Patriot League Tournament Breakdown: Will Bucknell Overcome Recent Struggles?

Jon AltenaCorrespondent IFebruary 26, 2012

Lehigh Looks to Steal the Bid in the Patriot League
Lehigh Looks to Steal the Bid in the Patriot LeagueRonald Martinez/Getty Images

The Shakedown

The Patriot League tournament kicks it off February 29th at the higher seeds home court. A tournament which has seen some fantastic finishes in the past few years looks to have some of the same excitement this year. With zero wins against the AP top 25 this season this conference winner will more than likely be looking at a 15 or 16 seed. Let's take a look at the breakdown!

The Breakdown

1. Bucknell 22-8 (12-2 Patriot League)

The Bucknell Bison have locked up the Patriot League regular season title for a second straight year. The Bison coasted through the regular season winning nine of their 14 conference games by double-digits. The most important thing to note is that the conference tournament will be held at Bucknell, a place where they have only lost once all season. The recent struggles of the Bison have some people wondering if they are poised to make a post season run. There is no doubt that the other teams in the conference will use their recent struggles as motivation to try and steal a bid.

2. Lehigh 23-7 (11-3 Patriot League)

The Lehigh Mountain Hawks earned the two-seed, and maybe more importantly, two home games in their conference tournament. Lehigh is a very consistent team that comes into the tournament having won eight of their last nine.

Lehigh is also the reason for the late season slump of Bucknell. They defeated the Bison on a last second three-pointer at Bucknell to hand the Bison their first conference loss of the season. Lehigh is also one of the younger teams in the league and will only graduate three seniors this year.

While I have them as a potential tournament winner this year, next year should be even better for the Mountain Hawks. 

3. American University 19-10 (10-4 Patriot League)

The American University Eagles locked up the three-seed for the Patriot League Tournament with a win over Lafayette on Saturday. The Eagles look to their sensational senior Charles Hinkle (18.8 ppg) to lead them to their first NCAA appearance since 2009. American finishes their regular season with a 7-1 home record in the conference. Being the top heavy league that it is, it is unlikely that American will be playing on their home floor past the first round which could spell trouble in the semi-finals. I like this American University team a lot but their inconsistency to win on the road could hurt their chances at winning the title. 

4. Holy Cross 15-13 (9-5 Patriot League)

The Holy Cross Crusaders grabbed the fourth-seed in the Patriot League Tournament. Having won six in a row and seven of their last eight, Holy Cross comes into the tournament with the league's hot hand. Recent wins over American and Bucknell prove that the Crusaders are ready to play with anyone in the conference. The good news for Holy Cross is that their recent tear through the conference has landed them a first round home game against Lafayette. The potential bad news is that Lafayette defeated Holy Cross in their gym earlier this season. If Holy Cross can get past Lafayette, they too will be a legitimate threat at knocking off the reeling Bison of Bucknell. 

5. Lafayette 12-17 (7-7 Patriot League)

The Lafayette Leopards limp into the Patriot League tournament having lost four of their last five. What started off as a successful 2011-2012 conference campaign has recently taken a turn for the worst as the tough part of their schedule hurt them down the stretch.

The Leopards do have a few bright spots heading into the tournament including super freshman Seth Hinrichs. Hinrichs is averaging 8.6 points per game and has been a big lift for the Pards. He has been the freshman player of the week six times this season in the Patriot League. While it's not likely, Lafayette could make a run in the Patriot League. Lafayette split their regular season games with Holy Cross, and could strike at just the right time with Bucknell struggling as of late. Lafayette is my dark horse in the Patriot League. 

6. Army 12-17 (5-9 Patriot League)

The Army Black Knights are the sixth seed in the Patriot League tournament. They will look to start their unlikely quest at a conference title against the third seed Eagles of American University. Army dropped both regular season contests to American by an average of 18 point per game. If Army wants to keep it close in their first game they will need to slow the pace of the game and get great looks offensively. While the program continues to improve, their season will most likely end in the first round of the conference tournament. 

7. Colgate 8-21 (2-12 Patriot League)

The Colgate Raiders grabbed the seventh seed in the Patriot League conference tournament. With no real positive energy to built on, Colgate is also more than likely an early out. If Colgate can slow it down against American, they may have a slight chance at an upset as they only lost by one point to the Eagles earlier this month. 

8. Navy 3-25 (0-14 Patriot League)

Navy is in their first season under former Penn State head coach, Ed Dechellis. The Midshipmen have a tall task for their first round game against Bucnkell. One thing that Navy can hold their hat on is the effort they play with. If they can pair their effort with execution, Navy might be able to keep it close against Bucknell. Happy sailing Navy, your basketball season is over.


The Takedown

Here is how I see the Patriot League Conference tournament playing out.


No. 1 Bucknell over No.8 Navy

No. 2 Lehigh over No. 7 Colgate

No. 3 American over No. 6 Army

No. 5 Lafayette over No. 4 Holy Cross


No. 1 Bucknell over No. 5 Lafayette

No. 2 Lehigh over No. 3 American


No. 2 Lehigh over No. 1 Bucknell

Patriot League Champion: Lehigh Mountain Hawks (26-7 15 Seed in NCAA tournament)

The Final Buzzer

Joe Lunardi has Bucknell grabbing a 15-seed in the NCAA tournament as the potential Patriot League winner. I think that replacing Lehigh with Bucknell does not affect the seed that the Patriot League will get. If Lehigh wins the conference tournament I think they ultimately end up as a 15-seed. 

It's important to note that Lehigh has played some respectable basketball this year. They lost to Michigan State by nine earlier this season and played tight games with St. Johns and Iowa State. I do not think Lehigh will be much of a threat in this year's NCAA, but look out for next year!


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