February 13, 2021
Patriot League notebook: Conference updates schedules for final weeks; Lafayette fighting for a playoff spot
What are the top takeaways from the schedule changes?
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A series of postponements over the weekend wreaked havoc on the league’s schedule as only two regularly-scheduled games took to the court. While the conference was able to add a single contest to the mix, the scenario highlighted the need for a revamped plan down the stretch that would address accommodating the required divisional match-ups. On Tuesday, the Patriot League released its blueprint of schedule adjustments and added a few twists to the mix. We’ll take a look at the biggest takeaways.
Lafayette, fresh off a mid-week win over Loyola (MD), can now see a clearer path to making the playoffs—and it goes right through Navy. Will scheduling changes impact a playoff run for the Leopards?
Let’s take a look around the league:
Top takeaways from the Patriot League’s schedule changes
The league heads into the final few weeks having to play catch up with the schedules of nine of its ten member teams. In its most recent effort to provide some clarity amid the chaos, they announced the planned slate of games for the push to the finish line. The league returns to its usual midweek action with Wednesday’s games to catch up a bit from cancellations. It’s an ambitious finish to an uncertain season, and a necessary leap of faith in an aim to complete the schedule.
It’s going to take a little luck.
The league has yet to have a weekend free of disruption from COVID-19. Teams conduct coronavirus testing three times a week and league play continues to be dependent on programs testing negative in their Tier 1 groups.
The announced schedule adjustments for the final three weeks of the regular season can be found here. Its primary focus is on playing postponed games from the three regional divisions for seeding in the league tournament.
The top two teams in each division—based on the divisional record—will receive an automatic berth to the league tournament based on their divisional record. Two additional at-large teams will qualify for playoffs based on their overall record in league games.
What are the biggest takeaways for the scheduling plan down the stretch? Let’s break it down:
Just one team on track to finish a complete conference season. Army (6-6 league overall) is the only team to complete its entire conference schedule to this point. The Black Knights have three full weekends on tap and will finish with the most conference games played in the league with 18 (five teams will have 12 or less). They also managed to play five non-conference games beginning in November due to the allowances made by the league for the service academies. Army potentially will have played 23 games overall this season–that’s as many as Bucknell and American combined.
Boston University is going from zero to 60 in a hurry. The Terriers are about to play seven games in 16 days. It’s a lot even in a normal season. How long did it take BU to play its first seven games? 41 days. So the Terriers are getting the AAU team treatment down the stretch. Not a lot of practice time but a ton of games. It’s a good primer for the playoffs—but what is the physical toll of so many games in such a short time frame? Head coach Marisa Moseley likes to keep a short rotation. How will this schedule impact the Terriers moving ahead?
BU is coming off an uneven performance against Lafayette last Sunday—the team’s first game in nearly three weeks. A 17-0 Terrier run to start the fourth quarter erased an eight-point deficit and sparked a 53-46 win. Sydney Johnson led the way with 12 points. Will so many games in such a short period of time help BU find a rhythm just in time for playoffs?
Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in. Everyone loves a sequel. It’s familiar and comforting; we’re entertained again, we move on, right? And then you know those folks at the studio—or the league office—just have to bring the old gang back together again for one last hurrah. And so it goes for the league’s father-daughter coaching competitors, the Magarity’s of Army and Holy Cross, who’ve faced off on two separate weekends this season to much fanfare. The league has now added a third round on the final weekend of the season.
The first one drew national attention: a match-up between father and daughter head coaches had never happened before in NCAA D1; it was, and is a wonderful story. The second go-round included the announced retirement of Army head coach Dave Magarity and what would be his final home game at West Point on his team’s senior day celebration. An emotional goodbye for the Army coach, and a 60-42 win against his daughter’s team as well.
Well, not quite. Now for the third edition in the revamped schedule. The games will be played on Feb. 27th and 28th with the time and location to be determined.
The divisional match-up with the most on the line hasn’t happened yet—all season. The South division has had the most difficult launch of the three “mini-conferences.” Multiple postponements and cancellations have limited the divisional and league schedule. First-place American has only played four division games while Loyola (MD) and Navy have played just two each. Anything can happen in these last few weeks.
This weekend, Loyola (MD) and Navy will meet for the first of four match-ups in a showdown for one of the two guaranteed playoff spots in the division. Just one game separates the two teams in the standings.
The best part of the new schedule release? The league set up this rivalry for the last weekend, playing on Feb. 27th and 28th with a playoff berth in the balance. The Mids are led by Jennifer Coleman (16.0 ppg, 10.5 rpg) while Emily McAteer (12.0 ppg, 6.2 rpg) paces the Greyhounds.
The schedule as planned will allow most teams to meet the minimum for NCAA tournament participation. The NCAA requires that teams participating in the national tournament have played a minimum of 13 games. Read more here.
