Obeysekere is the Patriot League’s leading rebounder and shot blocker in four PL games. Progress is certainly being made, but one must remain cognizant that the combined record of the four teams they have beaten is 26-51. A victory over American on Saturday (1/22)—a team that is on the verge of cracking the top 100 RPI—would be one of Milan Brown’s best victories as a head coach and firmly plant the ‘Saders as Bucknell’s biggest threat.
4. Army (4) (10-9, 2-2)
Previous Two Weeks: W Colgate 73-66, L Holy Cross 68-54, W Lehigh 75-72, L American 65-62
Next Two Weeks: 1/22 vs. Navy, 1/26 vs. Lafayette, 1/29 vs. Bucknell
The Black Knights were neck-and-neck with American in the waning stages of their game with them on Wednesday (1/19), and on the verge of making history provided they could topple the Eagles. Army has only beaten American in D.C. one time coming all the way back in 1963, but more importantly, a win would have moved Army to 3-1 in the league and a share of second place; the last time Army was 3-1 in the Patriot League was during the 1990-91 season. After four games though, Army certainly can find solace in being 2-2 and right in the hunt. If the strong play of Army’s big three—Julian Simmons (16.4 pts.), Jeremy Hence (15.5 pts.), and Ella Ellis (13.2 pts.)—continues, they will find themselves in a position to win their fair share of PL games.
5. Lafayette (6) (7-12, 2-2)
Previous Two Weeks: L Holy Cross 70-65, W Colgate 75-64, W Navy 76-73, L Bucknell 75-56
Next Two Weeks: 1/22 vs. Lehigh, 1/26 @ Army, 1/29 @ American
After four league games, Lafayette is right where many people would have predicted them to be: they are 2-2. A win at Holy Cross to begin league play would have been gravy, but the Crusaders were an inspired bunch and came back from a double-digit second half deficit to know off the Leopards. In their fourth PL game, against Bucknell, Lafayette was able to keep it close for a half (trailed 34-30), but Bucknell dominated the second half outscoring them 41-26. Jared Mintz continues to be one of the savviest big guys in the league averaging 16 points and shooting 85% from the line, but aside from him, Lafayette’s game down low is almost nonexistent. Only 44% of the Leopards’ points come on two-point shots which is one of the worst percentages in the nation. Mintz will have no problem getting his points in the PL, but it is the play—more specifically, the shooting—of RyanWillen, JimMower, and Nick Petkovich that will largely determine whether the Leopards are successful. The three are shooting 42% from downtown in PL games, if this high percentage continues Lafayette may have success going forward. Lafayette was, after all, in the PL title game last year.
6. Lehigh (3) (10-9, 1-3)
Previous Two Weeks: L American 82-75, W Navy 71-63, L Army 75-72, L Colgate 80-79
Next Two Weeks: 1/22 @ Lafayette, 1/26 vs. Bucknell, 1/29 vs. Holy Cross
To be brutally honest, it was a disastrous and disappointing two weeks for Lehigh. It is hard to put any of the blame on star guard C.J. McCollum, as he is averaging 26 points and seven rebounds through four PL games, but Lehigh is falling short in some aspect of their game. It may be that those surrounding McCollum are relying too heavily on the sophomore’s superior abilities as he is used in 33% of Lehigh’s possessions while he is on the floor, which is ninth nationally according to Ken Pomeroy. The Mountain Hawks’ two most recent losses came against teams that were projected to finish seventh (Colgate) and eighth (Army) in the league. The road does not get much easier as they travel to arch rival Lafayette and then host two of the league’s top teams in Bucknell and Holy Cross. Despite their recent struggles, Lehigh is always a threat solely due to C.J. McCollum.
7. Colgate (8) (3-15, 1-3)
Previous Two Weeks: L Army 73-66, L Lafayette 75-64, L American 66-57, W Dartmouth 67-64, W Lehigh 80-79
Next Two Weeks: 1/22 @ Bucknell, 1/27 @ Holy Cross, 1/29 vs. Navy, 2/2 vs. Longwood
Colgate is on a winning streak. Yes, you read that correctly. After compiling a record of 1-15 to begin the year, the Raiders defeated a weak Ivy League team in Dartmouth, and then upset last year’s Patriot League champion Lehigh in the final minute as MitchRolls hit a shot with eight seconds to propel Colgate to a one point win. Even better news for Colgate going forward is the return of their starting point guard Mike Venezia who has his teammates playing with more confidence and fervor since his return. Colgate’s winning streak looks to be short-lived though as they travel to Bucknell to take on the Bison on Saturday (1/22).
