One (or two) more Saturday night

What a shame there's not more left to be determined than third, fourth and fifth. Not that those spots are not significant, since the third place team avoids a trip to Worcester.

But it would be great for there to be more at stake Saturday than a starring role in a Central Susquehanna Valley Visitors Bureau commercial ("Andre, your team just won third place. What will you do next?" "We're going to Lewisburg!").

With the staggered starts of Saturday's games, it could have been an afternoon and evening of scoreboard watching intrigue if the top two seeds hadn't been settled last week.

That doesn't mean the final day of the regular season is without its interesting matchups. Except for what ought to be a yawner in Worcester, where the guys who scrimmage against the Holy Cross women in practice might give Army a good game, the rest of the schedule does feature some good games.

For starters, we have some regional rivalries in Lehigh-Lafayette and Navy-American. Back in early January, about all that looked interesting about those games was the senior day festivities. But Lehigh and American has slid a little, Lafayette has gotten a little better and Navy has gotten a lot better. All of which means they ought to be pretty decent matchups.

And then we have Colgate at Bucknell, with the Bison looking to get back on track after a tough loss in Worcester.

The best thing about the Colgate-Bucknell game is the 7 p.m. start time. That, combined with Lehigh-Lafayette's 1 p.m. tip (probably need to get it in before the 3:00 co-ed curling match on CSTV), makes it possible for serious hoops junkies like us to make it to two games in one day.

It's not quite the same as four game tournament days (RIP), but it will have to do until next week.

We will do updates as often as possible. If we get no speeding tickets and the drive-thru window doesn't screw up our dinner order, it ought to be a lot of fun.

We will not be installing a GPS tracking device for fans to follow our adventure online. But you can keep track of the game scores with the scoreboards in between our updates.

Patriot League scoreboards
ESPN | CBS Sportsline | | Yahoo!

Lehigh at Lafayette, 1 p.m.: If Lehigh loses, it is in the four-five game at Worcester. If the Mountain Hawks win, they still need Colgate to lose at Bucknell, since Colgate would likely win the RPI tiebreaker for the No. 3 seed.

Lafayette is locked in at No. 7. Normally that might mean Lehigh had a motivational edge, since the Leopards have nothing to play for. But not when it is senior day in your gym, with your archrival from the next town over coming in.

Lehigh should win this one big. But the Mountain Hawks have made a habit of not doing what is expected of them all season.

When we predicted Lafayette playing spoiler late in the season at home, we thought we meant for one of the top two seeds. Could it be our crystal ball was just a little cloudy? Could this be what we were thinking of? Could the Leopards force the Mountain Hawks to take a long bus ride to Worcester while they make a leisurely drive to Lewisburg? Stranger things have happened.
Lafayette notes | Lehigh notes | USA Today matchup | Gametracker

Navy at American, 2 p.m.: We had an invite from the Blue Shirts to hang with them in Bender for this one. When that e-mail arrived, it looked like a game that would hardly be worth the drive to D.C. Now, though, given the way Navy has played of late, it might just be the best matchup on the schedule. Had the timing of the two games in Pa. not facilitated our Ernie Banks endeavor, we probably would be headed to AU for this one.

There are those who think the Midshipmen might just be the third-best team in the league right now. A win here would convince us.

By the way, AU is offering a free video webcast of the game. To their credit, they are not hyping it as worldwide television.
American notes | Navy notes | USA Today matchup | Navy Radio

Army at Holy Cross, 3 p.m.: The year was 2001. Holy Cross was on a roll. Heading into the regular season finale, the Crusaders had just a single loss, on the road, in league play and first place in the conference, which in those pre-AU days meant a first-round tournament bye, was already locked up. The regular season finale that year, as it is this year, was against the last place team in the league. Then as now, that last place team was Army. Final score: Black Knights of the Hudson 78, Purple Knights of the Blackstone 75. None of the current Crusaders were around back then. But you can bet they have heard the story at least once in the past couple days.

Ralph Willard has a scouting report (along with a Bucknell recap) on
Jim Crews has done a real good job of getting his team better as the year has gone on. This is a very young team and some people just look at their record and don't recognize how they have improved. Though they have lost their last 4 games, they have been by an average of 7 points each. Army always plays hard ,and with this being Senior Day, I always worry about focus.
Yes, Army has been playing people closer. But this is not horseshoes. Expect all five HC seniors to see ample playing time. 'Nuf said.
Army notes | Holy Cross notes | USA Today matchup | Gametracker | HC radio

Colgate at Bucknell, 7 p.m.: It is hard to imagine Bucknell not taking care of business in this one. Even though the homecourt is secured for the first two rounds, coming off a loss at Holy Cross, the Bison should have no trouble getting up for this one.

Colgate lacks the inside presence to check Chris McNaughton, but its three-point shooters are always a threat, which is why the Raiders are still in contention for the No. 3 seed, despite being written off by almost everyone, us included, at the start of conference play.
Bucknell notes | Colgate notes | USA Today matchup | Bucknell radio | 'Gate radio

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Grab your slide rule

It is not calculus, but it is almost as confusing. Here are the official Patriot League guidelines for breaking any ties for third, fourth and fifth place:

(HOOP TIME NOTE: According to Collegiate Basketball News, which is the official RPI of the tiebreaker, AU is currently 154, Colgate 227 and Lehigh 238.)

If American, Lehigh and Colgate all win on Saturday, American will be the No. 3 seed due to a 2-0 record against No. 6 Navy, and the RPI will determine the No. 4 and No. 5 seed between Lehigh and Colgate.

If American, Lehigh and Colgate all lose on Saturday, the RPI will determine the No. 3 and No. 4 seed between American and Lehigh, and Colgate will be the No. 5 seed due to an 0-2 record against No. 2 Bucknell.

If American wins and Lehigh and Colgate lose, American will be the No. 3 seed, Lehigh will be the No. 4 seed and Colgate will be the No. 5 seed due to an 0-2 record against No.2 Bucknell.

