Oh, you don’t already know everything about MSU’s first NCAA Tournament opponent, the Bucknell Bison?!
Well, did you stumble across the right blog post. Before our Spartans tip off on Friday night at Little Caesars Arena, this gives you a rundown of the Bison to either make you more confident in the game...or less. Depends how you slice it, really.
Is this whole tournament thing new to them? This senior-heavy team will not be new to NCAA Tournament experience as it’s their second-straight Big Dance berth. Last year as a 13-seed they played West Virginia and lost 86-80. None of Bucknell’s starters graduated from that team.
This is their eighth berth overall, with their two biggest trips coming in 2005 and 2006 where they won first round games in each of those years.
So, how did they get here? Well, by dominating the Patriot League with a 16-2 regular season record and winning their conference tournament with a blowout 83-54 win over Colgate. That was after a 90-59 mollywhopping over Boston University in the semifinal.
However, Boston did give them one of two conference losses all the way back on Jan. 2. The other conference loss was an overtime defeat at Lehigh on Feb. 5, to which they responded with an eight-game win streak.
And, wouldn’t you believe it, we have common opponents! They took on North Carolina and lost 93-81 and also took it to the brink against Maryland in a 80-78 defeat.
Alright, well, how are they winning so much? Guys, you’re not going to believe this, but I didn’t watch a ton of Bucknell basketball this year. I know – I’m sorry. Here’s my best effort at answering with key stats.
From what we can tell on paper, this team shoots efficiently with a 47.2 percent field goal percentage that’s good for 48th in the nation. As many of us know, MSU holds the nation’s best field goal defense at 36.6 percent. Bucknell’s isn’t bad on defense as they hold opponents to 42.3 percent shooting.
Rebounding? The Bison are decent with 36.9 boards per game – good for 98th in the nation. Assists? 14.5 per game which puts them at 112th in the nation. Turnover margin? It’s pretty much a 0.0 as they’ve turned over opponents 428 times but have also committed 429 turnovers.
Who are the stars? Again, they returned every starter from last year’s team, so this talent is all experienced talent too.
The front court is where the Bison shine as 6-foot-7 senior Zach Thomas averages 20.3 points and 9.2 rebounds per game, getting his points from inside and out. They also are bolstered with 6-foot-9 Nana Foulland who averages 15.4 points per game on consistent 56.3 percent shooting.
Their guard play is decent with 5-foot-11 Stephen Brown leading the way in assists with 4.3 per game to go with his 14.9 points per game. He also nearly hits two threes per game on 37 percent shooting from outside.
Those three are the only players that average double-digit points, but they aren’t shy in playing their bench as nine players also average double-digit minutes per game.
Where are these guys from anyway? Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, home of less than 6,000 people that’s a 60 mile drive north of Harrisburg if you ever get extremely lost and are in the area.
Anything else? Yeah, take the over this game. They average 81 points per game but also give up 73 points per game.
What’s your confidence level at for Friday’s showdown?
This poll is closed
10 — highest confidence you can have
5 — I plan on sweating this one out
1 — Just chalk up the loss