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Tiny Dancers: American Eagles top Boston U. in Patriot League final

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

Latest in hoops: Top 25 (and one) | Bracketology | Bubble Watch

The American Eagles just put on one of the more acute defensive performances you'll see in championship week. AU, the No. 2 seed in the Patriot League, went into Boston University's house and easily took out the top-seeded Terriers to the tune of 55-36.

So American becomes the 13th team to receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

This was not expected coming into the season. First-year coach Mike Brennan had zero pressure because the Eagles were picked to finish ninth in the Patriot League. The team went 10-20 a year ago. And American got out to a 3-7 start before hitting a stride and streaking, winning 11 straight and roaring to a 10-0 Patriot League record.

And now the team's on its way to an unexpected NCAA Tournament. Though it's not always pretty in every game, at least this team runs a Princeton-style offense -- Brennan played at Princeton -- and they can give some unfamiliar teams fits with those schemes. We've seen how other teams have flirted with, or outright earned, big upsets in the opening rounds of the tournament by using uncommong methods.

Player to know: Jesse Reed. The sophomore shooting guard leads the Eagles at 14.4 points per game and is second on the team in rebounding (4.4). American shoots the ball relatively well, making 50 percent of its shots from the field. That'll happen when you have a method of working the shot clock and finding the angles nearest to the rim.

C (USATSI)
Mike Brennan just did what few do: reach the NCAAs in his first year as a head coach. (USATSI)

The Vitals:

  • Record: 20-12 overall, 13-5 in the Patriot League
  • Most recent tournament appearance: 2009 (lost to Villanova in Round of 64 as 14 seed)
  • Jerry Palm predicts: 15 seed
  • RPI: 133
  • KenPom ranking: 115
  • Sagarin ranking: 125
  • Best wins: at Bucknell, at Holy Cross
  • Worst losses: at Mount St. Mary's, vs. Colgate
  • Notable stat: The Eagles earn assists on 65.9 percent of their shots, the highest rate in the country. The Princeton offense isn't a scheme that works for everyone, but if you have a smart team that embraces the concept, it can really crank.
  • Closing quip: The Eagles picked a nice time to play their best game of the season. This team has some experience but doesn't even start three seniors. The Patriot League's seen really good teams in recent years, with Lehigh and Bucknell becoing nationally recognized. American's not on that level, and yet it still will have a chance because of it's peculiar scheme.
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