By: Evan Lachnit
At first glance, it would appear that the Patriot League conference tournament should come down to two teams, the Bucknell Bison and the Lehigh Mountain Hawks. Though they will be the two favorites heading into the tournament, there are plenty of teams that could make noise in the coming week.
Lafayette enters as the defending tournament champion, but are the 10 seed in this year. The Leopards are 3-15 in the conference and only have six wins on the season. Unfortunately for them, it does not appear that they will be repeating as conference tournament champions.
Saying that, here is my round by round break down of the 2016 Men’s Patriot League Tournament.
Round One, March 1
Game One: No. 7 Navy vs. No. 10 Lafayette
This game should not be close. Navy has played well all season despite just being the seventh seed in the tournament. The Midshipmen are 18-13 on the season, but head into the tournament on a four game losing streak. Luckily for Navy, Lafayette is just downright awful this year. If the Leopards want to keep this game respectable they will have to get a lot out of their leading scorer, Nick Linder.
Prediction: Navy 68 – Lafayette 50
Game Two: No. 8 Loyola (MD) vs. No. 9 Holy Cross
As bad as Lafayette has been this season, Holy Cross was not much better mustering only 10 wins on the season. The Crusaders average 65.1 points per game, ranking them ninth in the conference. Loyola has nine wins overall, but eight of those came in conference. Loyola’s defense is their achilles heel. They give up on average 75.4 points per game. In game that will be defined by offensive efficiency for both teams, I believe that Loyola’s Andre Walker will be the difference in this one.
Prediction: Loyola 63 – Holy Cross 57
Round Two (Quarterfinals), March 3
Game One: No. 1 Bucknell vs. No. 8 Loyola (MD)
If there is any sure thing in this year’s Patriot League Tournament, it is that the Bison will be advancing to the semifinals. Bucknell has been head and shoulders above everyone else in conference play this year and I expect them to roll the Greyhounds of Loyola. Loyola will be coming off of a tough game against Holy Cross while Bucknell is sitting at home getting rested up.
Prediction: Bucknell 78 – Loyola 57
Game Two: No. 4 Army vs. No. 5 Colgate
There is a log jam of four teams in this league that had a 9-9 record in conference play this year. This four-five matchup will feature two of those four teams. Army is having an outstanding year with a record of 18-12. The Black Knights are also averaging 78.6 points per game. Army is led by the standout forward Tanner Plomb who is averaging 20 points per game. Colgate has only 13 wins on the season. Colgate’s rank of 273 in strength of schedule makes their 13 wins even more underwhelming.
Prediction: Army 80 – Colgate 71
Game Three: No. 3 Boston University vs. No. 6 American
American University is yet another one of the teams that finished 9-9 in conference play. Yet again, they are another team that was very unimpressive outside of conference play only getting two wins in the non-conference schedule. Boston U. was able to set themselves apart finishing 11-7 in conference. Boston U. also has four players that consistently average over 10 points per game. This one will get ugly late.
Prediction: Boston U. 75 – American 62
Game Four: No. 2 Lehigh vs. No. 7 Navy
Lehigh enters this tournament on a nine game win streak, the best of any team in the conference. That spells trouble for any team that will face the Mountain Hawks. Lehigh also has four players that consistently average over 10 points per game. Led by Tim Kempton and Austin Price, Lehigh should blow through Navy.
Prediction: Lehigh 75 – Navy 59
Round Three (Semifinals), March 6
Game One: No. 1 Bucknell vs. No. 4 Army
Finally, we will be getting competitive matchups in this conference tournament, but I still believe that Bucknell will be too much for the Black Knights. The Bison are more consistent on the glass and have better playmakers on the perimeter. Led by Stephen Brown who is shooting 40 percent from behind the arch Bucknell should pull away late.
Prediction: Bucknell 84 – 76
Game Two: No. 2 Lehigh vs. No. 3 Boston U.
In another competitive matchup in the semifinal, Boston U. posses a huge threat to Lehigh’s NCAA Tournament chances. Both teams split their regular season matchups, with both home teams winning. Since the Patriot League does not play on a neutral site, the higher seed host each tournament game. In a close game, I believe that Lehigh will pull off the win in a classic.
Prediction: Lehigh 64 – Boston U. 63
Round Four (Championship), March 9
No. 1 Bucknell vs. No. 2 Lehigh
Yes, I know that chalk is boring and not any fun. But Bucknell and Lehigh are just too good in my opinion to not meet in the championship game. Bucknell’s last tournament championship came in 2013. Lehigh’s last championship came in 2012. Both teams split their two regular season matchups, but the road team won both matchups in close games. Lehigh is the hot team heading into the tournament and I expect them to keep that up. Sticking to the trend of the road team winning in this matchup, I will take Lehigh.
Prediction: Lehigh 77 – Bucknell 73