Column: Bucknell Matchup Telling for Penn State
Penn State walked away from the Bryce Jordan Center with a 74-62 win over the Wagner Seahawks to open up their 2013-2014 season. It was a solid way to start off the year as Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill looked impressive in the Nittany Lion backcourt, both earning double digits in points and rebounds.
Winning the first game of the year is the goal of every team heading into the season, especially for a Pat Chambers’ squad that was only victorious 10 times a year ago. However, this Wednesday’s matchup against the Bucknell Bison will shed more light on how talented this Penn State unit really is.
Nobody is expecting too much from the Nittany Lions on the hardwood, but most analysts agree that they should be talented enough to experience more success than in recent years past.
A resounding victory over Bucknell would go a long way in proving these analysts correct.
The Bison have been conference regular season champions in the Patriot League three straight years and have gone to the NCAA tournament two out of the last three seasons. Bucknell head coach Dave Paulsen has led his squad to a 78-24 record over that stretch, which translates to a .765 winning percentage.
The Bucknell Bison have proven to be a talented team in the realm of mid-major college basketball.
With that said, Bucknell’s basketball program has taken a definite hit with the loss 6’11” center Mike Muscala, who averaged 18.7 points per game along with 11.1 rebounds. Muscala is the Bison’s all-time leading scorer and was the most dominant Patriot League player over the last two seasons.
The loss of Muscala is why most analysts believe Bucknell will take a slight step back this year, but many still believe they will be talented enough to receive a berth to the NIT or CBI. That is far greater than what people expect from Penn State’s squad.
The Bison have already proven their toughness in their first game this year, losing by just 4 to a Stanford team that is expected to contend for a Pac-12 title as well as a NCAA tournament berth.
New faces can be found in both the Bison frontcourt and backcourt, and Bucknell will have to rely on some freshmen to make significant contributions. Nevertheless, the talent is there for the Bucknell Bison and if they can nearly knock off Stanford, they obviously have the talent to give Penn State all sorts of fits.
The Nittany Lions have their work cut out for them.
This is an intriguing matchup. On one side you have a Penn State unit looking to prove that they are at least a competitive team on the hardwood, and on the another side you have a Bucknell squad looking to show they are still a force to be reckoned with.
A victory for the Nittany Lions in this game would at the very least prove that they are a talented enough team to contend with formidable opponents, which is something that cannot be said about the squad from a year ago.
Penn State will need heavier contributions from their frontcourt, especially from Ross Travis and Donavon Jack since they will be playing the most minutes from the forward positions. Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill should be able to contribute as much as they did in last Saturday’s game, both having much more experience than the backcourt of the Bison.
Make no mistake though; Bucknell will come into Wednesday’s game thinking they are good enough to take down the Nittany Lions, and frankly, they have every right to believe that to be true.
But if Penn State truly wants to prove that they are a team that can turn a few heads this year, they must win Wednesday night with a dominating performance. Anything less than that will likely mean another 10 or 11 win season is on the horizon.
Andy Madore is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.