If American wins, Lehigh wins and Colgate loses, American will be the No. 3 seed due to a 2-0 record against No. 6 Navy, Lehigh will be the No. 4 seed and Colgate will be the No. 5 seed.

If American wins, Colgate wins and Lehigh loses, American will be the No. 3 seed due to a 2-0 record against No. 6 Navy, Colgate will be the No. 4 seed and Lehigh will be the No. 5 seed.

If American loses and Lehigh and Colgate win, the RPI will determine the No. 3 seed and No. 4 seed between Lehigh and Colgate, and American will be the No. 5 seed.

If American loses, Lehigh wins and Colgate loses, Lehigh will be the No. 3 seed, American will be the No. 4 seed and Colgate will be the No. 5 seed due to an 0-2 record against No. 2 Bucknell.

If American loses, Colgate wins and Lehigh loses, Colgate will be the No. 3 seed, and the RPI will determine the No. 4 and No. 5 seed between American and Lehigh.

* - The Collegiate Basketball News published on the morning of Sunday, Feb. 27 will be used for tiebreaking purposes, should it become necessary.

** - The League will announce pairings no later than noon, Sunday, Feb. 27, if not

NOTE: The No. 3 seed will go to Bucknell for the first two rounds of the tournament, and the No. 4 and No. 5 seed will go to Holy Cross for the first two rounds of the tournament. Any first round game involving American, Lehigh or Colgate will have a 5:30 p.m. start time.

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Getting uppity

For those who might have missed it, Matt B. has abandoned his old Blogger url for posh new digs at As my mother might say, "Hey Mr. Fancy Schmancy. If Yoni jumped off a bridge would you do it too?"

Hard to tell what Matt has in mind for the new digs. He was complaining about bandwidth problems with images the other day. Who knows, maybe the move will facilitate his posting of the Girls of the Patriot League Dance Teams calendar collection.

Maybe he just got sucked into buying the url by those commercials.

Actually, we have thought of making a similar move, if for no other reason than to rid ourselves of the "3" in our url and to make it easier to find the site. But the wife says I have already spent more than the site brings in on gas and beer so it seems like a good idea to wait at least until next season to spring a monthly hosting expense on her.

While we're mentioning other bloggers, a big Hoop Time shout out to the dude folks on the Patriot League Hoops Board know as "Screaming Eagle." Until now, he has kept his blog on the down low. But he posted a link on the board the other day, and we added it to our links on the right side. It has some weird name that we can't pronounce, so we'll just refer to it as Screaming Eagle's blog. Yes, it is a rabidly partisan AU fan site. Even worse than Matt, he says. Check it out anyhow.

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Dare to dream big Carolyn

The head of the Patriot League is quoted in a USA Today story about leagues that might get two bids if the regular season champs are upset in their tournaments:
"Having two teams in postseason play is advantageous in that more student-athletes would have the championship experience, but our aspiration has always been for our champion to earn the highest possible seed," says Carolyn Femovich, executive director of the Patriot League. "We want to win a first-round game."
Does that mean she is rooting for Holy Cross in the tournament?

Why can't the league aspire to more than one team getting a 12 or 13 seed? Why can't the league, keeping in mind its original lofty goals of being a shining beacon for the notion that real students can also be great athletes, aspire to becoming a perennial multi-bid conference? Why not a league with more than one, or even two, deserving teams, made up of guys who excel on the court and in the classroom?

Football coaches always say if your goal is just to make it to the Superbowl, you will lose there to a team whose goal is to WIN the Superbowl.

C'mon Carolyn, dream big. ESPN in the regular season, instead of the tin-foil pie pan network. A real neutral site tournament (in a place that makes sense), instead of peas in pods. A prime time conference final, instead of happy hour background noise.

Holy Cross and Bucknell have shown this season that it is possible. And it is not that far away. But you're never going to get into the Top 25 if your goal is to be "also receiving votes."

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AU sports under the knife

A brief in USATODAY says American is dropping men's and women's tennis and men's golf. Here's why:
"The university is making the moves to sustain the success of its other sports," said Joni Comstock, American's athletic director. "American's sports teams have enjoyed considerable success in recent years, especially since joining the Patriot League, Comstock said."
Roughly translated: American won't consider cutting scholarships in sports other than basketball, which the other league teams do not give. The budget needed cut, and it was either drop some sports or give up membership in the United Nations and the expense of recruiting and training the Lithuanian National Hoops team.

Where's the Grateful Dead when American athletes need support? Couldn't we at least get Ratdog to play Bender for a benefit?

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The search continues

Where have you gone Neil Fingleton? That has been a question all season here at Hoop Time. You would think it would be pretty difficult for a dude 7-feet, 6-inches tall to disappear. But after an early season sighting on the roster of a minor league team called the Boston Frenzy, the one-time Holy Cross (and North Carolina) giant has seemingly vanished.

We've searched on Google. We've searched on Yahoo. All we come up with are old articles, mostly from his days as a prep star and coveted recruit, or his decision to transfer from North Carolina to HC.

Our most recent search was not entirely in vain, though. We did find two interesting tidbits, not about Fingleton, but about the Boston Frenzy. One even has a Patriot League connection. While you will not find Neil on the Frenzy's roster, you will find a surname familiar to Patriot League fans.

Playing forward for the Frenzy is a dude from Canouan, St. Vincent and the Grenadines by the name of Foyle. No, Colgate alum Adonal has not been cut by Golden State. This is a cousin by the name of Alexus Foyle.

Also of interest, we see that Frenzy coach Joe "Jellybean" Bryant, the 50-year-old father of Kobe, a former NBA baller himself, has taken to suiting up for the Frenzy. He even scored over 20 points in a couple of games.

Must be some league, eh?

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HC clinches 1st, Navy claims 6th

(Last updated: 8:17 a.m.)

Holy Cross 69, Bucknell 54: There will most likely be ample opportunity to debate the meaning of this game two weeks from now, when we expect a rubber match for the tournament title. For now, though, the Crusaders have removed any doubts there might have been lingering because of their early loss at Bucknell.

