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Penn State at Bucknell Preview: PAYBACK TIME, EMM EFF's

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The Nittany Lions will try to continue their positive momentum from their second half performance against Akron when they face their first true road test at Bucknell on Black Friday, where they will try to avenge last year's upset loss.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Who: Bucknell Bison (2-4)
When: Today, 4:00 PM ET
Where: Sojka Pavilion (Lewisburg, PA)
TV: Patriot League Live (link here)
KenPom Rank: 220
KenPom Line: PSU -4

So, how about that second half of hoops against Akron? You can't tell me with a straight face that this team doesn't entertain you. Now, Pat Chambers takes his heart-stopping show on the road about 70 miles East on I-80 to Lewisburg, where they will face their first true road test at a Bucknell team that while struggling this year, will nonetheless be expected to give PSU their best shot and try to improbably string together consecutive wins against the Nittany Lions.

Scouting The Opposition

These are not your older brother's Bucknell Bison. Since making the NCAA Tournament a couple of seasons ago, they have gone through an up-and-down 16-14 season last year and are currently off to a difficult 2-4 start, which includes a home loss to Mount St. Mary's (Ken Pom Rank: 278) and a narrow three-point victory over MEAC powerhouse Maryland Eastern-Shore (KenPom: 339), and 20+ point losses at Michigan (77-53) and Toledo (92-65). They did however, give a talented Villanova (KenPom: 7) team a run for their money before ultimately succumbing 72-65, so they are not a team to take lightly.

The Bison are led by Chris Hass, the 6'5" junior guard who is the team's lone player averaging double digits in scoring at 16.8 ppg, including a blistering 48.5% from 3-point land (16 of 33 thus far on the season). Basically, as Hass goes, so does Bucknell's offense. Junior forward Dom Hoffman is the team's next best scorer at 7.7 ppg.

So, what's the culprit behind Bucknell's rough start? According to almighty KenPom, it's their inefficiency on both ends of the floor, where they rank 207th on offense and 234th on defense. When you can't score nor defend consistently enough, you're going to have a bad time (#analysis).  When you factor in PSU's 62nd rated offensive efficiency and and 48th ranked Effective FG% defensively, on paper, this game could really end up being a bad time for Bucknell.

What To Watch For

Who will be tasked with guarding Hass? Don't be surprised if Geno Thorpe, regarded as one of PSU's best defenders, is assigned to him. If PSU can take Hass out of his rhythm, and force his teammates to pick up the scoring slack, it could be a very long afternoon for the Bison. Of course, it also seems that every team that is in a three-point shooting slump manages to re-discover their shooting touch when facing PSU, so part of me expects that PSU will find itself in yet another thrilling shootout.

Prediction

After the way the last four games have gone and given that this is PSU's first true road game at what should be a packed house and raucous environment at Bucknell, it's hard not to expect another roller-coaster like thriller of a contest. Of course, there's also the whole 'payback' factor that we haven't discussed, yet. Surely, you have to think that D.J. Newbill and friends who were witnesses to last year's upset loss at the BJC to Bucknell, haven't forgotten and will be extra motivated to stick it to the Bison. At the same time, Bucknell will be motivated to try and beat their in-state 'rival' (for lack of a better word) for a second straight year and PSU should expect nothing less than their best shot. Give me PSU getting said revenge, 71-64.