This Isn't Kansas Anymore

FAYETTEVILLE -- The questions have become old hat for Bucknell's coaches and players.

Everyone wants to know about Kansas and the Bison's upset of the No. 3 seed Jayhawks in last year's NCAA Tournament.

"It gets very tiring throughout this year, as you're trying to concentrate on your next game, Arkansas in this case," Bucknell senior Charles Lee said. "It is something obviously like we've said all year, we are proud of. But when we're done playing and don't have another game to look forward to, we'll reflect back on it a little bit more. But it will be nice to play Arkansas and worry about them. They're enough to worry about.

"Kansas is a long, long time ago."

A win over Syracuse earlier this year went a long way toward legitimizing this year's version of Bucknell and a perfect record throughout Patriot League play plus the conference tournament placed the Bison as a No. 9 seed -- the best ever for a Patriot League school -- and a first-round matchup against Arkansas at 11:30 a.m. on Friday.

While many schools are displeased about being in the 8-9 spot because of the likely second-round game against a No. 1, Bucknell is far from disappointed.

"We're honored and tickled about playing a 9-8 game in the NCAA Tournament," said Bison coach Pat Flannery. "It's quite historic for us as a program and we're just real happy. We've had a great year and we're looking forward to the tournament."

While Bucknell players try to put the win over Kansas in the past, they also realize just how much going through that experience will help in this season's tournament.

"Last year obviously helped us and more than just the game," said senior Kevin Bettencourt. "A game is a game. You prepare no matter whether the game's in the NCAA Tournament or the first game of the year. You really approach it the same way, at least we do. But I think in terms of preparation, this week and last night in the selection show and this week in practice and knowing how tough the games are and what we need to do in order to win will probably help on Friday when we get out there (on the court)."

The Bison return all but one player from last year's team which shocked the Jayhawks.

Bucknell's scoring was balanced a year ago with Chris McNaughton, Bettencourt and Lee averaging between 12.5 and 12.6 points per game. That didn't change this season, although all three upped their average slightly. McNaughton and Lee averaged 12.9 points per game while Bettencourt averaged 12.6.

"The balance is really key for us," Lee said. "It makes us feel like we can kind of let the game come to you. You don't have to worry about going out every night and scoring 20-30 points every night because you've got guys around you that can do it."

While Bucknell doesn't always play at a slow pace offensively, the Bison certainly don't mind waiting for a shot to open up.

"It is a very interesting matchup from the standpoint that they play a very deliberate style and they really try to execute and run their offense throughout the clock," said Arkansas coach Stan Heath. "And obviously we don't necessarily like to play slow ball, so we'll have to figure a way to try to speed up the tempo a little bit and use some of the quickness and speed that we have and athleticism to play to our strength if we can.

"We've got our hands full."

Bucknell didn't shy away from quality games this season. In addition to winning at Syracuse, the Bison also played at Duke and DePaul and hosted Villanova.

"You want to take your kids to great venues and then ... getting on the floor with those guys and playing," Flannery said. "It's easy to see it on TV. It looks like a lot of spacing and it looks like there's open shots. It looks like you have a lot of chances to make room, then you get on the floor and you realize the floor looks like it's about 12 feet wide and about six feet long because they're everywhere; because they're long and athletic.

"I think knowing that you've been in against people like that, it helps prepare you for anything that comes down the road. It doesn't mean you're going to always execute, but it does mean that you're prepared and you know physically what those people are capable of doing and you're preparing a certain way."

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