It is no surpirse that Holy Cross won this game, especially at home. But the manner in which they won it says a lot about where this team is right now.

Some had speculated the Crusaders were likely to win this one because they would get a kind whistle from the officials. But that was not the case. In fact, Holy Cross actually was called for one more foul and went to the line five less times than the Bison.

That didn't matter. Not the way the Crusaders locked down on defense, especially in the second half when they held Bucknell to 7-of-21 (33 percent) from the field. At the same time, Holy Cross picked it up on the offensive end, shooting 11-for-24 (46 percent) after the break.

HC coach Ralph Willard told Jen Toland of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette:
"We moved the ball better in the second half and got some inside touches. We didn?t throw inside enough in the first half, and doing a better job of that in the second half really opened things up for us."
Take a look at the box score. It was not Kevin Hamilton's 16 or Keith Simmons 14 that killed Bucknell. Torey Thomas' 12-points and 7-assists, all while shutting down Bucknell's Abe Badmus, was certainly a plus. But what drove the proverbial nail in Bucknell's coffin was John Hurley's 11 points and Greg Kinsey's 10. The Crusaders dominated inside, outscoring the Bison 26-14 and outrebounding Bucknell 39-28, including 16 offensive rebounds. Holy Cross had 8 second-chance points; Bucknell had just 2.

Almost all Bucknell's scoring came from its guards. Chris McNaughton, the league's top post player, had only 8 points. The Patriot field goal percentage leader was 2-for-6 from the floor and had just 3 boards. Bucknell's other frontcourt starter, freshman Darren Mastropaolo, was a non-factor, 4 points, 3 rebounds and 3 personal fouls in just 12 minutes of play.

Special props to Nate Lufkin, who although he scored only 4 points in his duel with McNaughton, stayed out of foul trouble, grabbed 8 rebounds and blocked a pair of shots.

Ralph Willard is not one to let his team rest on its laurels, but he has to feel awful good about where his team is right now. It is obvious they are playing much better than they were when they lost at Bucknell last month.

Pat Flannery, on the other hand, has some figuring out to do. Coaches always talk about wanting their teams to get better throughout the season. But it is far from certain that that has been the case for the Bison. Since the win over Holy Cross, Flannery has tinkered with his starting lineup and his rotation. So far none of the changes seems to have produced the kind of results he got back in early January.

It would be easy for Bucknell fans to point at last season, when the two split on their home floors in the regular season, then Bucknell won the first round tournament matchup. But last year it was Bucknell who seemed to get better throughout the conference season, and that tournament game was played on a neutral floor.

This year, it is clear Bucknell has its work cut out for it over the next two weeks if they expect to fulfill the lofty expectations they set in January.
Box score | AP wrap | Bucknell recap | HC recap | Boston Herald story | Milford Daily News

Navy 76, Lafayette 57: Taj Mathews' mom got there late and missed the pregame senior day festivities. Unfortunately for Lafayette, Mathews was not riding in his mom's car. Mathews scored 12 of his 24 points on four treys in the first five minutes, leading the Midshipmen in a home win that clinched the No. 6 seed for the tournament. That means Navy will face either Lehigh, American or Colgate on a neutral floor in the first round while Lafayette will open tournament play against Bucknell in Lewisburg.
Box score | AP wrap | Lafayette recap | Navy recap

American 65, Lehigh 61: The suddenly mediocre middle of the league pack became even more muddled with American's win at Lehigh. With Andre Ingram slowed by the flu, Jason Thomas lit the Mountain Hawks up, scoring 27 points.

Corky Blake explains the 3-4-5 scenarios in hisExpress-Times game story:
The Mountain Hawks enter Saturday afternoon's regular-season finale at Lafayette at .500 overall and tied with American and Colgate for third place at 7-6.

Colgate has the toughest challenge Saturday. The Raiders play at second place Bucknell.

American hosts red-hot Navy. If American and Lehigh both win, the Eagles would gain the third seed over Lehigh based on sweeping Navy.

If all three lose, Colgate would be the third seed because it swept Lafayette and the other two split with the Leopards. If Lehigh and Colgate were tied for third, an RPI rating would break the tie.
Lehigh could have saved Corky the trouble by simply making a few free throws. The Hawks were 12-for-21 (57 percent) from the stripe, 8-for-17 in the second half.
Box score | AP wrap | Lehigh recap | Washington Post |No AU recap posted

Colgate 66, Army 59: The Raiders jumped to a 31-13 lin the first half and coasted from there, keeping their hopes alive for a third seed in the tournament whil Amry lost for the 16th time in 17 games.
Box score | AP wrap | Colgate recap | Army recap | Times Herald-Record

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Bucknell 72, Holy Cross 71 (women)

(Originally posted: Wednesday, 10:37 p.m.)

Special to The Telegram&Gazette

LEWISBURG, Pa. – It was a storybook ending last night at Bucknell, as the Holy Cross women looked to lock up the Patriot League’s regular season title. Unfortunately, it was a horror story for the Crusaders, who dropped a 72-71 decision to the home Bison (10-16, 4-9 Patriot) on what was a special night for Bucknell.

Before the game Bucknell honored its four seniors. At halftime they retired the jersey of the greatest women’s player in school and Patriot League history, three-time Player of the Year and former first round WNBA pick Molly Creamer. Then Bucknell senior Brooke Tomovich capped the festive evening by hitting the game-winning free throw at one end and making a game-saving block at the other.

Tomovich’s big plays at the end gave the seventh-place Bison the biggest upset in the league this season, at least on paper. Holy Cross (16-10, 11-2) came in having won 11 of its last 12, the only loss coming on the road at second place Lehigh. Bucknell came in at 3-9 in league play, just a game ahead of last place Lafayette, a team that had actually swept the Bison in the season series.

Bill Gibbons told his team before hand not to be deceived by Bucknell’s record. Only one of their league losses had been by more than 10 points and the young team, which starts two freshmen and a sophomore and brings two more freshmen off the bench, had improved of late, winning two of its last three, both on the road.

