The Patriot League Tournament kicks off on Tuesday, March 1st with a pair of games in Maryland. At 7:00 PM, Navy (18-13, 9-9) hosts Lafayette (6-23, 3-15) in Annapolis, MD. Thirty minutes later, Loyola (9-20, 8-10) hosts Holy Cross (10-19, 5-13). These games represent the first round as the bottom four seeds of the Patriot League at the end of the regular season.
|ARMY WEST POINT||9-9||.500||18-12||.600|
A Look At The Teams…
1. Bucknell (17-12, 14-4)
The Bucknell Bison finished the season with a 14-4 conference record after finishing up the Patriot League regular season with a four game winning streak. Bucknell led all Patriot League teams with 79.2 points per game behind 17.2 points per game from Senior guard Chris Haas (#14). However, they key players to watch are Sophomores center Nana Foulland (#20) and guard Stephen Brown (#2). While the Bison run a 9-10 man roster, averaging 11 minutes or more per game, five players average 8 or more points a game.
At a fast-paced 74 possessions per game clip, the Bison’s true shooting percentage ranges at 0.534 with an average of 1.069 points per field goal attempt. The Bison are expected to score 1.078 points per possession. Those key players we mentioned to watch? Foulland is a 12 and 7 (PTS/REB) center capable of getting big on the boards and nabbing double-doubles (2 total, with 10 more only 1-2 points or boards shy). Brown, a well balanced distributor of the basketball, is capable to spreading the court with his vision and makes for a perfect set-up man to Haas. A key to Bucknell making the dance is to keep the main three relevant in the game. The key game for Bucknell in this tournament will be a potential match-up with Colgate; a team they have been unable to beat this season.
2. Lehigh (15-14, 13-5)
Lehigh’s played well in the Patriot League and that’s about it. The Mountain Hawks started the season off 0-7 with losses to some strong teams: Syracuse, Yale, Purdue, and Virginia. In fact, on February 1st, the Mountain Hawks were a dismal 6-14 with a moderate 4-5 conference record. However, a string of nine consecutive wins catapulted Lehigh into second place at the end of the regular season.
Junior center Tim Kempton (#32) should be a lock for conference player of the year with his 17.5 PPG and 9.3 RPG in less than 30 minutes of action per game. With the Mountain Hawks playing at a pace of about 68 possessions per game, Kempton accounts for terminating only 14 plays a game (slightly over 20%). Kempton scores at an amazing 1.102 points per field goal attempt. However, Kempton is not the only scorer. *Note: Since putting this together, Kempton has been indeed announced as the conference player of the year.
Junior guard Austin Price (#5) also piles on points at a decent rate of 1.057 points per field goal attempt. Combined with 1.9 steals per game, and solid numbers for rebounds and assist-to-turnover ratio, the Mountain Hawks have the tools to win the conference tournament.
3. Boston University (18-13, 11-7)
The Terriers, running more of a 7-8 man rotation, rely heavily on Senior guard John Papale (#2) and NBA-sized Junior guard Eric Fanning (#3). Another key player, Senior forward Nathan Dieudonne (#22), has been out with an injury since having his game cut short against American on February 10th. These three, along with Sophomore guard Cheddi Mosely (#15), provide Boston University with the most balanced attack in the Patriot League.
The question will be if Dieudonne will be ready to play for the tournament come to their first game next Thursday. Boston has seen their rash of injuries this season, with Cedric Hankerson and Justin Alston out with season-ending injuries early in the season. Note: Hankerson dropped 10 points in 12 minutes in his sole game of the season. With Dieudonne out, the Terriers have had to rely on heroic performances from players such as Papale just to manage a 3-2 record since Dieudonne’s injury; however the Terriers are 0-2 against the top 4 seeds since.
4. Army West Point (18-12, 9-9)
The Black Knights finished the season strong, winning five of their last six games; the lone loss coming to the hottest team in the League in Lehigh. While Senior forward Tanner Plomb (#32) is the man on this Army squad, averaging 20 points a game with a modest 1.042 points per field goal attempt, the glue-guy is Senior center Kevin Ferguson (#31). Ferguson is important not only for his double-double ability. The more important factor: when Ferguson missed a series of games in January (including fractures of two games), the Black Knights went 1-5. When Ferguson returned, sans a double OT loss by one point, Army has been nearly unbeatable. Eleven double-doubles this season speaks volumes to Ferguson’s ability to get plays made. Equally important, Ferguson has a Patriot League best 1.229 points per field goal. With the gameplay of this big man, Ferguson should be runner-up for player of the year based on efficiency, double-double ability, and still placing 1-2 blocks in every game.
A challenge for Army will be to ensure that Senior guard Kyle Wilson (#21) finds open looks from long range. Wilson, who’s three point field goal percentage is a lowly .338 finds himself on the wrong side of the efficiency mark with 0.974 points per field goal attempt. Note: Whenever this number goes below one, this is the pure definition of shooting your team out of a game.
This doesn’t mean that Wilson is a detriment to the team. Instead, it means that he needs to be worked into the game flow properly and is still a vital part to Army’s success on the court. Army has a strong chance to defeat Colgate, but will struggle against Bucknell if Wilson is unable to find his jumper.
