This season, there have been a ton of great performances by mid-major programs all across the country. As the season heads into the first Saturday of February, there are a ton of mid-major programs who are poised to make some noise as the season heads into the stretch run leading up to Selection Sunday, and ultimately the NCAA Tournament.
The Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks and the North Carolina Central Eagles are wreaking havoc on their respective conference once again this season, as both sit undefeated in conference play to this point. The Sacramento State Hornets are quietly sitting at 9 – 1 in the Big Sky, while the UC Davis Aggies are 7 – 1 in Big West play. The Wofford Terriers are flexing their muscle in the SoCon, and there are seven teams within 1 game of the lead in the Big South.
While those conferences and teams are poised for exciting finishes down the stretch, the most exciting race in all of college basketball can be found in a conference that flies under the radar. None of the power conference races can live up to the excitement that this little-publicized conference will provide fans down the stretch.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Patriot League.
Entering the 2014-15 season, the preseason poll was as follows:
1. American Univ. Eagles
2. Army Black Knights
3. Holy Cross Crusaders
4. Lafayette Leopards
5. Bucknell Bison
6. Boston Univ. Terriers
7. Lehigh Mountain Hawks
8. Colgate Raiders
9. Loyola (MD) Greyhounds
10. Navy Midshipmen
As the college basketball world has come to learn over the years, preseason polls are simply predictions. If one needs further proof, look no further than this year’s Patriot League.
Currently, all ten teams who call the Patriot League home are within three games of the lead, which goes to show just how balanced the league is this season. The preseason polls for the league are added proof at just how good the conference is.
The current standings, with conference records, are as follows (as of February 6th, 2015):
1. Bucknell Bison (7 – 4)
2. Colgate Raiders (7 – 4)
3. Lafayette Leopards (6 – 5)
4. American Univ. Eagles (6 – 5)
5. Lehigh Mountain Hawks (6 – 5)
6. Army Black Knights (5 – 6)
7. Loyola (MD) Greyhounds (5 – 6)
8. Boston Univ. Terriers (5 – 6)
9. Holy Cross Crusaders (4 – 7)
10. Navy Midshipmen (4 – 7)
The college basketball world has seen flashes of brilliance from the Patriot League all season long, right from the outset.
The Holy Cross Crusaders upset the Harvard Crimson to open their 2014-15 season, 58 – 57, on Harvard’s home floor. The Navy Midshipmen almost pulled off an even bigger upset to open their season, losing a hard-fought 64 – 59 decision to the Michigan State Spartans.
Fans shouldn’t be surprised at the level of play from the Patriot League this season, as it has been on display all year long.
At the current point of the season, the teams in the conference are all within three games of the top spot with eight games remaining in conference play.
The teams in the conference have been proving doubters wrong all season long, and it starts at the top with the Colgate Raiders. Even though the Raiders have 14 losses on their resume, they have been a tough team to knock off on a nightly basis. Twelve of their 14 losses have been decided by 10 points or less, meaning their record could be far better if they didn’t find themselves on the wrong side of those close decisions.
The trio of Damon Sherman-Newsome, Ethan Jacobs, and Austin Tillotson have the Raiders in contention in the Patriot League this season, despite the low preseason expectations.
The other team at the top, the Bucknell Bison, are performing just as well as the Raiders this season, despite having lost both games to Colgate this season. The Bison were expected by many to be a top contender in the conference next season, but the team is enjoying some premature success. With the play of Chris Hass, the Bison look like a legitimate contender in the conference.
Any team in the conference has a chance to win this year’s Patriot League tournament, as each team has their own collection of stars who are capable of taking over the game at any point. This is exactly why the conference race will be one of the most exciting ones to keep an eye on as the season embarks on the stretch run towards the NCAA Tournament.
Army is home to Kyle Wilson and Tanner Plomb; American has Jesse Reed and John Schoof; Holy Cross has Malcolm Miller. The list of star players goes on and on and on throughout the conference.
Atop the article, the Patriot League “parity wheel” is officially completed. While some teams are better off than others in the NCAA, and more specifically the Patriot League, the wheel goes to show that anyone is capable of knocking off any team on any given night. The coloured “W” indicates the team on the left of a corresponding arrow scoring a win this season over the team on the right of that arrow.
Teams at the bottom are capable of knocking off teams at the top of the conference on any given night, which goes to show just how tough this conference is going to be over the final eight games of the season.
If fans are looking for some exciting basketball to watch to get ready for the NCAA Tournament, turn away from the power conferences and check out the Patriot League. The gyms won’t be as big, and there won’t be as many fans in the stands like one would see inside Rupp Arena or Cameron Indoor Stadium, but the level of basketball will be just as high and any team can come away with a coveted victory.
The power conferences will be anti-climactic in comparison to what the Patriot League will provide fans in the closing weeks of the 2014-15 season.