Tag:Patriot League
Posted on: February 21, 2012 1:10 pm

McCollum makes Lehigh Patriot league contenders

By Jeff Goodman

In the effort of full disclosure, my wife went to Lehigh University (I still wonder how someone so smart married me). However, that's not why I'm writing this blog on the Mountain Hawks. 

Brett Reed & Co. have put themselves in a position to win the Patriot League regular-season title. This was unfathomable a week or so ago, when defending champion Bucknell was undefeated and rolling through league play at 10-0. 

But Lehigh pulled out a huge win in Lewisburg on Feb. 16 and followed it up with a home victory against rival Lafayette. The Bison dropped one at Holy Cross this past weekend and Dave Paulsen's team now faces American, which is tied with Lehigh a game out of first place, on the road Thursday night. 

The regular-season champion gets a significant advantage with hosting the league tournament. 

"That win was good for us to get some confidence," Reed said of the victory over Bucknell in which star guard C.J. McCollum drained a game-winning 3-pointer with 0.5 seconds left. "To give us the feeling that even in a tough ballgame we were able to pull it out on the road." 

It was Bucknell's first league loss at home since 2010. 

McCollum is the best player in the Patriot League. Reed says he could play anywhere in the country, but he opted to go to Lehigh -- and he's had a stellar three-year career thus far. 

"He's such a complete player -- and is so clutch," Reed said of the 6-foot-3, 185-pound Ohio native. "He can score in so many different ways -- can shoot it, score off the dribble, get offensive rebounds or deflections and steals. It's hard to pin him down as a one-dimensional scorer." 

McCollum averages 21.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game -- and makes Lehigh a true contender to knock off Bucknell in the postseason and go to the NCAA tourney. Reed said that his star junior could probably break Daren Queenan's record of 2,703 career points, but that he's too unselfish and always puts the team first. 

"He's special," Reed said. 

Posted on: February 21, 2012 1:09 pm
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Posted on: December 16, 2011 5:06 pm
Edited on: December 16, 2011 11:01 pm

Midseason Mid-Major Mojo: Bucknell

By Jeff Goodman

During college basketball's slow time, we're shining the spotlight on some small guys. Today, Bucknell gets some love.

Bucknell coach Dave Paulsen admits that, as a coach, you try not to play favorites. But he's also forthcoming when saying it's awfully difficult with Bryson Johnson because he is everything a college basketball player should embody.

That's why he was dreading the conversation on Thursday morning with Johnson -- one of the nation's top perimeter shooters and a key reason why Bucknell went to the NCAA tournament a year ago. He was set to break the news to Johnson, who started every game a year ago, that he'd be coming off the bench.

"I struggled with it, but he made it so easy," Paulsen said. "Right away, he said, 'I know what you want to talk about.'"

"He's a guy you want to train your guys to be like," Paulsen said. "He's the most passionate, committed guy I've ever coached. He has all the intangibles, the leadership. ... He's the best kid I've ever coached."

And just a week or so ago, Paulsen was worried he might not have Johnson for a while. That's when Johnson came down awkwardly on his knee during practice. The doctors weren't certain how serious the injury was, but Paulsen was sweating it out that night until the results of an MRI the next morning showed no significant damage.

"I was really scared for our team, but more for him," Paulsen said. "I have such a soft spot in my heart for him. ... But he's fine. We held him out against Binghamton, but he's been practicing and he'll play in our next game."

The reason for Paulson bringing Johnson off the bench is not only to give the Bisons scoring punch, but also to get freshman point guard Steven Kaspar in the starting lineup. Thus far, Paulsen has played Cameron Ayers (right) at the point, Randy's kid is more of a two-guard and this will allow him to play his natural position.

"I didn't want to throw Kaspar to the wolves too early," Paulsen explained his reasoning for not making the move earlier. "We started with Minnesota and Vandy."

Bucknell is 6-4 thus far this season, with a game against Richmond on Saturday, and the Bison will enter Patriot League play as the clear-cut favorites -- especially if Kaspar performs as well as his coach is hoping. Ayers leads the team in scoring (12.2), but this team is balanced -- not unlike the one that won 25 games and went 13-1 in league play last season.

Big man Mike Muscala is averaging 12.1 points and 8.9 rebounds, face-up forward Joe Willman is in double-figures (11.1) and Johnson is at 9.4 points per game. Bryan Cohen doesn't have to score much, but the lone senior in the rotation has proven himself as the best perimeter defender in the league.

"We have a chance to be really good," Paulsen said. "It's different than last year, though. Now we have to learn how to handle the expectations."

Photo: AP

Posted on: March 11, 2011 11:46 am

Patriot championship game preview

Because it is played on the home floor of the higher-seeded team, the atmosphere surrounding the Patriot League championship game always makes it an entertaining game. This season will be no different, as top-seeded Bucknell plays host to upstart sixth-seed Lafayette. Will it be the favorite or the Cinderella story?

