by Jake Wilson
Following a regular season characterized by extreme parity and unpredictable results, the Patriot League Tournament should be nearly impossible to handicap. The two recent powers were picked first and second in the preseason poll, but they have the bottom two seeds in the tournament. Beyond the surprising seeding, there are plenty of intriguing story lines in the quarterfinal matchups.
6. Lafayette (15-14, 6-8 Patriot) at 3. Colgate (16-13, 7-7 Patriot) – 7:00 pm ET
Lafayette and Colgate have similarities beyond their colors. Both are veteran, senior-led teams and Fran O’Hanlon and Emmett Davis have seen their teams go through their share of ups and downs this season. After good non-league performances, each team has gone through winning and losing streaks of at least four games in the past two months — often with a string of close games breaking for or against them during these stretches. The two earlier meetings went down to the wire, with the visiting team winning both times. The Leopards are one of the most dangerous outside shooting teams around, but the Raiders have done a solid job of defending the three-point arc this season and have prided themselves on making good looks a rarity for opponents. Colgate might look to the offensive glass as an area to exploit against a Lafayette squad that is one of the weakest defensive rebounding teams in college basketball.
Regular season results Colgate 68, Lafayette 69 (OT – 1/16); Colgate 76, Lafayette 75 (2/13)
Stat to watch: Field goal percentage
Pomeroy says: 62.2 percent chance Colgate wins
7. Bucknell (11-18, 6-8 Patriot) at 2. Navy (16-13, 9-5 Patriot) – 7:00 pm ET
Alumni Hall will host a battle between two teams looking to play at very different paces. Navy ranks eight in the nation at 75.1 possessions per game, while Bucknell is 290th at just 63.8. Both regular season meetings were played at a pace much more to the liking of the Midshipmen — though the Bison did manage to win a relatively high-scoring affair on their home court early in league play. Both teams rank in the top 50 in Division I for three-point reliance, so there could be a lot of shots going up from long range tonight. Navy generally has shot the three slightly better (35.3 percent) than Bucknell (34.2 percent), but both teams have held opponents to very low three-point shooting percentages. Adjusting for tempo, the Midshipmen actually have been the better defensive team this season, and take better care of the ball while forcing turnovers at a much higher rate.
Regular season results Navy 77, Bucknell 85 (1/11); Bucknell 72, Navy 78 (2/9)
Stat to watch: Three-point shooting
Pomeroy says: 75.9 percent chance Navy wins
8. Holy Cross (15-12, 5-9 Patriot) at 1. American (18-11, 10-4 Patriot) – 7:30 pm ET
The Pomeroy Ratings say these have been the top two teams in the league this season, but Holy Cross did much of that work early on before getting hit hard with the injury bug. While the Crusaders’ team health might be getting the most attention going into the game, the outcome ultimately may have more to do with the Eagles than anything else. Ranking fifth in the nation in three-point shooting at 41.1 percent as a team, American’s undersized backcourt has a shooting and quickness edge over its Holy Cross counterparts. The Crusaders have been a stellar offensive rebounding team, with only two teams in Division I grabbing a higher percentage of rebounds at their offensive end. However, the Eagles are the best defensive rebounding team in the league, so it’s a battle of strength against strength. There’s not much to take away from the two regular season meetings, aside from the fact Tim Clifford will be a tough matchup for the home team tonight.
Regular season results Holy Cross 66, American 64 (1/26); American 62, Holy Cross 46 (2/6)
Stat to watch: Three-point shooting
Pomeroy says: 70.1 percent chance American wins
5. Army (13-15, 6-8 Patriot) at 4. Lehigh (13-14, 7-7 Patriot) – 7:30 pm ET
A year later, Lehigh still are smarting over losing on Josh Miller’s shot that didn’t appear to beat the clock in last season’s quarterfinal in Bethlehem. Expect to see some defense played in this one, as the visitors enter the game ranked 36th nationally in defensive efficiency and the hosts are 112th, and both offenses have struggled this season. Both sides attempt fewer than 30 percent of their field goals from outside the arc, but the Black Knights tend to give up a lot of points from three, so the Mountain Hawks might have some long-range success. Army has been on the wrong side of some lopsided foul differentials this season, and Lehigh has done a solid job of getting to the line and hitting its free throws, so the line could tell the story tonight. It also could turn into an entertaining scoring battle between Jarell Brown and Marquis Hall — two players more than capable of racking up the points.
Regular season results Lehigh 57, Army 52 (1/20); Army 53, Lehigh 58 (2/16)
Stat to watch: Free throws
Pomeroy says: 70.6 percent chance Lehigh wins