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Inside the Patriot

1 December, 2006


Game of the Week
Bucknell vs. George Mason – BB&T Classic – Sunday, December 3, 1:30 pm
Like the Bison, George Mason is an NCAA Tournament darling that lost several starters to graduation. Also like the Bison, George Mason is stumbling a little bit early in the year, trying to find a proper mix of battle-tested veterans and new starters. The Patriots cruised against some low-ranked opponents but lost to Missouri Valley Conference squads Creighton and Wichita State by a combined 8 points. Mason gets a week to prepare for the game, while Bucknell will be one day removed from a home match with Northern Iowa. The key matchup of the game is Bucknell’s Chris McNaughton and Darren Mastropaolo vs. Mason’s 6-7 power forward Will Thomas. Thomas has an impressive 67.5 percent field goal percentage on the year, and has the size, skills and discipline to give McNaughton fits on both ends of the court. As a team, the Patriots are good at finding high-percentage shots, but only shoot 62.0 percent on foul shots. Look for Bucknell to use a punishing physical defense to try to force Mason to earn its points at the line.

Line of the Week

11.29.06 vs. Quinnipiac TOT-FG 3-PT REBOUNDS
Waddy, Daniel………… 6-9 2-2 13-14 0 5 5 27 6 4 1 2 22

Keith Simmons. The Basketball U. Preseason Patriot League Player of the Year has lived up to his billing so far, posting a team-high 17.9 points per game. Simmons has not only been an efficient scorer but a shut-down defender as well, putting up 5.9 boards, 2.4 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. Importantly, Simmons has been able to play 33.1 minutes per game, as his cramping problem from seasons past has not bothered him this year. If Simmons can stay on the floor all season, there’s every reason to expect him to continue to play this well on both sides of the ball.
Good showings vs. the Big East. In the last week, we’ve seen Holy Cross battle back from huge deficits to take it to the wire at Syracuse, Lehigh control much of the game before falling at Notre Dame, and Navy put a scare into Villanova. Moral victories don’t carry the same cache as signature wins over power conference teams, but the experience should help each of the three Patriot League squads develop and prepare for the conference schedule.
Navy’s freshman frontcourt. Coming into the season, Navy’s big question was could the Middie forwards provide support for their strong backcourt scorers? Trey Stanton and T.J. Topercer have answered that question with a resounding yes so far in this young season. Stanton has been an effective scorer from the interior and perimeter, and Topercer has provided a strong physical presence for the Midshipmen.
American’s scoring depth. In seven games, the Eagles have had seven different players break double figures in points at least once. Having Garrison Carr and Arvydas Eitutavicius on the bench gives Jeff Jones the luxury of mixing and matching lineups to find the hot hand every night. American beat NJIT 75-50 without the benefit of a single point from leading scorer Andre Ingram; would Lehigh or Holy Cross be able to win a game by 25 without any points from Jose Olivero or Simmons?

Colgate inconsistency. Against Canisius, Kendall Chones put up 18 points to lead the team. A week later against Quinnipiac, he scored 2 points in 33 minutes and took just 4 field goals. Willy Morse puts up 7 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds in 14 minutes against Binghamton, then takes a DNP the next game. Aside from Jon Simon’s scoring, you don’t know what you’re going to get from night to night at Hamilton, NY.
Bucknell and Holy Cross three-point shooting. Last year, the Bison and Crusaders were 1 and 2 in the league in long-range shooting. This year, with Charles Lee, Kevin Bettencourt and Kevin Hamilton all departed, they’re next-to-last and last in the league. Simmons is 34.4 percent from the arc, and Bison sharpshooter John Griffin is 30.6 percent.
Lafayette needs a go-to scorer. Matt Betley has started the season strong, leading the Leopards with 12.2 points per game. But Bilal Abdullah, Jamaal Hilliard and the rest have not put the ball in the basket as expected in the preseason. Down to one final shot against Princeton this week, distributor point guard Andrew Brown was forced to take the last shot, a lay-up that failed. Every other Patriot League squad has go-to crunch time options.
Lehigh’s rough start. The Mountain Hawks have gotten good play from Olivero, Jason Mgebroff, Kyle Neptune, and freshmen Marquis Hall and Zahir Carrington. For whatever reason, they just haven’t won games. The rough start to the season (three games in three days on the West Coast) can explain some of the losses, but the Harvard and Quinnipiac trips were games that Lehigh should have at least played close in, if not won.

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