Bucknell (24-8, 13-1) has lost only twice since November, falling at Boston College by four and to Army back in late January. The Bison rolled through conference play, although the tournament has not been without close calls. Bucknell avenged its lone loss to Army with an easy, 27-point victory. In the semifinals, though, the Bison needed clutch play down the stretch from Mike Muscala to hold off Lehigh.

The Bison have been doing it with defense this season, allowing 70 points just twice since late December. They force difficult shots in a half-court setting and don’t allow any second-chance opportunities. Muscala is the go-to-guy offensively, although he has been inconsistent down the stretch. Darryl Shazier is a playmaker at the point guard spot, while a variety of role players contribute. Freshman Cameron Ayers is coming on strong down the stretch.

Lafayette (13-18, 6-8) has been the surprise of the tournament. The Leopards lost four of their last five to end the regular season, stumbling to a sixth-place finish. They turned it around in the conference tournament, though, knocking off Holy Cross and No. 2 American on the road in back-to-back games. The semifinal game against the Eagles was a double-overtime classic that was decided by a Jim Mower 3-pointer in the waning seconds.

Jared Mintz is the leader for the Leopards, pacing the team in points and rebounds. He has stepped up his play late in the season, averaging 18.7 points and 7.3 rebounds in his last three games. Mower, the hero in the semifinals, is a 3-point marksman who can get hot in a hurry. Ryan Willen is averaging 15.0 points in his last four. Lafayette relies heavily on the 3-pointer at the offensive end, while the defense has been porous at times.

The match-up to watch in this one will be Muscala vs. Mintz down in the post. Both players are their team’s best scorer and rebounder, although Mintz is playing better down the stretch. Muscala is a tougher player on the boards and in the post, so it will be interesting to see if Mintz can bang with him. Defensively, Lafayette needs to keep Shazier from creating chances for himself and Bucknell’s numerous offensive options. The Bison need to guard the arc and not allow open looks for Lafayette.

Both teams needed clutch performances in the semifinals just to advance to the title game; are we in store for another classic? Lafayette might not have the defense to make that happen – the Leopards struggle at that end of the floor. Bucknell’s suffocating half-court defense will be a nightmare for Mintz and Willen and won’t allow Mower to get hot from deep. The Bison should advance.

Photo: AP

Posted by Jeff Borzello

More College Basketball coverage
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 1, 2011 2:40 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2011 2:44 pm

Patriot League Tournament Preview

The Patriot League was a two-team race for the first half of the conference season, before Bucknell (22-8, 13-1 in the Patriot) pulled away down the stretch to win the title by two games over American (21-8, 11-3). Bucknell hit a little bit of a lull in the middle of the season, losing by 20 to Army (11-8, 3-11) and then winning four of its next five by single-digits. The Bison still managed to win its final seven games, while American has won five straight heading into the conference tournament.

Holy Cross won only one non-conference game, going 1-13 outside of the Patriot League. However, the Crusaders went 7-7 in conference play. Lehigh, Lafayette and Navy all finished tied at 6-8.

The favorite is Bucknell, which beat second-place American in both head-to-head meetings, by a combined 21 points. The Bison are efficient at both ends of the floor, taking care of the ball and knocking down shots offensively and playing tough half-court defense. Player of the Year Mike Muscala is a load to handle inside, but he struggled down the stretch, averaging 9.9 points and 6.8 rebounds in the final four games. Bryson Johnson is an excellent outside shooter, while Darryl Shazier is the playmaker.

Arguably the most productive player in the conference belongs to American, which will be Bucknell’s biggest competition. Vlad Moldoveanu is a match-up nightmare, as a 6-foot-9 forward who can score inside and out. Moldoveanu had four games of at least 30 points this season. Interestingly, he averaged just 8.0 points against Bucknell. Stephen Lumpkins is another inside option, and former Georgia transfer Troy Brewer is the main outside threat.

Despite losses in three of its final four games, Lehigh might be the sleeper. The Mountain Hawks love to push the ball in transition and get to the free-throw line as well as anyone in the country. C.J. McCollum, last year’s Player of the Year, is capable of putting the defending champions on his back. Lafayette has taken both American and Bucknell to overtime, and the Leopards have plenty of offensive options. 

Patriot League Tournament Bracket

Top Three Players:

1. Mike Muscala, Bucknell
2. Vlad Moldoveanu, American
3. C.J. McCollum, Lehigh

  • Conference RPI: 27
  • KenPom.com Conference Ranking: 24
  • Sagarin Conference Ranking: 26

NCAA Tournament Locks: None

NCAA Bubble Teams: None

Last NCAA Tournament Appearance

  • American: 2009 (lost to Villanova, first round)
  • Army: 0 NCAA appearances
  • Bucknell: 2006 (lost to Memphis, second round)
  • Colgate: 1996 (lost to Connecticut, first round)
  • Holy Cross: 2007 (lost to Southern Illinois, first round)
  • Lafayette: 2000 (lost to Temple, first round)
  • Lehigh: 2010 (lost to Kansas, first round)
  • Navy: 1998 (lost to North Carolina, first round)

Photo: US Presswire

Posted by Jeff Borzello

More College Basketball coverage
Category: NCAAB
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com