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Can 0-2 teams come back to compete? How about 0-3 teams?

11 January, 2007


For American, Army and Navy, it was not supposed to start like this. The senior-heavy Eagles were expected to compete for the top spot in the league, and both service academies were riding surprisingly strong non-conference performances into league play. After all the planning, predicting and pontificating, we’re a blink of the eye into the Patriot League season and those three are already 0-2. Can their seasons be salvaged? Let’s look to history.

Since American came to town to give the Patriot League its modern 8-team composition, 11 teams started their season 0-2. Of those teams, five won their next game, while six dropped to 0-3 or worse. Let’s start by looking at the teams that got of the schneid in the third game of the year:

-Just like this season, American began last year 0-2 with losses to Lehigh and Bucknell. They quickly turned it around and finished up 7-7 in league play.

-In 2005, the Colgate Raiders lost their first two games but righted the ship enough to go 7-7 in the Patriot League

-The most encouraging result in this list is the 2004 Bucknell team, who started 0-2 after losing road games to the eventual top two teams in the league in American and Lehigh, and ended up 9-5 in conference games.

-While Bucknell turned it around in 2004, Army couldn’t, parlaying an 0-2 start into a 3-11 conference record.

-In 2003, the Navy Midshipmen lost their first two games and finished up 4-10 in league play.

Now lets look at what happens to teams that lose their first three or more games:

-Last season, both Army and Navy began 0-3 before facing off. Army won that game, in what would be their only league win of the season, while Navy broke into the win column in their next game and ended up 3-11 after the 0-4 start.

-Similarly, in 2005 the Black Knights and Midshipmen each lost their first four games before facing off. Just like in 2006, Army won that game for their only league win of the year. Navy began 0-5 in the league but actually finished over .500 in the final nine games, ending up 5-9 in league play.

-In 2004, Navy began 0-12 in conference games before winning their final two games. Despite being in last place in the league, Navy forced eventual Patriot League champion Lehigh to overtime in the first round of the league tournament before losing (the game was played in Upper Marlboro, Md., at a hypothetically-neutral court that was essentially a home game for the Midshipmen).

-In 2003, Army’s 0-2 start became an 0-14 start as the Black Knights failed to win a Patriot League game.

What does this mean? For starters, there’s a huge difference between starting 0-2 and 0-3. Three of the five teams that began 0-2 in conference play and won their next game ended up at .500 or better in the league. Several of those were victims of rough schedule starts. Meanwhile, no team that began by losing three games finished up better than 5-9 in Patriot League games.

All three 0-2 teams are at home this Saturday. American, a very good home team, hosts Colgate, who is notably worse on the road. Army and Navy host Lehigh and Lafayette, two schools that have looked strong thus far and already have road wins to their credit. All three teams need wins this weekend to get back in the mix; a loss would essentially end their hope of making it to the top half of the Patriot League.

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