2012-2013 Overall Rank: #87
Conference Rank: #2 Patriot
Bucknell Team Page
The race for the 2011-2012 Patriot League regular season title was one of the most exciting conference finishes in the nation. Bucknell lost a couple games in the middle of February to make things interesting, but they ended the season with a couple wins and nudged out Lehigh for the regular season title. But it would be Lehigh who would get the last laugh, defeating the Bison 82-77 in the tournament championship. Of course Lehigh took full advantage of their NCAA Tournament appearance, while Bucknell was relegated to the NIT. But the Bison pulled off a nice upset of their own in the NIT. They won, relatively handily, at Arizona, before losing at Nevada. The Bison are built around 6-11 center Mike Muscala. He is a beast on both ends of the floor and ended last season averaging 17.0 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. Muscala seems to get better every season and is even a threat to occasionally step beyond the arc. He does most of his damage offensively in the paint and at the charity stripe, where he shot an impressive 85.3 percent last season.
2011-12 Record: 25-10, 12-2
2011-12 Postseason: NIT
Coach: Dave Paulsen
Coach Record: 71-59 at Bucknell, 333-179 overall
Bryan Cohen is the big loss from last year’s NIT squad. The 6-6 guard was a great all-around player and could fill in some minutes at the four spot due to his size. He may not have scored a lot of points, but Cohen led the team in assists and helped out quite a bit on the glass. On a team that lacks frontcourt depth, his size was a big asset and his absence will be felt. Enoch Andoh is the only player not returning from last year’s squad and he averaged just a few minutes per game.
Coach Dave Paulsen brings in four freshmen who will likely have the opportunity to watch from the sidelines for a year. There is room for forwards Dom Hoffman and Matt Banas to crack the regular rotation, but Bucknell will not have to rely on them to play quality minutes this season. Hoffman, a 6-7, 220 pound Hawthorne, New Jersey native would be the more likely candidate to pick up ten or so minutes per game as a freshman. The backcourt adds shooting guard Chris Hass and point guard Ryan Frazier. The Bison do lack a true point guard, so Frazier will be given a chance as a freshman, but again, there is more than enough talent returning and Frazier will have to be very impressive right out of the gate to see much playing time.
Who to Watch:
Ryan Hill started 21 games in 2011-2012 and is the closest thing Bucknell has to a true point guard in the starting lineup. He is not a scorer at all, but he can take care of the ball, play solid defense and make sure the offense works through Muscala. Steven Kaspar is a quality passer as well and, like Hill, at least does a good job of keeping the turnovers down. This is not a team that needs an explosive point guard who can consistently create shots. They need somebody who is smart enough to work the ball through the post and Hill and Kaspar can do that. Cameron Ayers can run the show too. At 6-5, he is tough to defend when he is running the point, but Ayers is also a very good scorer and shooter and can do much more damage offensively when he is off the ball where he belongs. Ayers knocked down an impressive 46.8 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc, but he does not rely on his shooting. While many shooters start taking too many shots from long range when they are that good at shooting, Ayers knows he can use his size and get plenty of buckets around the basket as well. Bryson Johnson spent most of last season providing an offensive spark off of the bench. He averaged 9.3 points per game and almost all of his shots came from long range. He may find himself as a full-time starter this year and diversifying his offensive game would be beneficial. Junior Ben Brackney and sophomore Joshea Singleton will need to play a larger role off of the bench to help offset Johnson moving into the starting lineup. Brackney has the shooting ability to be a shooter off of the bench, while Singleton is an emerging talent who can attack the basket and help out on the glass.
Joe Willman is the unsung hero of the frontcourt. While Muscala garners all of the attention, Willman does the dirty work. But the 6-7 senior does more than just help create space for Muscala. Willman is a fine interior scorer in his own right, averaging 10.7 points per game. He is not the toughest rebounder around or a great shot blocker, but Willman works very nicely with Muscala and those two have logged a lot of minutes together in the Bucknell paint. Brian Fitzpatrick is the main frontcourt reserve. Muscala and Willman will push 30 minutes per game averages and it is Fitzpatrick who needs to cover a majority of the remaining time. He is not going to score like Muscala or Willman, but he is tough on the glass and a good enough defender. This season will again come down to Bucknell and Lehigh. The Bison return so much talent from a team that won the regular season title a year ago, so they will be right there. It could be their turn this year, but the NCAA bid will come down to the conference tournament. In the meantime, Bucknell has a talented enough team to reach the postseason even without an automatic bid to the NCAA or NIT.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Ryan Hill, Junior, Guard, 2.2 points per game
Bryson Johnson, Senior, Guard, 9.3 points per game
Cameron Ayers, Junior, Guard, 11.1 points per game
Joe Willman, Senior, Forward, 10.7 points per game
Mike Muscala, Senior, Center, 17.0 points per game