Know Your Small Conference Winners: Bucknell Bison

Every year we see a first round upset so amazing that it makes us fall in love with March Madness all over again. The underdog-friendly nature of this 64/65/68-team tournament is so enthralling that it can sometimes cushion the blow of losing a few bucks or two in a bracket pool. Sometimes.

Kansas fans would gladly like to remind everyone that this particular incident took place a whopping six years ago, but the fact is, it did happen. Back in 2005, the Bucknell Bison pulled off one of these mind-boggling upsets we speak of. If you can't remember this game, or just missed it somehow, go right ahead and spend the next 3:01 watching this beautiful Cinderella at work.

A second round loss to Wisconsin kept Bucknell out of the Sweet 16 that year, but the notoriety of that game helped put it on the map, so to speak. The ESPYs awarded the school with the 'Best Upset' award later that summer (if that means anything), and the following season a 26-4 record garnered a favorable 9-seed from the committee. The Bison then slid by No. 8 Arkansas before running into a juggernaut in John Calipari's Memphis Tigers.

Sure, it has been a couple years, but it's soothing to fill out a bracket and see a familiar name. Welcome to the tourney, Bucknell, we promise we won't take you lightly.

A breakdown after the jump...

Location: Lewisburg, Pennsylvania

Enrollment: 3,495

Record: 25-8 (13-1)

Leading scorers: Mike Muscala (14.8 ppg); Bryson Johnson (11.6); G.W. Boon (8.8)

What to know:

  • Not Many Visible Weaknesses - The Bison rank among the top seven in college hoops in both free throw (3rd, 78.6%) and three-point (7th, 40.6%) percentages. Bucknell's style is the epitome of a solid mid-major: They rarely give up the ball, kill opponents from the line, and prefer to shy away from contested shots. From a statistical standpoint there's a whole lot to like here.
  • Specialists - Strong teams are built on strong individual components, and Bucknell appears to have a guy in virtually every necessary role. The 6'10" Muscala assumes the scoring and rebounding loads, along with ranking in the top 50 nationally in block percentage. Long-range bomber Johnson hits exactly 2.91 triples per game, and does it at a remarkable level considering he's fifth in the country in both effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage. Floor general Darrel Shazier dishes out 5.6 assists per game, and owns a sparkling 3.78 assist to turnover ratio. Boon, a senior, is the steady hand (63rd in NCAA in turnover rate) and provides scoring in bursts, while freshman Cameron Ayers is the budding star of the group who is pouring in 10.82 points over his last 11 games.
  • Questionable Aggressiveness vs. Top Teams - Dave Paulsen deserves plenty of credit for playing a tough, and vastly underrated non-conference schedule. But against its four most notable opponents, Bucknell struggled mightily to get to the line. Consider: 8 FT attempts vs. Villanova (L), 11 vs. Marquette (L), 6 vs. Boston College (L), and 9 vs. Richmond (W). That makes a grand total of 34 attempts in the four biggest games on their schedule. Worse yet, the Bison yielded a whopping 81 free throws in that span, giving us an utterly insane 81 to 34 free throw disparity. This type of thing might just be a trend, so remember this before you go all upset-happy filling out your bracket.

Projected seed: #14. Normally the hopes and dreams of a team from the Patriot League would hinge on the opponent doled out on Selection Sunday, but the Bison do a lot of things quite well, and will therefore match-up respectably with a handful of different schools. A repeat performance of '05 just feels so darn unlikely to us, however. That said, the Bison are easily in the upper half of small conference autobids in terms of upset potential.

 

Know Your Small Conference Winners

Belmont Indiana State
Morehead State
Northern Colorado
Oakland
Old Dominion
St. Peter's
UNC-Asheville
Wofford

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