To the Wildcat faithful-
In Part 2 of the #3 Villanova/#14 American NCAA First Round Preview, I'll look at American's Patriot League schedule and results, and see what we can learn about the Eagles, and what it might tell us about Thursday...
Part 2 - American's Patriot League Schedule and Results
American finished with a 24-7 record overall, 13-1 in regular-season Patriot League play, and won three games in the conference tournament. According to Jerry Palm's CollegeRPI.com, American finished - as of March 9 - with a RPI of 77, which is outstanding for a Patriot League team. As a member of the Patriot League, AU finished with a SOS of 239, which gives an indication of the weakness of the conference - especially because the Eagles had an extremely rigorous nonconference schedule for a low-major conference team.
What does this information tell us?
Patriot League Schedule
American entered the Patriot League with a 8-5 record. The Eagles then won the Patriot League regular-season and tournament championships, which clearly established them as the premier team in the conference. American went 13-1 in the regular season before winning three games in the tournament, leaving them at 16-1.
American won the regular-season Patriot League by two games over Holy Cross, which finished 11-3. However, the Eagles did have a number of close calls, despite losing only a single game, @ Holy Cross. They won two games in overtime - against the two teams which (BTW) have the oldest intercollegiate football rivalry. One was Lehigh at home, but the other was really surprising - @ Lafayette, which finished in a last-place tie in the eight-team conference with a record of 4-10, 8-22 (306 RPI). And that was in the season finale.
Other close victories were @ Navy (one point) and @ Bucknell. Travelling to Jay Wright's alma mater - which finished in seventh place, along with the aforementioned Lafayette, the Bison finished 4-10, 7-23 (293), and the Eagles won by just two points. Less surprisingly, American beat Holy Cross and Navy at home, by five and six points respectively.
Patriot League Tournament
The Eagles did enjoy a huge advantage, in that the entire tournament was in Washington. After surviving @ Lafayette in overtime in the season finale, the top-seeded Eagles got to face them again, just four days later. And this time, American won 78-56.
The semifinals were another matter, especially in light of the fact that American had conquered Army easily in both regular-season games. First, American won in Washington, allowing just 34 points in a 22-point victory. Then, @ West Point, the Eagles held the Black Knights to just 36 points in a 24 point victory. So it was extraordinarily surprising, that after scoring just 70 points - combined - in two previous games against American, the Black Knights nearly stunned American in the semifinals in DC, losing just 61-60.
American faced the runner-up, Holy Cross, in the final; they had split the series with the Crusaders, each team winning at home. And in DC, the pattern held true; however, the Eagles had no trouble claiming the NCAA bid, conquering the Crusaders 73-57 (they had won by six at home in the regular season.)
Part 3 will be coming up soon...