Game 2 Preview: Bucknell Bison

Michael Hickey

The defending Patriot League champions come to the Bryce Jordan Center tonight

Who: Bucknell Bison
When: Today, 7:00pm
Where: Bryce Jordan Center
TV: Big Ten Digital Network
KenPom Rank: 136
Line: N/A, PSU -7 via Kenpom.com

After knocking off Wagner on Saturday afternoon, 74-62, Penn State hosts in-state rival Bucknell (0-1) in what is apparently called the I-45 Rivalry by the Bryce Jordan Center's PA guy. No. Seriously. Have you guys ever heard that? Whatever.

Scouting the Opposition

Bucknell lost center Mike Muscala, guard Bryson Johnson, and forward Joe Willman, who combined to average 40.4 points, 17.8 rebounds, 6.1 assists, and 3.2 blocks for the Bison en route to winning the Patriot League reglar season and tournament titles. The team picked up an 11 seed, but was bounced by Butler in the first round. The team ended up going 28-6 last year, with a 12-2 record in the Patriot League.

The team is in its sixth year under head coach Dave Paulsen, who has led the Bison to a 100-64 record in his six years in Lewisburg. Under Paulsen, the Bison have won three consecutive Patriot League regular season titles and two of the last three Patriot League tournament titles. Long story short, Paulsen has been one of the best mid-major coaches of the last five years or so.

This year, predictably, should be a bit of a down year for the Bison, as they are replacing a ton of talent, especially Muscala, who was a second round pick of the Dallas Mavericks and is currently playing in Spain. The team was picked to finish fourth in the Patriot League this year, but with how good of a coach Paulsen is and how talented star senior guard Cameron Ayers is, don't be surprised if they win the league again.

In their first game of the year, the Bison gave Stanford everything they could handle, though the Cardinal won, 72-68. Four Bison players put up double digits: senior guard Ben Brackney had 13, junior guard Steven Kaspar had 12, Ayers had 11, and senior forward Brian Fitzpatrick had 10.

Of course, Bucknell took on Penn State last year at the BJC in the first full game after Tim Frazier went down with a ruptured Achilles tendon. The Nittany Lions won 60-57 behind 17 points from Jermaine Marshall and 16 points from Brandon Taylor. Also, Jon Graham started the game. That means nothing, I just wanted everyone to feel kinda weird.

Key Matchup

Watch the D.J. Newbill/Cameron Ayers matchup. Ayers is Bucknell's best player, and last year, he played well against the Nittany Lions, going for 14 points and 4 rebounds. Conversely, Newbill struggled against the Bison, going for 10 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists on 5-18 shooting in his first game as Penn State's point guard. He also went 0-2 from deep and 0-4 from the free throw line. Not exactly the best game of his career.

This year, Newbill will be in a much more comfortable position, playing the two. He will likely be matched up against Ayers for most of the game, and don't be surprised if there's a point where the two of them go mano-a-mano at some point.

Prediction

If this game was another month or two into the season, I'd bet Bucknell is more competitive, and maybe even puts itself into the position to beat Penn State. Howevah, it's the second game of the year, and Bucknell still needs to figure out who is going to replace Muscala and co. this season.

By no means do I think Penn State runs over Bucknell, but I think the Nittany Lions keep the Bison at bay. Look for Ross Travis to bully Bucknell's front line, and for Frazier and Newbill to do Frazier and Newbill things. Give me Penn State, 75-63. I want a Big Mac, dammit.


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