“They’re not a 3-9 team. I kept telling the team that they are probably one of the most talented teams in the league,” said Gibbons. “We just weren’t there mentally.”

Gibbons didn’t need a long memory to find an example of the Crusaders mental lapses. He needed to look no further back than Bucknell’s last offensive possession. During a timeout with the score tied at 71-71, Bucknell’s ball and 19 seconds to go, Gibbons set up his defense, calling for man-to-man on the inbounds pass, switching to a halfcourt trap, which Bucknell had struggled against earlier. The idea was to force Bucknell into a turnover at best, or at worst to keep the ball out of Tomovich’s hot hands.

Instead, “We never trapped the ball and they got it inside,” Gibbons said. “We let them get the ball in to Tomovich.”

Tomovich was fouled going to the basket, a foul that hurt Holy Cross double since it was Lisa Andrews fifth, costing the Crusaders their leading scorer for their final offensive possession.

That proved to be crucial after Tomovich, who led all scorers with 23 points in her home finale, left the door open by missing the back end of the two shot foul, giving Holy Cross the ball, down 1 with eight seconds left.

Maggie Fontana grabbed the miss and took it the length of the floor. With 6-3 Andrews and 6-2 Brittany Keil, Holy Cross’ two top inside scoring threats, both fouled out, Fontana had nobody to dish to when she came face to face with the 6-2 Tomovich on her way to the basket.

“I felt sick,” said Tomovich. “As soon as I missed the free throw, I thought no way we are going to lose because I missed a free throw.”

Tomovich swatted the ball out of Fontana’s hands, then dove on the loose ball with 1.9 seconds showing on the clock. Jessica Conte managed to tie Tomovich up, with the possession arrow giving the Crusaders one more chance. But Ashley McLaughlin’s off-balance scoop shot from in a crowd of white jerseys was off the mark, setting off a Bucknell celebration.

Gibbons refused to complain about the lack of any foul call on the final play. There was some contact, but not anything that would draw a whistle in that situation on the road. Coaches know that and understand that. Besides, what really had Gibbons upset was that his team ended up in that situation.

“It shouldn’t have come down to that,” he said. “We played dumb basketball. That was not a good performance.”

Offensively, the Crusaders made just 23-of-64 from the field (36 percent) while turning the ball over 17 times. Defensively, they allowed Bucknell to shoot 45 percent (14-of-31) in the first half, then hacked away in the second half, sending the Bison to the foul line 22 times, where they converted 18. In the process, Andrews and Keil got into foul trouble, forcing Gibbons to play without two of his three leading scorers for long stretches in the second half.

“I don’t know how to impress on these guys to play good defense without fouling. Fouling cost us the game,” said Gibbons.

Keil finished with 17 points, including 3-for-4 from three-point range. But with her foul problems, she played only 21 minutes. Andrews also reached double figures with 13 points and had three blocked shots. But like Keil, Andrews was limited by foul trouble, playing only 26 minutes.

Only the heroics of Maggie Fontana kept the Crusaders in the game. Fontana finished with 18 points and 14 rebounds, leading Holy Cross in both categories. Jessica Conte also reached double figures, scoring 11 points off the bench.

That was enough to keep the game close throughout. There were eight ties and 16 lead changes and neither team ever led by more than 7 points.

All was not lost for the Crusaders. With Lehigh losing to American, Holy Cross still managed to clinch the regular season crown. That means HC will have the homecourt advantage all the way through the league tournament.

The Crusaders will close out the regular season portion of their slate Saturday when they visit Army. (BOX SCORE)

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Wednesday night previews

(Originally posted: Tuesday, 6:54 p.m.)

Patriot League scoreboards
ESPN | CBS Sportsline | | Yahoo!

Bucknell at Holy Cross, 7 p.m.: It is hard to remember a game this big meaning this little. With Holy Cross' magic number at 1 to clinch the regular season title and homecourt throughout the tournament, and Army coming to Worcester Saturday, there is little chance this game will have any impact on the regular season standings.

A Bucknell win would give them a season sweep over the Crusaders, and would also likely hurt Holy Cross' chances of gaining an at large bid to the NCAA Tournament if it does not win the Patriot League title. A lopsided win might give the Bison a psychological edge in the tournament, but that is about it.

A Holy Cross win would do even less. Yes it would give the Crusaders revenge against the last team to beat them. But that is about it.

Back when these two met for the first time this season, we did an extensive breakdown of the matchup. Rather than rehash that analysis here, we'll just give you the link. Not much has changed. We still expect nothing to be settled between these two until March 11.
Bucknell notes | HC notes | USA Today matchup | Bucknell radio | HC radio

Lafayette at Navy, 7 p.m.: This game will determine who finishes seventh and faces Bucknell on the Bison's homecourt in the first round and who gets sixth place and a neutral court meeting in Lewisburg with the No. 3 seed (either Lehigh, American or Colgate). Both teams are playing better down the stretch. Both come in sky-high after upset wins Saturday.

Lafayette won the first meeting, 90-80 in Easton. Don't expect that kind of a score this time, though. Since Billy Lange put in that matchup zone the Mids unveiled at midseason, they have not allowed more than the 75 points Lehigh scored Saturday. The Mids were 4-14 overall, 0-5 in the league at the time. Since then they have gone 4-3, including 3-1 at home.
Lafayette notes | Navy Notes | USA Today matchup | Navy Radio | Livestats

American at Lehigh, 7 p.m.:Two teams that were expected to be contenders find themselves badly in need of a couple wins in the last two games of the regular season to generate some momentum heading into the tournament.

Lehigh, losers of two straight, holds a 1 game lead on AU and Colgate for the third seed in the tournament. A win here would mean the Mountain Hawks could clinch that spot with a win Saturday at Lafayette or a Colgate loss at Army Wed. or at Bucknell on Sat.

An AU win would bring into play more tiebreaker scenarios than we care to deal with unless it becomes necessary prior to Saturday's final games.

