Call To The Post As Patriot League Race Set To Begin

Yes, there has been some variety, but unlike many other conferences this season the Patriot League has played fairly close to form in the non-conference slate. Perhaps because of that, you can make a case for several horses in the field of 10 to cross the wire first at the end of the league race, which begins on Wednesday when the conference gate opens. Continue reading “Call To The Post As Patriot League Race Set To Begin”

Papale’s Three-Pointer Foils Quinnipiac Again

Boston University and Quinnipiac may not seem like natural basketball rivals, but their non-conference series has been plenty entertaining. Their prior four meetings all went down to the wire, and in each of the last two, a late three-pointer propelled the Terriers to victory. So in the waning seconds of Sunday’s tie game, when John Papale rose from the top of the arc — the same spot as his overtime-forcing trey two years ago and D.J. Irving’s game-winning shot last year — it was no surprise that the ball hit nothing but nylon, giving the BU another dramatic 71-68 win. Continue reading “Papale’s Three-Pointer Foils Quinnipiac Again”

Three Thoughts: Harvard 70, Boston University 56

Though Boston University entered Lavietes Pavilion with a disappointing 2-5 record, the Terriers played Harvard even for nearly 30 minutes on Monday. Behind 13 points from Blaise Mbargorba and a balanced scoring effort, BU gave the hosts a scare, but the Crimson finally pulled away for a 70-56 victory on just 57 possessions, improving to 7-1. Three thoughts from the game (written during commercials of Brown’s upset over Providence):

1. The Terriers took Harvard out of its offense (for a while). Harvard entered Monday’s game taking nearly half its shots at the rim — making 61% of those attempts — while BU lacks a true shot-blocker and had allowed opponents to shoot 68% at the basket. So it was no surprise that the visitors packed in their defense, playing a tight zone and daring the Crimson to win the game from outside. Multiple Terriers collapsed on Saunders on every touch inside the arc, denying driving lanes and making entry passes to Harvard’s post players difficult.

“They want to throw it in [the post] a ton,” BU coach Joe Jones said. “Their depth is outrageous up front, so they’re able to use so many guys and wear you down. We just wanted to take that part of their game away as much as we could, and force them to do some things they didn’t want to do.”

In the first half, BU’s tactics worked well: After high-low action led to a few easy points inside, the Crimson’s offense turned into a three-point shooting contest, as 15 of their 25 first-half attempts were from distance. Corbin Miller made three NBA-range treys, but he finished the game just 3-for-13 beyond the arc, and Harvard as a whole shot 31% from three. The Crimson got back to their roots in the second half, however, working their way inside and making 16 of 17 free throws in the period. “Defensively, we got some stops, which allowed us to get out and sometimes beat the zone down,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said.

2. Boston U. matched up well with Harvard in other ways. The Terriers’ offense usually features four perimeter scorers, which poses problems for the Crimson’s standard two-big lineup; after Nathan Dieudonne and Eric Fanning took advantage of mismatches to score in the first half, the hosts switched to a four-guard alignment for the majority of the game. Harvard struggled with those lineups against Holy Cross earlier this season, but they were +14 when playing small on Monday, the entire margin of victory. “They’re a dangerous three-point shooting team, so we thought it’d be beneficial for us to chase them a little bit better with a smaller lineup,” Amaker said.

3. Harvard was simply better down the stretch. With less than 11 minutes remaining and the game tied, BU’s defense stymied the Crimson for 34 seconds, leaving the ball in Saunders’ hands beyond the arc as the shot clock ticked down. John Papale’s hand was at his eyeballs, but Saunders had no choice but to launch a high-arcing prayer — which dropped cleanly through the net. The Terriers threw away a baseline inbounds pass shortly after, and they went without a field goal for seven minutes as Harvard pulled away; Siyani Chambers eventually shut the door with a speedy and-one drive and a step-back jumper.

“Our issues are that we don’t execute at a high enough level, and we don’t always play with enough toughness to win games like this. We have to change that,” Jones said. “We’ve got a long way to go before we become the team we’re capable of becoming.”

Outside Shooting Transforms Northeastern’s Offense

In 2013-14, Northeastern’s offense was heavily dependent on scoring in the paint. Led by second-team All-CAA forward Scott Eatherton, 48% of the Huskies’ shots were taken at the rim — ninth-highest in the nation — and just 22% of their scoring came from three-pointers. So entering Sunday’s cross-town rivalry game, Boston University coach Joe Jones sensibly schemed to pack the paint and force outside shots.

Continue reading “Outside Shooting Transforms Northeastern’s Offense”

Three Thoughts: Northeastern 71, Boston University 65

In the opener of Sunday afternoon’s Coaches vs. Cancer Tripleheader at TD Garden, Northeastern came from behind to beat Boston University, 71-65. Three mostly BU-centric thoughts from the season opener, with more on Northeastern to come this week: Continue reading “Three Thoughts: Northeastern 71, Boston University 65”

Patriot League Preview – A Friendly E-mail Discussion

With just two days before college basketball tips off, Kevin Doyle and I engaged in some friendly Patriot League banter over e-mail. We already gave you our preseason all-conference teams/individual awards and top impact rookies, so instead of writing up a boring primer, we decided to chat it up regarding this league. Of course, feel free to add your opinion to the message board. Enjoy! Continue reading “Patriot League Preview – A Friendly E-mail Discussion”

Impact Patriot League Freshmen for the 2014-15 Season

Projecting the impact of freshmen and how they will perform in their first season playing Division 1 hoops – unless one happens to be a Top 100 recruit – isn’t exactly a foolproof science. While coaches are still in the process of deciphering what their regular rotation will look like once the season begins, the following eight freshmen project to be some of the better ones in the Patriot League, and will have an immediate impact for their respective teams. With the additions of Boston University and Loyola to the league last season, the influx of talent continues to become better and better. Loyola will be forced to lean heavily on its freshmen class, while Bucknell – who will have a few talented freshmen on its roster – should not be as reliant. Let’s begin with my preseason all-rookie team.

