Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Patriot League Tournament Preview

Click here for a complete index of all the conference tournament previews.

The Patriot League featured a great race for the conference title, with Lehigh finishing in first place, just one game ahead of Bucknell and two ahead of Lafayette. Lehigh and Bucknell faced off in the next-to-last game of the season, with Lehigh winning by 22 to essentially take the league championship. Lafayette was in the mix at the midway point, but went on to lose five of its last eight games to drop to third. Two more teams finished at .500. However, despite only two teams finishing above .500 overall, every team has a chance to win this tournament.

Favorite: Lehigh played well down the stretch, winning four of its final five to win the league title. Interestingly enough, the Mountain Hawks won each of its 10 league victories by at least 11 points. They shoot the ball very well from three-point range, and take care of the ball. Moreover, they get to the foul line. Defensively, they struggle to prevent easy shots, but do control the glass. They have four double-figure scorers, including Player (and Rookie) of the Year C.J. McCollum. Marquis Hall is a playmaker, and Zahir Carrington and Gabe Knutson are go-to options down low.

Contenders: Bucknell got off to a rough start in league play, going 1-3 before rattling off wins in eight of its last 10 games to finish one game back of Lehigh. The Bison aren’t very efficient at either end, but they do take care of the ball and defend two-point shots. They are very balanced offensively, with five guys averaging between 8.8 and 9.9 points per game. Darryl Shazier and Mike Muscala are a solid inside-outside combo. Lafayette is not playing its best basketball of the season, fading after its 4-0 start. The Leopards are very effective offensively, knocking down shots from inside and outside the arc. Defensively, they struggle in a major way. Jim Mower is a big-time shooter who can get hot, while Jared Mintz and Ryan Willen are a good forward tandem.

Sleeper: Despite finishing seventh in the league, Holy Cross has excellent offensive balance and plenty of options. Andrew Beinert and Devin Brown are good three-point shooters, while R.J. Evans is one of the best all-around guards in the league. Former St. John’s transfer Mike Cavataio is a playmaker, and Andrew Keister is a double-double threat.

Prediction: There’s no clear favorite in this conference, although Lehigh’s 12-2 record at home gives the Mountain Hawks an edge. Lehigh should be able to coast to the title game, while the other side of the bracket could be very tough. Lafayette is struggling, and despite Holy Cross’ offensive talent, the Crusaders haven’t proven they can beat the top teams in the league consistently. I think this sets up a 1 vs. 2 championship game between Lehigh and Bucknell. In the end, the Mountain Hawks’ inside-outside balance and multiple options will make the difference. Lehigh goes to the Big Dance. 

No comments:

Post a Comment