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Game 5: Bucknell Preview

Is the season as bleak as many fear it is now that Frazier is gone for the year? Who knows, but the forecast ain't promising against a very strong Bucknell team.

Michael Hickey

Who: Bucknell Bison (5-0)
When: Today, 4:30 PM
Where: Bryce Jordan Center
TV: (or - All Access)
KenPom: 63-60, Bucknell (38%)

Obviously this will be the first game for the young Nittany Lions without their leader, Tim Frazier. The first action seen without Tim on the floor went surprisingly well for the first 14 minutes before the Akron Zips adjusted at halftime and made a joke of the Frazier-less Lions. The first four games that PSU has split already haven't exactly brought forth an encouraging brand of basketball even with the All-Big Ten guard in the lineup. Without him, some might be willing to throw in the towel on the season.

Not Pat Chambers.

There's no other true point guard on this current roster, but most of the burden will now fall on DJ Newbill's shoulders. The Southern Miss transfer has needed some adjusting to get back into the college groove after sitting out last season. While he is scoring 14.5 PPG, he is also averaging 4 turnovers a game and sports a 1:2 assist-to-turnover ratio.

With this program's injury past, they've had much worse options before than a Newbill when one of their star players have gone down, but the bigger concern is what's after DJ? It's going to take more than a week for him to get into forty-minutes shape after he had to leave the Akron game early because of cramping.

Losing a player as heavily involved as Frazier was on both ends of the floor can be devastating for any team. Time will tell how this season plays out for PSU, but the non-conference slate in the short-term seems particularly bleak. This team is going to need some time to find their new identity before conference play rolls around.

To put it simply, it's hard to imagine this team having the answers they'll need to beat a team as good as Bucknell today.

The Bison are led by Mike Muscala, a senior 6'11" center who has a legitimate chance to land in the NBA. The former Patriot League Player of the Year has started all four of his years in Lewisburg and is currently averaging a double-double on the season (17 points, 11 rebounds). Muscala is one of the best mid-major players in the country and will likely wreak havoc inside on PSU's frontcourt. He's one of the most efficient players in the land despite taking roughly 30% of his team's shots when he's on the floor.

His supporting cast also has great experience and form a balanced attack on offense. Fellow senior Bryson Johnson is a career 40% shooter from deep and has already made 14 of 31 three-pointers on the young season. Junior slasher Cameron Ayers can also shoot from the perimeter (career 42% 3P%). As a team, the Bison are effective behind the stripe because their offense flows inside-out through Muscala, as only 24.1% of their FGA are threes. They made 38% of their 3PA as a team last season (25th in the country) and are converting 42.9% of their attempts through the first five games this season.

It is still very young on the season, but Bucknell has already jumped to #41 in Ken Pomeroy's ratings. In their first game of the year, they went into Mackey Arena and upset the young Boilermakers 70-65. They'll have to dethrone CJ McCollum and Lehigh to reach the Madness, but the two are expected to have a heated battle throughout the year in the Patriot League.

This is a quality foe that PSU would've had trouble winning with Frazier in the lineup. Without him, it just doesn't seem realistic to expect Penn State to match up with the Bison, even on their home floor.

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