By Kevin Sweeney
Here’s a look at some of the biggest questions heading into the Patriot League Tournament, where first round play begins at campus sites on Tuesday, March 1. Here’s a refresher on the seeding:
- Boston University
- Loyola (Md)
- Holy Cross
The bottom four seeds play Tuesday night, with winners advancing to quarter-final play on Thursday. Let’s take a look at some of the questions that will be answered in the coming days in what should be a very exciting tournament.
1. Can red-hot Lehigh ride win streak into NCAA Tournament?
The Mountain Hawks have won 9 straight games, including a dominant win at first-place Bucknell. They also have the Patriot League Player of the Year in junior center Tim Kempton, who averages nearly a double-double with 17.5 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. After a 2-9 record in non-conference play, Lehigh has turned it around in a big way. Sometimes, it’s the team that gets hot at the right time that makes the Big Dance, and Lehigh seems to be doing just that.
2. Is this the year that Army ends their NCAA Tournament drought?
Army is one of 5 original Division 1 schools to have never made the Big Dance. On paper, this team may have the best chance to remove that dubious distinction in a while. A senior-laden bunch whose top 5 scorers are seniors, the Black Knights are experienced, battle-tested, and hungry. The Black Knights are another team that is peaking at the right time, as they have gotten healthy and have won 5 out of their last 6 games.
3. Who is in the best position for a Cinderella run?
If you are looking for a team who could win come out of the bottom 4 seeds, it might be Loyola (Md). The Greyhounds are a bit of a tough-luck 8th seed, sitting just 2 games under .500. They also have lost a lot of close games this season, so if they can turn some of the tough defeats into victories, they will have a chance to shock some people in the next week.
4. Can Chris Hass carry Bucknell to Patriot League glory?
Those of you who watch Patriot League basketball know that senior guard Chris Hass can really score the basketball. Hass averages over 17 points per game for the first-place Bison, including a 40 point performance against Army in early January. Bucknell will need a huge tournament from Hass if they want to bring home the Patriot League crown on March 9th.
5. Can Navy reverse recent struggles to return to the NCAA Tournament?
The Midshipmen are trending in the wrong direction as they head into March. They have lost 4 straight games and 6 out of 8 to drop like a stone in the Patriot League standings. The recent plummet has left the Midshipmen in 7th place in the standings. The one bright spot for Navy is that all of those losses were by single digits. A few points here and there, and the Midshipmen might be in a much better place in the standings.
My Pick: Lehigh- I believe the red-hot Mountain Hawks will continue their hot streak and ride it to an NCAA Tournament appearance.