Tournament Breakdown 2013: Patriot League
March 6, 9, 13 Campus sites | Bracket
The expected storyline was Bucknell vs. Lehigh and Mike Muscala vs. C.J. McCollum for one final throwdown. When McCollum broke his foot midseason, though, the script changed and Lehigh's longstanding rival Lafayette actually has grabbed the 2-seed and homecourt advantage through the semifinal round, at least. With a feisty Army team sitting in the 4-seed, the semifinals and finals could provide a lot of entertainment, even if McCollum is not able to return to the court in time.
Key Matchup: No. 3 Lehigh at No. 2 Lafayette (possible semifinal)
The nation's longest football rivalry extends pretty healthily onto the hardwood as well. The Leopards swept the season series, including a shocking 21-point pasting of the Mountain Hawks in Bethlehem. It's been a long, hard slog for the Leopards in the league since scholarships were phased in more than a decade ago and Lafayette was the last school to implement them. They lost in the final to Lehigh three seasons ago, and this might be their best chance to dance otherwise in that span. Lehigh, sans McCollum, also finished 10-4 in the league, but lost the head-to-head tiebreaker for home court here.
Team to Watch: Army
The Black Knights have the league's coach of the year, former Cornell assistant Zach Spiker, who led the program to its first-ever over-.500 finish in the league. They also have star senior forward Ella Ellis and capable freshmen backcourt guys in Kyle Wilson and Dylan Cox. They only lost to Bucknell by two at home a few weeks ago, so if that's a semifinal matchup, Army's in with a shout of a big upset.
Hottest Storyline: My left foot
Borrowing from the movie with that title, this season came a bit of a horror flick for Lehigh when McCollum broke his foot in January in a game at VCU. Lehigh is still a decent team without him, but it's clearly not the same team that beat Duke last March and entered this season girding for one final showdown with rival Bucknell. It's not impossible to see them making it to the auto bid, but they're definitely an underdog, and that was in no one's predictions two months ago.
The Pick: Bucknell
There probably will be at least one tough win along the way, but the Bison are the best team in the league. They lost their two games by a total of four points, and it's hard to see Muscala, after the frustration of last spring and thinking about it all summer, letting this one get away from them.