The Patriot League is an easy conference to sort out by tier this season. Bucknell and Lehigh are its clear top two teams, going 14-4 and 13-5 in league play, respectively. Nobody else won more than 11 out of 18 conference games, and four of the 10 Patriot League teams tied in the middle of the standings with 9-9 conference records. The league's middle six teams all finished within three games of one another. Holy Cross (5-13) and Lafayette (3-15) have lagged way behind.
That kind of parity with a few clearly defined top dogs should make for a fun tournament this week. Bucknell, behind leading scorer Chris Hass' 17 points per game, is the favorite, although the Bison are matched evenly with Lehigh. (The two teams entered the tournament ranked 165th and 166th in Ken Pomeroy's national index.)
However, things saw a major shakeup in the quarterfinal round. Ninth-seeded Holy Cross took Bucknell to double-overtime, eventually coming out on fop in a major upset. That leaves Lehigh as the new favorite to secure the league's auto-bid, but as always, nothing is a sure thing in Championship Week.
The league has a few really strong players. Hass has been remarkably consistent for Bucknell, scoring at least nine points in every game he's played. Lehigh big man Tim Kempton averages a dominant 17.5 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. Colgate guard Austin Tillotson, who once upon a time transferred in from Monmouth, has shined in the Raiders' backcourt. Like Hass, he's a senior.
Each of the Patriot League's 10 teams automatically qualifies for the tournament. It's a level playing field for all but the bottom four seeds, who have to face each other on Tuesday while the top six get byes into Thursday's quarterfinal round. The Nos. 8 and 9 seeds (Loyola and Holy Cross) play in one opening-round game, for the right to face top seed Bucknell in the quarters. Nos. 7 and 10 are Navy and Lafayette, with that winner getting No. 2 Lehigh in the quarters. There is no central tournament site. All games are hosted by the higher seed. (Bucknell, the top seed, has lost at home this year to No. 2 Lehigh and No. 5 Colgate, among others.)
3. Boston University
8. Loyola (Md.)
9. Holy Cross
Schedule and Results (all times Eastern)
Tuesday, March 1 (First Round)
No. 7 Navy 78, No. 10 Lafayette 70
No. 9 Holy Cross 72, No. 8 Loyola 67
Thursday, March 3 (Second Round)
No. 9 Holy Cross 77, No. 1 Bucknell 72 (2OT)
No. 2. Lehigh 65, No. 7 Navy 63
No. 6 American 69, No. 3 Boston University 64
No. 4 Army 79, No. 5 Colgate 72
Sunday, March 6 (Semifinals)
No. 9 Holy Cross 60, No. 4 Army 38
No. 2 Lehigh 78, No. 6 American 62
Wednesday, March 9 (Championship)
No. 9 Holy Cross 59, No. 2 Lehigh 56