The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


March 19, 2012

Bill Bowman's column on college sports: Bison, Hawks make Patriot League tough to ignore

It's tough to ignore what just happened in our little corner of the college basketball world. It's also tough to imagine a bigger 10- or 12-day stretch than the Patriot League just enjoyed. Sunday's losses by Bucknell and Lehigh do nothing to diminish it.

Rewind quickly to the first Wednesday in March and the thriller those two played in the Patriot League final. In the 22-year history of league title games, if it wasn't the best, it is probably top two or three. It was a game between clearly the two best teams featuring, without question, the two best players who played just like that. Mike Muscala and C.J. McCollum combined for 59 points in a performance that left everyone in attendance wanting more.

What happens after that is usually pretty stock, however. The champ goes on to the NCAA tournament, gets about a 15 seed, takes on a big-name program, takes its beating and parting gifts and returns home by Saturday morning.

That has happened 86 percent of the time in the league's history. This, however, was not one of those times. In fact, for the first time in league history three teams made the postseason with American earning a spot in the CIT, although the Eagles' lost their opening game. So Bucknell and Lehigh carried the torch and it burned bright last week.

In a tournament that typically builds matchups based on geography, there were plenty of potential destinations for Bucknell before the NIT pairings were announced, including Drexel, Seton Hall and St. Joe's -- all manageable bus rides. Instead, the Bison got shipped all the way across the country to Arizona. That announcement came moments after Lehigh found out it would be playing Duke, perhaps the biggest name in college basketball, in Greensboro, N.C., which is closer to Duke's campus than Lehigh is to Bucknell.

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