#127 Bucknell Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

Bucknell Bison

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #127
Conference Rank: #1 Patriot

Bucknell Team Page#127 Bucknell Men's Basketball 2015-2016 PreviewBuy Bucknell Basketball Tickets

After seven mostly successful seasons with Dave Paulsen at the head coaching helm, Bucknell will bring in a new coach for the 2015-16 season after Paulsen signed with George Mason. The new coach, Nathan Davis, is a rookie at the DI level but led Randolph-Macon (DIII) to seven straight tournament appearances. Thankfully for Davis, he has a couple key guys returning from last year’s team to make his rookie coaching job easier. And although Paulsen’s career at Bucknell was riddled with early Patriot League Tournament exits (often times as the higher seed) the numbers don’t lie (a 134-94 overall record, 74-32 in Patriot League). The talent is there for another run for the first place spot in the Patriot League, but it will be interesting to see how Davis reacts to being the favorite; in just his first season of coaching.

2014-15 Postseason: NIT
Coach: Nathan Davis
Coach Record: 0-0 at Bucknell, 0-0 overall

Who’s Out:
On paper, the Bison really aren’t losing a lot from last year’s team. Only three of the eleven double digit MPG players from last season are leaving (J.C. Show, Steven Kaspar, Cory Starkey). However, all three of these guys played big roles last season in their own right, and will certainly be missed. J.C. Show, the highest playing (minutes wise) freshman on last year’s team decided to transfer out to Binghamton for, presumably, the final three years of his college career. His first season wasn’t perfect by any means, and didn’t produce all that much in the box score (6.9 ppg, 1.6 rpg, .8 apg, 39.5% FGP). Still, he was a guy that brought a lot to the table; especially considering he was only a freshman. What he did bring to last year’s Bucknell team was a consistent jumper. Of course, this often time went unnoticed because of how well the Bison shot the ball from downtown all year long (38.5% as a team). Still, big (6-3, 210 pounds), athletic and versatile wings are hard to find, and with a little more work, Show could’ve become one good player for the Bison. Cory Starkey, a four year bench player for the Bison, graduated after four decent seasons with the team. A fierce competitor and rebounder, Starkey was a hustle guy that wasn’t the most talented player on the floor (or even off the bench), but brought a certain energy into the game whenever Paulen chose to bring him into the game (18.2 mpg). His defense was never quite up to par, which probably had a negative effect on his minutes per game. Still, this is a guy that saw a bump in minutes in each of his four seasons, and would probably have been a borderline starter this year based on hustle and rebounding (10.1 rebounds per 40 minutes) alone. The final player leaving is also the most important one out of the departing trio. Steven Kaspar, a two year starter for the Bison at the most important position (point guard), Kaspar’s “team before me” attitude was a huge reason guys like Chris Hass (16 ppg last season) and Nana Foulland (10.2 ppg) had such big seasons last year. A tough guy to jar the ball loose from, Kaspar owned a rock solid 2.57 assist-turnover ratio last season, a new career high. And although he preferred to pass the ball before shooting (3.2 shots per game last season), that didn’t mean he was completely incapable on the offensive end. He shot 36.4% from downtown this past season and also averaged 2.6 free throw attempts per game. Pass first point guards are rare, and Kaspar was a truly unselfish player that will be dearly missed by coaches, fans, and teammates alike.

Who’s In:
A good but not great recruiter in his tenure with the Bucknell Bison, Dave Paulsen now shifts his recruiting skills to George Mason. With Paulsen gone, it is Nathan Davis’ turn to try recruiting at Bucknell. The first of four recruits, Kimbal Mackenzie, is an unranked point guard from Oakville, Canada. What Mackenzie brings to the table is a similar skillset to departed point guard Steven Kaspar. Smart, shifty and a good passer, Mackenzie will never average over 17 points in his college career, but could turn into a nice little pass first guard if he can improve his court vision. He makes good decisions with the ball and can hit enough jumpers to keep defenders honest out to the perimeter, two key skills to have as a pass first guard. With three other point guards on the roster, it seems unlikely that Mackenzie will see a lot of time next season. Still, he could learn a lot from some of the older guys (Ryan Frazier, John Azzinaro) and could become the starter for this team in 2-3 years. Next up is incoming freshman shooting guard Matt O’Reilly from Lafayette, California. O’Reilly, although fairly one dimensional, is a guy that knows what he does well, but doesn’t take a lot of risks in his game. He’s a knockdown three point shooter, often times showing range out to 25-28 feet during his high school season. A high release point and quick trigger make him a really hard guy to keep track of (and stop) on the perimeter. However, other than that, his offensive game is pretty stale. He’s not a particularly fierce driver or big guy (6-3, 185 pounds) and showed a decent but not special midrange game throughout his high school career. He’s a guy that could be a nice bench player if he decides to just continue to work on improving his already strong shot, or something more than that if he gets a little bigger and more capable off the dribble and in the lane. Nate Jones, another incoming shooting guard from Radford, Virginia, can really do it all at the “2.” He’s big (6-3, 205 pounds) athletic, and very smart with the basketball in his hands. He’s nowhere near the shooter that O’Reilly is, but he’s a better athlete, a better finisher and a better defender on the wing. His iffy shot could be a problem in his first season, but if he can improve that moving forward, he’s a guy that could make a difference from his sophomore year onwards. The final incoming recruit is power forward Nate Sestina from Emporium, Pennsylvania. Although undersized in the height department (6-7), Sestina makes up for it with exceptional athleticism, excellent shot blocking ability and solid strength. A pure hustle guy in every aspect of the word, Sestina isn’t a particularly polished offensive force, but is a grade-A defender that isn’t scared to do the dirty work inside. Smaller power forwards have their work cut out for them in DI ball, but they have succeeded before if they put in the effort. Another guy unlikely to make a splash in his first season, Nathan Davis would be foolish to give up on him moving forward.

