Patrick Grudberg ‘24
At the start of the college basketball season, I wrote a preview for the Holy Cross men’s basketball season. With a healthy dose of cautious optimism, I predicted that even with a mediocre non-conference showing, Coach Nelson’s team could bounce back in Patriot League play and challenge for the top four of the league. And for once, my published predictions are looking quite accurate (don’t search for my March Madness bold predictions from last year). Holy Cross finished non-conference play standing at 3-10. Two of those wins came against non-D1 opponents, and the third came against a Central Connecticut team who currently sits at 6-17. As a fan, I was somewhat discouraged. I hoped for a serious leap forward for the men’s team. I hoped that maybe this year, they had an outside shot at challenging Colgate for the league title. I hoped for a chance, just a chance, at capturing that golden ticket to the spectacle that we lovingly refer to as March Madness.
On the morning of December 30th, I still felt a bit discouraged. That afternoon, the Crusaders would kick off Patriot League play against Bucknell. And to my delight, Gerrale Gates and Bo Mongtomery combined for 40 points, guiding the squad to a narrow 60-58 victory. A 1-0 start to league play was what everyone around the program hoped for. However, the next opponent would be much more formidable than Bucknell – the Navy Midshipmen. The Mids finished 2nd in the league last year, and an away trip down to Annapolis didn’t spell out much hope for a win. But somehow, helped by a barrage of 13 three pointers made coupled with transfer Joe Octave’s 17 point burst, the Crusaders left Annapolis 2-0 in the league.
Since their 2-0 start, Holy Cross’ performances have not been ideal. After that win at Navy on January 2nd, the Crusaders went 2-6 in their next Patriot League games. They now face a slate of eight remaining games. They sit 6th in the league and very much in reach of the 3rd place American Eagles (6-4 in league play themselves). The opportunity for a breakout is there. This year’s Patriot League is not the Big 12. Outside of Colgate and an emerging Lehigh squad, any Patriot League team is beatable. Most importantly, Coach Nelson’s team still has games against the teams they’re jockeying with for those 3rd and 4th place spots (American, Army, Lafayette and Navy). Gerrale Gates is playing like the All-Conference talent he is. Bo Montgomery has assumed a bigger role on the offensive side and continues to provide stellar defense. Coach Nelson has found a budding star and fearless scorer in freshman Will Batchelder. Joe Octave has proved to be a worthy add in the transfer portal, completing a quartet of double-digit scorers that has this program on the rise. If they go 6-2 or even 5-3 in their remaining Patriot League games, the Crusaders could find themselves in the top four of the league and on track to make some noise in the conference tournament. All we can do now is root the boys on and hope they can make a push in this fourth quarter of the regular season.
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