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Patriot Semifinals Preview

March 11, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Patriot League Semifinals Preview

Preview by Steve Sheridan

No. 1 Lehigh vs. No. 4 Bucknell
The Mountain Hawks and the Bison will battle to earn a spot in the championship game in what promises to be an exciting matchup. This game may well be decided on the boards, as Lehigh comes in leading the league in rebounding while Bucknell does the league’s best job of keeping its opponents off the glass. The game will also feature the top two scorers in the Patriot League, as Lehigh’s Austen Rowland will go one-on-one with Bucknell’s Kevin Bettencourt, and some of the top rookies in the league in Lehigh’s Jason Mgebroff and Jose Olivero and Bucknell’s Chris McNaughton.

Mgebroff and Rowland have been carrying the Mountain Hawks down the stretch of the season, and the duo should once again share most of the offensive burden for Lehigh against the Bison, with Olivero also chipping in. The Bison, meanwhile, have three scorers in double figures led by Bettencourt, followed by McNaughton and sophomore guard Charles Lee. I believe this game will come down to the respective benches, and in that respect I feel Lehigh has a slight advantage.

The two teams split the regular season series, with each team barely defending its home court. Both games came down to the final minutes, with one game coming down to the final shot, and so this game will certainly be close with a spot in a nationally televised championship game in the balance.

Prediction: Lehigh will come out determined to prove its performance against Navy was a fluke and take a spot in the finals. Lehigh, 71-65.

No. 2 American vs. No. 6 Colgate
This game pits the two hottest teams in the Patriot League, as the Eagles have won five straight games for the first time since the 1991-92 season, while the Raiders have now won three straight against three of the top teams in the league.

Floor general Andres Rodriguez leads his American team into the semifinals, averaging 10 points, seven assists and three steals per contest, while Freshman of the Year Andre Ingram leads the team with 14 points per game. Colgate will counter with the resurgent Howard Blue, who has averaged 13 points and eight rebounds in his best play since returning from a knee injury, and fellow senior Mark Linebaugh, who contributes 13 points per game. This game also includes the top two rebounders in the Patriot League, as Colgate’s Andrew Zidar and American’s Jernavis Draughn will battle under the boards for control of the paint. The two average 6.6 and 6.5 boards per game, respectively, so under the glass will be a very key battleground on Sunday evening in determining the winner of this game.

American and Colgate historically have played each other very tough, and this year was no different. Although American swept the season series, each win was only by three points, and neither of those games featured Howard Blue in top form for Colgate.

Prediction: The way American played on Saturday, they are a hard team to bet against, but something tells me Colgate has what it takes to go all the way this year. Colgate in a game that may come down to the final possession, 64-62.

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