(SportsNetwork.com) - The 25th annual Patriot League Tournament begins on Tuesday, March 3 with action taking place on the home court of the higher seeds.
Tuesday's action features a pair of first-round contests, with ninth-seeded Loyola-Maryland visiting eighth-seeded Holy Cross, while No. 10 seed Army heads south to challenge rival, and seventh-seeded Navy.
The quarterfinals are slated for Thursday, with top-seeded Bucknell awaiting the winner of the Loyola-Holy Cross clash, and No. 2 seed Colgate sitting in wait for the winner of the Army-Navy duel.
The rest of the quarterfinal-round matchups have No. 5 seed Boston University battling No. 4 seed Lafayette, while sixth-seeded American University tangles with third-seeded Lehigh.
The semifinals take place on Sunday, with the title tilt slated for Wednesday, March 11.
The winner receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Holy Cross has won more Patriot League Tournament titles than any other team with five, but Bucknell is right there with four. The Bison (18-13, 13-5 Patriot), who last won it all in 2013, recently notched their fourth PL regular-season title in the last five years, doing so on the final day by virtue of their thrilling 71-69 win over American. Bucknell head coach Dave Paulsen recently picked up his Patriot League Coach of the Year award.
Colgate battled the Bison all season long for league supremacy, but came up just short after going 12-6 in conference, despite finishing a game under .500 overall (15-16).
Lehigh, which boasts the PL Player of the Year in sophomore Tim Kempton (15.1 ppg, 8.6 rpg) and the Rookie of the Year in Kahron Ross (10.4 ppg, 5.8 apg), won 10 league games this season, and went 16-13 against all foes, while Lafayette (17-12, 9-9) matched Bucknell by finishing five games over the break-even point.
Boston University (13-16, 9-9), American University (15-15, 8-10), which won the 2014 Patriot League Tournament with a 55-36 victory over the Terriers, Navy (12-18, 8-10), Holy Cross (13-15, 8-10), Loyola (11-18, 7-11) and Army (15-14, 6-12), are all hoping to catch lightning in a bottle and earn what would be an improbable trip to the Big Dance.
With a seven-game difference in the standings from top to bottom, this season's Patriot League race was the closest in all of Division I. It was also the only league where every team had at least six wins against conference foes.
With that kind of parity this could be one of the more hotly-contested tournaments in the country, but one where the cream will almost certainly rise to the top.
Sports Network Predicted Champion: Bucknell