Navy’s style doesn’t belong in the Patriot League. In a sea of teams that score lots of points and often give up just as many, the Midshipmen prefer wars of attrition. They entered Wednesday with the nation’s #77 defense per KenPom — 150 spots ahead of their next-best foe — and the second least-efficient offense. But they exploded for an 83-67 win at Boston University. Continue reading
For a few minutes Thursday evening, it looked as if the Patriot League quarterfinals might have little drama. All four home teams led by multiple possessions at halftime, and three extended their advantages to double digits early in the second half.
But this year’s Patriot League has found excitement at every turn, and its postseason is no exception. One game went to overtime, another was decided in the final minute, and the only true blowout came between teams with identical records in the 4-5 game. A recap:
#1 Bucknell 90, #8 Holy Cross 83 (OT): Malcolm Miller wouldn’t end his career quietly. After a lethargic first half, the Crusaders trailed by as many as 16 points in the second before their star senior turned it on. Miller had four traditional three-point plays in a four-minute stretch, making seven straight shots to lead the visitors back in the game. After blocking two shots on one possession, Miller made two free throws to give Holy Cross the lead at the two-minute mark.
The Crusaders led by three with 30 seconds to play, but as he’d done all night, first-team all-conference guard Chris Hass answered. Eric Green, one of the league’s best defenders, bumped Hass from behind, turning Hass’ short floater into a game-tying three-point play. The Bison pulled away in overtime to avoid becoming the first 1-seed to bow out before the finals in Patriot League Tournament history.
Hass matched a career high with 32 points, while Miller set his own with 34 in his career finale. In contrast to his 30-performance at Boston U. last week, Miller got most of Thursday’s points inside. Nine of his 11 field goals came in the paint, and even with an inefficient overtime period, he needed only 24 shooting possessions to get his 34 points:
#2 Colgate 72, #7 Navy 62: Aided by garbage-time free throws, the Raiders scored 1.26 points per possession after the break to advance to the semifinals. Matt McMullen had a double-double in the second half alone, totaling 18 points and 15 rebounds, as Colgate advanced to its first semifinals since 2009.
Rookie Bryce Dulin scored a career-high 16 points at an opportune time, all in the second half, but the Midshipmen never pulled closer than six points down the stretch. After blocking a tournament record eight shots against Army, Will Kelly didn’t swat a single ball on Thursday. Limited by foul trouble, Kelly played only 23 minutes, and Navy was outscored by 12 points with him on the bench.
#6 American 68, #3 Lehigh 62: The Mountain Hawks will have a long offseason to stew on their first-round exit: As a home favorite, they lost by two possessions while shooting 7-16 from the free-throw line. Lehigh was actually one of the nation’s better foul shooting teams this year, ranking in the top 50 at 73%. Tim Kempton played like the league’s Player of the Year, scoring 20 points on 9-9 shooting and grabbing 11 rebounds, but his teammates went 3-14 from three-point range.
Like many coaches, American’s Mike Brennan has shortened his rotation down the stretch; unlike many coaches, Brennan’s rotation was already limited to seven players, and is now down to six. Jesse Reed and Pee Wee Gardner each played the full 40 minutes, enough time for the former to score 24 points and the latter to notch 10 assists (against one turnovers). Marko Vasic posted a double-double despite spending 82 whole seconds on the bench.
#4 Lafayette 89, #5 Boston U. 64: After Holy Cross torched the Terriers with 13 three-pointers in their regular-season finale, Boston U. coach Joe Jones was frustrated with his team’s defensive inconsistency. “When you look at our defensive field goal percentage in our nine [conference] wins, we’ve held teams to 37%. In nine losses, it’s 48%,” he said. “We’ve been really up and down all year, just in our ability to be focused and connected.”
Thursday was another down night for the Terriers, as Lafayette posted a 77% effective field goal percentage, including a Patriot League Tournament-record 16 threes, en route to a blowout victory. No team expects to allow 55% shooting beyond the arc, but surrendering 29 attempts (many of which were open) is inexcusable against a team ranked in the top 10 nationally in three-point accuracy. Point guard Nick Lindner (5-8 from three) led the way with 23 points as one of five Leopards in double figures.
