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Your Guide to the Patriot League Basketball Races

It doesn't get much uglier than a 50-39 win for the Mountain Hawks, but undoubtedly we'll take it. Big-time credit goes to the defense, who allowed two-time NCAA Tournament participant Darren Mastropaolo to a team-high 8 points (!) and held Bucknell to an amazing 15-for-45 shooting night in Bucknell's worst offensive output in 9 years. As for our offense, a surprise: freshman G Rob Keefer erupted for a career-high 17 points for the victory, while senior F Bryan White added 8 rebounds and sophomore G Marquis Hall added 5 assists.

The win allowed Lehigh to stay in the hunt for a first-round home game next week in the first round of the Patriot League tournament. How do I know? I did the math, and I'll explain it to you, dear Reader, as well, below.

Start with American and Navy, both 9-4 in the Patriot League and have clinched first-round playoff games. American finishes at home versus Lafayette, while Navy travels to Hamilton to play Colgate.

Navy won the season series against American (77-66, and 83-68 last night). Therefore, they're in the pole position. A win against Colgate, and they've sealed home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. If they falter, and American beats Lafayette, the Eagles will steal the #1 spot from the Midshipmen.

It's in spots 3 through 8 where things get complicated.

Every team in this stratosphere (Army, Bucknell, Colgate, Holy Cross, Lehigh, Lafayette) either has 7 or 8 losses. Furthermore, it's quite conceivable that all six teams end the year with 8 losses (if Navy and American both win, Holy Cross beats Lehigh, and Army beats Bucknell).

That's when you go to the tiebreaker formula. From the Patriot League website, the first tiebreaker is head-to-head matchups between tiebreaker teams. Second is "comparison of records" against the final order of finish, starting at the #1 seed and going down to the #8 seed. Third is RPI.

Right now, Lafayette, Colgate, Lehigh and Bucknell are 6-7 in Patriot League play. Holy Cross and Army are 5-8.

Going into this weekend, here's the records of each team against each other:

Bucknell: Lehigh 0-2, Lafayette 1-1, Colgate 2-0. Total 3-3.
Add Army: 0-1 (1 game to play).
Add Holy Cross: 1-1.

Colgate: Lehigh 1-1, Lafayette 1-1, Bucknell 0-2. Total 2-4.
Add Army: 1-1.
Add Holy Cross: 2-0.

Lafayette: Lehigh 1-1, Bucknell 1-1, Colgate 1-1. Total 3-3.
Add Army: 1-1.
Add Holy Cross: 1-1.

Lehigh: Lafayette 1-1, Bucknell 2-0, Colgate 1-1. Total 4-2.
Add Army: 2-0
Add Holy Cross: 1-0 (1 game to play).

In a nutshell, Lehigh holds the tiebreaker Bucknell (2-0) and all the scenarios that have Bucknell in a tie with Lehigh for a spot. And even if they lose to Holy Cross and Army beats Bucknell, Lehigh still will hold the overall tiebreaker.

For completeness, here's Army and Holy Cross' head-to-head records as well:

Army: Lehigh 0-2, Lafayette 1-1, Bucknell 1-0, Colgate 1-1, Holy Cross 1-1. Total 4-5 (1 game to play).
Holy Cross: Lehigh 1-0, Lafayette 1-1, Bucknell 1-1, Colgate 0-2, Army 1-1. Total 4-5 (1 game to play).

It's when Lehigh gets to the second tiebreaker where things get crazy, and they start losing. American beat Lehigh twice. If Lafayette beats American, they will tie on the first tiebreaker (1-1) and hold the second tiebreaker against us by virtue of their win over American. If Colgate is tied with us, they will tie on the first tiebreaker (1-2), tie with us with an 0-2 record against American, and then win by virtue of their win over Navy (Lehigh went 0-2 versus Navy).