Lehigh won the first meeting of the two, 56-53 at Bender, and has a 32-7 record at home under Billy Taylor. AU has not won at Stabler since their first season in the league and has lost three straight there, including last season's league final. But four of those seven Lehigh home losses under Taylor came this season, two of them in the Hawks' last three home games.
American notes | Lehigh notes | USA Today matchup

Colgate at Army, 7 p.m.: Tied with American for fourth, Colgate could still finish as high as third in the league. Not if they lose at West Point, though. With three of the league's top 10 scorers, and a foe who has won just one game against a Division I opponent all season, that should not happen.

But it could. Colgate is not very big. Only 6-8 Andrew Zidar is a scoring threat in the post and none of Colgate's big men are intimidating shot blockers on defense. That allows the height-challenged Cadets to match up better with the Raiders than they do with most teams in the league.

Also keep in mind two other factors: Army only lost to Colgate by four earlier this season in Hamilton and the Cadets were a tough out in two of their last three at home, losing to Lehigh by just 5 and Lafayette by 3 before being handled Saturday by Bucknell.
Army notes | Colgate notes | USA Today matchup | Gametracker | 'Gate radio

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We love this site

No doubt about it, Ralph Willard's Coach is a must click for any Patriot League fan. In his latest post, Ralph recaps the Colgate game and previws tonight's meeting with Bucknell. Part of his scouting report on the Bison:
They are a very quick, athletic team that defends very well (their guards are quick and strong) and they change defenses very well. McNaughton is by far the best offensive center in the league and you can't play him 1 on 1 as the big east teams they have played have found out.

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Props for Hamilton

Credit "Prediction" over on the PL Hoops board with an assist on this one:

Gregg Doyel, of CBS Sportsline, includes Holy Cross' Kevin Hamilton in his Ten For Tuesday coilumn. Not only that, but he sneaks in a Neil Fingleton reference:
Kevin Hamilton Jr.: The 6-4 junior does it all for Holy Cross, ranking among the team's top two in scoring (15.5 ppg), rebounds (5.8), assists (3.2) and steals (3.1). He also boasts the best genes, considering his father and namesake was an Iona star who was drafted by the Boston Celtics in 1980. Don't bother scouring the Holy Cross roster for Neil Fingleton. The 7-6 Englishman graduated last spring and gave up his final year of eligibility to turn pro, last seen bouncing around various U.S. minor leagues.

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More talk about at-large bids

Will the revamped RPI help more mid-majors get into the NCAA Tournament? TheWashington Post seems to think so:
Schools such as Saint Mary's (Calif.) College, Boston University, Holy Cross, Old Dominion and Wichita State, which have often been relegated to the second-tier National Invitation Tournament, could be taking at-large bids from traditional power conference teams.
As an aside, in recent years, the NIT has belonged to the also-rans from the major conferences. Boston U. and Wichita State did both get NIT bids the past two seasons. But Holy Cross has not been invited since 1990, the year before it joined the Patriot League. Old Dominion has been there once in the last 10 years and Saint Mary's has never been invited.

But back to the bids debate. David Jones of the Patriot-News also talks about the impact of the altered RPI formula in his weekly hoops column:
Mid-majors have been climbing the RPI recently anyway but this change has really lifted them into at-large territory -- the top 65 or so. Never before have so many mid-majors invaded this realm this late in the season. Eleven mid-majors -- Gonzaga (10), Southern Illinois (13), Vermont (14), Miami-Ohio (23), Pacific (24), Nevada (28), Old Dominion (31), St. Mary's (36), Holy Cross (38), Buffalo (41) and Louisiana-Lafayette (43) -- are all at an altitude that would've made them odds-on to make the tournament in years past. The committee is chaired this year by Iowa's Bob Bowlsby but includes five commissioners or ADs from mid- or low-major conferences. Among them is WAC commish Karl Benson, brainchild of ESPN's Bracketbuster games and a known champion of the little schools that can.
Unfortunately, not all of Jones' weekly College Central spread in the paper makes it to the Web site. So Web readers miss out on his interesting take on Bucknell as an at-larget team:
Six years ago New Mexico, coached by that paragon of virtue Dave Bliss, carried a 74 RPI and an unimpressive 60-45 loss to Utah in the Mountain West final into Selection Sunday. The Lobos looked off the board. They had two wins over top 50s-- Arizona (13) and DePaul (46)-- but no road wins against anyone in the top 130. And they were eight notches below the worst RPI ever awarded an at-large to that point-- Minnesota, which got in with a 66 in 1995.

Bucknell currently stands at 78, just four notches below where New Mexico was in '99. The Bison have road wins over two top-100s-- Pitt (35) and Saint Joe;s (96) and two wins against top-40s-- Pitt and Holy Cross (38). To show the committee those weren't flukes, they also have 7-point losses at Iowa State (50) and Penn (74).

Unfortunately, ugly losses hurt just as much as great wins. And the Bison are lugging losses at Navy (303) and Lehigh (238) and at home to St. Francis, Pa. (178). Those will kill any hope.

That and the fact that Bucknell AD John Hardt is not on the selection committee. In 1999, New Mexico AD Rudy Davalos was.

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Recruitnik alert (Bucknell version

From the Lynchburg News-Advance comes this note on Bucknell recruit Josh Linthicum:
Virginia Episcopal School boys basketball center Josh Linthicum, who has committed to play at Bucknell University next year, was selected to the 10-player All-Prep League team. The 6-foot-10 senior from New Mexico averaged 15.8 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.8 blocked shots per game this season for the Bishops (16-8). VES lost to Blue Ridge School in Friday's Prep League Tournament opener but still will likely advance to the Virginia Independent Schools state tournament.