Lafayette avenged a similarly lopsided loss at Boston U. in last year’s quarterfinals. More remarkably, the Leopards scored their 89 points while only attempting two free throws, becoming the first team to do so since at least 2010.
Semifinals (Sunday, March 8):
#4 Lafayette at #1 Bucknell
#6 American at #2 Colgate
Final (Wednesday, March 11):
#6/2 vs #4/1, at higher seed
Favorites reigned in the Patriot League on the first night of college basketball’s postseason:
7. Navy 56, 10. Army 52 — The Midshipmen missed their first nine three-point attempts on Tuesday, but Zach Fong swished the 10th, wide open off a kick-out from Brandon Venturini, to break open a tied game in the final minute. Navy held on for its third win over Army this season and its first postseason victory since 2001.
A day after being named first-team all-conference, Worth Smith scored just four points on 2-15 shooting, his worst offensive performance of the season. But Smith contributed on defense, collecting 11 rebounds, three steals and three or four additional deflections. Will Kelly (13 points) and Tilman Dunbar (11) picked up the offensive slack in a low-scoring battle.
Army, picked second in the preseason poll, managed just .83 points per possession to close an underwhelming season. The Black Knights also struggled from three-point range (4-20) and had 11 shots blocked. A Patriot League Tournament-record eight of those came from Kelly, none bigger than this denial of Tanner Plomb (complete with a staredown):
8. Holy Cross 62, 9. Loyola (MD) 45 — In a less thrilling contest, the Crusaders jumped out to a 15-4 lead and led wire-to-wire. Loyola shot poorly from two-point range (16-42), worse from beyond the arc (2-15), and even struggled from the free-throw line (7-16). The hosts weren’t outstanding on offense, but 1.05 ppp were more than enough, led by matching 10s from Malcolm Miller, Matt Husek, Cullen Hamilton and Robert Champion.
Holy Cross has all the makings of a dark horse — the Crusaders have talent, they’ve now won five of seven, and they beat each of the top five seeds once this season. Four of those wins came at home (and the fifth in nearby Boston), however, and Holy Cross will play its remaining games on the road, where it went 2-7 in league play.
1. Bucknell vs. 8. Holy Cross
4. Lafayette vs. 5. Boston University
3. Lehigh vs. 6. American
2. Colgate vs. 7. Navy
Yes, there has been some variety, but unlike many other conferences this season the Patriot League has played fairly close to form in the non-conference slate. Perhaps because of that, you can make a case for several horses in the field of 10 to cross the wire first at the end of the league race, which begins on Wednesday when the conference gate opens. Continue reading
Young Binghamton (which may become the name they’re officially referred to here for the rest of the season) came out of the second half firing against Navy, at one point making 8-of-10 shots and 6-of-8 from behind the arc, adding up to an 11-point lead with 13:20 left as the Bearcats chased their first Division I win of the season.
Navy gave it the old service academy try Saturday night against Northeastern, keeping the game close for most of the first half, and actually tying it at 20 with five minutes left. But the Huskies were clinical in the second half, showing why they’re the current Colonial favorites by dismantling Navy on both sides of the floor, 68-44, in the second semifinal of the Hall-of-Fame Tip-Off Classic at Mohegan Sun.
With just two days before college basketball tips off, Kevin Doyle and I engaged in some friendly Patriot League banter over e-mail. We already gave you our preseason all-conference teams/individual awards and top impact rookies, so instead of writing up a boring primer, we decided to chat it up regarding this league. Of course, feel free to add your opinion to the message board. Enjoy! Continue reading
Projecting the impact of freshmen and how they will perform in their first season playing Division 1 hoops – unless one happens to be a Top 100 recruit – isn’t exactly a foolproof science. While coaches are still in the process of deciphering what their regular rotation will look like once the season begins, the following eight freshmen project to be some of the better ones in the Patriot League, and will have an immediate impact for their respective teams. With the additions of Boston University and Loyola to the league last season, the influx of talent continues to become better and better. Loyola will be forced to lean heavily on its freshmen class, while Bucknell – who will have a few talented freshmen on its roster – should not be as reliant. Let’s begin with my preseason all-rookie team.
