(Compare to the Patriot preseason preview here)
Notable Storylines from the season:
1. Bucknell’s Dominance – The Bison had the league's best offense AND defense by 4+ points per possession on an adjusted basis as they romped to a title with a three-game cushion. Both Nana Foulland and Zach Thomas were high-usage guys last season, but they somehow managed to hit the trifecta of raising their usage rates, efficiency, and minutes this year, becoming a two-headed monster that most Patriot teams just couldn't match up with.
2. Military Schools were solid – Army and Navy are damn near impossible to preview, especially because both schools lost so much personnel-wise from last season (and Army lost their coach). Being military academies, their rosters have 25+ players on them, and picking out which ones would take over this season was like throwing darts (I'm not great at darts). Props to both for their performance this year and for their service to the US of A!
3. Not Quite for Lehigh – Despite Tim Kempton again being a dominant double-double machine, the Mountain Hawks couldn't challenge Bucknell for the league title. Now they find themselves on the bottom of the bracket with Boston U, who beat them by 14+ in both meetings. Lehigh relies heavily on their top 4 players, so if one or even two of them has a poor game, they struggle.
Games are hosted by the higher seed, with two days off in between each round after the quarterfinals.
Best Team(s) and Projected NCAA Tournament Seed(s): As mentioned, Bucknell is the best team in the league on both ends of the floor. They have a strong frontcourt with actual size, as well as a floor general point guard who does a tremendous job of setting up teammates in position to score. They also get the added bonus of avoiding Lehigh (who swept them) until the final, if they even make it at all. Best guess on seed for Bucknell is 14, where their size, depth, balance, and shooting could give them a chance in the right matchup.
Dark Horse(s): Having given Bucknell 2 of their 3 conference losses, Lehigh has to be considered here. Kempton vs. Foulland is always a great battle, and the Mountain Hawks' perimeter attack has actually had success against the Bison's otherwise-stout three-point D. Boston U is also in the running, but they match up horribly with Bucknell (lost by 20 at home, and it wasn't that close). One also has to consider Holy Cross after what they did in the league tourney last year; their unconventional 1-3-1 zone defense under Bill Carmody makes them a tough matchup with short prep (and their opening opponent, Navy, is sputtering).
(9) American defeats (8) Army
(7) Loyola (MD) defeats (10) Lafayette
(1) Bucknell defeats (9) American
(5) Holy Cross defeats (4) Navy
(3) Lehigh defeats (6) Colgate
(2) Boston U defeats (7) Loyola (MD)
(1) Bucknell defeats (5) Holy Cross
(3) Lehigh defeats (2) Boston U
(1) Bucknell defeats (3) Lehigh
The Bison complete their Patriot domination by cutting down the nets on their home floor. They give a 3-seed a good run for a half in the first round, but foul trouble for Foulland and slightly inferior athleticism takes its toll as they can't quite hang around in the second half.