Patriot League column: Playoff position intrigue; seeding scenarios; and more news and notes

BOSTON UNIVERSITY. Player is NIA IRVING. Photo credit: Kevin Murray
BOSTON UNIVERSITY. Player is NIA IRVING. Photo credit: Kevin Murray /

Playoff positioning still up in the air with one game left this week

The test of the regular season is nearly complete. Pencils down. It’s time to show your work.

For some, there’s still some work left to do. The Patriot League’s final weekend of league play finished with as many questions as answers with key seeding still to be determined. The regular season wraps on Wednesday in a closing slate of games that will establish playoff and home court positioning from second through fifth place.

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Bucknell handed their homework in early, clinching the top overall seed with a 76-65 road win over Colgate on Wednesday. But it was their weekend result—a 55-53 victory over Boston University–that forced a three-way tie for second among a group of surprise contenders and created some intrigue headed into the finale. Boston, Lafayette, and Colgate will battle it out for the coveted two-seed on the season’s last day.

Holy Cross has secured at least the fifth seed with a chance to move to fourth—and host a quarterfinal—if things break their way. They posted wins over Army and American last week and look to finish with the momentum that has eluded them all season. Senior Lauren Manis is on a mission, averaging 23.4 points per game over her last five games and closing in on 2,000 career points.

The Crusaders face Loyola (MD) in their regular season finale. A win, combined with a Lafayette loss and additional help–and the Worcester faithful would be treated with a home playoff game.

Those Leopards face the toughest test as they host Bucknell at home. There’s a lot at stake for Lafayette on what will be their team’s senior day—a chance for a second-place finish and a program-record for league wins. The emotional impact of those dynamics may be a determining factor against a Bison team that rarely surrenders an early lead.

Lafayette has the biggest potential rollercoaster ride of the three teams tied for second place—they’re aiming for second with a win, but could potentially fall to fifth place with a loss. Head Coach Kia Damon-Olson’s team would need a win, combined with losses from both Boston and Colgate, to claim second place. And if Holy Cross wins, the Leopards likely need to win to earn a home game for the quarterfinals and avoid fifth place.

How will the Bison approach their game against the Leopards with nothing on the line for them except momentum? Will Bucknell look to play their bench more minutes in a game that won’t impact their standing? Does Head Coach Trevor Woodruff sit forward Tessa Brugler–who has been struggling with the flu—for a second consecutive game? Bucknell won their first match-up, 50-36, on January 5th at home.

Colgate hosts Lehigh who is already locked in at the sixth seed. The Raiders will need a win and some help to claim the second seed. A Colgate win, combined with Lafayette and Boston losses, will secure the two-seed. Lehigh has just five wins against teams with a winning record and fell to the Raiders (19-9) 82-73, at home on February 19th.

Boston University has the clearest path to the second seed: win at home versus Army. The Terriers edged the Black Knights, 72-66, back on January 12th. Senior guard Katie Nelson scored 19 points while freshman Maggie Pina added 18 in the win.

Bucknell claims the top overall seed for playoffs

The road to the championship will go through Lewisburg, again

The Bison’s road win over Colgate this week earned them the top seed and home court advantage throughout the Patriot League tournament. Bucknell has claimed the regular-season title four out of the last five years. How dominant have they been in Sojka Pavilion this season?

They lost one game at home this year—a 72-61 setback against Temple back on November 20th. The Bison even led at the half in that game before the hot-shooting Owls pulled away in the fourth quarter.

In conference play, Bucknell is dominating opponents and winning games at home by 17.5 points per game. Only one team has been able to stay within single-digits at Sojka—Boston University in a 55-53 loss last weekend. That should be encouraging for playoff contenders, but starting forward Tessa Brugler sat out that game.

Current Standings

Bucknell (22-6, 15-2)

Boston University (16-12, 11-6)

Colgate (19-9, 11-6)

Lafayette (15-12, 11-6)

Holy Cross (17-11, 10-7)

Lehigh (17-11, 9-8)

American (11-16, 7-10)

Loyola (MD) (8-20, 5-12)

Army (8-20, 4-13)

Navy (7-21, 2-15)

Seeding and scenarios

We’ve synthesized the scenarios to help unlock the mysteries of the league’s last regular season evening of action. Here’s how the seeding looks and the potential outcomes of the teams in the two through five positions:

#1 Bucknell: clinched the top seed and home court throughout the playoffs.

#2 (tie) Boston University: clinches the second seed with a win this week against Army. BU can only be a two or three seed.

#2 (tie) Colgate: clinches second seed with a win and losses by both Boston University and Lafayette. Clinches the third seed with a win over Lehigh and a loss by Lafayette to Bucknell. A loss could potentially drop them to fourth if Holy Cross wins and BU loses.

#2 (tie) Lafayette: clinches the third seed with a win over Bucknell and would reach second if both Colgate and Boston lose. They will drop to either fourth or fifth with a loss.

#5 Holy Cross: can be no lower than the fifth seed but can earn the fourth seed with a win over Loyola (MD), a Lafayette loss to Bucknell, and at least one win between Colgate and BU. If the three teams tied for second all lose, Holy Cross will be the five seed.

#6 Lehigh: has secured the sixth seed.

#7 American: has secured the seventh seed and will host #10 Navy in first round on March 7th.

