Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Patriot League Tournament Preview

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The Patriot League did not turn out as expected. Holy Cross was the clear favorite heading into the season, but the Crusaders finished just 5-9, good for last in the conference. On the other side, Navy was projected to finish near the bottom of the league, but it used a strong finish to get the No. 2 seed heading into the conference tournament. American had control of the Patriot race throughout the second half of the year, finishing one game ahead of the Midshipmen. Just five games separated the first and last-place teams in the conference.

Favorite: American was expected to be a potential threat in the conference, but it was a surprise that the Eagles ended up on top. Their road win at Maryland earlier in the year proved they were for real. Derrick Mercer is an outstanding point guard who can score and distribute, while Garrison Carr can really fill it up. There was a five-game stretch in February where he played 40 minutes in each contest and scored at least 22 points in each. Brian Gilmore leads a solid group of forwards. The Eagles shoot the three exceptionally well, but can also get to the foul-line.

Contenders: Navy was certainly the surprise team of the season in the Patriot. I had the Midshipmen pegged as the worst team in the conference; boy, was I wrong. They had won their last six games of the season before falling in the season finale to Colgate. Greg Sprink might be the best all-around guard in the league; Chris Harris and Kaleo Kina can also score in bunches. Navy plays one of the fastest tempos in the country. Colgate has already swept Navy this season, and also beat Ivy champion Cornell earlier this season. The Raiders are very deep, and have a variety of offensive weapons. The best is Kyle Roemer, an efficient three-point shooter who can also get to the basket. Kendall Chones is one of the better inside players in the conference. The key is point guard Daniel Waddy; he needs to cut down on his turnovers.

Sleeper: Sure, Holy Cross was a major disappointment this season, finishing in last place after being picked to win it all. However, the Crusaders still have a very good core of players, including 6-11 center Tim Clifford. He is arguably the toughest player in the conference to stop. Pat Doherty is a solid point guard who can distribute, while Colin Cunningham can do a variety of things.

Prediction: Since the disparity between the top and bottom of the league was so small, the conference title is completely up-for-grabs. However, the championship will likely come down to the top two teams in the league, American and Navy. The Eagles lost twice to the Midshipmen already, including an 11-point loss on their home floor. Both teams have outstanding perimeter groups, but Navy has done a better job of imposing its style of play. It will do it again, and beat American for the third time to get the automatic bid.

1 comment:

  1. Gee, your pick of Navy turned out to be a real doozy...of a mistake.

    Bucknell 87
    Navy 86 in triple OT.

    Are the Bison back from the dead, or will American finally get a dance invite?