Posted on: March 7, 2012 9:18 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2012 10:08 pm

Tiny Dancers: Lehigh

A year ago, Lehigh lost on a last-second shot at Bucknell in the semifinals of the conference tournament. This season, the Mountain Hawks got revenge, going into Lewisburg, Pa. and knocking off the top-seeded Bison, 82-77, to win the Patriot League championship and getting an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Player of the Year C.J. McCollum went for 29 points and five assists, while forward Gabe Knutson had one of the best games of his career, finishing with 23 points and seven rebounds. The Mountain Hawks were able to speed up the tempo, and didn’t let Bucknell make it a half-court game.

Lehigh, coached by Brett Reed, has been consistent throughout the season, suffering only bad loss in the non-conference season and losing to no one outside the top four of the Patriot League. The Mountain Hawks won their final five games of the regular season, including a road game at Bucknell that gave them confidence heading into the title game.

This team pushes the tempo, but takes care of the ball and has several guys who can knock down 3-pointers. With McCollum leading the way, the Mountain Hawks won’t back down.

Lehigh went onto the homecourt of top-seeded Bucknell and won the Patriot League title game. (US Presswire)

Player to know: C.J. McCollum. A two-time Patriot League Player of the Year, the 6-foot-3 junior guard is one of the most productive all-around players in the country. He has scored at least 20 points in 11 of his last 12 games, and is also a tremendous rebounder for his size. McCollum also creates for others, too. In games against St. John’s, Iowa State and Michigan State, he averaged 18.0 points per contest. He is capable of carrying the Mountain Hawks.

The Vitals:

  • Record: 26-7 overall, 11-3 in Patriot
  • Most recent tournament appearance: 2010, No. 16 seed, lost to Kansas 90-74 in the first round.
  • We’re thinking: 15 seed.
  • KenPom ranking: 88
  • Sagarin ranking: 97
  • RPI: 101
  • Best wins: Bucknell (2), Wagner
  • Worst losses: Cornell, Holy Cross
  • Notable stat: Lehigh could be tough in a close game. The Mountain Hawks rank second in the country in free-throw percentage, at 77.8 percent.

-- Jeff Borzello

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 7, 2012 1:25 pm

Championship game preview: Patriot

Despite so many upsets in conference tournaments this year, the Patriot League has remained immune to the Cinderella bug. The two best teams during the regular season – Bucknell and Lehigh – will meet in the championship game on Wednesday night, and rightfully so.

The two teams have represented the league the past two seasons in the NCAA tournament, with Lehigh getting a bid in 2010 and Bucknell winning the championship last year. The two best players in the league – and the last three Patriot League Players of the Years – will also battle it out, in Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum and Bucknell’s Mike Muscala.

It gets more intense. Bucknell and Lehigh split the two regular-season contests, with each winning on the opponent’s home floor. The title game will take place at Sojka Pavilion, on Bucknell’s campus.

The game will be a contrast of styles, as Lehigh would prefer to push the ball and get points in transition, while Bucknell bogs you down and plays a halfcourt contest. Lehigh gets a lot of its points by attacking the basket and getting fouled, so Bucknell needs to limit fouls and keep Muscala on the floor. The Bison also need to get out on Lehigh’s shooters. On the other side, Lehigh has to slow down Muscala on the inside, while also keeping an eye on Bucknell’s secondary options. It’s not all Muscala.

It could come down to whether Cameron Ayers can stifle McCollum. In the second meeting, McCollum beat him off the dribble and knocked down a game-winning 3-pointer in the final seconds. What will happen in round three?

-- Jeff Borzello

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 27, 2012 11:00 am
Edited on: February 27, 2012 5:07 pm

What-to-know-conference previews: Patriot

For the second consecutive season, Bucknell will look to protect its regular-season title and get back to the NCAA tournament.

The Bison started the conference season 10-0, before losing two in a row and needing a strong finish to win the championship over Lehigh. Led by Mike Muscala in the post, Bucknell has a variety of scoring options both in the paint and on the perimeter. The Bison also control the defensive glass and like to force a slow tempo on their opponents. Moreover, they will get homecourt advantage due to winning the regular-season title. That came in handy last season, when Bucknell knocked off Lafayette in the title game.

Lehigh has won nine of its last 10 games, including a road win at Bucknell two weeks ago. The Mountain Hawks have one of the best mid-major players in the country in C.J. McCollum, a prolific scorer who led the league in scoring, ranked third in rebounding and fifth in assists. He's capable of carrying the Mountain Hawks to the NCAA tournament -- like he did two years ago. Throw in Gabe Knutson on the inside, one of the more efficient players in the league, and Lehigh is a tough out.

