Eagles’ veteran team seek upset

Michael Zipf


Last season, the Eagles of American University earned their first NCAA tournament berth, ultimately losing to Tennessee 72-55 as a No. 15 seed. This season, led by Patriot League Tournament MVP Garrison Carr, the Eagles repeated as Patriot League Champions, garnering a No. 14 seed in the NCAA tournament. Head Coach Jeff Jones entering his ninth season at the helm reminded his team after their impressive 73-57 victory over Holy Cross that they are capable of accomplishing more. Although the Eagles are veteran laden team with five seniors starting, they are facing a formidable Villanova squad, which features a high octane offense that mirrors in many facets last year’s Tennessee squad.

In order for American to pull off the upset as a No. 14 seed, the Eagles will need to continue their stellar outside shooting. During the second half of the Patriot League Championship, American shot a sizzling 71 percent from the field including 47 percent from the 3-point line.


Experience. When March rolls around, a team’s experience, especially during the NCAA tournament, looms as a large factor. American is one of the few teams in the tournament who boasts a starting lineup entirely made up of seniors. Led by Carr, who averages a team best 17.6 points per game and forward Brian Gilmore, who averages a team high 5.4 rebounds per game, the Eagles employ a prolific outside attack. On the season the Eagles are shooting 37 percent from beyond the arch, which should serve American well. The ‘Cats have surrendered more than eight 3-point field goals in each of their last three games, including eight in the second half in their semifinal loss to Big East Champion Louisville.


Rebounding and interior play. Typical of most mid-major schools, the Eagles lack a formidable front court presence. Facing a tenacious Villanova squad that loves to attack the offensive glass could cripple a weak rebounding American squad. Only two players on the squad average over five rebounds per game. In addition, during crunch time, American’s weak free throw percentage (64.5 percent) could prove costly.


Carr and Gilmore are the spark plugs behind the Eagles’ offensive attack. Head Coach Jay Wright’s game play should focus on containing Carr, especially on the perimeter. Expect Villanova to throw a barrage of defenders at Carr with junior guard Reggie Redding earning the primary assignment. In the victory against Holy Cross Carr exploded for 24 points, including 6-8 from beyond the arc. An X-factor for American could be Derrick Mercer a 5-foot-9 inch point guard who relentlessly attacks the rim.


Expect American’s experience to allow the squad to compete early. Villanova’s offensive firepower and guard play will ultimately prove too much. Senior forward Dante Cunningham should dominate an inept American frontcourt.