Conference: Patriot League
Record: 14-19 (5-13)
Conference Tournament Seed: 9
NCAA Tournament Seed: 16 (West)
How they got to the Big Dance
Going into the Patriot League conference tournament, it appeared either top-seeded Bucknell or second-seeded Lehigh would be cashing in a ticket for the NCAA Tournament. But it’s the unexpected Holy Cross Crusaders who will be representing the Patriot League for the first time since 2007. The Crusaders ended the regular season on a five-game losing streak and a 5-13 conference record. They also hadn’t won a single conference game on the road. But the ninth-seeded Crusaders pulled off four upsets in true road games: a 72-67 victory over Loyola, a 77-72 win over tournament favorite Bucknell, a 60-38 rout of Army, and a miracle-completing 59-56 win over Lehigh.
Why they will be a Cinderella team
They may not be a Cinderella team just yet, but Sleeping Beauty has awoken! And they’re going to the big dance! The Crusaders will most likely be in a play-in game for the 16-seed in the Tournament and will have to rely on the momentum of their hot streak. We know they can pull off a few upsets, as all four of their conference tournament wins were against higher seeds. They do have three starters who average more than 10 points per game, but they’ll really need to show up if they have any chance of extending their winning streak. The Crusaders also don’t turn the ball over very often. They are ranked 32nd in the country with only 10.9 turnovers per game. We’ll see if they can keep that consistent against much better competition. Additionally, they only commit 16.8 fouls per game, which is ranked 30th in the nation. They could find success keeping their opponents away from the free throw line.
Why they won’t be a Cinderella Team
Even though Holy Cross won their conference tournament, they went 5-13 in Patriot League games and only 9-6 outside the conference. So, the Crusaders’ 14-19 overall record doesn’t show too many signs of an upset. They also don’t score a lot of points. They only average an abysmal 65.3 points per game, 318th in the country. That will not bode well against the nation’s top competition. If they get down early, they don’t shoot three pointers well enough to crawl back into the game. From behind the 3-point arc, they only shoot 32.7 percent. The Crusaders’ biggest weakness is their ability, or lack there of, to grab rebounds on the defensive end. Against the best teams in the country, ranking 339th in defensive rebounds does not indicate a high upset chance. With bad defensive rebounding comes a lot of second-chance points for the opposition, which low seeds can’t allow if they want to be a Cinderella story.
Player to Watch: F Malachi Alexander
If there’s a chance for Holy Cross to continue their momentum, it’s going to happen because of 6-foot-7 junior Malachi Alexander. His 12.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game doesn’t jump out at you, but his recent play is something to acknowledge. He scored 21.5 points per game in the conference tournament. He also shot 56.3 percent from the floor, compared to 47.7 percent in the regular season. His rebounds also went up to 7.5 per game. Alexander’s postseason play is a major reason why Holy Cross has made it this far, so look to see if he can continue this hot streak going into the NCAA Tournament.
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