Monday, March 14, 2011

Breaking Down Bucknell

So what should you know about Bucknell? Well, the numbers tell us this: 25-8 overall, 13-1 in the Patriot League. The Bison have won 10 straight and 19 of their last 20. They've got a 6-11 center (Mike Muscala) who can score (14.8 ppg), a guard (Bryson Johnson) who can flat-out shoot (47-percent on 3-pointers), a point guard (Darryl Shazier) who is exremely efficient with the ball and a 6-5 guard (Bryan Cohen) who was the Patriot League's defensive player of the year the past two seasons.

They're also pretty confident.

“We don’t want to be giddy, with our eyes like deer in the headlights,” third-year Bucknell coach Dave Paulsen said on Monday. “We want to go out and try to win this thing ... We’ve been solid and steady, and have the mindset that teams have to be great to beat us. Now, we haven’t played a team the likes of UConn in a while. So, whether we can be steady and solid with the ball against those people is another issue.”

"I think we’re one of hottest teams in nation," said Muscala. "The losses we've had, you never want to lose, but after that loss (to Marquette on Nov. 14), we started getting even more focused, found some things we needed to correct. We're playing great team ball, both defensively and offensively. I’m excited to see what we can do."

Paulsen said his team played one possession of zone this season, gave up a 3-pointer and abandoned it forever. So the Bison -- who have decent size -- will go man-to-man with the Huskies. Cohen will draw the unenviable task of guarding Walker, but he'll need help.

"It defnitely needs to be a team effort stopping Kemba Walker," said Shazier. "It's going to take everyone to stop him."

The Bison have played two Big East teams (and one former Big East team) already this season. They lost to Villanova 68-52 in their season opener, played Marquette tough in a 72-61 loss in Milwaukee two nights later and lost to Boston College 84-80 on Dec. 22 in Chestnut Hill.

Shazier said facing other top guards like 'Nova's Corey Fisher and BC's Reggie Jackson will serve the team well when encountering Walker.

"We're going to be prepared," he promised.

The Bison program may also have a little kismet on their side. They authored one of the more stunning upsets in NCAA tournament history back in 2005, edging Kansas 65-64. Kansas, like UConn, was a No. 3 seed. The following year, Bucknell bopped Arkansas in the first round.

"It’s like our coach said,” Muscala noted, “Bucknell doesn’t just make tournaments, (it) wins games.”

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