Seven teams are on track to meet the minimum in the regular season. As mentioned, only Army will have completed the original slate of 16 regular-season games (the Knights, now scheduled to play on the last open weekend of make-up dates, would actually finish with 18). American is just one of five teams that would fall below that threshold. The Eagles would play the least, completing just 11 contests. Defending champion Bucknell would play just 12 games.
One conference playoff game will count toward the required minimum and there is the option for teams to apply for a waiver of the rule.
The Lafayette playoff push: how it all comes down to their next game at Navy
Lafayette defeated Loyola, 76-69, on Wednesday night behind a spectacular performance by Natalie Kucowski. The senior forward scored a career-high 36 points to help move the Leopards to 2-5 on the season. So what are their playoff chances now?
It’s all about a wild card berth. Lafayette drew one of the toughest schedules in the league and plays in the Central division—the best of the three in the new alignment—with Bucknell and Lehigh. With four games remaining against those divisional foes, the Leopards need to take care of business in games they are expected to win.
Win against Loyola (MD)? Check.
So who’s next?
It’s a Wednesday game versus Navy and the team’s playoff life may be in the balance. The Mids are the opponent they need to play and defeat for tiebreakers—it all lines up for the Leopards if they can grab the win.
Although Lafayette is still technically alive for second place in the Central Division and the automatic playoff berth that comes with it, the more realistic battle is for a wild card spot. Holy Cross and Army are in a battle for second place in the North, and—with five and six wins respectively—the loser of that fight will most certainly claim one of the at-large bids. That leaves one spot.
So who’s in the battle with the Leopards heading down the stretch?
It looks like this:
Loyola (MD) (0-6)
The Mids and the Greyhounds both play in the South division and one of those teams will grab an automatic spot (likely a second-place finish behind American) for the playoffs. Lafayette holds the tie-breaker over Loyola (MD) after sweeping them this season. A win over Navy this coming Wednesday will also give the Leopards the edge over the Mids in head-to-head competition. Will three wins be enough to grab the 8th and final playoff seed? Yes.
Colgate has a talented young team but has been impacted by injury. To claim the last spot, they’d likely need to grab three wins, splitting their final six games against three teams that are already in a good position for playoffs. Not impossible, but seems unlikely.
Kucowski played aggressively against Loyola (MD) and asserted herself on the offensive end. She’ll need to play with the same determination to propel Lafayette to a strong finish; her team feeds off her performance.
Another positive sign for the Leopards is the play of guards Jess Booth and Drew Freeland. The duo combined for 10 assists and just one turnover against the Greyhounds. Booth chipped in 10 points and played one of her best all-around floor games of the season. Freeland also added 10 and played efficiently, hitting 4-of-6 from the floor including two three-pointers.
The preseason goals for the projected three-seed in the league are still within range. But reaching those goals is going to mean winning on the road at Annapolis in the biggest game of the season. Tip-off is set for 6:00 p.m. at Navy on Wednesday.
(Division record, League overall record)
Boston University (5-1, 6-1)
Holy Cross (5-3, 5-5)
Army (5-5, 6-6)
Colgate (1-7, 1-7)
Bucknell (6-0, 8-0)
Lehigh (2-4, 6-4)
Lafayette (0-4, 2-5)
American (3-1, 3-3)
Navy (1-1, 2-2)
Loyola (MD) (0-2, 0-6)
What’s the can’t-miss match-up of the week? Army at Boston University
It’s the second weekend set for these division foes and one with big playoff implications. The Terriers have their eyes on a finish atop the North division and the top-three seed that comes with it. The Knights are chasing the second spot and the guarantee of the fourth-through-sixth seed. Army will likely need a sweep to get there. If they fall short, they inch toward an at-large spot and a first-round road playoff game as a seventh seed (which projects to a first-round showdown with, you guessed it, the Terriers).
Army stunned BU in the last match-up, grabbing their biggest win of the season and earning a split. What’s to expect this time around? Each team struggled from the field last game—27.1% for BU and 37.8% for the Knights—but expect an improved shooting performance from both teams. That’s not good news for Army. BU can shoot and has the same shooting percentage (44.6%) on the season as Bucknell. If the Terriers can get untracked from the perimeter, advantage BU.
It’s all about the three-point line. Army is much-improved defensively from a season ago and is second in the league in defending the arc, allowing just 28.0% (72-for-257) from distance. The Terriers were fourth in the conference last year, shooting 33.3% from deep, but have fallen to just 29.9% so far this campaign. In their last two games, they are a combined 7-for-44 (15.9%).
