There is a battle for the soul of the former Last Amateur Conference tonight between two teams that weren't in the conference when John Feinstein wrote his seminal mid-major book.
American isn't really that new to the Patriot League, they joined in 2001 and have been the conference representative in the NCAA Tournament twice, in 2008 and 2009. They looked to be well on their way to a third trip early in conference season when they ran out to a 10-0 lead in conference, but the Eagles have suddenly dropped three of four games. Even worse the three losses came to Lafayette, Colgate and Loyola-Maryland, three of the bottom four teams in the conference standings. One of the causes to the losing streak? The normally strong defense has been pretty generous in allowing opponents to score. In the Eagles last loss against Lafayette, American allowed the Leopards to shoot 60-percent from the field (78% from 2!) and score 1.25 points per possession. The Eagles slow things down to a crawl playing at the slowest pace in the country, normally that works for them just fine, but if the other team shoots 74 points in 56 possessions it's not a good thing.
In its first season in the PL, Boston is already looking to be the bully on the block. Thanks to American's collapse, the Terriers have taken over first place in the conference at 12-2. Boston is an incredible example of consistency, the Terriers don't have any one aspect that jumps out, but aren't bad at anything either. The offense is efficient (1.035 ppp) and the defense has been very good in conference play (0.948 ppp). Boston shoots a lot of 3's and makes them at a good clip, but not great clip. Add it all together and Boston has lost just twice in the new year. One loss came by 2 to Lehigh, but the other was a 86-56 shellacking by American.
Will the Terriers avenge the previous loss or will American snap out of their late season funk. First place in the Patriot League is on the line and with only four games to go the right to host games in the PL Tournament hangs in the balance.
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