(5) ARMY v. (2) COLGATE
Colgate had a light NCAA Tournament pulse prior to the start of the Patriot League Tournament but has left Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium as a guaranteed performer in The Show following an 11-8 victory over Army. The title marks the second for the Raiders in the Patriot League -- the team collared the 2008 Patriot League Tournament championship -- and stands as the third time that Colgate has earned an invitation to The Big Barbeque. Ryan Walsh (2-2) and Cameron Williams (4-0) led the Raiders throughout the day, creating offensive combustion for Colgate while making Army's defense question its validity.
Cole Johnson gave the Black Knights a 3-2 lead early in the second quarter on a bouncer past Brandon Burke. The advantage for the Cadets, however, would be short-lived and isolated: Three straight goals from Williams both broke a 13:15 scoring drought for the Raiders and built a cushion that Colgate ride over the final 32:01 of regulation. It was this rush -- one that took 11:14 to create in the second period -- that ultimately colored the game for the Raiders: Without the effort from Williams and the rest of the Colgate offense prior to the intermission -- each of Williams' goals in the push were assisted with Walsh chipping in helpers on Williams final two blasts in the surge -- Army may have had the opportunity to rattle a Raiders team that had been playing with rainbows in their brains since a late-March humiliation of Loyola at Ridley Athletic Complex.
The Black Knights, though, were unable to solve Colgate's progressive defense and quietly forceful offense. Despite pulling within one of the Raiders out of the intermission -- John Glesener hammered home the second of his three goals just 6:19 into the penultimate period -- the Cadets could not draw square with the Raiders. A quick response from Matt Clarkson gave Colgate a 6-4 lead and the Black Knights would get no closer to the Raiders over the balance of the game. The Cadets shot 35.71 percent in the second half but could not keep pace with the Raiders as Colgate shot an impressive 54.55 percent over the last two quarters. This discrepancy seemed to negate a 10-3 faceoff advantage for the Black Knights in the final 30 minutes of regulation, and seven turnovers from Army in the second half further exacerbated a situation in which the Cadets needed to be flawless in order to erase an early lapse in performance in a pace-deflated game.
Colgate's championship caps off an otherwise bonkers year for the Patriot League, one in which the conference's tournament constitution was not determined until the last day of the regular season and the top seeded team in the league's postseason event bowed to its archrival in the semifinal round of the playoff that it hosted. The league's champion, unsurprisingly, started a pedestrian 2-2 against conference competition with one of the losses coming against an opponent that didn't even progress to the Patriot League Tournament. This is real life.