New Patriot League playoff format will shape late-season play

This season’s Patriot League tournament is no longer the tidy eight-team event it has been in the past. With the addition of Boston University and Loyola (Md.), the league tournament, will play two additional games.

The bottom four teams will receive just one full day of rest in between the end of the regular season and the start of the league tournament on March 3. That has left the race for the bottom four seeds nearly intriguing to watch as the battle for homecourt advantage. The top four seeds will host quarterfinal games on March 5 and the top six finishers will receive byes into the quarterfinals.

Here is a small breakdown for each team as the league schedule makes its turn for March.

T-1. American (15-9, 11-2)

Does anyone remember where the Eagles were selected in the preseason league poll? Anyone? The Eagles were picked to finish ninth out of 10 teams. American began the league schedule with a win at Bucknell and won 10 consecutive games before back-to-back to losses dropped it into a first-place tie. The Eagles rebounded with a win against Lehigh on Wednesday. The much-anticipated rematch with Boston University is Feb. 19 in Boston. American won the first meeting in Washington D.C. by 29 points.

Remaining schedule: at Lafayette; at Boston; vs. Army; at Navy; vs. Bucknell

T-1. Boston University (18-8, 11-2)

The newcomer Terriers were the preseason pick to win the league and looked the part before losing the undefeated showdown in American by nearly 30 points. Their only other blemish is an overtime loss to Lehigh. Their remaining schedule is tough with three of their final five games against the other top three teams in the league. Add a game at Loyola this Saturday against a Greyhounds team that is 5-1 at home in league play and the Terriers will definitely have their work cut out for them if they want to win the Patriot League regular-season title and tournament No. 1 seed.

Remaining schedule: at Loyola; vs. American; vs. Bucknell; at Army; at Holy Cross

3. Holy Cross (15-10, 9-4)

One of the hottest teams in the league right now. The Crusaders lost three of their first four league games before winning eight of their next nine. Their only loss during that stretch was a six-point defeat at American. The Crusaders play only one more team in the league with a league mark above .500 and that game against Boston to close out the league’s regular season is in Worcester, Mass.

Remaining schedule: at Lehigh; vs. Lafayette; vs. Navy; at Loyola; vs. Boston

4. Army (12-12, 8-5)

The Black Knights started the league schedule strong, winning six of their first seven games but they have dropped four of their last six. In their last eight games, Army has won two, lost two, won two and lost two. If they want to remain in the top four and put themselves in position to play at home in the quarterfinals, they can take a big step on Saturday with a win at Bucknell.

Remaining schedule: at Bucknell; vs. Colgate; at American; vs. Boston; vs. Lafayette

T-5. Lehigh (13-13, 6-7)

The Mountain Hawks had a four-game stretch where they lost four league games by a combined 10 points. Since that frustrating stretch, Lehigh has won five of seven league games, including an overtime victory at Boston. Saturday’s home game against Holy Cross is the last game against one of the league’s top four teams. Lehigh closes the season at Bucknell, a team it shares fifth-place with at the moment.

Remaining schedule: vs. Holy Cross; vs. Navy; at Lafayette; at Bucknell; vs. Colgate

T-5. Bucknell (11-13, 6-7)

The Bison’s near .500 record overall and in league play says it all. Bucknell has been up and down all season, but did look solid in its 78-57 win over Navy on Wednesday night at Sojka Pavilion. A win at home on Saturday night against Army would pull the Bison within one game of the Black Knights for the No. 4 seed in the tournament with four league games remaining. Remaining schedule includes games at Loyola, at Boston and at American, teams that are a combined 17-3 at home in league play.

Remaining schedule: vs. Army; at Loyola; at Boston; vs. Lehigh; at American

7. Loyola (Md.) (10-14, 5-8)

Year one in the Patriot League has been an adjustment for the Greyhounds. They are 5-1 at home, including a win against American, but have yet to win on the road during league play in seven attempts. Could play spoiler for the top four teams as they still host Boston and Holy Cross.

Remaining schedule: vs. Boston; vs. Bucknell; at Colgate; vs. Holy Cross; at Navy

T-8. Colgate (9-15, 3-10)

The Raiders lost by two points to Boston on Wednesday night and split games with Holy Cross and American last week, losing by just one to the Crusaders. A potential dangerous team if they are knocking down 3-point shots. They are second in the league in 3-point field goal percentage and lead the league with 8.8 makes a game. Will shooting legs be able to handle three games in five days if they reach Patriot League quarterfinals?

Remaining schedule: at Navy; at Army; vs. Loyola; vs. Lafayette; at Lehigh

T-8. Navy (8-16, 3-10)

Navy stunned Army on Saturday, beating the Black Knights by 22 points. The Midshipmen lost by 21 at Bucknell on Wednesday though, losing for the seventh time in eight games. Has lost to Boston twice by a combined 36 points and to American by 22 in their only meeting so far this season, which doesn’t look favorably for a potential quarterfinal matchup should Navy win a first-round game.

Remaining schedule: vs. Colgate; at Lehigh; at Holy Cross; vs. American; vs. Loyola

T-8. Lafayette (7-17, 3-10)

The Leopards began the league season with nine consecutive losses, but have won three of their past four games after welcoming back all-league performer Seth Hinrichs. They did lose at Boston on Saturday by 34 points but were down 31-8 early. They have a veteran coach and a couple of veteran players that could make the Leopards a dangerous matchup come early March.

Remaining schedule: vs. American; at Holy Cross; vs. Lehigh; at Colgate; at Army