It’s conference tournament week and the two Patriot League academies are looking strong! Neither has to worry about a first-round matchup and if everything falls accordingly, they could meet in the Patriot League title game.
Navy battled it out with the No.1 seed Colgate on Saturday, showing that they could startle the Raiders if they meet again in the finals. Earlier in the week, the Midshipmen squeezed past Loyola (MD) to clinch the two seed and home-court advantage through at least the semifinals.
On the banks of the Hudson, Army won its final two regular-season games and kept itself out of the first round. They clinched the five seed and will have a tilt with Lehigh, a team they beat earlier this season.
A few wins over the next week and a half and it’s the first NCAA Tournament appearance for a Patriot League academy since 1998.
Fresno State 65, Air Force 40
Army 73, Bucknell 60
Navy 50, Loyola (MD) 50
Colgate 74, Navy 69
Army 66, Holy Cross 58
New Mexico 69, Air Force 65
San Jose State vs Air Force – 9 p.m. (Mountain West Network)
No.5 Army vs No.4 Lehigh – 7 p.m. (ESPN+)
No.10 American/No.7 Holy Cross vs No.2 Navy – 7 p.m. (ESPN+)
Patriot League Semifinals – 2/4 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
This was a big week for Army Black Knights basketball.
After dropping six straight, it looked like the Black Knights were going to go from potentially hosting a Patriot League quarterfinal to playing in the first round on the road. But they clutched it out with two wins over bottom of the league teams, setting them into the five-seed. Along with that, Josh Caldwell was named Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year and Jalen Rucker a member of All-Patriot League second team.
It began on Wednesday as eight seniors were honored during their final regular-season home game. The Black Knights led by as much as 24, sweeping Bucknell for the first time since 2008-09 by a score of 73-60.
Jalen Rucker led the way with his ninth 20-point game of the season, scoring 21 points. Josh Caldwell followed with 19 points on his senior night.
“It was definitely a lot of fun, we definitely needed the win,” said Caldwell postgame, “I went out there just having fun”
The Black Knights closed the regular season with a close win at Holy Cross, 66-58. Rucker had yet another huge game, scoring 24 points and going on a late 7-0 run, placing Army into the 4/5 game against Lehigh on Thursday. It will be a rubber match as both teams won on their home court.
Navy showed last year that seeding doesn’t always mean everything come March but will look to take advantage of what they earned this season.
With its tight win over Loyola on Wednesday, the Midshipmen clinched the two-seed in the Patriot Tournament, securing home-court advantage through at least the Patriot League semifinals.
In that game, Loyola led at the break but the Midshipmen were in control for a large majority of the half. They would regain the lead early in the second half, but it stayed close throughout the rest of the game.
Loyola would claw back to tie it up at 50 with 1:29 remaining, but a Sean Yoder steal and layup with 2.2 seconds remaining would ultimately be the difference-maker.
“This time of year,” said Navy head coach Ed DeChellis, “it is a player here and a play there (deciding games).”
What a finish!— Navy Basketball (@NavyBasketball) February 24, 2022
Check out the highlights from our 52-50 win ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/ksQok6jEUJ
They would keep it close with Colgate in the season finale, but the Raiders would pull off a 74-69 victory on Saturday afternoon. Colgate carries a 12-game winning streak into the Patriot League tournament. Take that as you will, Ravens fans.
Navy will open its conference tournament play on Thursday against the winner of the play-in game between American and Holy Cross. They swept the Eagles and dropped the home game against the Crusaders. Either way, it seems like a good drawl for the Midshipmen.
Ed DeChellis thinks the best is yet to come saying, “We have 19 wins, and we haven’t played our best game yet. One of these nights we are all going to play really well at the same time and we are going to be fun to watch. That’s what gives me excitement.”
That means an awful lot because DeChellis was named the Patriot League Coach of the Year on Monday. Along with that, John Carter Jr. was named to the 2nd team All-Patriot League and Richard Njoku and Greg Summers made the league’s All-Defensive team.
Another week, another two losses for the young Falcons. Their losing streak now sits at nine.
On Tuesday, Air Force was held to a season-low 40 points as they faced one of the top defenses in the country, Fresno State.
“All I’ve really tried to coach and get these guys to understand is sort of the grit and fight you’ve got to have and the willingness and the eagerness and that is part of this growth. You have to have that,” Air Force head coach Joe Scott said postgame.
They showed that as they battled out New Mexico at The Pit on Saturday. Air Force fell short by a score of 69-65 but led going into halftime and kept it close throughout.
Joe Octave scored a career-high 18 points for the Falcons.
Air Force will look to head into the Mountain West Tournament with a win as they visit the only team that is lower than them in the league standings, San Jose State, on Tuesday.