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Patriot Quarterfinals Preview

March 11, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Patriot League Quarterfinals Preview

Preview by Steve Sheridan

No. 1 Lehigh Mountain Hawks vs. No. 8 Navy Midshipmen
On paper, this looks like it should be a romp for the top-seeded Mountain Hawks, but with the team’s lackluster play in the final weekend of the regular season, nothing can be assumed. Lehigh swept the season series with Navy, winning 80-61 and 66-38 during the regular season, but Navy now has two league wins under their belt and may be gaining some much-needed momentum. The Midshipmen have played many a team tough this season, and Lehigh will have to play its best to escape the classic first-round trap. The game pits the top two offensive rebounding teams in the Patriot League and features the league’s leading scorer, in Lehigh’s Austen Rowland. Rowland will have to find a way to snap out of a mini-slump he has been in for the past week, which coincidentally coincided with two Lehigh losses.

Prediction: Despite the temptation to pick the underdog, I think Lehigh will pull one out and finish the great career of Navy head coach Don DeVoe, winning 74-51.

No. 2 American Eagles vs. No. 7 Army Black Knights
The American Eagles may be the most underrated team entering this tournament, despite the fact that the team has won four straight to vault to the number two seed and a share of the league title. The Eagles swept the season series against the hapless Black Knights, winning 60-46 and 54-48, and have won six straight overall against Army. If the Black Knights are to have any chance in this game, they are going to have to fix the team’s awful offense, which scores just 50 points per game and shoots just 36 percent from the field on average. A big advantage for American in this game is the team’s decided rebounding edge, as Army ranks last in the league in rebounding while American, with Jernavis Draughn, thrives under the glass. And with all the shots the Black Knights will most likely be missing, Draughn could have a huge game for the Eagles.

Prediction: With American playing so well, this game shouldn’t be close. American, 82-49.

No. 3 Lafayette Leopards vs. No. 6 Colgate Raiders
This is a matchup of two teams headed in opposite directions, as the Leopards are free-falling from the top of the Patriot League while Colgate comes off victories over Lehigh and Bucknell. This is the third straight year these two teams have met in the first round of the tournament, with Lafayette winning both years despite being the lower seed. This season, the seeds are reversed and so, I believe, will the result. This game features the top two offenses four of the top seven scorers in the league, so this one should be a high-scoring affair. The key to this game is the Lafayette defense, ranked last in the league. The three-point loving Raider offense should be able to take advantage of a spotty Leopard defense and score enough points to counteract the potent Lafayette offense, just as American and Navy did last weekend. And if Navy can do it, anybody can.

Prediction: In a game where the defenses take a backseat, I’ll take Colgate, 89-82.

No. 4 Bucknell Bison vs. No. 5 Holy Cross Crusaders
This is another pairing of two teams headed in opposite directions, as the Crusaders are heading up while the Bison are falling down. Ralph Willard’s club may be peaking at the right time, which is a scary thought for any team in the Patriot League, considering the past successes of the Worcester crew. The two teams split the season series, but Holy Cross’ decisive victory just last weekend over Bucknell gives them the edge over a team that seems to be running out of steam at the wrong time. Expect Jave Meade to have a big game in his final game(s) in a Crusader uniform, while both teams will look to rely on their defense, as the teams enter the contest as the two best in the league in that category. I think, in the end, the big game experience of Holy Cross will carry them to victory.

Prediction: In a defensive struggle, I’ll go with the Crusaders, 65-57.

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