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2016 NCAA Tournament: Previewing Holy Cross

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Now that we know who the Ducks will play in the first round, it's time to take a closer look.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

One of the improbable teams of the tournament, the Holy Cross Crusaders. Time to find out more about the team who the Oregon Ducks will now face first in the tournament.

Quick facts:

League- Patriot

Record- 15-19 overall, 5-13 in Patriot league

Key wins- at Bucknell 77-72 (2OT), at Lehigh 59-56, vs Southern 59-55

Key losses- at Kansas 92-59,

Trends:

What makes the Crusaders one of the more improbable teams of the tournament is the current run that they are on. After going 5-13 in league play, Holy Cross is trending up in a large way thanks to their run of play starting in the conference tournament. Coming into the Patriot League tournament as a nine seed, the odds were heavily against the Crusaders from making the NCAA tournament. The nine seed meant that Holy Cross would be playing all potential tournament games on the road, something that was more than a struggle this season.

Somehow things changed as the Crusaders went on a run. In a span of four straight road wins, Holy Cross had somehow captured the league tournament crown while knocking off top seeds Bucknell and Lehigh in the process. After coming into the Patriot League tournament off of five straight losses, the Crusaders are now on a five game winning streak after last night's win.

Key players:

Malachi Alexander, #21, Junior forward, 6' 7", 217 lbs.

PPG: 11.8 RPG: 5.6 APG: 2.9

The big man did a little bit of everything last night in Holy Cross' win as he scored seven points to go along with eight rebounds and eight assists. Alexander is a solid big man who is able to step out and knock down the three as he shoots 43.6%. Alexander has trouble altering shots in the paint however, as he averages just .1 block per game while piling up nearly three fouls per contest.

Robert Champion, #22, Junior guard, 6' 6", 203 lbs.

PPG: 11.7 RPG: 4.8 APG: 1.5

Champion came up large in the First Four as he nailed a crucial three pointer with less than a minute to play to seal the Crusaders win. With his minutes doubling from last year to this year, the junior has responded in a large way as he nearly tripled his point per game total. Not the best three point shooter though, hitting at a 35.9% while throwing up close to five per game. Another issue for Champion is his turnovers, as this year he averaged nearly three per game.

Team strength:

Team defense. Thanks to the rare 1-3-1 zone defense, the Crusaders biggest strength is their defense. Often times last night the Southern offense looked baffled and weren't sure how to break the zone. Good post play along with corner three pointers are a key to breaking the 1-3-1, Oregon will need solid contributions from Chris Boucher and Jordan Bell.

Team weakness:

Rebounding. The lack of athleticism on the Crusaders plays a large role in their rebounding total. In games this year, Holy Cross averages 30.1 rebounds per game which is good for 345th in the country. Oregon needs to dominate the glass in this one.