Patriot League Tournament 2013: Bucknell the favorite to earn the league's automatic bid

Michael Hickey

The Bison have lost just two conference games on the season and possess the league's most dynamic player.

It will take a week for the Patriot League to get through their conference tournament starting on March 6, with 72 hours between tips. It won't all happen in one central location either, with the higher-seeded team playing host at each stage of the tournament.

The Bucknell Bison dropped just two games in Patriot League play on the season, with only three more losses on the non-conference slate. The tournament set-up helps the Bison even more, as they dropped just one home game all year, to the Lehigh Mountain Hawks.

The Bison and Mountain Hawks are the only two teams ranked in the top-100 by kenpom.com, with Bucknell checking in at 58th and Lehigh at 85th.

Dates:

Quarterfinals on March 6, semifinals on March 9, final on March 12

TV:

Final only, CBS Sports Network

Favorites:

The Bison are the odds-on favorite to earn the automatic bid in a league that will likely see just the tournament champion get into the NCAA Tournament. The two conference games they lost this season were by a combined four points, and the team made easy work of their opponents in most of their other 14 conference games. The aforementioned home-court advantage Bucknell holds, and the tournament's format, should play right into the Bisons' hands.

Besides Bucknell, Lehigh and the Lafayette Leopards stand a very good chance to make it to March Madness. Both own wins over top-seeded Bucknell, and Lafayette went 3-1 versus Lehigh and Bucknell on the season. Only one of them can make it to the final, however, since they would face off in the semifinals assuming they make it that far.

The Dark Horse:

The Army Black Knights. The top half of the conference is far and away better than the bottom half, and Army rounds out the cream of the top-four crop. They're ranked 166th by kenpom.com, a touch ahead of Lafayette at 179th, and won five of their last six games ahead of their quarterfinal match-up with American. Getting to the final won't be easy, though, as they'll likely face Bucknell in the semifinals.

Players To Watch:

Mike Muscala, C, Bucknell: The 6'11 senior leads the league in scoring and rebounds, averaging a double-double at 19.1 points and 11 rebounds a contest. But you can't just foul the big man in the hopes you'll eliminate his effectiveness, as he shoots 77.5 percent from the free throw line. Don't forget the 2.5 blocks per game, tops in the conference, to add to Muscala's impressive resume.

Ella Ellis, G, Army: If the Black Knights want to make a deep run in the conference tournament, they're going to need some help from their top scoring guard. Ellis will not only need to be near his 18 points per game average, he'll likely need to go beyond it by slicing into the lane and getting to the line. That would help his efficiency, as he shoots 84.7 percent on free throws.

Seth Hinrichs, G, Lafayette: One of the league's best shooters from beyond the arc will need to have a hot hand to help the Leopards win the conference tournament. Hinrichs drops 14.5 points per game while shooting 45.1 percent from downtown, good for second-best in the conference. Opposing defenses will need to slow down Hinrichs if they hope to emerge victorious.

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