[One caveat: Given the high number of freshmen both Army and Navy bring into their programs and stash at MAPS (Military Academy Prep School) and NAPS (Naval Academy Prep School) it is often tough to gauge just how good each program’s freshmen class will be at the outset of each season. Your guess is as good as ours who the top freshmen will be for each team.]

Kahron Ross, Lehigh – Lehigh’s past two starting point guards – Marquis Hall and Mackey McKnight – were both four year starters at the position. Based on reports out of Bethlehem, it seems like Kahron Ross may be on that same track as he projects to start for Lehigh in their season-opener against Villanova.

Kahron Ross (right) projects as one of the top Patriot League point guards. (Photo credit: Star-Telegram)
Kahron Ross (right) projects as one of the top Patriot League freshmen point guards. (Photo credit: Star-Telegram)

Eric Johnson, Boston University – The second season in the Patriot League for Joe Jones will likely not go as smoothly as their inaugural one as the Terriers were picked to finish in the middle-of-the-pack; that’s what happens when D.J. Irving and Dom Morris graduate, and Mo Watson transfers. Having to replace much of the production in the backcourt, Jones will likely lean on Eric Johnson. Johnson has good size for a point guard standing at 6-foot-2.

Mitchell Hahn, Holy Cross – It’s no secret that Holy Cross is thin up front with graduation claiming Dave Dudzinski. The only proven forwards Milan Brown returns are Taylor Abt and Malachi Alexander. Mitchell Hahn, Holy Cross’ lone freshman, will be one of the first three of the bench for the Crusaders, and has an opportunity to receive immediate minutes at the 3 and 4 positions. At 6-foot-8, Hahn can fill it up from the perimeter.

Cam Gregory, Loyola – G.G. Smith has been fighting an uphill battle the day he accepted the head coaching job at Loyola prior to the 2013-14 season. His predecessor, Jimmy Patsos, took many of Loyola’s top recruits with him to Siena, which left Smith in a bind for his first season at the helm. Entering his second season, Smith will be without Dylon Cormier – the top player from last year’s team – along with senior point guard R.J. Williams, who is no longer listed on the roster. Playing time will be available from the outset for the young Greyhounds, and expect forward Cam Gregory to benefit from it. Gregory was a highly-coveted recruit in the Patriot League, and will be expected to produce immediately for Loyola. At 6-foot-8, Gregory reportedly has the ability to play with his back to the basket, something that isn’t always common for freshmen big men at the mid-major level.

Nana Foulland, Bucknell – Bucknell is fairly deep in their frontcourt this season, but minutes will be available with Brian Fitzpatrick having graduated. Foulland was perhaps the premier recruit in the Patriot League for the 2014 recruiting class, boasting offers from Delaware, George Mason, Fairfield, Old Dominion, UMass, and Seton Hall among others. Foulland is a big body who can run the floor, and excels on the defensive end with exceptional shot blocking and rebounding ability. Dave Paulsen got a good one.

Bucknell's Nana Foulland may be an immediate difference-maker for Dave Paulsen. (Photo credit:  Reading Eagles)
Bucknell’s Nana Foulland may be an immediate difference-maker for Dave Paulsen. (Photo credit: Reading Eagles)

Honorable Mention

J.C. Show, Bucknell – It would be funny to be a fly on the wall for a discussion between Bucknell’s head football coach Joe Susan and Dave Paulsen. Show, who was a tremendous high school athlete and excelled on the gridiron, could most definitely find himself contributing to the Bison’s football team in some capacity this season, but he elected to take his talents to the hardwood, instead. Paulsen may have found his point guard of the future in Show, but minutes may be hard to come by at the position with Steven Kaspar and Ryan Frazier both returning for their senior and junior seasons, respectively.

Cheddi Mosely, Boston University – Eric Johnson may take over for Mo Watson at point guard, but look for Cheddi Mosely to slide in – along with Wagner transfer Eric Fanning – and help fill the void D.J. Irving left in the two-guard position. The 6-foot-3 combo guard from St. Anthony’s in New Jersey excels from the perimeter, but also can go off-the-dribble. Joe Jones has set up Boston University well for the future with Johnson and Mosely manning the backcourt.

Colton Bishop, Loyola – G.G. Smith was thrown a curveball when starting point guard R.J. Williams was allegedly tossed off the team in October. Williams has struggled to stay in line at Loyola as he was suspended in October of 2012 for a violation of team rules that kept him sidelined for half of the season. Without Williams, and Jevon Patton transferring to Northeast Oklahoma A&M, Bishop will likely be forced into immediate playing time.

You can follow Kevin on Twitter @KLDoyle11

Patriot League Tempo-Free, Simulations, and an All-Conference Rant

The Patriot League tournament has been paired down to eight teams (sorry Loyola and Navy) and the action continues this evening. To help make sense of the madness, John was kind enough to run 10,000 simulations for this tournament to determine who has the best chance at earning the NCAA’s automatic bid. But first, a look at the final efficiency standings for the Patriot League regular season. Continue reading “Patriot League Tempo-Free, Simulations, and an All-Conference Rant”