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In defense of the Lehigh Valley

OK ... this has next to nothing to do with hoops. It is actually from a column about pro rodeo in the Greensboro (N.C.) News-Record:
But once a year, generally while the Holy Cross basketball team is playing somebody like the Lehigh Mountain Hawks of former UNCG assistant Billy Taylor in rural Pennsylvania, The Centrum is vacant and the one-ringed bovine circus takes over.
Now we don't like to nit-pick. But A) HC does not play its home games in the Centrum and B) Lehigh is hardly a rural school. In fact, the biggest newspaper covering the Mountain Hawks, the Allentown Morning Call, sells almost 50,000 more papers than the Greensboro News-Record.

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From the home office . . .

in the little town of Bethlehem.

Here's some news and notes from this week's official Patriot League release, with our commentary, as usual, in italics.

MISS A KEY SHOT, PICK UP AN HONOR: For the second time this season, the poohbahs at the Patriot League office have shown their complete and utter lack of knowledge of anything other than scoring numbers in selecting American's Andre Ingram as Player of the Week.

Here's what the official release had to say about the choice

American -- So., G
Ingram picks up his second Player of the Week award in the last three weeks, despite American’s 93-89 overtime loss at Lafayette in the Eagles’ only action of the week. The sophomore guard from Richmond, Va., picked up NABC Second Team All-District 4 honors last week, and is leading the Patriot League in scoring at 16.3 points per game. He bolstered that average with a 37-point effort against the Leopards that included 14-of-23 field goal shooting, 6-of-14 3-point shooting and 3-of-5 free throw shooting. The Preseason Player of the Year and reigning Rookie of the Year in the PL added two rebounds, one assist and four steals. His six 3’s tied a season-high and four steals tied a career-high. He has now gone over 30 points three times in his career, and has led AU in scoring 27 times.

Here's what they failed to mention: With 18 seconds left in overtime, his team trailing by two, Ingram stepped to the free throw line and missed two shots that could have tied it. This was not unlike the time two weeks earlier when he stepped to the line at the end of regulation with a chance to beat Holy Cross and missed a free throw, then was awarded Player of the Week honors as a consolation prize.

We know this will bring a bunch of "You hate AU, you hate Ingram" messages from the blue shirts, but we think the honor should have gone to Lafayette's Jamaal Hilliard, who had 23 points on 6-for-7 from the field and 11-of-11 from the free throw line, including the two free throws that sealed the win for Lafayette after Ingram's misses.

Ingram is a fine player, but clutch performances in wins ought to outweigh big numbers in losses.

Navy -- Fr., G
Johnson’s second Rookie of the Week award of the season means that in 14 weeks of Patriot League men’s basketball in 2004-05, an amazing 26 of the 28 weekly awards handed out have gone to guards, including all 14 rookie awards. Johnson gets the nod after scoring 13 points, grabbing three rebounds and dishing out three assists in Navy’s 76-75 upset of defending League champion Lehigh, which represented the first road PL win in the first year of head coach Billy Lange’s tenure. Johnson played 31 minutes and connected on back-to-back 3-pointers with three minutes to go to give Navy a commanding 10-point lead that the Mids were able to hold on to. The freshman guard from Anderson, Ind., is now ninth on Navy’s alltime freshmen scoring list with 247 points, three behind Rob Romaine for eighth place.

A big performance in a big win, 'nuf said.

Other tidbits from the weekly release:

  • The Patriot League’s national television package on College Sports TV resumes this week with the Lehigh-Lafayette rivalry on Saturday, Feb. 26 at 1 p.m., at Kirby Sports Center in Easton, Pa.

    Wouldn't you love to be able to compare the ratings to see how many more people watch on local cable that "national (lmao) television."

  • The 93 points (scored by Lafayette) were the most ever given up by one of head
    coach Jeff Jones’ AU teams.

    Of those 93, 55 were scored by the three Lafayette guards -- starters Jamaal Hilliard (23) and Marcus Harley (22) and freshman reserve Bilal Abdullah (10). That means either A) POTW Ingram only played one end of the floor or B) Jones didn't have enough faith in his defensive prowess to put him on somebody who was more of an offensive threat than the Betley cousins, who average 6 points per game combined.

  • BU has now won nine straight against Army, and reached the 18-win mark for the first time since 1996-97.

    Other streaks against Army: AU has won seven in a row and has not lost to the Cadets since joining the league. Holy Cross has also won seven in a row with a likelihood of making it nine straight before the season ends. Lehigh's streak against Army is also now at seven. Lafayette has won six straight against Army. Colgate (now at 2 straight wins) and Navy (1 in a row) are the only teams to lose to Army in league play in Jim Crews' almost three seasons as coach of the Cadets.

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  • Hoop Time Notebook

    (Updated: 3:43 p.m.)
    A few tidbits from the latest Official League stats:

  • Holy Cross' 12-game win streak is, of course, the longest current win streak in the league. The second longest? Lafayette with 2 in a row.
  • Holy Cross is the second-best field goal shooting team in the league (45.4 percent), yet the league's worst team at the free throw line (64.5 percent)
  • The two top scoring teams in the league -- No. 1 Navy and No. 2 Lafayette-- meet Wednesday with sixth place on the line.
  • If you look at the scoring margin rankings, you'll notice they align almost the same as the league standings, with the exception of American and Lehigh, which are flipped on the scoring margin list.
  • Holy Cross sixth-man Keith Simmons is the only backcourt player in the top five in field goal percentage, ranked No.3 at 52.2 percent. Bucknell center Chris McNaughton (58.4 percent) is the league's top shooter.
  • Navy ranks seventh in field goal percentage, shooting 39.2 percent as a team. So it is probably no surprise that the Mids have four of the top seven offensive rebounders in the league, including league leader Matt Fannin (2.96 per game).
  • What is a bit of a surprise is that the worst shooting team in the league, Lehigh (38.4 percent), has only one player, Earl Nurse (sixth with 2.08 per game), in the top 15 in offensive boards.
  • Only one of the league's top 10 rebounders (Colgate's Andrew Zidar, 6-8) is taller than 6-7 and four of the top 10 are under 6-4.
  • Colgate has three of the top seven three-point shooters in the league, including No. 1 ranked Kyle Roemer (45.2 percent). American has three in the top 11. Bucknell has just one in the top 12 (No. 4 Charles Lee, 42.7 percent), but is second in the league as a team, with just two fewer made treys (173-171) than Colgate. Both teams have 455 attempts.