5. Colgate (13-16, 9-9)
The Colgate Raiders are finding themselves on the wrong side of a streak. Unlike Army and Lehigh, the Raiders are in the midst of a 3-7 slide over their previous ten games, despite starting out conference play hot with a 6-2 record. The reason? No Freshman forward Malcolm Regisford (#5). The 6’8″ frosh covered 15-20 minutes per game as a dominant post player; rarely picking up points (except a couple break-out games), but helping to open the floor up for Senior guard Austin Tillotson (#1). After Regisford found himself out of the line-up, Colgate then 10-9 (6-2 Patriot) found themselves on an ensuing 3-7 run.
Tollitson played well over the 10 game span, scoring in double figures every time; even coming close to a triple-double (16-8-8) against a losing effort to Army. If Colgate is able to get it’s mojo back in time, we are in for an exceptionally great game against Army. With both these teams healthy and in the line-up, we could see the winner of this game march into the NCAA Tournament later in March.
6. American (11-18, 9-9)
If you take a look at the American schedule, you will see a team that lost almost every game to start the season and won almost every game to finish the season. There cannot be a more jarring difference between the beginning and end of the season than American’s. To this accord, the Eagles finished 9-9 in conference to steal the final top 6 spot in the regular season. But how did the team who started 2-15 (0-6 Patriot) get to this point?
It started with the demotion of Junior center Paris Maragkos (#42). Maragkos has 11 games of scoring in double figures; however the George Washington transfer has a cruel distinction to this team: If Marakgos plays more than 10 minutes, the Eagles are 3-18. If he player ten or less minutes, the Eagles are 8-0. It’s not so much Marakgos’ play that has caused the poor record, but rather the more open plan for the Eagles with the injection of Senior forward Marko Vasic (#5). Picking up many of Marakgos’ minutes, Vasic has improved stability to a line-up that features a pair of 12 point per game players in Jesse Reed and Delante Jones.
Of the top 6 teams, despite the nice run to finish the season, the Eagles are on common ground with Boston University (with injuries) for a chance at making a run to the championship. Good news is, if Dieudonne is not fully healthy for Boston U., the Eagles have a chance and making some noise in this tournament.
7. Navy (18-13, 9-9)
The Midshipmen are in a funk right now. Dropping 8 of their last 11 games moved Navy from once atop the Patriot League into 7th place by the end of the regular season. Navy plays an 8-10 man rotation like most teams in the Patriot League and has moderate scoring from four players, however Navy ranks low in scoring (67.4 points per game for 8th in the Patriot League) and prides themselves on defense. Opponents shoot a meager .415 from the field and Navy holds a +4.5 rebounding margin per game. So where do the Midshipmen go wrong?
Navy is one of the rare teams that cannot average a point per field goal attempt. The Midshipmen average 0.9934 points per field goal attempt. To their credit, they hold teams to a 0.9744 points per field goal attempt. Combine this with the fact that Navy plays a lot of close games, one-to-two baskets within variation spell doom. Navy doesn’t have much offensive firepower and in order to make the tournament, they will have to rely on staunch defense to carry them for four consecutive games, with Lehigh looming in the second round; the hottest team in the Patriot League.
8. Loyola (9-20, 8-10)
The Greyhounds’ record is better than we should expect this season. Loyola has remained competitive this season, however their wins have come at opportune times, such as a victory over Colgate missing their key freshman; and picking up a win against a fumbling Lehigh. Loyola is one of the worst shooting teams (.428 FG%, .294 3P%) with a below average field goal defensive team.
Expect the Greyhounds to pick up one win against Holy Cross as 4 of their 8 wins came in sweeps over the bottom two teams in the conference. There just isn’t much to get excited about when the leading scorer (Sophomore guard Andre Walker) averages 0.8716 points per field goal attempt.
9. Holy Cross (10-19, 5-13)
The bottom of the Patriot League becomes a little cringe-worthy. Holy Cross is yet another example of terrible shooting (.411 FG%) with just as terrible efficiency (0.9495 points per field goal attempt). Combine this with being the worst defense in the league in terms of field goal percentage and three point percentage (bottom in both categories), and Holy Cross can only find a bright spot for being third in the league for steals (6.2 SPG).
10. Lafayette (6-23, 3-15)
The Leopards are in the same boat as other teams found at the bottom of this conference. Lafayette is actually a middle of the pack team when it comes to field goal percentage (offense and defense). However, they find themselves on the wrong side of the scoring margin, habitually being outscored by 9 points a game. Lafayette’s deficiency is in rebounding. Lafayette is typically out-rebounded 7 extra times per game (it’s actually 7.6, but who’s counting?). This accounts for typically 6-7 extra shots per game for their opponent. Since they are on the verge of being equal on defense as they are on offense in terms of shooting, this equates to opponents scoring 3-4 more baskets per game. This translates to 7 – 13 extra points per game that the Leopards are giving up just due to rebounding.
Find the Leopards making an early exit this year. They do not match up well with Navy, but we cannot count out the Leopards in any game.
Probabilities of Winning
The Patriot League is a 1-bid team. It is there fore crucial to win out the tournament if a team hopes to make the NCAA tournament. In this case, using our rankings model, we are able to provide a Markov Chain monte Carlo simulation to estimate the probabilities of winning the tournament for each team.
This indicates that the best chances for winning the tournament rest with Bucknell. Tune in tomorrow for the start of the Patriot League tournament!