[One caveat: Given the high number of freshmen both Army and Navy bring into their programs and stash at MAPS (Military Academy Prep School) and NAPS (Naval Academy Prep School) it is often tough to gauge just how good each program’s freshmen class will be at the outset of each season. Your guess is as good as ours who the top freshmen will be for each team.]
Kahron Ross, Lehigh – Lehigh’s past two starting point guards – Marquis Hall and Mackey McKnight – were both four year starters at the position. Based on reports out of Bethlehem, it seems like Kahron Ross may be on that same track as he projects to start for Lehigh in their season-opener against Villanova.
Eric Johnson, Boston University – The second season in the Patriot League for Joe Jones will likely not go as smoothly as their inaugural one as the Terriers were picked to finish in the middle-of-the-pack; that’s what happens when D.J. Irving and Dom Morris graduate, and Mo Watson transfers. Having to replace much of the production in the backcourt, Jones will likely lean on Eric Johnson. Johnson has good size for a point guard standing at 6-foot-2.
Mitchell Hahn, Holy Cross – It’s no secret that Holy Cross is thin up front with graduation claiming Dave Dudzinski. The only proven forwards Milan Brown returns are Taylor Abt and Malachi Alexander. Mitchell Hahn, Holy Cross’ lone freshman, will be one of the first three of the bench for the Crusaders, and has an opportunity to receive immediate minutes at the 3 and 4 positions. At 6-foot-8, Hahn can fill it up from the perimeter.
Cam Gregory, Loyola – G.G. Smith has been fighting an uphill battle the day he accepted the head coaching job at Loyola prior to the 2013-14 season. His predecessor, Jimmy Patsos, took many of Loyola’s top recruits with him to Siena, which left Smith in a bind for his first season at the helm. Entering his second season, Smith will be without Dylon Cormier – the top player from last year’s team – along with senior point guard R.J. Williams, who is no longer listed on the roster. Playing time will be available from the outset for the young Greyhounds, and expect forward Cam Gregory to benefit from it. Gregory was a highly-coveted recruit in the Patriot League, and will be expected to produce immediately for Loyola. At 6-foot-8, Gregory reportedly has the ability to play with his back to the basket, something that isn’t always common for freshmen big men at the mid-major level.
Nana Foulland, Bucknell – Bucknell is fairly deep in their frontcourt this season, but minutes will be available with Brian Fitzpatrick having graduated. Foulland was perhaps the premier recruit in the Patriot League for the 2014 recruiting class, boasting offers from Delaware, George Mason, Fairfield, Old Dominion, UMass, and Seton Hall among others. Foulland is a big body who can run the floor, and excels on the defensive end with exceptional shot blocking and rebounding ability. Dave Paulsen got a good one.
J.C. Show, Bucknell – It would be funny to be a fly on the wall for a discussion between Bucknell’s head football coach Joe Susan and Dave Paulsen. Show, who was a tremendous high school athlete and excelled on the gridiron, could most definitely find himself contributing to the Bison’s football team in some capacity this season, but he elected to take his talents to the hardwood, instead. Paulsen may have found his point guard of the future in Show, but minutes may be hard to come by at the position with Steven Kaspar and Ryan Frazier both returning for their senior and junior seasons, respectively.
Cheddi Mosely, Boston University – Eric Johnson may take over for Mo Watson at point guard, but look for Cheddi Mosely to slide in – along with Wagner transfer Eric Fanning – and help fill the void D.J. Irving left in the two-guard position. The 6-foot-3 combo guard from St. Anthony’s in New Jersey excels from the perimeter, but also can go off-the-dribble. Joe Jones has set up Boston University well for the future with Johnson and Mosely manning the backcourt.
Colton Bishop, Loyola – G.G. Smith was thrown a curveball when starting point guard R.J. Williams was allegedly tossed off the team in October. Williams has struggled to stay in line at Loyola as he was suspended in October of 2012 for a violation of team rules that kept him sidelined for half of the season. Without Williams, and Jevon Patton transferring to Northeast Oklahoma A&M, Bishop will likely be forced into immediate playing time.
You can follow Kevin on Twitter @KLDoyle11
In advance of tomorrow’s media day, Big Apple Buckets would like to present their preseason all-conference teams and individual awards for the Patriot League. Continue reading