All eyes on sophomore guard, Maggie Pina. Last year’s Rookie of the Year has struggled to find her range this season and is shooting 12-of-53 for just 22.6% from the arc. She finished last season as one of the best long-range shooters in the league, going 50-of-125 for 40.0%. Is this her breakout weekend?
Expect Boston to make smart use of wing Emily Esposito, especially if Army employs a zone. The Villanova transfer has settled into a substitution role and is the team’s most effective mid-range shooter versus zone. If the Terriers can consistently find Esposito in the high post or short corner areas, look for a strong scoring game from the Maine product.
Army guards Alisa Fallon (12.4 ppg) and Sarah Bohn (7.8 ppg) outplayed the BU backcourt in the Knights’ win and they’ll have to combine to match the output of Katie Nelson and Sydney Johnson to position their squad for another upset win.
The group that can best find a rhythm in the early going will have the edge. In the rollercoaster season of COVID-19, BU had not played a game for three weeks until their 53-46 win over Lafayette last weekend; Army has dealt with injuries and absences from coronavirus protocols too but has played more games.
The Knights have had more competitive opportunities to find answers and make adjustments through a total of 17 games played on the season (9-8) while BU arrives with just seven games played (6-1). This one will have a playoff atmosphere from the tip-off.
The last meeting: January 17, 2021. The Black Knights won 54-43, as the Terriers did not place a single scorer in double digits. It was a poor shooting display by BU (16-of-59 for 27.1%) and they tied a season-high in turnovers with 18. Sophomore guard Maggie Pina struggled to a 2-for-17 game from the floor and backcourt mate Katie Nelson committed an uncharacteristic six giveaways. The Terriers were out of sync from the start. The Knights were led by Sarah Bohn (13 points) and Alisa Fallon (10 points). Army used a 9-for-12 performance from the line in the final quarter to seal the win.
Tune in to Patriot League action this week:
(Note: The Patriot League is no longer streaming games for free on the Stadium platform. All games are now streamed through ESPN+ for a subscription fee. Click here for the video link to all league competition.)
Navy at Loyola (MD) @1:00p.m.
Army at Boston University @1:00p.m.
Holy Cross at Colgate @1:00p.m.
Holy Cross at Colgate @1:00p.m.
Army at Boston University @1:00p.m.
Loyola (MD) at Navy @3:00p.m.
Holy Cross at Boston University @6:00p.m.
Lafayette at Navy @6:00p.m.
Note: Bucknell, Lehigh, and American are off due to COVID-19.
Patriot League Player of the Week:
Sabria Hunter, Army, Sophomore Forward
Posted a career-high 20 points in a key divisional win over Holy Cross, 60-42. She made a season-high eight field goals in an 8-for-14 performance from the floor.
Her 4-for-4 effort from the line was the fourth time on the season she’s been perfect from the charity stripe.
Hunter’s nine rebounds in the weekend opening loss to the Crusaders was a season-high. Her five offensive rebounds were a career-best in league play.
Patriot League Rookie of the Week
Bronagh Power-Cassidy, Holy Cross, Freshman Guard
Power-Cassidy scored a team-high 15 points in a 61-49 victory over Army on Saturday.
Two of three top-scoring performances this season have come versus Army. She scored a career-high 17 points against the Knights back on Jan. 17th.
She was a perfect 4-for-4 from the free-throw line in the win and is shooting 79.3% (23-for-29) on the season.
League news and notes:
Senior forward Natalie Kucowski scored a career-high 36 points in the Leopards’ win over Loyola (MD).
Boston University forward Maren Durant displayed her defensive presence in the post by limiting preseason Player of the Year Natalie Kucowski to 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting in a 53-46 comeback win.
Oluchi Ezemma of Holy Cross leads the league with 40 offensive rebounds.
Lehigh is averaging a league-high 9.9 three-pointers made per game. The Mountain Hawks are third in the league from distance at 34.5%.
American guard Jade Edwards is leading the league in steals with 3.5 per game. She has reached her season-high of five twice, both against Lehigh.
Lauren Lithgow of Army is the only freshman among the league’s top 15 three-point shooters. Lithgow is shooting 37.8% on 17-for-45 from behind the arc—good for fifth in the conference.
It’s a block party at Bucknell: forwards Tessa Brugler and Carly Krsul join guard Taylor O’Brien in the league’s top 10 for blocked shots per game.
Navy’s Kolbi Green leads the league in minutes played with 38.2 per game. She is joined by teammates Jennifer Coleman (35.5 mpg) and Sophie Gatzounas (36.0 mpg) in the league’s top six for minutes played.
Written by Todd Goclowski
Todd Goclowski currently covers the Patriot League for The Next. Goclowski brings 25 years of coaching experience to his role as an analyst and writer, including 19 years of coaching women's basketball in the NCAA at the D1 and D3 levels.