A tale of two teams

For folks that have followed Patriot League hoops since its inception in 1990, tonight's Holy Cross at Fordham matchup holds special interest.

In the league's early years, both teams were powers. Fueled in part by scholarship players who were grandfathered in when the two teams joined the then non-scholarship league, they won the first three championships in league history and shared the regular season title with Navy and Colgate in the league's fourth campaign.

Things got a little tougher once the scholarship cupboards were bare. Even though both teams remained competitive in the league, they began to find it harder to compete outside the conference.

In 1995, Fordham waved a white flag in the non-scholarship experiment, bolting the Patriot League for the supposedly greener pastures of the Atlantic 10. They left because alums and boosters wanted scholarships to raise the level of the program. There were similar sentiments at the time in Worcester. But Holy Cross stayed in the Patriot, which eventually opted to allow scholarships, in no small part to keep the Crusaders in the fold.

It seems pretty obvious who made the better decision. Holy Cross has been to the NCAA Tournament three of the past four years, building a Princeton-esque image with its close calls against some of the game’s biggest powers.

Meanwhile, Fordham has been nothing short of horrible. In nine seasons since leaving the Patriot, the Rams have not had a winning season, averaging 20 losses a season while going 70-180 in that span (this season’s 2-2 start not included). Included in that record is a 4-4 mark against Holy Cross, though the Crusaders have won the last four in a row.

Which brings us to tonight. We realize that you can easily get burned playing the comparative scores game, but from the results against the two team’s once common for, Boston College, HC would appear to have an edge. Fordham got thumped 66-51 by the Terriers while the Crusaders posted a 10-point win at BU in its season opener.

By the way, is one of the rare games nowadays that you can listen to on the Web without having to pay.

Meanwhile, the PL’s two Lehigh Valley teams will look to give the league an advantage over the Ivies when Lafayette visits Cornell and Columbia heads to Lehigh. The Patriot-Ivy series is currently tied at 4-4, which actually means the Ivies have the edge, since two of the remaining 15 games after tonight between the two leagues involve Army.

Lafayette has won six of the last seven it has played against Cornell. The lone Leopards loss in that span was in Ithaca two years ago. The two teams have virtually identical records: Lafayette is 1-4, Cornell 2-4 with one win over D-3 Ithaca. Cornell only won that game, at home, by two points. Add in the fact that Cornell lost its only other home game this season, and that Lafayette’s only win came on the road, and you have to figure Lafayette’s youngsters have a decent chance.

Columbia is 3-1, though its wins are hardly what you would call impressive. Before the Mountain Hawks laid an egg at Stony Brook over the weekend, this one looked like a gimme for Lehigh. Stony Brook, by the way, is the only common opponent the two have faced. The Sea Wolves won at Columbia by four.

Stony Brook is coached by Nick Macarchuk, the guy who led Fordham to Patriot League titles the first two seasons of the league’s existence. The guy is still having success against the Patriot. Stony Brook also has a win over Army this season and will look for a sweep of Patriot foes when it travels to Navy Saturday.

Since taking Stony Brook to D-I in the 1999-2000 season, Macarchuk is 8-7 against his old buddies in the Patriot, four of the losses coming in the Sea Wolves first two D-I seasons.

Other games tonight:

Navy at Belmont -- No, this has nothing to do with horse racing. That is the Belmont Stakes, this is Belmont University, home of the Bears. We can’t believe you didn’t know that. Sure the school is a relatively obscure Christian college of about 4,000 students in that den of iniquity that is Nashville. But you are supposed to be a hoops fan. The Bears went 21-9 last season, earning an NIT bid.

Check out the matchup, then listen to the free Webcast.

Albany at Army -- One common foe: Sacred Heart. Albany beat the Pioneers by 18on the road; Army lost to Sacred Heart by 15 at home. They might be called the Great Danes, but Albany is no underdog in this one.

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