American is one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the league and is difficult to beat when its shots are falling, but a team to watch could be Holy Cross. The Crusaders won six in a row to end the season, and have defeated Lehigh, Bucknell and American this season. Devin Brown and R.J. Evans form a good tandem, and the Crusaders really guard the perimeter.


Title game:
Wednesday, March 7 on CBS Sports Network (7 p.m. ET)


  1. C.J. McCollum, Lehigh
  2. Mike Muscala, Bucknell
  3. Charles Hinkle, American
  4. Gabe Knutson, Lehigh
  5. Devin Brown, Holy Cross

Conference RPI: 22

KenPom.com rating: 22

Sagarin rating: 23

NCAA Tournament Locks: None

NCAA Tournament Bubble Teams: None

Last NCAA Tournament Appearances

  • American Eagles: 2009, No. 14 seed, lost to Villanova 80-67 in the first round.
  • Army Black Knights: N/A.
  • Bucknell Bison: 2011, No. 14 seed, lost to Connecticut 81-52 in the first round.
  • Colgate Raiders: 1996, No. 16 seed, lost to Connecticut 68-59 in the first round.
  • Holy Cross Crusaders: 2007, No. 13 seed, lost to Southern Illinois 61-51 in the first round.
  • Lafayette Leopards: 2000, No. 15 seed, lost to Temple 73-47 in the first round.
  • Lehigh Mountain Hawks: 2010, No. 16 seed, lost to Kansas 90-74 in the first round.
  • Navy: 1998, No. 16 seed, lost to North Carolina 88-52 in the first round.

- Jeff Borzello

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: September 9, 2011 12:39 pm

Trippin': American preparing for different look

In our Trippin’ series, we’re talking to teams as they return from preseason trips to foreign locales. Click here for all Trippin’ related stories.

By Jeff Borzello

After finishing second in the Patriot League title race last season, American head coach Jeff Jones knew he would be losing all-conference big man Vlad Moldoveanu.

What he didn’t prepare for, however, was leading rebounder and No. 2 scorer Stephen Lumpkins leaving early after being drafted by the Kansas City Royals in June.

“We basically spent the spring thinking on how to play with Lumpkins as the center of attention,” Jones said. “Playing big with Tony Wroblicky next to him. We went from being a fairly large team to being a smallish team, and we’re going to have to figure out other ways. I’m not sure we have any choice.”

The Eagles tried to work out the kinks on a preseason trip to Prague, Vienna and Budapest – but the lack of size didn’t change. Jones isn’t concerned about it, though.

“If you compete, once we get into conference play, that’s not going to be a huge factor,” Jones said. “I don’t anticipate that being a huge issue.”

What Jones learned: “We were figuring it out, essentially playing small ball. I learned a lot about how we are going to need to play this year to be competitive. Troy Brewer had a good year last year, and he picked up where he left off. He’s going to be out offensive focal point. Charles Hinkle was our second-leading scorer, he showed he could be that complementary scorer.”

What impressed him: Toughness – “We’ve got a scrappy group. We have two seniors, Simon McCormack and Joe Hill, that are competitive and team-first. They’re great leaders. I think our team, we can already see that they’re adopting their mentality. If we can do that, that would be a very positive development. If we can get in their heads and be able to emulate them, I think that would be positive.”

What concerned him: Offensive production – “Graduating Vlad, losing Lumpkins and Nick Hendra, we lost a lot of offensive firepower. How do we replace those points? Troy can pick it up a little; Charles is going to be a secondary threat. But we’re going to have multiple ways to score. We’re going to have to be opportunistic, find non-traditional ways of scoring: offensive rebounds, transition baskets here and there.”

- Although former Georgia guard Brewer looks like he will be the top option, Charles Hinkle is also expected to carry his weight offensively. The former Vanderbilt transfer looks like he is ready to provide what was expected heading into last season. “I think it was a really positive experience for Charles, to get out there, to get lots of minutes,” Jones said. “He has to shoulder some responsibility, and we need him to score.”

- Freshman John Schoof impressed on the trip. “He’s the kind of kid who’s going to fit in, he does a lot of the little things,” Jones said. “He was a quick learner; we started him every game overseas. As he gains experience, he’s going to be one of those guys you want out there on the floor, regardless of stats.”

- Aside from Schoof experiencing soreness in one of his knees, there were no injuries on the trip.

- The entire team was able to go on the trip, which enabled Jones to mix-and-match different players in the lineup. “We started different guys every game for the most part,” Jones said. “It was good in that regard, getting everybody’s feet wet. Gave us a little bit of a jump start.”

- The Eagles went to three different cities, and spent at least one full day of sightseeing in each one. According to Jones, one of the funniest moments was when Australia native Daniel Fisher bought a pair of pants. “Let’s just say he looked very European,” he said. “But he’s from Australia, so his sense of fashion might be a little bit different.”