What you, the Lehigh fan, need to know is that we want Bucknell with us since we went 2-0 against them and thus helps our head-to-head tiebreakers. So for Lehigh fans, as important as winning on Friday night against Holy Cross is, Bucknell beating Army is also very important to our chances as well.

The third tiebreaker is RPI. Here is every teams' "Real Time RPI" as well as their overall record:

110 American 17-11
142 Holy Cross 15-12
173 Lafayette 15-13
185 Colgate 15-13
200 Navy 16-12
209 Bucknell 11-17
235 Lehigh 13-14
236 Army 12-15

For Lehigh, RPI does not enter into calculations. They will sink or swim based on the first tiebreaker - which favors Lehigh as long as Bucknell (and possibly Army) is with them - and the second tiebreaker, which hurts Lehigh since they went 0-2 versus both American and Navy.

The Friday game is a huge one for both Lehigh and Holy Cross. If Holy Cross loses, they are virtually guaranteed to be the 8th seed (being able to finish no higher than 6th). But if they win, they can hold out hope to host a first-round game as the 4th seed in one scenario (Colgate bets Navy, American beats Lafayette, and Army beats Bucknell). Worse for Lehigh, if Lehigh loses and Bucknell wins, Holy Cross will be in a tie for fifth or sixth place - which gives the advantage to the Crusaders since they won the season series versus Lehigh 2-0. So Lehigh could very easily go from the 3rd seed and hosting a first-round game to becoming the 7 seed and facing a trip to Washington, DC or Annapolis, MD.

Dizzy yet? The bottom line is this: if Lehigh wins, in the eight scenarios of a Lehigh win seven of them involve playing at Stabler on Wednesday. (Thanks to Hoop Time for the 16 possible breakdowns.) If both Lehigh and Bucknell win, Lehigh is guaranteed the #3 seed.

And who they're playing will be anyone's guess - and will undoubtedly be a dangerous team no matter who it is.

As for Lafayette, there are a multitude of scenarios which involve the RPI tiebreaker. They can finish anywhere from 3rd to 6th, and if they pull off the upset at American they will host a first-round game. Furthermore, if Lehigh wins, Lafayette loses and either Colgate AND Bucknell win or Colgate AND Bucknell lose - we'll see Lehigh host the Leopards in the "rubber match" at Stabler. There's even one scenario where Lafayette is the #4 seed and will host Lehigh as the #5 seed: if Lehigh, Lafayette, Colgate and Army all win.

[Thanks to all the message-board people who set me straight on all the scenarios, and special thanks to Hoop Time who checked with the league office.]

What About the Women?
The Lady Hawks (17-11, 9-4) aren't in quite as much of a must-win situation, but after a 55-48 win this weekend (behind the 17 point effort of super freshman G Erica Prosser), they guaranteed themselves at least one home game in the women's Patriot League tournament. They also find themselves in unfamiliar territory: rooting for Lafayette to beat American (16-12, 10-3).

Why? Because if American loses and Lehigh beats Holy Cross this Saturday up in Worcester, MA (in a revenge match after getting robbed at home on February 2nd), Lehigh will claim the #1 seed throughout the tournament - no matter what Army (18-10, 9-4) does. That's because Lehigh would hold a 3-1 record against American and Army in a 3-way tie and since they went 1-1 against American would have a better overall record than American to win that tiebreaker.

Better yet, as long as they win Saturday they can finish no worse than #2, with a shot at taking the #1 overall seed. If they get that and win the first two rounds at Army, they'll be guaranteed to host the title game at Stabler.

Two more big games for the basketball program this weekend. Fingers crossed we'll get two bits of very good news against two Crusaders teams that have given the Hawks fits year in and year out.


LU 65 said…
I've read the dialog between you and Hooptime and appreciate all the two of you have been doing to shed light on the upcoming playoffs. It's gonna be fun and it begins to tonight at Stabler. Hope to see you there.

As for the women, be advised the quarter and semi-final rounds are at Christl Arena with only the final game to be played at the home of the highest remaining seed. See link below:

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