One of the three conference tournaments expected to get underway tonight will come from the Patriot League. Colgate currently sits as a heavy favorite in the tournament, but the first round must take place until they can take the court. We’ll preview the two first-round games, along with my pick for each of them.
Bucknell will enter the tournament as a ten seed, as they finished Patriot League play with a 5-13 record. The Bison were able to pick up a win in their last game of the regular season against Lafayette, in which big man Alex Timmerman was able to post a double-double. Timmerman will need to continue his dominance in the paint if the Bison want to make any sort of run in the tournament.
The senior center is averaging 11.5 PPG and 7.2 RPG this season, which has helped the Bison rank 47th in the country in defensive rebounding percentage. Senior Xander Rice has been the primary scorer for the Bison this season, averaging 14 PPG. In the two matchups between Bucknell and American this season, in which the Bison walked away with wins in both Rice and St. Joes' transfer, Jack Forrest lit up the Eagles on the offensive end.
American will enter the tournament amidst a six-game losing streak, finishing the regular season with a 7-11 conference record. Despite shooting 48.6% from the field this season which is the 12th-best percentage in the country, the Eagles averaged just 65.6 points per game, which ranks 311th.
Tempo is a big part of the Eagles' game, as they run at the 350th slowest tempo in the country, according to KenPom, which has resulted in opponents getting an average of just 52 field goal attempts per game. Additionally, opponents are getting an average of 17.2 three-point attempts per game, ranked 17th in the country. The problem has been, despite the low amount of attempts, opponents still have managed an effective field goal percentage of 51.7% against the Eagles this season.
For my play in this one, I’ll be taking Bucknell at (+5.5) to cover the spread against the Eagles for the third time this season. American likes to slow teams down and limit their field goal attempts as much as possible, but Bucknell has been able to dictate the pace in both games they’ve played this season and ended up scoring 78 and 73 points in the two matchups.
Opponents are shooting 37.8% from three against the Eagles this season, allowing Forrest and Rice to find a lot of success from beyond the arc. Bucknell was able to walk away with a 22-point win in the last meeting, with Timmerman not scoring a single point and just pulling down ten rebounds.
Even though American has one of the best shooting percentages in the country, their slow pace has hurt them in building leads against a team like the Bison. The Eagles averaged the least amount of field goal attempts per game in the country this season with 50.3, and I don’t think that will be enough to build a substantial lead against a team that has dominated them.
The Holy Cross Crusaders are the nine seed in the tournament, as they finished conference play with a 7-11 record. Leading up to the postseason, the Crusaders lost their last three games while allowing 80 or more points to be scored in all three games. Defense has been a struggle for them all season, ranking 304th in the country in defensive efficiency rating according to KenPom.
Opponents were able to shoot an average of 46.3% from the field this season, ranked 303rd in the country. A big reason for their losing record is that their offense has been unable to bail them out or keep them in games when their defense is struggling. The Crusaders rank 319th in effective field goal percentage and average just 31.8 total rebounds per game.
In the last meeting between these teams, the Crusaders did not show up on either end of the floor as they lost 90-68. That loss evened the series up at 1-1 for the season, but if they want to walk away with a series win and a trip to the next round, they will need to limit the Greyhounds from three-point range.
Loyola Maryland seems to be gaining momentum just at the right time, as they won four of their last five games, which brought their overall conference record to 7-11. The Greyhounds could not be classified as a strong defensive team this year, but they do possess a strong ability to put pressure on their opponents. Entering the tournament, the Greyhounds force an average of 13.7 turnovers per game.
For my play in this game, I’ll be rolling with the favorite in Loyola Maryland (-5.5). The Greyhounds went 8-2 ATS in their last ten games, while the Crusaders went 3-7 ATS in that same span. Having momentum going into a tournament like this is a significant factor, and the Greyhounds have far more momentum than the Crusaders.
The Greyhounds' ability to force turnovers played a significant role in the last meeting between these two teams, as they forced the Crusaders to commit 16 turnovers. With the Crusaders shooting just 43% from the field this season, the fewer scoring opportunities they have, the harder it will be for them to keep pace with a hot-shooting Greyhounds team.
In the last meeting between these teams, freshman Deon Perry and his six threes helped the Greyhounds go 13 for 29 from three. Perry has been on a scoring tear recently, as he is averaging 18 PPG over the past ten games while shooting 48.7% from three in that span. High-level three-point shooting and an ability to create turnovers is a solid combination for Loyola Maryland to advance to the next round and cover.
Loyola (MD) (-5.5)