8. Navy (5) (5-15, 0-4)
Previous Two Weeks: L Bucknell 71-64, L Lehigh 71-63, L Lafayette 76-73, L Holy Cross 71-50
Next Two Weeks: 1/22 @ Army, 1/26 vs. American, 1/29 @ Colgate
Navy has hit a real rough patch having lost their first four Patriot League games and nine of their last 10 overall. The Midshipmen had high hopes this year as they returned four seniors who have all steadily contributed throughout their careers, as well as having All-Patriot League junior guard JordanSugars back on the wing, but things have not gone according to plan in the early going. All of the seniors have largely underperformed in PL action as they are combining for just 20 points. The Midshipmen certainly have some young talent that is highlighted by quite possibly the league’s best freshman in J.J. Avila—the four freshman that routinely play are averaging 28 points in the PL—but it is unreasonable to expect the youngsters to carry the load.
A Look Ahead
I realize it is just after four league games, and their record is a dismal 4-14, but is it possible that Holy Cross is a legitimate contender? They exceeded expectations against Bucknell by playing the Bison to a much closer game than many expected, but their strong play needs to carry over to their date against American (Jan. 22) before the Cross can be anointed as a true contender.
Colgate may be looking at their worst season since 1990-91 when they compiled a record of 5-23. The 1990-91 season was the last year of a very dark time for Colgate basketball. From 1981-82 to the aforementioned season, the Raiders never reached the double-digit win total for a season. According to Kenpom, Colgate is favored in just one game the rest of the year: home against Longwood. However, as seen with their latest victory over Lehigh, Colgate is capable of surprising some PL teams. Do not underestimate how hard it is for a road team to travel to Hamilton, New York and play on Cotterell Court before 500 fans (the Raiders average 533 souls a game, but often times that number is inflated).
It is rivalry weekend within the Patriot League for the games on January 22. Lehigh travels to Lafayette for the 214th meeting; the Leopards lead the overall series 138-75. The league’s other major rivalry features Army and Navy. The Midshipmen will travel up to West Point to take on Army to take on the Black Knights for the 113th time. Navy leads the overall series 69-43.
Two critical games in the coming two weeks:
American @ Holy Cross (Jan. 22)—The battle for sole possession of second place will take place in Worcester, MA. The upstart Holy Cross Crusaders are off to a fast 3-1 start, but they will find out just how good they are as they go up against preseason favorite American.
Bucknell @ Lehigh (Jan. 26)—Lehigh is badly in need of a victory to make up for a lackluster 1-3 start in the PL, and there is no better time for this win to come than against Bucknell.
Kevin Doyle is the RTC correspondent for the Patriot League.
A Look Back
A Surge at the Top—Bucknell 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 AUhoops.com—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 25conference.
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.
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 JordanSugars 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.
2. Bucknell (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.
8. Colgate (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:
Holy Cross: 7
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.
Cupcakes—Army’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).
Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor. For an introduction to this series, please click here.
We are getting into the thick of the things as teams are now well into their non-conference slate. While many small-conference schools take their lumps at the hands of larger-conference opponents as often happens at this time of year, other are emerging as legitimate contenders within the world of the “Other 26.” At this point in most seasons the Maui Invitational controls much of the discussion within college basketball circles, and this year has been no different. The tournament encompasses some of the nation’s best teams, and for about a week the focal point of college basketball is the Lahaina Civic Center. Suited more for an AAU championship game than a premiere college basketball venue, the Civic Center witnessed one of the most dominating performances in the history of the Invitational. Averaging 30 points, missing only two of 28 free throws, and guiding the young Huskies to the title is the mark of a champion, and Kemba Walker did all of those. Walker’s first heroics of the Invitational came against Wichita State, who so nearly thwarted Connecticut’s chances at winning the Invitational on the first day. In the process, however, the Shockers garnered my full admiration in how they competed with some of the top teams in America. In the end, Kemba Walker and Connecticut prevailed, but Wichita State was heard and will continue to make noise throughout the year.
