Patriot League tourney preview: Can AU soar to NCAA berth?

Patriot League tourney preview: Can AU soar to NCAA berth?
March 4, 2014, 7:00 pm
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March Madness is truly here. Conference tournaments have begun, including the Patriot League. American jumps into action in the quarterfinal round on Wednesday. Here's what you need to know...

Situation: Preseason projected ninth in the 10-team league, American (17-12, 13-5) finished second, two games behind Boston University.

Matchup: American hosts No. 7 Colgate (12-17, 6-12) at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday. The Eagles and Raiders split the season series, each winning on the road.

Streak: The Eagles soared early, opening with a 10-0 record and overall 11-game winning streak. However, AU dipped down the stretch, losing five of their final eight. Colgate has won four straight.

Bracket: With a win, American would host the winner of No. 3 Holy Cross-No. 6 Lehigh on Saturday. Should seeds hold, the Eagles play at Boston on March 12 in the finals of the one-bid league.

Honors: First-year head coach Mike Brennan was named Patriot League Player of the Year. Senior center Tony Wroblicky (12.2 ppg, 7.3 rbg) was picked as the Defensive Player of the Year and First-Team All-League selection. Junior point guard Darius Gardner and leading scorer Jesse Reed (14.2 ppg) were named to the second team.

What works: American ranks seventh nationally in field goal percentage (49.5) and leads the Patriot League in scoring defense (60.1).

Favorite: Boston finished the regular season 7-1 after losing 86-56 at American on January 22. The Terriers won at Maryland this season

Sleeper: Bucknell, the top free throw shooting and offensive rebounding team in the league, enters the tournament on a six-game winning streak including a victory over Boston. The Bison and Terriers would meet in the semifinals.

Last time out: The combination of rebounding woes and timely shooting led to the Eagles 61-56 loss to Bucknell on Saturday at Bender Arena. The Bison had 15 offensive rebounds including one with 41 seconds that led to a layup and a 53-49 lead.

Offensively, only Jesse Reed scored in double figures with 16 points. Bucknell's game plan left several AU players open and most of the time they were hesitant to fire away.

"The game was the 15 offensive rebounds I thought," coach Mike Brennan said. "Then we went through stretches where they weren't guarding certain guys. We needed a guy to maybe just make a shot."

They said it: "I think each game there is probably something new, something different. Mostly the teams in the league are good. All the wins that we have are close games. We fought hard and eked out wins each time during that stretch. ...It comes down to doing the little things over and over. We got to get back to doing those things." - Mike Brennan on what changed following the 10-0 start.