Who to Watch:
No doubt here: lots of returning talent for the Bison next season. Out of the eleven players that averaged double digits minutes per game last season, eight of those guys are coming back; not bad at all. The most recognizable name out of the returning crew is rising senior shooting guard Chris Hass. An all-Patriot League first teamer last season, Hass is a downright baller at the “2” slot. He does everything a DI shooting guard is supposed to do. He can hit threes at a high rate (39.4%), drive to the basket and draw contact when chased off the perimeter (3.5 free throw attempts per game last season). He is also a capable midrange shooter (42.8 FGP, 16 ppg) and is a fine defender on the wing. What’s not to like? Well, Hass is the superstar of this team, whether he likes it or not. And although superstars aren’t going to drop 20+ points per game each and every night, they very rarely drop complete duds. Hass had a few duds last season. Some notable ones include a 5 point game against Marist (2-10 from the field), a 5 point game against Navy (2-13 from the field), a 4 point performance against Loyola (1-5 from the field) and a 2 point game against American U (1-2 from the field). His positive showings greatly outweighed his negative ones, but for a guy that averaged 16 points per game last season you have to dig deep to find something wrong with him. If he can become even more consistent in 2015-16, we could be looking at a 20-25 ppg scorer. Another big returner is sophomore power forward Nana Foulland. Foulland did a whole lot for this team in not a lot of minutes (24.4 per game) last season. Part of the reason he played so little was because of his constant foul issues. He averaged 4.8 fouls per 40 minutes last season, a number that he will need to fix in 2015-16. Still, he averaged 10.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and shot 54.9% from the field in that short time period, very good numbers for any guy. Moving forward, he’ll need to start getting a little more physical inside. He’s physically gifted (6-9, 220 pounds), but averaged less free throws per game (3.4) than the 6-4, 180 pound Chris Hass did last season. If he can cut down on the fouls and gain some confidence inside, he could be a 15-9 guy by next season. The final big returner for the Bison is sophomore small forward Zach Thomas. Thomas had a very interesting season last year. In the first half of the season, not a single fan (besides the true diehard ones) knew who Zach Thomas was. He played a total of 17 minutes in the team’s first 15 games and scored only eight points. However, in the January 7th game against Lafayette, something clicked. He scored 21 points in only 20 minutes, completely shocking the Bison nation. After that, he became more of an everyday player. In the final half of the season (18 games) he averaged 8.6 points and just over four boards per contest. Not incredible numbers, but much better then what he was doing earlier on. Confidence is a big thing for Thomas moving forward. He shot one of the best percentages from downtown in the nation this past season (51.4%), but only shot 35 threes on the year. He’s far too talented a shooter to be taking only 1.6 deep shots per game. If he improves that and his defense, he could take the pressure off Hass on the other side of him next year. Four other notable returners are Ryan Frazier (senior point guard, 5.5 ppg) Dom Hoffman (sophomore power forward, 4.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg) John Azzinaro (junior point guard, 5.4 ppg) and D.J. MacLeay (junior power forward, 3.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg).

Final Projection:
It should be an interesting year for the Bucknell Bison. Returning talent-wise, this is a very, very experienced and potentially deadly team. Chris Hass was one of the best all-around mid-major players last season, and had the stats to back it up (16 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.1 apg, 42.9% FGP, 39.4% three point percentage). He’s a true superstar that could carry a lot of teams throughout the year. However, he’s not the only talent the Bison have to offer. Rising sophomore power forward Nana Foulland looks to have a breakout year with more minutes, and rising sophomore wing Zach Thomas could become one of the best shooters in the nation if he gains a little more confidence. Throw in a few role players like senior guard Ryan Frazier and junior power forward D.J. MacLeay, and you have yourself a very full and talented roster. None of the four incoming freshmen are potential superstars, but should all be able to chip in effectively next year. The x-factor for this year’s Bison team is going to be the coach, Nathan Davis. Former coach Dave Paulsen had his problems in the Patriot League Tournament, but there’s no denying his regular season success. If Davis is unable to make the NCAA Tournament with this much talent on the roster, his stay in Lewisburg could be a quick one.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA Tournament

Projected Starting Five:
Ryan Frazier, Senior, Guard, 5.5 points per game
Chris Hass, Senior, Guard, 16.0 points per game
Zach Thomas, Sophomore, Forward, 7.5 points per game
Nana Foulland, Sophomore, Forward, 10.2 points per game
Ben Oberfeld, Junior, Center, 1.8 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 68.8 (137th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 69.0 (245, 7)
Field-Goal Percentage: 43.8 (156, 8)
Field-Goal Defense: 44.2 (237, 3)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.9 (115, 5)  
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 38.5 (33, 3)
Free-Throw Percentage: 69.7 (149, 6)
Rebound Margin: 2.1 (104, 1)
Assists Per Game: 13.1 (132, 6)
Turnovers Per Game: 11.1 (48, 2)


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