CBSSports.com’s list of teams taking preseason trips

Photo: US Presswire

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 15, 2011 3:16 pm

Bucknell looks to write its own legacy

Posted by Jeff Borzello

This year’s Bucknell team wants everyone to know that it is not the same team from 2005 and 2006 – even though those two teams won their first-round games and put Bucknell on the college basketball map.

It might sound strange, but the Bison are looking to write their own story, not just pick up on one written five years ago.

“We acknowledged it but we’re creating our own legacy,” G.W. Boon said after last Friday’s 72-57 Patriot League championship game win over Lafayette. “Every player and coach is here because of the legacy, but you don’t want to lose focus.”

In 2005, Bucknell pulled off the one of the biggest upsets in recent memory, knocking off heavily-favored No. 3 seed Kansas in the first round. The next season, the Bison received a No. 9 seed and defeated Arkansas in the first round.

They have not been back to the tournament since then.

“I remember I was a Kansas fan when they beat Kansas,” Boon said. “When Bucknell came knocking on my door the next summer to try and recruit me, I automatically knew who they were, and I knew it was a team and a program that was about winning.

“I signed up to be a winner and write my own legacy with my teammates.”

Boon said the members of those teams came to practice and hung out with the current players, talking about what the hype surrounding the program and what it was like to win those games.

The former players were the first ones to dismiss the idea of carrying on a legacy.

“They hung out with us and I was saying we were following in their footsteps,” Boon said. “And they were like, “No, we did what we did.’ It’s our time.”

Head coach Dave Paulsen was not around for those NCAA tournament teams, taking over the program from Pat Flannery in 2008.

The core of this year’s team has been through three consecutive sub-.500 seasons, including a seven-win campaign in 2008-09. They went through a coaching change and the dark days of the program. Paulsen credits them with staying for four years and seeing the fruition of their hard work.

“It was important for me not to be Pat Flannery-light,” Paulsen said. “None of them chose me. But I chose all of them.”

On a senior-laden team, it was a freshman that played a major part in the conference championship game and could be a factor in the NCAA tournament against Connecticut.

Philadelphia native Cameron Ayers had interest from schools like Notre Dame, Clemson, Michigan and Virginia coming out of high school, but Ayers chose a struggling Patriot League program.

The decision seems to be paying off.

“It was one of the big things I looked for,” Ayers said. “If I went somewhere else, I might not have been playing as much as a freshman. I wanted to be part of something special.”

The Bison are confident heading into their first-round game against the Big East tournament champion Huskies. With Mike Muscala on the inside and Darryl Shazier running the show, Bucknell feels it can compete with anyone in the country.

And it has nothing to do with the program’s previous success.

“We haven’t arrived yet,” Boon said. “We’re going to go into our game on Thurday or Friday, whoever we play, and we’re planning on winning.”


More NCAA tournament coverage
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 11, 2011 6:57 pm

Welcome to the Dance, Bucknell Bison

LEWISBURG, Pa. –  This may not be the Bucknell team of 2005 and 2006, when it made back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances, including an upset of No. 3 Kansas in 2005. The 2011 version will get a chance to make its own history, though, with the Bison’s 72-57 win over upstart Lafayette in the championship game of the Patriot League tournament. Mike Muscala went for 18 points, while Cameron Ayers came off the bench to contribute 12.

Bucknell, located in rural Pennsylvania, has now reached the NCAA tournament five times in its history. The Bison had one of their best seasons in program history, reaching the 25-win plateau for the second time in their history. They have won 10 games in a row, and 19 of their last 20. Bucknell didn’t have an NCAA tournament win before 2005, but it beat No. 3 Kansas that season and then knocked off Arkansas in the first round in 2006. Can this season’s defensive-minded group advance once again?

Player to know: Mike Muscala. The Patriot League’s Player of the Year, Muscala is a 6-foot-11 low-post player who leads the Bison in scoring and rebounding. He can finish with both hands around the rim and also hit face-up jumpers. Muscala blocks shots and corrals boards effectively on the defensive end. He also does damage from the free-throw line, shooting better than 81 percent. He was inconsistent down the stretch of the season, but went for 21 points in the title game. 

The Vitals:

  • Record: 25-8, 13-1 Patriot
  • Team colors: Orange and Blue
  • We’re thinking: 14-seed
  • KenPom ranking: 93
  • RPI: 85
  • Best win: Richmond (24-7)
  • Worst loss: Army (11-19)
  • Notable stat: The Bison are the nation’s sixth-best 3-point shooting team, knocking 40.6 percent of their outside shots.
  • Most recent tournament history: 2006. In the tournament as a No. 9 seed, Bucknell defeated Arkansas in the first round before falling to top-seeded Memphis.

Posted by Jeff Borzello

More College Basketball coverage
Category: NCAAB
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