What team impressed the most?
Following a tough season-opening loss to Georgetown by three points, Old Dominion has run off four straight victories. Their wins were hardly against cupcake opponents either as two came against Clemson and Xavier (it should be known that both the Tigers and Musketeers have both fallen only to Old Dominion). It is a grave task for any opponent to combat the Monarchs’ attack as no one ODU player is far and away the most significant contributor. Frank Hassell is the team’s leader from a statistical perspective as he averages nearly a double-double and is an extremely efficient offensive player, shooting better than 60% from the field. Blaine Taylor, ODU’s coach, is the mastermind behind this balanced attack. Check out these numbers: six players are averaging between 5.5 and 8.8 shots a game, and seven players average between 4.2 and 12.6 points a game. While not a flashy team by any means, Old Dominion plays a true team game — a truce recipe for success come March.
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 kenpom.com. 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.
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.
2. Lehigh (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).
3. Bucknell (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.
8. Colgate (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.
Devin Brown (G) - Holy Cross (13.2 ppg, 45.4 3pt%)
Troy Brewer (G) – American (transferred from Georgia)
Navy's Jordan Sugars is ready for another big season in the fiercely competitive Patriot League.
What You Need to Know
Gone are the days where Bucknell and Holy Cross had supremacy against the six other members of the Patriot League. In three years ranging from the 2004-05 season to the 2006-07 season, the Bison and Crusaders compiled a gaudy 74-10 record in Patriot League action. In this span, Bucknell garnered two NCAA Tournament wins (Kansas and Arkansas), while Holy Cross had an NIT victory (NotreDame). Times have changed, however, as storied coaches Pat Flannery (Bucknell) and Ralph Willard (Holy Cross) have moved on to other endeavors. Since then, the Patriot League has become one of the most competitive leagues in the country in terms of balance within the conference. Jeff Jones at American hit the lottery with a dominant backcourt in GarrisonCarr and DerrickMercer, who nearly pulled off a dramatic upset of Villanova two years ago, and Lehigh saw freshman sensation CJ McCollum carry them all the way to a Patriot League title just a year ago. In the 2010-11 campaign, however, it is anyone’s guess as to whom will be standing atop the pedestal come year’s end. Lafayette and Bucknell have the most talent coming back, American has Player of the Year candidate Vlad Moldoveanu playing for the entire season (he missed the fall semester last year), Lehigh has McCollum back after his rookie season that saw him dominate Patriot League competition by averaging 23 points per contest, and HolyCross returns a boatload of talent, but will be playing under their third coach in three years.
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.
Michael Hurley is the RTC correspondent for the America East Conference and Patriot League.
2009-10 Patriot League
Lafayette 5-1, 14-7
Lehigh 4-2, 13-8
Army 3-3, 12-8
Navy 3-3, 9-12
Bucknell 3-3, 8-14
American 3-3, 6-15
Colgate 2-4, 6-14
Holy Cross 2-4, 5-16
Hottest Team. Lafayette (3-1) – W 89-78 at Longwood University W 73-66 at Delaware State, W 86-79 vs. NJIT, W 75-69 vs. Yale, W 78-67 vs. American. This is the second time in the last three years Lafayette has started off 5-1 in league play. This time I don’t think they will lose seven of their next eight.
Stud Player.Vlad Moldoveanu – American (23.8 ppg /7 rpg) - In the last four games Moldoveanu has been playing great ball for American including a 37-point game in the victory over Navy. American has won three out of the last four games behind Moldoveanu who is turning into a star.
Thoughts on the Patriot League:
Marquis Hall became the fourth player in league history to hit the 500-assist mark. Hall was the first to do so with over 1,300 points. He currently sits 32d in career history in points, 19th in steals, and 4th in points. Hall is not the only one putting up impressive numbers. Kyle Roemer, the league’s active leader in points with 1,474, is five three-pointers away from reaching the top ten in league history.
Lafayette is still playing great ball. Their 77-68 win over Army regained them first place in the league at 5-1. The Leopards have won six of the last seven and 10 of the last 12. The win over Army was accomplished with some great shooting. In the second half Lafayette shot 55% from the field including 5 for 9 from three-point range. They also shot 17 for 20 from the charity stripe. Jared Mintz led the way with 20 points, Ryan Willen totaled 17, and Jim Mower added 15 on five three-pointers.
