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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

A look at the Scranton Royals

Published: March 6, 2009
Section: Sports

With their fourth straight entrance into the NCAA’s, the Judges look to surpass last year’s high water mark of an elite appearance. Their first obstacle to that goal comes courtesy of Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania (and site of a certain fictional paper company) – the University of Scranton Royals.

As assistant coach Eric McCoy described this squad, “they like to get up and down a little bit, they shoot tons of threes.” A high powered offense that dominated most of the statistical categories of the Landmark Conference: first in scoring offense, scoring defense, scoring margin, field goal percentage and free throw percentage. Their biggest strengths though are outside shooting, their 41.2 percent three point field goal percentage is seventh best in NCAA and interior defense with an NCAA fourth best average of 5.9 blocked shots per game.

Their offense is a balanced attack featuring four double digit scorers. Leading the squad is guard Zach Ashworth averaging 13.9 points per game. Ashworth also leads the team in assists with 3.6 per game. Not far behind is Paul Biagoli with 13.2 points and is someone to watch inside with five rebounds per game. Ryan Fitzpatrick averages 12.4 points per game and his 52.9 success rate from the three point arc is second only to Kevin Olson. Rounding out the list is Luke Hawk putting up 11.4 points per game.

Another player to watch is Luke’s older brother Paul, while not necessarily lighting up the score board, averaging 6.5 points per game, his home comfort is found right by the glass, scooping up an average of 5.4 rebounds. He also leads the team in blocked shots, swatting away 3.2 attempts per game.

This season, Scranton finished with 21 wins and went 11-3 in conference play. Their last game saw them bounce back from losing a double digit lead, thanks to a “legendary” performance from Ashworth. Ashworth finished 26 points on 9-11 shooting to help the Royals take the division title from Susquehanna in overtime 80-75 and earned a Pool B bid. It had been their second straight game to go into overtime, needing the extra frame to advance past Catholic back on February 25 71-64.

Although the offensive numbers are impressive, there are more than enough weaknesses for the Judges to exploit. First, Scranton has struggled on the road, finishing 6-5 away from their home confines. Scranton will have the benefit of closer proximity for their fans but Brandeis has a better record of performing in hostile environments, finishing 8-4 on the road.

Another stat to consider is strength of schedule. Nearly every opponent Brandeis has faced this year is in the tournament and according to, Brandeis had the 11th toughest schedule in Division III hoops. By contrast, Scranton’s schedule was rated 203rd and needed an extension two games in a row to even make it to the big dance.

Nonetheless, expect to see a tight match as lots of threes will likely be hurled and expect to see some physicality break out as one side will look to outmuscle the other in order to get that coveted pass to Salem, Virginia.