Dates: March 2, 6, and 11
Site: Campus sites; higher seed hosts
Outlook: The Patriot League turned into a two team race this year. Bucknell, a traditional power in the Patriot, rolled through the league, their only loss coming when they stumbled at Army, the league’s bottom-feeder, in a head-scratching 20 point loss.
Bucknell is exactly what you expect out of, well, Bucknell. They are a disciplined offensive team that plays off of the league Player of the Year Mike Muscala inside. They knock down jumpers, they defend, and they swept the only other contender, American.
American probably has the league’s best front court. Vlad Moldoveneau averaged 19.9 ppg and is your prototypical European big man, a face up scorer with three point range, who is complemented nicely by Stephen Lumpkins, a blue-collar big man that averaged 13.3 ppg and 7.9 rpg.
Holy Cross went just 1-13 in their non-conference schedule, but rallied in league play to finish third at 7-7. Lafayette, Navy, and Lehigh (who is our sleeper, more on them in a bit) tied for fourth in the league at 6-8.
Championship game: March 11, 4:45 p.m. ET on ESPN2
Player to watch: CJ McCollum, Lehigh
McCollum put up fantastic numbers for the Mountain Hawks this year, averaging 21.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg, and 2.5 bpg. He’s clearly one of the best scorers in all of the low-major ranks, but that didn’t translate to many wins, as Lehigh finished 6-8 in league play. He reminds me a bit of a poor man’s Marshon Brooks, and the Mountain Hawks run a similar system where they like to get out and run the floor. If he gets hot, he can carry Lehigh.
The Bison have the size to match up with American, as they swept the Eagles this season, and a nice blend of youth and experience. This looks like a team built for mid-major March.