    POLL WATCHING: Holy Cross is up to No. 18 in this week'sMid-Major Top 25. Bucknell is in the "others receiving" with 6 points.

    BRACKETEERING: The latest posting at Bracketology 101 has Holy Cross in as a 12 seed.

    Joe Lunardi at - Bracketology is projecting a 13 seed for Holy Cross, with a meeting in Tuscon with a four-seed Gonzaga team. Lunardi also includes Wednesday's Bucknell at Holy Cross game as one of his games of the week, calling it: "The Patriot's best hosts the league's best challenger."

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  • A tale of two ballclubs

    Since they did away with the men's-women's doubleheaders in the Patriot League this year, Andre Williams of the Morning Call didn't get a chance to pull off a double-double Saturday. But he did get to see both the teams he covers--Lehigh and Lafayette-- thanks to Lehigh's 7 p.m. start time against American.

    Seeing both teams in action on the same day gave Andre a chance to compare and contrast them in his weekly hoops column. After watching both play within a span of hours, Andre wonders if Lafayette is a team on the rise, and if the leopards might end up surpassing a Lehigh team, whose stock is falling, at the end of the season.

    We won't recap the whole column. That's why we provided the link. But we did find interesting a pair of quotes by the two coaches that would seem to indicate they feel the same way about their own teams as Andre does.

    The first comes from Lafayette's Fran O'Hanlon:
    "We just want to finish up strong, take them one at a time and just keep getting better. I think we've been doing that. It doesn't matter where you finish at this point. You are going to start over.''
    O'Hanlon sounds like a confident coach whose team has nothing to lose. A team with the same attitude can be dangerous in the postseason.

    Then there is Lehigh's Billy Taylor. His defending champions had high expectations with everybody back but Austen Rowlend and much-ballyhooed High Point transfer Joe Knight expected to step right into Rowlend's high-tops. But after losing two in a row, he sounds like a guy searching for answers to questions that should have been resolved long before the season's final week:
    ''If we want to be a good team, time is running out as I continue to say. 'We have to do the little things and we have to play with a sense of urgency.''
    If both teams win Wednesday, they will meet twice in the following week. First in the regular season finale in Easton, and then in the first round of the league tournament at Bucknell.

    Sounds to us like Andre maybe got that old "May you live in interesting times" fortune cookie with his last egg roll.

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    All over but the shouting

    (Last updated: 10:08 a.m.)

    Holy Cross 59, Colgate 46: (Full story below) Holy Cross reduces its magic number to one with two home games remaining by shutting down Colgate's gunslingers in Hamilton. The Crusaders 12-game win streak gives Holy Cross its third 20-win season in Ralph Willard's six seasons as coach and equals HC's longest win streak under Willard, set by the 26-5 2002-03 team.
    Box score | AP wrap | Colgate recap | Colgate recap

    Bucknell 69, Army 55: Check the box score. Notice the odd starting lineup for Bucknell. With Abe Badmus and Chris McNaughton under the weather, Chris Niesz and John Griffin got starting nods for the Bison, who took care of business at West Point. The win, coupled with Lehigh's loss to Navy, assures the Bison of no worse than second place in the regular season. Bucknell's chances of finishing first, though, are slim. The Bison would need to win at Holy Cross Wednesday, then beat Colgate at home while Holy Cross loses at home to Army next Saturday.
    Box score | AP wrap | Army recap | Bucknell recap

    Lafayette 93, American 89 (OT): Once again, we told you so. Lafayette pulls the upset we predicted. OK, it didn't actually impact who got homecourt in the tournament. But it is still a shocker. It is fast-fading AU's fourth-straight loss and their second overtime loss in that span. Can you say tired legs? Once again, we told you so.

    Andre Ingram, who missed a free throw that could have won the Holy Cross game in regulation, missed two free throws with 18 seconds to go in overtime Note the correction, we originally said the free throws were in regulation to win, not OT to tie) with Lafayette up by two, rendering his 37-point performance pretty much meaningless. Jamaal Hilliard then sealed it for Lafayette with a pair of free throws with 6.8 seconds left.

    Interesting stuff from Andre Williams' story in the Morning Call:
    The Leopards were out-rebounded 41-23, but overcame that great disparity by converting 19 of 20 second-half free throws and 30 of 37 overall (81.1 percent).

    . . . the Leopards avenged the loss to American by staying cool under pressure, especially at the foul line, where they converted 11 of 11 over the final 3:24 of regulation.

    That enabled Lafayette to erase a 76-67 deficit and pull even at 76 on two free throws by Jamaal Douglas (11 points, four rebounds, two blocks) with 1:54 left. The game was again tied at 78 and two more Hilliard foul shots put the Leopards ahead, 80-78, with 8.0 seconds left in regulation.

    . . . On offense, Lafayette's aggressiveness fouled out all but one Eagles starter -- Ingram.
    At first we wondered how Lafayette could have such a big edge in free throws, even playing at home. Then we looked at the box score. AU fired up 26 three-point tries, Lafayette 17.

    By this point of the season, regular visitors to this site know what we say about jump shooters not getting to the foul line.
    Box score | AP wrap | AU recap | Lafayette recap | Express-Times story

    Navy 76, Lehigh 75: Lehigh's second-half rally fell short in Stabler, allowing Bucknell to clinch homecourt for the first two rounds of the tournament. Navy remains even with Lafayette for sixth place, with the Leopards set to visit Annapolis Wednesday. A Lafayette win would give the Leopards sixth regardless of what happens the final Saturday of the season, because Lafayette beat Navy the first time they met. Should Navy win and the two finish tied, the Mids would have the tiebreaker edge by virtue of their win over Bucknell.

