Basketball Scouting Report: Bucknell

Just when Army seemed ready to stay in the top tier of the Patriot League, the Black Knights' season took a wrong turn. Can coach Zach Spiker reorient his players and get them back on the right path?


Army was 4-0 in the Patriot League and flying high. The Black Knights were expecting to move to 5-0 in their conference, but they stumbled against Holy Cross on Wednesday. Army committed only 6 turnovers and earned 16 more field goal attempts than the Crusaders, but the Black Knights were undone by an ineffective defense that enabled Holy Cross to flourish.

Now, life gets complicated for Army. Bucknell, the team's next opponent, is coming off a loss against Navy. The Bison were supposed to win that game, but now that they've lost, they're likely to play with more desperation and energy, making Army's task a bit tougher. The Black Knights have to bounce back if they want to maintain good odds of winning the Patriot League regular season title.

BUCKNELL AT-A-GLANCE

Coach David Paulsen has to remake the Bison so that they can live up to the standards set by previous Bucknell teams over the past decade. Bucknell has been an NCAA participant and nuisance, but a lot of the Bison's staying power as a program in recent years was the result of the work done by big man Mike Muscala. Bucknell had an anchor in the post who drew so much attention from opposing defenses and took care of so much dirty work on the glass that the other four starters were able to function with minimal pressure. There's no superstar on the Bison now, and they're predictably suffering as a result. Programs at Bucknell's level will generally experience a drop-off in the year after a heavy lifter such as Muscala leaves the scene.

The Bison use a nine-man rotation. Of their four reserves, only forward Dom Hoffman leaves a substantial statistical footprint, with averages of 6.8 points and 4 rebounds per game.

Starting Lineup

Forward – Brian Fitzpatrick –
Senior, 6-8, 230; 2013-14: 8.9 points per game, 4 rebounds per game

Whereas Muscala stood at 6-11, Fitzpatrick – at 6-8 – is the tallest player on the Bucknell roster. This is an undersized team, one that is desperately trying to replicate just a fraction of the production Muscala provided in seasons past. Fitzpatrick is a worker bee, but Bucknell will need each of its players to more authoritative as the season progresses.

Guard – Cameron Ayers – Senior, 6-5, 205; 2013-14: 13.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.6 assists per game

This is Bucknell's best player, though not necessarily its most complete one. Ayers handles most of the workload for this team as a scorer, but you'll notice that at 6-5, he rebounds well for his position. The simple fact that Ayers makes "effort plays" in addition to fulfilling his duties as a scorer tells you a lot about his dedication to team basketball.

Guard – Chris Hass – Sophomore, 6-4, 170; 2013-14: 10.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg

Hass is a poor man's version of Ayers, another guard who rebounds well for his size. One thing that's worth pointing out is that Ayers hits 44.6 percent of his threes, Hass 39.7 percent. Army has to pay attention to the three-point shooting of Bucknell's guards.

Guard – Ben Brackney – Senior, 6-6, 205; 2013-14: 8.6 ppg, 3.2 rpg

As one of Bucknell's bigger guards in what is technically a "one-forward, four-guard" lineup, Brackney needs to make more of an impact on the glass and find ways to score near the rim in order for the Bison to grow as a team. Army needs to prevent Brackney from having a breakout game.

Guard – Steven Kaspar – Junior, 6-3, 193; 2013-14: 7.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 5.2 apg

Ayers might be the best scorer on the team, but Kaspar is Bucknell's most complete player. He's the leading rebounder on the roster despite his lack of size. He's a dynamic passer who sets up his teammates and displays leadership at the offensive end of the floor. Army has to contain Kaspar on the glass and stop his dribble penetration.

Keys to the Game

1) Defend without fouling.
Holy Cross gained 37 free throw attempts against Army on Wednesday, making 28 of them and outscoring the Black Knights by 19 points at the charity stripe. Army's defense can't be as charitable on Sunday, or it will probably lose.

2) Make Bucknell uncomfortable in its halfcourt sets. The Bison rarely turn the ball over (9.6 turnovers per game), and they shoot well, especially from three-point range (43.4 percent). Yes, Army will have advantages to exploit on offense, but after the letdown on defense against Holy Cross, the Black Knights have to challenge themselves at the defensive end of the floor. That commitment must emerge in the way the team conducts itself on Sunday.

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