Lehigh at 4-2 is sitting in sole possession of second place, although they recently had their three-game winning streak snapped at Bucknell. It was an 81-76 overtime loss for Lehigh. The Mountain Hawks blew a 10-point lead at the end of regulation. Marquis Hall had a chance at the buzzer from downtown to win it, but missed. Hall did play well finishing with 21 points, six rebounds and six assists. C.J McCollum also finished with 20 points, his third straight game reaching that total.
Army lost their second straight Patriot League game Wednesday night. The Black Knights lost 77-68 to Lafayette. At this point Army is 1-3 on the road in conference, but has played more road games than any other team in the conference. Cleveland Richard had 20 points to lead Army while Julian Simmons added 18. The Black Knights just couldn’t shoot well from the outside hitting only 7 of 21 three-pointers.
Navy had their third loss in conference play at American 69-59. Chris Harris led the way with 21 points, remaining the league leader at 20.5 per game. Jordan Sugars added 11 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Navy shot terrible from the field including 4 for 19 from three-point range.
Bucknell has won back-to-back games placing itself in the four-way tie for third. Their come-from-behind win against Lehigh was a work of art. They were down 10 points with three minutes to play. Their defense shut out Lehigh and they scored the final ten points to send the game to overtime. The Bison ended up scoring an 81-76 victory. This followed a win at Colgate in which they scored the final five points to win 62-61. G.W Boon came up big in the victory over Lehigh with 12 of his season-high 18 points in the final two minutes of regulation and overtime. Mike Muscala finished with a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
American rode their star, Vlad Moldoveanu, to their second straight victory. Moldoveanu scored a career-high 37 points in the game. He shot 10 for 17 from the field and 14 for 15 from the line. It was the most points in a Patriot League game since Navy’s Greg Sprink had 37 almost two years ago to the date. American has now won 20 straight games at home, their last loss coming a full two years ago from Saturday. American still needs to cut down on turnovers though with 20 of them in the game.
After notching two straight victories Holy Cross is back on another two-game losing streak. The latest lost was a heartbreaker. The Crusaders dropped a 69-68 game at Colgate. Colgate scored the game winning points with three seconds to play. Holy Cross still only has one victory all year on the road. Devin Brown finished with 19 points to lead the team and Mike Cavataio had 12 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.
Colgate scored a come from behind victory against Holy Cross Wednesday. Yaw Gyawu hit a game winning shot with under three seconds to play to give Colgate the victory. Gyawu finished with 17 points. Kyle Roemer led the way with 18 points. Colgate snapped a four-game losing streak with the victory.
Key Upcoming Matchup
01.30.10 – American at Lafayette – 1 pm. Can American continue with their two-game winning streak at Easton? Moldoveanu has been playing the best ball in the league since he came tor the Eagles. American has won the last ten games against Lafayette, including a victory over the Leopards last time Lafayette was 5-1 which started them on a second half swoon.
Michael Hurley is the RTC correspondent for the Patriot League and America East Conference.
Patriot League Standings (conf/over):
Lafayette 2-0, 11-6
Navy 2-0, 8-9
Lehigh 1-1, 10-7
Army 1-1, 11-5
Bucknell 1-1, 6-12
Colgate 1-1, 5-11
American 0-2, 3-14
Holy Cross 0-2, 3-14
Hottest Team. Lafayette (4-1)
L 82-72 OT at Delaware; W 77-62 vs. Penn; W 91-74 vs. Columbia; W 84-74 vs. Holy Cross; W 95-82 at Colgate
Lafayette has won four straight games and only has one loss since Christmas.
Stud Player.Kyle Roemer- Sr. Colgate; 28.5 PPG in conference play.
Roemer is averaging 19 PPG, but started off the conference play with a 26 point game that included a game-tying three that sent Colgate into overtime. He followed it up with a 31 point game.
Thoughts on the Patriot League:
It looks like this season will see more high-scoring games than the 2008-09 Patriot League. No player scored 30 or more points in a regular-season game last year. After the first week of conference games this year there already have been two. The longest winning streak of the season by any Patriot League team was snapped this past Thursday.
