Raider Rant: ‘Gate Basketball and Hockey at a Glance

Editor’s Note: “Raider Rants” is a new running feature in the Colgate Maroon-News, as Maroon-News editors will offer opinions about the Colgate Varsity Sports program under this heading.

Men’s Basketball: The Raiders’ 5-5 Patriot League record leaves them in fourth place with four conference games left, which would enable them to play the first round of the Patriot League Tournament at home. If Colgate beats fifth-place Lehigh on the 18th, it would go a long way to ensuring that the Raiders stay there, because the Raiders would then gain the valued head-to-head tiebreaker against the Mountain Hawks. Moving up further in the standings, however, seems unlikely at this juncture. American and Holy Cross, who are tied for first, have only one loss each. Third-place Navy has four, but the Mids, as well as American and Holy Cross, currently own tiebreakers against Colgate at the moment by virtue of beating the Raiders.

My Two Cents: If Colgate plays consistent offensive basketball and gets solid production from all three of their big men (first-year Nick Pascale, junior Ben Jonson and senior Alex Woodhouse), the Raiders have the ability to give American and Holy Cross a big run for their money in the Patriot League Tournament. But if neither of those things happen, the Raiders will go no better than one-and-done in the PL Tournament. The Raiders would most certainly run into Holy Cross or American should they advance, but that spells trouble for ‘Gate. 6’8″ American forward Brian Gilmore, who scored 28 against ‘Gate in January, is the conference’s most improved player, and Holy Cross has a glut of big men that gave the Raiders a lot of trouble last month. Colgate will go as far as their big men take them, but if the three trees play as well as I know they can, American and Holy Cross are in for a surprise.

Women’s Basketball: As Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis once said, “Just win baby.” Colgate will most likely finish in last place in the Patriot League for the third straight season. The Colgate women’s basketball program has been in a freefall ever since the Raiders made the NCAA Tournament in 2004, and it is currently last in Division I basketball in Ratings Percentage Index.

My Two Cents: I see a lot of individual talent on the court every time I watch Colgate play, but this unit does not play as a team, committing way too many turnovers. It’s going to take a large effort for each player to cut down on those and knock down free throws. To put it simply, if Colgate wasn’t dead-last in the conference in both of those categories, this team would not be in last place. Yes, things have looked incredibly bleak for a long time now, but I wouldn’t throw in the towel on this season yet. None of the Patriot League teams are a cut above the rest, and Colgate was defeating first-place Lehigh 26-20 at halftime earlier this season in Bethlehem. And as weird as it may sound, I didn’t feel as though there was a talent differential on the court when I was watching Colgate’s 86-54 loss to Bucknell in January. Colgate has as much talent as anyone else in the Patriot League, but it just needs to be molded.

Men’s Hockey: First of all, hats off to junior David McIntyre for scoring the best goal I’ve seen at Starr Rink last Saturday. Anyways, the Raiders should not be in second-to-last place in the ECAC. Colgate has lost four overtime games, one of which it was leading 4-0. Furthermore, the Raiders have blown two 2-0 leads that have turned into 2-2 ties. So barring an epic collapse from one of the top-eight teams, it seems as though the Raiders will be playing the first round of the ECAC Tournament on the road for the first time in six years.

My Two Cents: You heard it here first that Colgate will finish the regular season by winning at least four of its last six regular season games. We won’t see any more stutter steps like Colgate’s embarrassingly ugly 4-1 loss to Brown, probably the worst team in Division I. Furthermore, this team will advance to the ECAC quarterfinals with ease; this team has too much talent and athleticism not to. The keys to a successful ECAC run include consistent goaltending, scoring production from forwards not named Day, McIntyre or Smith, and disciplined and smart hockey from the defensemen. Also, the Raiders can’t afford to take dumb penalties or have any defensive breakdowns, and the forwards need to pepper the net with shots. If the Raiders do those things, get excited for a Cinderella run akin to ninth-seed Clarkson advancing to the ECAC finals five years ago, or eight-seed Colgate making the ECAC Frozen Four last year. But if Colgate retains some of its bad habits(which I think will disappear), an ugly playoff sweep will be in the mix.

Women’s Hockey: This team has the best chance out of the four discussed here to win its conference tournament. The combination of the goaltending of first-year phenom Kim Sass, gritty defense and consistent scoring production from a cacophony of solid upperclassmen forwards has led Colgate to being in position to host the ECAC Quarterfinal round. Sass in particular has been amazing, and her 42-save performance against No. 4 St. Lawrence was unreal, specifically her play when St. Lawrence had a 6-on-3 advantage. Though a first seed in the playoffs is unlikely, which would enable them to host the ECAC semifinal and final rounds, Colgate can realistically finish as high as third place. If Colgate takes three out of four points this week, Colgate will probably be hosting an ECAC playoff series in the last weekend of February

My Two Cents: Will this team be the third Colgate squad this year to make the NCAA Tournament? It’s way too close to call. I think that any of the top seven ECAC teams could win the NCAA Tournament berth. Whoever gets the most consistent goaltending and defense down the stretch will win it all. Thankfully, Colgate’s are pretty air-tight at the moment. Furthermore, the emergence of junior forwards Katie Stewart and Beth Rotenberg as dynamic scoring options will help this club down the stretch. I think Colgate will advance to the ECAC semifinals after winning a three-game series against Princeton, but as for predictions for the last two rounds, it’s anyone’s guess. I suppose it depends on whose side the zebras are on.