Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Patriot League Basketblog

The Patriot League has gotten less big-time media attention this year than it has over the past few years.  With groundbreaking NCAA tournament wins (like Bucknell beating Kansas and Arkansas, and Lehigh beating Duke) the Patriot League was riding high into last season's epic showdown between Mike Muscala's Bison and CJ McCollum's Mountain Hawks.  Now CJ is playing for the Trail Blazers, Muscala is bagging groceries somewhere, and the Patriot League is looking for new stars.  While there may not be as much star power as in years past, the Patriot League is still going to be plenty exciting to watch down the stretch this season.  Let's take a look at this year's key players and teams.

Boston University Terriers: 10-2 (17-8 Overall)
The Terriers look to be taking the league over by storm in their first year out of the America East Athletic Conference.  They have a strong backcourt with Philadelphia area guards DJ Irving and Maurice Watson both averaging around 13 points per game.  The Terriers also have a huge non-conference win over Maryland earlier in the season.  BU's weakness however is their frontcourt size.  They have no true center, and their forwards only go about 6'7" at the tallest.  This lack of height has been exposed in their two conference losses to Lehigh and American. 

American University Eagles: 10-2 (14-9 Overall)
The Eagles were cruising along at 10-0 in the Patriot League until last week when they suffered back-to-back losses to lowly Colgate and Loyola (MD).  Colgate and Loyola both shot the lights out from behind the 3-point line, which is disconcerting for a team that is 14th in the NCAA in team defense only allowing 60.4 points a game.  On the plus side, American features a three-headed monster of Jesse Reed, John Schoof and Tony Wroblicky on offense who each bring something different to the game.  Reed is a slashing swingman who can drain it from outside, Schoof is another big guard who can take it to the hoop, and Wroblicky is a big man that can create mismatches inside.  These three have combined to lead the Eagles to the second best field goal percentage in the country at .507.  Just a ridiculous number.  Based on their strong offensive and defensive numbers, I think American should be the team to beat in the Patriot League this year.  The blueprint for beating them is there though; they don't defend the arc well, their guards turn the ball over too much, and they have NO bench.  Get one of their starters in foul trouble and they are severely limited.

Lehigh University Mountain Hawks: 6-6 (13-12 Overall)
Lehigh is looking for an identity this season since CJ McCollum has gone onto the NBA, and lately it seems they've found it.  The Mountain Hawks are an unimpressive 6-6 in conference, but have won 5 of their last 6, including an overtime win over BU, due to the emergence of 6'10" freshman forward Tim Kempton.  This bro from Scottsdale has averaged 15 points per game over his last 6 games, and has started to dominate in the paint.  Couple the youth movement of Kempton with the tournament experience of Mackey McKnight, Corey Schaefer and DOCTOR Brett Reed, and this team could have the prescription for a late season run.  To be sure, no team in the Patriot League has a better coach than the good doctor.  That alone could push this team over the top.  One area they NEED to improve if they are going to make a run though, is three-point shooting.

Holy Cross Crusaders: 8-4 (14-10 Overall)
Talk about your classic Holy Cross team.  This was the Crusaders' secret to success in the late 90s and early 2000s: sprinkle in a few quick undersized guards with a giant white meatstick at center and hope the recipe is a success.  Without delving too much into the stats, I don't think the Crusaders have the horses (get it?) to compete this season.

Lafayette Leopards: 2-10 (6-17 Overall)
There are 346 Division 1 basketball teams in the NCAA.  Lafayette's rankings in basketball:
Points Allowed: 303rd
Defensive Rebounds Per Game: 305th
Blocks Per Game: 325th
Steals Per Game: 303rd
Offensive Rebounds Per Game: 335th
All I can say is:

There are a few other also-rans in there, but for the purposes of this blog, we will focus on the teams listed above.  A huge barometer for how these teams are going to play down the stretch will be two of tonight's games: Lehigh @ American and BU @ Colgate.  Can Lehigh build on their solid play of late, or will American rebound after two bad losses?  How will the Terriers fare against a shitty Colgate team that has some size along the front line?  That's why they play the game; and it is anybody's (well, not Lafayette's) game coming down the stretch here in the Patriot League.  Until next time...