Lafayette has won seven of their last eight, with the only loss being an overtime game at Delaware. The Leopards opened up the conference schedule with a win against preseason favorite Holy Cross. Ryan Willen led the way in the game scoring 20 points. Willen was one of four Leopards in double figures. Lafayette shot 8-15 from long range in the game and 20-23 from the line in the ten-point win. Lafayette never trailed during the game. In the first conference game on the road Lafayette got another double-digit victory, and once again had a second half to remember. In the first two conference games the Leopards have put up over 50 points in the second half. Willen once again was one of four players with double-digit points. This time he had 19 points in 19 minutes. Jared Mintz led the way with 22 points.
Navy has started out 2-0 in conference play. The victories came at Bucknell and over Lehigh. Lehigh was in the midst of a six-game winning streak when Navy took them down, 94-83, at home. Senior guard Chris Harris put together an impressive offensive performance scoring 29 points while going 14-14 from the charity stripe. Harris is currently averaging 20.2 PPG to lead the Patriot League. Navy overwhelmed Lehigh in the second half scoring 58 points. The Mids used runs of 10-2 and 9-0 to stretch the lead in the last ten minutes to double digits.
Lehigh had their six-game winning streak snapped by Navy despite a career-high 31 points from freshman C.J. McCollum. In the Mountain Hawks first game of the conference schedule they scored an 11 point victory over American. Zahir Carrington put together a double-double that game with 18 points and 12 rebounds while point guard MarquisHall added 17 points and six assists. Lehigh had a big lead at half, but allowed the Eagles to climb back into it before six straights points with under two minutes left put the game away.
Army opened up their conference schedule on the road. The first matchup was at Colgate followed by a game at Holy Cross. In the opener Army blew a four point halftime lead to Colgate. Cleveland Richard was the only player who hit double figures for the Black Knights, finishing with 20 points. Army then beat Holy Cross in Worcester. That was just the second win in the last eighteen meetings with Holy Cross, but both have come at HC in the last three years. In this matchup it was Richard’s defense that came up big, when he blocked a last-second three-pointer by Holy Cross with a chance to tie it. Army ended up winning 67-64 led by Josh Miller’s 22 points. Army’s 11-5 start is the best since the 1978-79 season.
Bucknell snapped a three-game losing streak that included their lowest output of the year with a victory at home over American. Patrick Behan led the way with 22 points in the 72-68 win over American. It was Bryson Johnson’s big three that sent the game into overtime. Johnson finished with 16 points in the contest. The Bison controlled the ball better than ever before in program history, committing just one turnover the entire game.
Colgate had won five out of six including a conference opener against Army before Lafayette came to town and beat them, 95-82. Colgate took Army to overtime in the opener. Kyle Roemer finished with 26 points including a three-pointer to force overtime. Roemer scored nine points in overtime to propel Colgate to victory. Roemer then came out against Lafayette and scored 31 points. Roemer shot a perfect 11-11 from the free throw line.
Holy Cross continued their disappointing start with two losses in league play. The first one came at Lafayette, the second one was at home against Army. Holy Cross outrebounded Army 37-28, led by Andrew Keister’s 18 rebounds, but still lost the matchup by three. Andrew Beinert had his last second three blocked. Holy Cross has now last eight of their last nine. It was Keister’s second 18 rebound game of the season.
American also continued their lackluster season with a 0-2 Patriot League start. Against Bucknell, American had the lead with less than two minutes to play before the Bison made their final run. The Eagles went 1-5 on their six game road trip with the only win being at Brown. That is also their only win since the upset of Depaul. Since Vlad Moldoveanu joined the lineup he has done everything he can, averaging 18.4 PPG and 6 RPG.
Key Upcoming Matchup
01.16.10 – Lafayette at Navy – 7 pm.
First place teams in the Patriot League face off early in the season in this matchup in Annapolis. One team will get their first conference loss of the year. If Lafayette manages to get the victory at Navy, it will give them the confidence to continue this stretch of great basketball. It will come down to whether or not they can contain superstar Chris Harris.
Michael Hurley is the RTC correspondent for the Patriot League and America East Conference.
Current Standings (overall record):
Holy Cross 2-9
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.
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?