    As Corky Blake points out in his Express-Times game story:
    Right now the difference between sixth and seventh place is potentially huge. The sixth- and seventh-seeded teams will both go to the home court of the No. 2 seed, which currently is Bucknell. The No. 6 team would play Lehigh while the No. 7 team would get Bucknell on its home floor in the first round.
    Taking full advantage of the evening start time of this game was Andre Williams of the Morning Call, who filed this story from the nightcap of his Lafayette-Lehigh doubleheader.
    Box score | AP wrap | Navy recap | Lehigh recap

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    Holy Cross 59, Colgate 46

    (Originally posted: Saturday, 6:11 p.m.)

    Special to The Telegram&Gazette

    HAMILTON, N.Y. – There have been times this season when Holy Cross has been an offensive juggernaut. During one recent stretch the Crusaders shot over 50 percent in six straight games and since losing in the conference opener at Bucknell, Holy Cross has made more than half its shots in 8 of the past 12 games.

    Saturday afternoon at Colgate, though, it was the Crusaders’ trademark defense that made the difference in a 59-46 win that all but clinched a homecourt advantage throughout the Patriot League Tournament for Holy Cross (20-5, 11-1 Patriot League).

    It was anything but pretty offensively. Holy Cross made five of its first nine attempts from the field, jumping to an early 13-5 lead, then made only 12 of the next 43 shots it put up, finishing the game 17-for-54 (31.5 percent).

    That is not the kind of shooting that normally gets a win on the road, but the way the Crusaders played defense, it was more than enough.

    “By holding them to 46 points, we didn’t have to score too much,” said HC senior Nate Lufkin. “You’re going to win a lot of those games when you hold your opponent under 50 points.”

    Indeed, this was the third time this season Holy Cross has accomplished that feat. Predictably the Crusaders are 3-0 in those games.

    This one had the look of a blowout early. Although Colgate (11-14, 6-6) jumped to a quick 5-0 lead on a pair of buckets by Alvin Reed, then went scoreless the next 5:35 while the Crusaders went on a 13-0 run. Holy Cross went on to build its lead to 23-9 and seemed to be on the way to blowout when Colgate’s shots began to fall.

    After missing 19 of its first 26 tries, including a number of layups and easy put-backs under the basket, Colgate his 5-of-7 in the last 6:25 of the half. During that same stretch, Holy Cross started cooling off, making just 2-of-12.

    The predictable result was a 17-5 Colgate spurt that drew the Raiders to within 2, 28-26, at the intermission.

    Colgate scored first in the second half, tying the game on a pair of Andrew Zidar free throws. But Holy Cross quickly regained the lead on a Greg Kinsey runner from the right side that made it 30-28.

    From there the Holy Cross defense took over. Colgate didn’t score its first field goal of the second half until the 12:51 mark. The Raiders managed only 4 more buckets the rest of the game. Colgate’s 19 percent shooting in the second half was even colder than the noses on the season-high 1,200 fans who wandered in off the Hamilton tundra for the contest.

    Colgate, which averages seven three-pointers a game and shoots nearly 40 percent as a team from the arc, had only 5 against Holy Cross (on 16 tries, 31.3 percent). Freshman Kyle Roemer, the league’s top three-point shooter was 0-for-3 from the arc, finishing with just a single point, well below his 10 per game average. Jon Simon, who averaged 13 points per game coming in and ranked fifth in the league in three-point shooting, did shoot 50 percent from the arc. But with Holy Cross defenders in his face every time he got the ball, he only tried a pair of treys. Simon finished with just 6 points.

    “We really wanted to contest Roemer and Simon,” said Lufkin. “We did not want them to get any open looks.”

    Only Alvin Reed, who scored 10 of his game high 16 in the first half, and Andrew Zidar, who finished with 15 points thanks to a 6-for-6 day at the foul line, reached double figures for Colgate, which had not been held below 60 points in 24 previous games.

    “We shot 31 percent and won by 13 points. That says something about how good we defended,” said Holy Cross coach Ralph Willard. “You couldn’t ask for a better defensive effort.”

    It also helped that the Crusaders managed to get to the foul line 30 times, making 20. That gave them an 11-point edge on Colgate, which was 9-for-13 at the stripe. Obviously that is a significant edge in a 13-point game.

    “Free throws were huge,” said Lufkin, who was 4-for-5 from the line, finishing with 10 points. “We missed some, but we made them when we needed them.”

    Kevin Hamilton also took advantage of his time at the stripe, going 4-for-4 en route to a 14-point night, sharing the team scoring honors with Greg Kinsey. Torey Thomas added 9 points, including 6-for-8 free throw shooting.

    Last year Holy Cross lost nine times by 9 or less points. As Willard has pointed out on more than one occasion, the fact that they shot just 59 percent from the line as a team had a lot to do with losing those close games.

    This season the Crusaders are shooting close to 65 percent from the line. That helps explain why they finished the road portion of their schedule with an 11-3 record away from Worcester, including a 6-1 road mark in the Patriot League.

    That also helps explain why the Crusaders are now in position to clinch the regular season title with a win in one of their last two games, both of which will be in the Hart Center. Do that and they also have the potential to play all three rounds of the league tournament at home, where no Patriot League team has beaten them since Jan. 25 of last year.

    The Crusaders will try to clinch the title and avenge their only conference loss when they host Bucknell Wednesday in the Hart Center.

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    Friday, February 25, 2005
    One (or two) more Saturday night

    Grab your slide rule

    Getting uppity

    Dare to dream big Carolyn

    AU sports under the knife

    The search continues
    Thursday, February 24, 2005
    HC clinches 1st, Navy claims 6th

    Bucknell 72, Holy Cross 71 (women)
    Wednesday, February 23, 2005
    Wednesday night previews

    We love this site
    Tuesday, February 22, 2005
    Props for Hamilton

    More talk about at-large bids

    Recruitnik alert (Bucknell version

    In defense of the Lehigh Valley
    Monday, February 21, 2005
    From the home office . . .

    Hoop Time Notebook

    A tale of two ballclubs
    Sunday, February 20, 2005
    All over but the shouting

    Holy Cross 59, Colgate 46

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