The Patriot League postseason tournament starts Wednesday for Army and Navy … and could very likely end Wednesday for Army and Navy. Neither team is playing great ball right now, and on paper, neither team has a very favorable matchup.
Let’s start with Army. How bad have things been for the Black Knights? Well, their best month of the season came in 2009. Army has dropped eight of their last 10 games to finish dead last in the Patriot. In the process, they blew a chance to secure the program’s first winning season in 25 years.
Navy is on a three-game losing skid, and lost four of their last five after briefly flirting with a winning season and a regular season championship. The Mids only needed to win one of the last three games to lock up a home game in the tournament, and they failed to do so. Navy can compete with anyone in the Patriot, which they showed by twice beating regular season champion Lehigh. But they also lost to lowly Holy Cross and last-place Army.
I could go on and on about each team’s negatives. But you know what? Nobody in the Patriot League has been dominant this season, and as the cliche goes, anything can happen in postseason.
No. 8 Army at No. 1 Lehigh
Army struggled mightily in Patriot League play this year, including two double-digit losses to Lehigh. First-year coach Zach Spiker took over just before the season started and rallied the Black Knights to an impressive 10-4 start, but the wheels came off in the second half of the season.
Lehigh is led by stud freshman CJ McCollum, the Patriot League Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year. Seniors Marquis Hall and Zahir Carrington were second team All-Patriot, giving the Mountain Hawks the most all-conference players in the Patriot. Army’s defense has been their strength throughout the season, but they’re up against a dynamic offensive attack.
However, history is on the Black Knights’ side. Army has played Lehigh three consecutive seasons in the Patriot League quarterfinals, and they’ve beaten Lehigh three straight times. So maybe, just maybe, Army will be in the Lehigh players’ heads.
My pick: Lehigh. I want to got with Army, I really do. But this is a bad, bad matchup for a team on the ropes.
No. 5 Navy at No. 4 American
American swept Navy this season, including a somewhat controversial double overtime loss in Annapolis last week.
Navy will be led, as usual, by first-team All-Patriot League selection Chris Harris, who led the conference in scoring, 3-pointers and steals this season. Sophomore Jordan Sugars is another consistent scoring threat, finishing third in the league in rebounding and 3-pointers, and fourth in in scoring (how did this guy not make first team all-Patriot?). However, the key to Navy’s attack may be junior guard O.J. Ovworo, who averaged 5. 7 assists per game. If he has less than five assists per game, Navy usually loses.
History does not favor the Mids. Navy hasn’t won a Patriot tournament game since 2001. Conversely, AU hasn’t lost a quarterfinal game during that same span.
My pick: Navy. The Mids know they had victory in their grasp last week, and they won’t let it slip away this time.
For a full preview of the Patriot tournament, go here.