By Garrett Jones
Colgate isn’t just a brand of toothpaste. It’s also a small private liberal arts college in Hamilton, New York. Ironically enough, the 2019 Patriot League tournament champions’ season focus has been trying to get the bad taste of its mouth of a blown second-half lead against No. 2 Tennessee in the first round of NCAA Tournament.
The Raiders lost that game 77-70, but it didn’t affect the 2019-20 season. Colgate (23-8, 14-4 conf.) cruised to the regular season title and enter as the clear tournament favorite. Even so, it lost two of its last five in a streaky league. The Raiders are led by Jordan Burns, who played a pivotal role in the team’s upset win at Cincinnati in December.
Sa’eed Nelson is a name many college basketball fans will learn quickly in March. He is American University’s all-time leading scorer and a decisive player to watch in the field. He averaged 18.4 points per game and surpassed the 2,000 career point clip this season. He’s also been hot recently- scoring 30 points in a win over Boston University Wednesday.
Speaking of BU, the Terriers are obvious tournament sleepers. After a 10-10 start, Boston University won eight of its last 11 to finish with a respectable 18-13 record (12-6 in conf.). It also upset a bubble team in South Carolina in November. Max Mahoney is the team’s lone senior and thrives in the leadership role, averaging 15.6 points per game and 8.1 rebounds.
Colgate returns almost all of its contributors from its run to the dance a year ago. American University could be the quintessential one-trick pony that streaks to a title. Boston University is hot and has won on a big stage. Any one of those team’s could easily win this week’s tournament.
Even so, one stat tells the story of why the Raiders will defend their title: 53 percent from three. Strong three-point shooting teams win in March. Expect to see the defending tournament champions back in the tournament field.
No. 9 Loyola and No. 8 Lehigh get the tournament started tonight a 7:00 pm on the Patriot League network.