#8 Loyola (MD): has secured the eighth seed and will host Army in the first round on March 7th.

#9 Army: has secured the ninth seed and plays at Loyola (MD) in first round on March 7th.

#10 Navy: is the 10th seed and plays at American in the first round on March 7th.

Game of the Week:

Army at Boston University @6:00p.m. March 4th

Head Coach Marisa Moseley has her team in position to clinch the second seed and home court through the semi-finals with a win. The Terriers have been rolling at home—they are 7-1 in conference play at “The Roof” and have won nine of their last 10.

Army comes to Boston with an 8-20 record and locked in at the ninth seed for the first round of playoffs this Saturday. But they bring momentum too. The Black Knights have won three out of their last four games and recently topped Colgate 81-67, fueled by a school-record tying 14 made three-pointers.

Army brings in an improving offense that is third in league play for points per game at 62.8. They’ll have to contend with a BU defense that has improved significantly since their first meeting. The Terriers are allowing just 52.8 points per game in conference play—good for second in the league.

Army has fared better against teams playing zone this season than versus man-to-man defense—and they’ll likely see BU’s zone most of the game. What will that mean for shooters Natalie Stralkus and Sarah Bohn? They shot a combined 13-for-20 from three-point range against Colgate’s match-up zone so they’ll be ready for BU. The Black Knights have shot 36.2% from the arc in Patriot League action, second in the league behind Bucknell. BU will need to defend the three-line and score more than their 54.8 league average to keep a winning pace.

The good news for the Terriers’ offense? No one has given up more points in league play than Army at 68.8 points per game. Expect big games from Maggie Pina and Katie Nelson. While BU has a lot at stake, Army has nothing to lose—and that dynamic can cut a lot of ways. Keep your eye on the three-point line numbers for this one—that statistic is going to tell the story.

The last meeting: January 12th, 2020. BU edged Army, 72-66 at West Point. The road win was a break-out performance for freshman Pina, who scored 18 points and shot 5-for-9 from the arc. Boston shot 52.1% (25-for-48) from the floor and added nine three-pointers. Army was led by freshman forward Kamryn Hall who scored 16 points.

Tune in to Patriot League action this week:

March 4th

Army at Boston University @6:00p.m.

Navy at American @7:00p.m.

Lehigh at Colgate @7:00p.m.

Bucknell at Lafayette @7:00p.m.

Loyola (MD) at Holy Cross @7:00p.m.

March 7th First-round playoffs

#10 Navy at #7 American @ 2:00p.m.

#9 Army at #8 Loyola (MD) @5:00p.m.

Note: The quarterfinal-round games will be on Monday, March 9th hosted by the top four seeds.

League news and notes:

  • Lehigh senior guard Paige Galiani made the most of her first career start on her senior day to score a career-high 18 points on six three-pointers in a 82-64 win over Loyola (MD).
  • Forward Lauren Manis has reached double-figures in scoring 102 times for the Holy Cross Crusaders. The senior has scored 1,976 points in her career to date.
    Lafayette’s 11 wins are the most for the Leopards in the Patriot League since the 1991-1992 season.
  • Head Coach Sue Troyan earned her 399th career win for Lehigh in their win over Loyola (MD). Troyan will aim for her 400th victory—and 200th Patriot League win—in Wednesday’s regular season finale against Colgate.
  • Army posted a school-record tying 14 three-pointers in their 81-67 win over Colgate. Sophomore guards Sarah Bohn (6-for-10) and Natalie Stralkus (7-10) led the three-point barrage and each tallied a career-high in points.
  • Jade Edwards posted 22 points for American in a 55-48 setback versus Lafayette. The sophomore guard has reached the 20-point scoring mark nine times this season. She leads the Eagles in scoring with 14.8 points per game.
  • Ellie Mack put up her third double-double of the season in Bucknell’s 55-53 win over Boston University. Her 17-point, 10-rebound effort helped to cap an undefeated home record in league play this season. Mack leads the Bison in scoring at 15.4 ppg and rebounding with 7.3 rpg.
  • Lehigh’s Megan Walker averaged 14.5 ppg last week while shooting 11-for-15 from the floor, including 7-for-10 from three-point distance.
  • Natalie Kucowski of Lafayette grabbed 12 rebounds in a key 62-59 overtime win over Navy. The junior forward now has 1,000 career rebounds and is the first Lafayette player to record 1,000 career rebounds and 1,000 career points.

Patriot League Player of the Week:

Lauren Manis, Holy Cross, Senior Forward

  • Manis became the Patriot League’s all-time leading rebounder with a 15-rebound performance in a 64-61 win over Army. She now has 1,161 career rebounds.
  • Shot 5-for-8 from three-point range for the week and leads the conference in three-point shooting percentage, converting 40-for-89 for 44.9% on the season.
  • Led Holy Cross to a key 2-0 week, averaging 20.5 ppg and 12.0 rpg.
  • Manis is closing in on 2,000 career points. She has scored 1,976 points.

Patriot League Rookie of the Week:

Kamryn Hall, Army, Freshman Forward

  • Tallied 12 points for her seventh double-digit scoring effort in a 81-67 win over Colgate.
  • Hall leads Army in assists per game with 2.6 per contest.
  • Hall has started 20 games this season and logged 28.6 minutes per game.
  • Averaged 10.0 ppg and 7.5 rpg in a 1-1 week.

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