By: Matt Doherty
The Patriot League regular season concluded Saturday with Colgate capturing first-place as a result of its win at Lafayette. Bucknell and preseason-favorite Lehigh join the Raiders as the teams to beat ahead of the 2019 tournament.
With so much parody in the league this season, and with no clear favorite, it should be an exciting eight days. The tournament commences Tuesday night with a pair of first round games.
Here’s an in-depth preview with picks.
- Colgate Raiders (21-10, 13-5 PL) – Winners of eight straight, Colgate edged out Bucknell and Lehigh for first place on the final day of the regular season, meaning the path to the NCAA Tournament will run through upstate New York. The Raiders became the first team other than Bucknell to win the Patriot League since 2014 in the process. Red-hot Colgate features the Player of the Year, Rapolas Ivanuaskas (16.3 ppg, 8.1 rpg), and stud guard Jordan Burns. Around them are a strong supporting cast highlighted by Will Rayman and Rookie of the Year Tucker Richardson. Colgate is the most balanced team in the league and has a huge advantage playing at home, where they are 12-1.
- Bucknell Bison (19-11, 13-5 PL) – Even after graduating Zach Thomas, Nana Foulland, and Stephen Brown, the Bison are back at the top of the standings yet again. All-league players Kimball Mackenzie and Nate Sestina are as good of a duo in the PL. However, Bucknell scuffled down the stretch losing three of four before rallying late at home against Army on Saturday. The fact that the Bison have not played well of late and might have to go on the road in the title game, are causes for concerns as they go for their third straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
- Lehigh (19-10, 12-6 PL) – The most dangerous team in the league, Lehigh ranks in the Top 70 nationally in offensive efficiency and leads the country in three-point field goal percentage at 43.4%. The Mountain Hawks have a plethora of scoring options in Kyle Leufroy, Lance Tejada, Jordan Cohen, and Pat Andree. If Lehigh can continue their shooting success into the postseason, I don’t see them losing.
- American (15-14, 9-9 PL) – There is definitely a drop off after the top three teams but the Eagles are a dark horse candidate simply because of Sa’eed Nelson. Despite being snubbed for POY, the junior guard is averaging 19.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 5.3 apg, and 2.4 spg. He can single handily carry American to the big dance.
- Navy (11-18, 8-10 PL) – A surprise team, Navy jumped all the way to fifth place after beating BU on Saturday. The Mid are a young team, but have an excellent veteran guard in Hassan Abdullah. However, Navy is the worst offensive team in the league and has the lowest scoring margin (-6.3). It’s going to be a tough road and they’ll have to rely on defense and rebounding.
- Army (13-18, 8-10 PL) – Army is a low seed that could make some noise in the tournament. The Black Knights have experience with seniors Tommy Funk, Jordan Fox, and Matt Wilson. They also own a win over Colgate already. However, Army is just 3-12 on the road and they’ll have to win three consecutive road games to win it all.
- Lafayette (10-19, 7-11 PL) – Fran O’Hanlon’s team went on a mini-run in early February, winning five in a row. However, the Leopards dropped their last three games of the regular season. Lafayette has a talented backcourt in Alex Petrie and Justin Jaworksi. They’ll have to win four in a row (and three on the road) but are 6-9 away from Easton, Pa. this season.
- Boston University (14-17, 7-11 PL) – An up-and-down season, the Terriers clearly missed forward Walter Whyte, who was out the entire year with an injury. But BU did win three of four to close out the regular season. The defensive end will be key for the Terriers. They certainly have the ability to make a run. BU is the only team to beat Colgate in Hamilton this year.
- Loyola Maryland (11-20, 7-11 PL) – Loyola is a feisty team that played extremely hard under first year coach Tavaras Hardy. They have the league’s leading scorer in Andrew Kostecka (21.6 ppg) and talented young players Isaiah Hart and Jaylin Andrews. 2019 might not be the year for Loyola but they are headed in the right direction.
- Holy Cross (15-16, 6-12 PL) – It was an underwhelming season for Holy Cross in the Patriot League. This team is not as bad as the league record indicates. They are capable of beating any team on any night. But as the 10-seed, they’ll have to win four straight road games. Defensive Player of the Year Jehyve Floyd is the player to watch.
First Round – Tuesday, March 5th
No. 10 Holy Cross at No. 7 Lafayette – Pick: Holy Cross
No. 9 Loyola Maryland at No. 8 BU – Pick: BU
Quarterfinals – Thursday, March 7th
No. 6 Army at No. 3 Lehigh – Pick: Lehigh
No. 5 Navy at No. 4 American – Pick: American
No. 10 Holy Cross at No. 2 Bucknell – Pick: Bucknell
No. 8 BU at No. 1 Colgate – Pick: Colgate
Semifinals – Sunday, March 10th
No. 3 Lehigh at No. 2 Bucknell – Pick: Lehigh
No. 4 American at No. 1 Colgate – Pick: Colgate
Finals – Wednesday, March 13th
No. 3 Lehigh at No. 1 Colgate – Pick: Lehigh