#91 Bucknell Men's Basketball Preview

Bucknell Bison

Overall Rank: #91
Conference Rank: #1 Patriot League
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2010-11: 25-9, 13-1
2010-11 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Dave Paulsen (46-49 at Bucknell, 308-169 overall)

In 2010 Bucknell was one of those 14 seeds in the NCAA Tournament that could have pulled off an upset. Unfortunately, they were matched up with an obviously hot Connecticut squad that ended up winning the NCAA Tournament. This year they should be able to get back to the NCAA Tournament, but their success will hinge on point guard play.

Who’s Out:
Darryle Shazier ran the show last season and he will be sorely missed. His ability to score and shoot withstanding, Shazier was a great point guard for the Bison. He dished out 5.4 assists per game and only turned the ball over 1.5 times. Those are some amazing numbers. He was also a fine defender, but finding somebody else to create offense will be the big need for this team. G.W. Boon is the other departure. He rarely started, but was third on the team in scoring with 8.7 points per game. The 6-4 wing provided a nice spark off of the bench with his ability to rebound from the wing and shoot from long range.

Who’s In:
The newcomers will not provide a new point guard. Steven Kaspar and Joshea Singleton are more shooters or slashing wings. Kaspar is a shooter first, but he can run the point. Relying on a freshman to run the show is not a good thing, but he is a good player who has the talent to at least compete for the starting point guard spot. Yet, for now at least, he is probably a better fit as a backup shooting guard. Singleton is a slasher who can attack the basket and will find a spot in the regular rotation. Cory Starkey is a big body who can fight under the basket, but he is a good athlete as well. He may need some time to develop his game a little bit, but certainly can work his way into the rotation as a freshman and be a star in the Patriot League down the road. Brian Fitzpatrick, a transfer from Penn, is a more polished big man who is expected to spend some time at the four and five spots off of the bench.

Who to Watch:
So who is the point guard? Nobody really knows yet, but the hopeful answer is Ryan Hill. The 6-3 guard averaged a mere 6.2 minutes per game last year. In retrospect, it is always easy to say that he should have played more last year to develop his game, knowing that he would be counted on to run the point the following year. Yet, it is not that simple in the heat of a game. If it is not Hill and it is not Kaspar, it will have to be Cameron Ayers. Ayers had a superb freshman campaign, averaging 7.5 points per game. He also brought the ball up the court at times when Shazier was on the bench. However, he is really a 6-5 wing who is better off playing at the two or three spot. The fact that he can handle the ball is a very good thing, but he should be a secondary ball handler, not the primary. But if that is what Coach Dave Paulsen needs to do, Ayers can do it. With Bryson Johnson and Bryan Cohen also returning to the backcourt, Ayers may be relegated to the bench. Ayers would make a great sixth man who can come in and fill any of the guard spots. Johnson is the shooter and scorer of the backcourt. He knocked down 45.6 percent of his attempts from long range last year and will be a dynamic scorer once he attacks the basket a little more often. Cohen is not a scorer, but he is a decent passer and rebounder and a shutdown defender. He is the prototypical small forward glue guy and taking him out of the starting five is an option, but he should be part of the finishing five.

Final Projection:
Mike Muscala and Joe Willman are back to start in the frontcourt. Muscala emerged as one of the top big men in the league after averaging 14.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks during his sophomore season. His ability to score in the paint will open things up for the shooters, mostly Johnson, to keep knocking down some three-pointers. While Muscala garners the attention, Willman will do the dirty work. He too has turned into a pretty good scorer under the basket and a little more muscle should help him be a better rebounder. Colin Klebon will battle it out with the newcomers for minutes off of the bench, but the frontcourt is a deeper unit this year and as long as this group finds a point guard, they will be in great shape to win another Patriot League title and possibly be a nice upset pick come March.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Ryan Hill, Sophomore, Guard, 0.8 points per game
Bryson Johnson, Junior, Guard, 11.7 points per game
Bryan Cohen, Senior, Guard, 7.0 points per game
Joe Willman, Junior, Forward, 7.6 points per game
Mike Muscala, Junior, Center, 14.9 points per game

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