Previewing the Northeast Conference and Patriot League Finals

With Championship Week in full swing, here’s a quick look at the title games in the Northeast Conference and the Patriot League, both of which take place on Wednseday night.

Northeast: LIU Brooklyn vs. Robert Morris

LIU took home the Regular Season Championship by finishing 16-2 in the league, but one of those two losses game at Robert Morris in the lone meeting between the two schools this season.  The Blackbirds had the league’s most efficient offense in league play and led the NEC in two- and three-point shooting as well as free throw rate.  Julian Boyd and Jamal Olasewere do most of the heavy lifting on offense, with both shooting over 57% on two-pointers and both posting impressive rebounding percentages.  The Blackbirds routinely scored over 1.10 ppp in league play, but one of their lowest outputs of the season came against Robert Morris, when they managed just 0.94 ppp.  The Colonials posted an impressive 26.1 TO% on defense, so it will be important for LIU to take good care of the basketball.  RMU has also allowed just one of their last seven opponents to score over 0.98 ppp.

Robert Morris finished second in offensive efficiency in league play.  Their shooting percentages won’t wow you, but they grabbed 39.0% of their misses and finished second in FTR.  Their work on the offensive glass could prove critical in this game since LIU is in the middle of the pack in terms of DReb%.  Fouls and free throws will also be key, as the Blackbirds rank first in opponents’ FTR with a paltry 20.8 mark in conference games.  In the first meeting, the Colonials posted an outstanding 50.0 FTR.  Keep an eye on RMU guard Velton Jones, who has a usage rate of 31.5% and ranks in the Top 50 in assist rate.  As for the LIU defense, they have allowed five of their last six foes to score at least 1.05 ppp, which is good news for the Robert Morris offense.  

Patriot: Bucknell vs. Lehigh

The top two teams in the Patriot League will face off with the automatic bid on the line.  Bucknell finished 12-2 in conference play, and they split two games against Lehigh with each team winning on the other’s home floor.  The Bison were second in the league in offensive efficiency and ranked second in both eFG% and FTR.  They also led the league in two-point shooting and made nearly 80% from the stripe in league play.  The player to watch for Bucknell is Mike Muscala, who leads the team in points and rebounds and has a solid 117.0 ORtg.  Lehigh finished second in defensive efficiency in league play and ranked first in opponents’ FTR and steal percentage.  There was a wide variance in Bucknell’s offensive performance in the two matchups with 1.10 ppp in the first meeting and just 0.90 in the second, and a huge discrepancy in FTR played a key factor in that variance.

Led by star guard C.J. McCollum, Lehigh finished first in offensive efficiency in the Patriot League.  The Mountain Hawks rarely get to the free throw line, but they take great care of the ball and attack the offensive glass.  In the two games against Bucknell, Lehigh managed 0.98 and 0.95 ppp, which isn’t surprising given the Bison’s top-ranked defensive efficiency.  They are first in eFG% defense, two-point defense, and DReb%, which helps make up for the fact they don’t force a ton of turnovers.  Ten of their last 13 opponents have failed to score more than 0.98 ppp, and the Bison’s stout defense may well turn out to be the difference in the game.